The Burnham Plan Centennial - Bold Plans, Big Dreams

Calendar & Projects


Northeastern Illinois Regional Water Trails Plan

Northeastern Illinois Regional Water Trails Plan

The Centennial year commemorates the completion of nearly 90 percent of the 500-mile Northeastern Illinois Regional Water Trails Plan. The Plan was developed by Openlands, Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission (NIPC), Illinois Paddling Council and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. It was adopted by NIPC in 1999.
The seven-county water trail system -- the first of its kind for a large metropolitan area -- is designated specifically for non-motorized boating on tne northeastern Illinois waterways. Water trails provide educational, recreational and research opportunities, habitat for wildlife, water quality enhancements, and even financial benefits by improving community image and quality of life. Connecting us to our rivers and streams is a core Green Legacy principle.
Subsequent to the northeastern Illinois plan, the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC), with Openlands, developed the Greenways & Blueways Plan, which was adopted by NIRPC in 2007. The plan included an extension of the Southern Lake Michigan Water Trail along the Indiana Lake Michigan shoreline.
The creation of the Southern Lake Michigan Water Trail was celebrated by the Burnham to Marquette Water Trail Expedition, which progressed from Chicago to Michigan City on June 13 and 14, 2009. The event, coordinated by the Northwest Indiana Paddling Association working with many collaborating organizations helped galvanize a four-state consortium of planning agencies, paddling clubs, governmental entities and other groups to come together and  try to create a continuous water trail around the entire lake.
For a print-friendly fact sheet on the Northeastern Illinois Regional Water Trails Plan, click here.

Program Partners


Openlands is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the natural and open spaces of northeastern Illinois and the surrounding region to ensure cleaner air and water, protect natural habitats and wildlife, and help balance and enrich our lives. ...[MORE]

Illinois Department of Natural Resources

Our mission is to manage, protect and sustain Illinois' natural and cultural resources; provide resource-compatible recreational opportunities and to promote natural resource-related issues for the public's safety and education. [MORE]

Illinois Paddling Council

The Illinois Paddling Council (IPC) was organized in 1963 and is a not-for-profit association of paddlers and paddling organizations in Illinois. The Illinois Paddling council is dedicated to promoting the safe enjoyment of all phases of canoeing and kayaking in ...


Contact: Laura Barghusen,, 312-863-6253

The Burnham Plan Centennial
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