Chicago’s Riverwalk is an amazing place to spend some time. One day is likely not enough for this beautiful 1.25 mile-long path along the Chicago River. The whole area has many features perfect for photography. This particular Photofocus Road Trip is of the walking variety.

The Riverwalk is segmented into six general areas. Let’s take a walk through them in order.

The Marina (State to Dearborn)

In this section you’ll find boaters docked so they can enjoy the restaurants. Also, the namesake of this area, Marina City overlooks this section. 

The Cove (Dearborn to Clark)

Here you can rent kayaks and stop for some snacks along the way.

All along the riverwalk, take a look at the water. You’ll see some pretty cool architectural reflections from the buildings on either bank. Then look up at those buildings, you’ll see the reflections of buildings and more in their windows. It all makes for some really interesting abstract photography.

The River Theater (Clark to LaSalle)

This area has trees for shade from those hot summer days and is considered a unique oasis along the riverwalk. It also includes a sculptural staircase linking Upper Wacker and the Riverwalk which offers pedestrian connectivity to the water’s edge and seating.

The Water Plaza (LaSalle to Wells)

The Water Plaza features a fountain offering an opportunity for children and families to engage with water at the river’s edge. I may be a little obsessed with this spot. It is one of my favorite areas to photograph. The shallow fountain provides incredible reflections of the surrounding bridges and architecture along the river.

The Jetty (Wells to Franklin)

Floating wetland gardens are the main attraction in this section of the riverwalk. There is a place to learn about river ecology, fish and bird watch here.

This is also the perfect spot to watch and photograph Art on the Mart, the largest permanent digital art projection in the world, projecting contemporary artwork across the 2.5-acre river-façade of the Merchandise Mart. Also, take a look down at the river for abstract reflections and people walking along the riverwalk.

The Boardwalk (Franklin to Lake)

This is the spot where the three branches of the Chicago river come together, also referred to as the Confluence. You get great views of each branch of the river from here. The Confluence has an accessible walkway, continuous access to Lake Street and a great lawn that provides a space for the public to sit and watch the river flow by. Colorful Adirondack chairs in the lawn area would be great for family photos.

From this location, you can photograph the Santiago Calatrava Constellation sculpture across the way at River Point. I would suggest crossing the river and checking it out up close along with the River Point building as well.

The bridges

Don’t forget the bridges all along the riverwalk. Be sure to head up to get some photos of the bridges themselves and of the cityscapes you can see as you look up and down the river.

When you are down on the riverwalk, the sections that run under the bridges are also quite interesting — architecturally and reflectively.

The Chicago Riverwalk is becoming one of my favorite places to wander and just spends some time with or without my camera. Whether you enjoy architecture, street and even portrait photography, the possibilities here are endless.

If you ever get a chance to take in the Chicago Riverwalk, here is a list of restaurants, activities and a map for your visit. Be sure to share you images with us in our Photofocus Community.