Afferent lymph-borne dendritic cells essentially rely on the chemokine receptor CCR7 for their transition from the subcapsular lymph node sinus into the parenchyma, a migratory step driven by putative gradients of CCR7 ligands. We found that lymph node fringes indeed contained physiological gradients of the chemokine CCL21, which depended on the expression of CCRL1, the atypical receptor for the CCR7 ligands CCL19 and CCL21. Lymphatic endothelial cells lining the ceiling of the subcapsular sinus, but not those lining the floor, expressed CCRL1, which scavenged chemokines from the sinus lumen. This created chemokine gradients across the sinus floor and enabled the emigration of dendritic cells. In vitro live imaging revealed that spatially confined expression of CCRL1 was necessary and sufficient for the creation of functional chemokine gradients.