No Wake Areas on the Illinois Fox River and the Chain O’Lakes (The Chain)

No Wake Areas on the Illinois Fox River and the Chain O’Lakes (The Chain)

Boaters on the Chain O’Lakes in McHenry and Lake Counties should be familiar with the no wake areas on the Chain.  All of the no wake areas are established by the Fox Waterway Agency through a Code of Rules and Regulations as authorized by Illinois Law.  This is simply known as the Fox Waterway Agency Code of Rules and Regulations.

Chapter 6 of the Code of Rules and Regulations defines and establishes the no wake areas.  The Code defines a wake.  A wake is defined as a movement of water created by a boat underway great enough to disturb a boat at rest, but under no circumstances shall a boat underway exceed five miles per hour in a no wake area.

The Code of Rules and Regulations then establishes thirty-two different no wake areas on the Chain O’Lakes and on the Fox River.  This section of the Code can be confusing and it is like you are reading a legal description in a survey.  For example, as to one of the simpler descriptions, the no wake area around the Route 12 bridge by the Fox Lake American Legion Hall.  The Code describes this no wake area as follows: “That portion of Nippersink Lake west of a line extending from the shore southeast of the end of Riverside Island Drive to the shore 300 feet southeast of the U.S. Route 12 bridge at the Fox Lake American Legion Hall”.  Regardless if you know the exact description, you are still responsible for following the no wake rules even if the area is not marked with buoys.

Be cautious because some areas are always no wake areas but may not be marked with the familiar no wake buoys such as:

  1. All areas within 150 feet from the shore throughout the Chain O’Lakes, excluding the Fox River.
  2. All side and secondary channels throughout the Chain O’Lakes and Fox River.


A boater cannot claim a “lack of knowledge” as to a no wake area.  The Fox Waterway Agency thought of this defense and part of the Code of Rules and Regulations states: “A lack of actual knowledge that a zone has been declared a no wake boating area shall not be a defense to any charge or citation brought hereunder”.

The best advice is to proceed at a speed of five miles per hour or less so as not to create a wake in these no wake areas.

If you have questions regarding Illinois Laws, contact the Law Office of Andrew Szocka.

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