Visitors to the Forest Preserve District of Will County’s Whalon Lake in Bolingbrook will have the option to rent kayaks for the first time this year.

On Feb. 14, the Forest Preserve’s Board unanimously approved a concessions license with Naperville Kayak to offer kayak rentals at the preserve, which is split between Naperville and Bolingbrook. Kayak rentals will be offered from May through October.

“This new rental program will be a perfect fit for the Forest Preserve,” said Lynn Kurczewski, the District’s director of visitor services. “Even though we offer 30 kayaking programs a year countywide, those are mostly instructional or themed programs.”

The Forest Preserve will continue to offer kayaking programs throughout the District, but Naperville Kayak will fill a niche for those who want to try the activity on their own, said Ralph Schultz, the District’s chief operating officer.

“Being able to offer kayak rentals to visitors allows more access to paddling and the preserve,” he said. “And for a person who doesn’t have the equipment, this is a good way to try it. This will just augment what we’re already doing.”

Naperville Kayak is an outdoor recreation company that has been renting equipment along the DuPage and Fox rivers in Plainfield, Oswego and Naperville for more than 10 years.

“The company has had a partnership with the Naperville Park District at its downtown quarry for six years and that has worked out very well,” Kurczewski said.

The company’s owner, Troy Cooper, said rentals have been very popular at the quarry, which is only a 5-acre site. Offering rentals on the 80-acre Whalon Lake will expand the area’s kayaking opportunities and allow more people to fish while they kayak, he said.

“It’s a beautiful lake,” Cooper added. “And we feel there is a lot of interest in the marketplace for people who want to get outdoors and be active.”

Cooper’s company will have a trailer on site at Whalon Lake where single and tandem kayaks will be rented from 10 a.m. to dusk Tuesday through Sunday. 

“We’re allowing rentals only for ages 18 and older,” Kurczewski said. “However, younger people can be in the kayaks but they have to be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian over the age of 18.”

A maximum of 30 rented kayaks will be allowed at one time on the lake, which has an 80-watercraft limit. The District will receive 10 percent of gross sales from the license.

This is the Forest Preserve’s second agreement with the company. Since 2017, the District has issued special use permits for Naperville Kayak to offer kayaking trips that start and end at the Forest Preserve’s Riverview Farmstead Preserve in Naperville.

The Forest Preserve offers its own kayak, canoe and boat rental program from a concession stand at the District’s Monee Reservoir in Monee Township.

“But we don’t have the resources to be able to provide rental services at Whalon Lake,” Kurczewski said. “In a nutshell, Naperville Kayak will be providing a service that we can’t.”

People who have their own kayaks can still use Whalon Lake.

“So if you have your own kayak, you’re still welcome to come out and launch and enjoy the lake,” Kurczewski said. “But for those people who don’t have a kayak, Naperville Kayak will be set up with all of the equipment someone would need to paddle away.”