The Chain O’Lakes area in northeastern Illinois is the busiest inland recreational waterway per acre in the United States. More than 30,000 boaters and fishermen flock to the collection of lakes on summer weekends. But those numbers pale in comparison to totals reached on holidays when crowds reach nearly 100,000 according to Fox Waterway Agency estimates.

The large waterway system consists of 15 lakes connected by the Fox River and man-made channels. There are 7,100 acres of water, 488 miles of shoreline, and 45 miles of river in total.

A busy entertainment industry to meet the demand of visitors and residents alike with restaurants, bars, clubs, raft-ups, fishing shops, resorts & vacation homes, and various events.


Growth Spurred by the Windy City

It all started with the rise of Chicago in the late 1800s and early 1900s. As new businesses opened in Chicago, IL residents of the city and neighboring communities built hotels, resorts, private summer homes, campsites, dance halls, and sportsmen’s clubs on the shores of Fox River and lakes.

This region near Chicago became the weekend hot spot for thousands of people who wanted to trade the fast-paced big city life for the more relaxed atmosphere of Chain O’Lakes. It was an escape from their weekday reality.


Plenty to Do and See

Chain O’Lakes residents and visitors get their pick of about 30 restaurants and bars, some offering lakeside and waterfront views along with boat access.

This scene includes:

  • Famous Freddie’s Roadhouse
  • Blarney Island
  • Fox Hole Tap & Pizzaria
  • Sandbar Bar & Grill
  • Bootleggers Bar & Grill
  • McHenry Brewing Co
  • Granny’s Lakeside Diner
  • Cypress Resort & Marine, Inc
  • And More

There are a number of boating events happening near Chain O’Lakes in the next few months:

    • Chicago Area Boat Show – Starting Jan. 7th, 2022
    • Chicago Boat Show – Canceled
    • Northern Illinois Boat Show – Canceled


Travel the Waterways in Your Own Boat

Are you in the market for a boat? Then you are in luck when you visit the Chain O’Lakes in Northern Illinois. There are plenty of boat dealers offering a wide selection of new and used boats for sale. Large and small boats, ski boats, pontoon boats, cruisers, deck boats, jet boats, wakeboards, and more are all available. You can also find just about any boating accessory or part you need!

With its continued popularity, wildlife, and many recreational and entertainment options, Chain O’Lakes has something for the entire family.