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A city surrounded by mountains, rivers, and beautiful forests, Portland is a hotspot for outdoor activities. Environmentally-minded Portland is the perfect place to explore all that nature has to offer. Whether you are looking for peace and quiet or raging waters, these breathtaking spots are the best places to go canoeing and kayaking in Portland.

Portland is a vibrant community for outdoor enthusiasts. Teeming with energy and adventure, kayaking in Portland is an epic experience for all ages and abilities. Portland’s wide variety of waterways creates a diverse and thrilling way to explore nature. While paddling, you will have the opportunity to explore Portland’s vast forests and spot native wildlife. Kayaking down well known sites like White Salmon River, or hidden gems like Scappoose Bay, will excite any paddle enthusiast. Below is a guide we created to help you have an awesome time canoeing and kayaking around Portland.

Best Places to Go Canoeing and Kayaking in Portland

the rushing waters of Portland, oregon's waterways are amazing places to go kayaking in Portland and explore scenic environments.
Exploring Portland’s natural beauty is best done by boat! Photo Credit: Hardebeck Media (Pixabay)

Willamette River

This epic waterway is one of Oregon’s most beautiful treasures. From petrified forests to acres of greenways, the Willamette River is one of the most popular places to go canoeing and kayaking in Portland.

Stretching hundreds of miles, each section of the Willamette River is calm enough for novice paddlers yet still boasts exciting scenery for all paddlers to enjoy. Drawing from the purest lake in the nation, Waldo Lake, Willamette River is not only a clean watershed resource but also home to nearly 50 different fish species (my favorite is rainbow trout). Also, while you’re paddling be on the lookout for shiny jasper and petrified wood!

No matter the season, Willamette’s smooth water is the perfect place to enjoy the outdoors. Around the river, visitors also enjoy swimming at Poet’s Beach, hiking around Forest Park, and exploring the famous Powell’s City of Books. Most importantly, Willamette Valley is known as an outstanding wine country! People from all over visit Willamette Valley to taste some of the best wine in the nation.

With tons of put-ins along the river, you can truly customize your water adventure. From city kayaking to peaceful tributaries, the Willamette River has it all. Docks in Oregon City and North Portland offer easy access to this beautiful waterway from downtown. If you need to rent a kayak or other gear, check out Portland Kayak Company.

How to Get There: The easiest way to get to the Willamette River is to drive. If you are driving, take I-5 S and take exit 243 toward Ankeny Hill. Continue on Sidney Rd. S until you reach the river.

Clackamas River

Just 20 minutes from downtown Portland, Clackamas River is the ideal river rafting, floating, and paddling destination for adventure-seekers. Each section of this river offers a different experience- the upper Clackamas has Class II-V rapids perfect for white water rafting trips. For those looking for a more relaxing paddle, the Lower Clackamas’ rambling waters make for a wonderful float trip.

Many paddlers really enjoy kayaking around a tranquil stretch of water beginning at the Olallie Butte which flows through stunning areas of Mt. Hood National Forest. This southern section of the river is perfect for lazy river float trips and relaxing summer paddles.

However, if you are looking for a thrilling water adventure, the northern segment of the river is home to epic rapids. Altogether, this stretch of rapids is about 13.5 miles. While some courageous kayakers attempt all 13.5 miles on one trip, it is popular to do a 4 mile-long run from Fish Creek to Bob’s Hole. Small yet mighty, Clackamas River is packed with adventure around every bend.

With so much to try so close to Portland, Clackamas River is a popular destination for canoeing and kayaking near Portland. The Barton put-in is closest to Portland, and therefore usually the most crowded. I’d recommend driving the extra five minutes to Mclver or Carver areas to start your journey.

You can launch your own boat from any put-in along the river. Or, if looking to rent gear or want to book a guided tour the Clackamas River Outfitters has everything you need. They are conveniently located at three locations: Estacada Outpost, Timber Park and Milo Mclver State Park.

How to Get There: The best way to get to the Clackamas River is to drive. If you are driving, take OR-224 E toward Clackamas. Continue on FS-4613 until you reach the river.

Scappoose Bay

Catering toward beginners and families, Scappoose Bay’s intricate network of lakes, channels, and tributaries is a peaceful oasis for canoe and kayakers. Just 30 minutes from downtown Portland, Scappoose Bay is the perfect place to find some peace and quiet.

A haven for wildlife, this sheltered area is home to numerous species of birds and fish, most you can spot from your boat! Scappoose Bay’s flat waters truly make kayaking Portland easy, relaxing, and accessible to all ability levels.

Right on the shore, paddlers can rent gear from and enjoy Scappoose Bay Marine Park. Here, visitors can take part in “gunkholing”, which means to meander in and out of shallow marshes and streams. Along with this peaceful activity, Scappoose Bay is known to be an excellent spot for paddle board yoga and fishing.

You can enjoy paddling around this flat, shallow area in about 3 hours. If you are looking for a longer paddle, visitors are encouraged to keep paddling to St. Helens Marina which is a few more miles down the Columbia River. Canoe, kayak, and paddle board rentals are available from Next Adventure’s Scappoose Bay Paddling Center.

How to Get There: The easiest way to get to Scappoose Bay is to drive. If you are driving, take I-405 N and take exit 3 on the left for U.S. 30 W toward Saint Helens. Continue on Old Portland Rd. to the bay.

kayaking in Portland's Clackamas River is super relaxing and open to all ability levels.
Kayaking down the Clackamas River is a relaxing and scenic experience! Photo Credit: Dolanh (Flickr CC)

Tualatin River

A cool, mellow river to cool off in during those hot summer days, Tualatin River is truly a place where outdoor lovers gather to enjoy Portland’s natural resources. With easy access from Tualatin Community Park, Tualatin River is a nice place for novices to try kayaking in Portland.

While most visitors enjoy paddling around the park area, those looking for more challenging waters should paddle down to the last 2 miles of the river. There, small rapids offer a fun change of pace as Tualatin River joins the Willamette River. Soon after the rapids, kayakers can pull aside and enjoy Willamette Park.

Maintained by the community, Tualatin River’s pristine waters are the culmination of the riverkeepers’ hard work. Truly a community effort, when paddling around Tualatin Community Park kayakers will feel a strong sense of unity and belonging among other outdoor enthusiasts.

If new to paddling or looking for a quiet spot, Tualatin is a wonderful place to go canoeing and kayaking in Portland. If you need to rent gear, check out Alder Creek Kayak & Canoe.

How to Get There: The best way to get to the Tualatin River is to drive. If you are driving, take I-405 N and Take exit 1D for U.S. 26 W toward Beaverton. Continue on SW River Rd. to the river.

Sparks Lake

If you are in the mood for adventuring into true wilderness, paddling around Sparks Lake should be at the top of your list. Formed 10,000 years ago from Mount Bachelor’s volcanic eruptions, Sparks Lake’s ancient beauty is a wonderful place to go canoeing and kayaking near Portland.

This shallow lake is ideal for novice paddlers and those who want to explore rugged terrain. Not only is the Deschutes National Forest a breathtaking backdrop for your water adventure, but Sparks Lake also has tons of campsites on the shore for overnight trips.

Sparks Lake is the perfect spot for beginners and young children because the lake is only 10 feet deep! Bonus- many visitors also enjoy the 2.5 mile-long hike along Sparks Lake’s volcanic shoreline (the trailhead is named Ray Atkinson Hiking Trail). Connecting to the Deschutes River, Sparks Lake offers a quiet oasis from the otherwise busy river.

From its formation to now, Sparks Lake embodies the joy of getting outdoors and exploring nature’s beauty. You can explore this volcanic lake on your own free of cost. Or, you can rent gear from Bend Kayak School.

How to Get There: The best way to reach Sparks Lake is to drive. If you are driving, take I-5 S and Take exit 138 toward Downtown/Mt Bachelor. Continue on Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway to the lake.

Chetco River

An oasis for advanced outdoorsmen, Chetco River’s rugged terrain and hidden location offer a total getaway from the busy city. Sandwhiched between two famous whitewater runs, North Fork and the Illinois River, Chetco River offers equally challenging whitewater kayaking without all of the crowds.

Known for its water being “as clear as gin”, outdoor lovers are drawn to Chetco River’s unique scenery and intense paddling. Chetco River and its surrounding ecosystems were majorly impacted by the Biscuit Fires of 2002. To this day, the Kalmiopsis Wilderness is still recovering, so please paddle with caution during your trip!

While Chetco River’s private location fosters some of the most beautiful scenery and wildlife in Oregon, it also makes it a little difficult to reach. However, with some planning it really is no problem! Most visitors access the river from Slide Creek which is a 4 mile downhill hike to Chetco. Or, more adventurous paddlers enjoy accessing Chetco from Babyfoot Lake, a 9 mile hike from the river. Either way, kayaking down Chetco River is truly an outdoor adventure- from hiking to paddling this journey has it all!

You can portage your own canoes to these access spots free of charge. Or, you can rent gear from Smith River Kayaks. This shop, and many others nearby, rent kayak gear and offer whitewater kayaking tours of the area.

How to Get There: The easiest way to get to the Chetco River is to drive. If you are driving, take I-5 S toward Crescent City. Then, continue on  N Bank Chetco River Rd. to the river.

Chetco River is a beautiful place to go canoeing and kayaking in Portland!
The Chetco River is a beautiful place to go canoeing and kayaking near Portland! Photo Credit: U.S. Forest Service (Flickr CC)

Henry Hagg Lake

Just 30 minutes from downtown Portland, Henry Hagg Lake is one of the many beautiful waterways in the Tualatin Valley. Known for its epic fishing, Henry Hagg Lake is the perfect spot to finally try kayak fishing.

One of the best parts about Henry Hagg Lake is that half of the water is a dedicated no wake zone. Therefore, these flat waters are perfect for novice paddlers and famailies paddling with young children. With 15 miles of sandy shoreline, paddlers can choose from tons of beach banks and have a private picnic spot.

This quiet lake is a wonderful spot for any ability to try canoeing and kayaking in Portland! From kayak fishing to sandy shores, Henry Hagg Lake is an idyllic paddling spot for all! Besides being a super convenient paddling spot, visitors also love Henry Hagg Lake’s 15 mile-long bike path along the shoreline.

You can launch your own boat at Henry Hagg Lake. Or, check out Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe for kayak gear rentals, tours, and lessons.

How to Get There: The best way to get to Henry Hagg Lake is to drive. If you are driving, take I-405 N and take exit 1D for U.S. 26 W toward Beaverton. Continue on SW Herr Rd. to the lake.

Sauvie Island

Full of history and charm, Sauvie Island is certainly an outdoor lover’s dream! With tons of wildlife and natural areas, a trip to Sauvie Island will truly immerse you in Oregon’s nature.

Sturgeon Lake on the north end of the island is the best spot for canoeing and kayaking on Sauvie Island. There, paddlers can see views of Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams and Mt. St.Helens right from their boats! Sturgeon Lake connects to two other waterways which are also great for paddling. Because this is island kayaking, some experience is necessary to paddle with ease around the island.

Kayakers looking for a challenge can paddle in the open water around the island. Otherwise, many visitors love paddling to Oak Island, a peninsula with epic hiking trails. Whether you have Oak Island as destination in mind or just want to paddle freely, there is no shortage of outdoor activities at Sauvie Island! Bonus- there is a pumpkin patch and blueberry farm on the island!

In addition to beautiful waterways, Sauvie Island is home to amazing historical landmarks. Visitors can explore Fort William and Warrior Rock Lighthouse, the smallest operational lighthouse in Oregon! There are also tons of hiking trails to lead you around the island (we recommend the Oak Island trail).

You can launch your own boat at Sauvie Island. Or, you can rent canoe and kayak gear from Scappoose Bay Paddling Center.

How to Get There: The easiest way to reach Sauvie Island is to drive. If you are driving, take I-405 N and take exit 3 on the left for U.S. 30 W toward Saint Helens. Continue on Sauvie Island Bridge to the island.

Smith and Bybee Wetlands Area

Located between the Columbia River and Slough, Smith and Bybee Wetlands Area beholds some of the most breathtaking sights as America’s largest protected wetland area.

Sprinkled with lakes and streams, this wetland area is a hotspot for canoeing and kayaking in Portland. The lakes are usually visitors’ go-to spot for paddling, but smaller waterways offer a unique glimpse of the wetland’s ecosystem and wildlife. If bird watching and spotting critical species is up your ally, then kayaking through these serene wetlands is the perfect place for you to explore.

This easy-going paddle destination is a haven for endangered wildlife and holds one of the largest populations of bald eagles and beavers in the nation! An immersive nature experience, canoeing and kayaking around Smith and Bybee Wetlands Area is sure to be an eye-opening journey.

You can launch your own boat on the preserve and can even paddle down to Kelley Point Park which connects the wetlands to the Columbia River. Or, you can rent gear from the Portland Kayak Company. Throughout the year, the Portland Zoo also offers tours of the area!

How to Get There: The best way to get to the Smith and Bybee Wetlands Area is to drive. If you are driving, take I-405 N and take the Interstate 5 N exit toward Seattle. Continue on Marine Drive W to the preserve.

kayaking in portland offers spectacular views of mountains and other beautiful geological formations.
Kayaking in Oregon offers spectacular views of mountains! Photo Credit: Milford Sound (Flickr CC)

White Salmon River

With rapids galore it is no wonder that White Salmon River is one of the most visited places to go whitewater rafting and kayaking in Portland each year! Mostly Class III rapids, White Salmon River is a fun challenge for intermediate paddlers.

Besides the legendary Class III, IV and V rapids throughout the river, White Salmon River is known for the beautiful Husum Falls. Said to be the largest commercially run waterfall in the U.S., Husum Falls is a thrilling obstacle for rafters and paddlers to overcome.

Nestled in a forested canyon, White Salmon River is surrounded by densely packed forests and lush green lands. If you are looking for a thrilling outdoor adventure, then White Salmon River has the perfect conditions for your next journey.

You can launch your own rafts and kayaks, but make sure to bring a helmet and be prepared for the rapids! Otherwise, you can rent gear and book trips and tours through Wet Plant Whitewater Rafting.

How to Get There: The best way to get to White Salmon River is to drive. If you are driving, take I-84 toward Mt. Hood/White Salmon. Continue on WA-141 N to the river.

Ross Island

Many people think in order to have a great kayaking experience you must travel far to get immersed in nature. But when it comes to kayaking in Portland, there are tons of flat water opportunities right in the heart of downtown. Ross Island is one of the best places for novice paddlers to explore the outdoors right in downtown Portland.

Most paddlers put-in at Sellwood Riverfront Park. Launching right off of the park’s sandy beaches, visitors can enjoy the easy 5 mile loop around Ross Island. While paddling on Ross Island’s calm waters, you will see blue herons, bald eagles, and of course, ospreys.

Besides stunning skyline views, paddlers can also kayak past the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge. Here, outdoor lovers can catch a glimpse of the critical species that call Oregon home. With the Portland skyline in the distance and wildlife all around, kayaking at Ross Island really is the best of both worlds. Bonus- it is so close to downtown Portland you can easily fit a paddle trip into your busy schedule!

Even though Ross Island is privately owned, you can launch your own boat from Sellwood Riverfront Park. Or, you can rent kayak gear and book tours of Ross Island through Portland Kayak Company.

How to Get There: The easiest way to get to Ross Island is to drive. If you are driving, take OR-99 E and continue straight onto SE McLoughlin Blvd to the lake.

Rogue River

Ranked in the top 8 best rafting and white water paddling in the world, Rogue River has a range of rapids and calm waters that will bring adventure to your next paddling trip. Rogue River’s waters are accessible to all ability levels, but intermediate and experienced paddlers will especially love the consistent Class III rapids.

Most kayakers choose to put-in their boats at Grave Creek Bridge. From there, its a wild ride! Class III rapids will guide you downstream (with a dash of calmer waters mixed in). Eventually, paddlers will reach Rogue River’s epic challenge: Rainie Falls. Beyond Rainie Falls, kayakers can continue cruising downstream and even spot bears in the surrounding forests.

A known setting for early adventure writing- from authors like Zane Grey- a day spent at Rogue River will undoubtedly be full of adventure! There are tons of outfitters that offer guided rafting trips down the river to help you navigate these rushing waters.

You can launch your own boat at Grave Creek Bridge, and remember to be mindful of the rapids! Or, you can rent gear and reserve guided tours through Northwest Rafting Company. From Class III rapids to quiet streams, Rogue River will certainly keep your next paddle trip interesting!

How to Get There: The best way to get to Rogue River is to drive. If you are driving, take I-5 S and take exit 48 toward Savage Rapides Dam. Continue on Berglund St. to the river.

Rogue River is a wonderful place for float trips and paddle trips surrounded by beautiful green forests.
Float and paddle trips are awesome ways to explore Rogue River in Portland. Photo Credit: Alphonso Dryer (Flickr CC)

Alton Baker Canal

University of Oregon students and faculty get ready- Alton Baker Canal is calling your name! Stretching from Eugene to Springfield, Alton Baker Canal is a super accessible canal perfect for beginners to test out their skills! Only a few miles long, the Alton Baker Canal is ideal for a quick paddle full of beautiful scenery.

A quick walk from the University of Oregon campus and Autzen Stadium, Alton Baker Canal is easy to get to (especially for college students)! Along the canal, there is the opportunity to portage, but it is not necessary. Avid fishermen will also love the canal because it is stocked with trout.

Whether you are looking to practice your flat water kayak skills or want to escape into nature, Alton Baker Canal is a wonderful spot for all ability levels- especially people on campus looking for an easy paddle trip!

You can launch your own boat from the ramp near the stadium. Or, you can rent boats from Northwest Canoe Tour.

How to Get There: The best way to reach the Alton Baker Canal is to drive. If you are driving, take I-5 S toward Eugene. Continue on Day Island Rd. to the river.

Upper Deschutes River

Both paddling and floating down the Upper Deschutes River are popular ways of exploring Oregon’s natural beauty! From grassy plains to volcanic formations, the Deschutes River is full of intrigue and adventure.

The Upper Deschutes River, near Bend, is the calmer portion of the river. Here, paddlers can enjoy up to a full day of paddling around beautiful scenery. The river’s flat waters and gentle current also make it ideal for float trips!

As the river flows downstream, the water becomes a bit more challenging. Therefore, it is recommended to stay near the Dillon Falls area where visitors can explore Paulina Peak’s volcanic formations. A truly breathtaking place for outdoor adventuring, all types of paddlers enjoy the Deschutes River and its surrounding aspen groves and mountain views.

With miles upon miles of kayaking available, most paddlers turn canoeing the Deschutes River into a half or whole day outdoor experience. This scenic river will absolutely not disappoint! You can launch your own boat near Dillon Falls. Or, you can rent gear and book tours through Tumalo Creek.

How to Get There: The best way to get to the Upper Deschutes River is to drive. If you are driving, take I-84 E and take exit 14 for Fairview Parkway. Continue on Jackson Trail Rd. to the river.

Fort Stevens State Park

Fort Stevens State Park is home to two hidden gems in the Portland area! With beaches, lakes and camping grounds, Fort Stevens State Park has everything you need for an epic outdoor trip!

The park’s main lake, Coffenbury Lake, is known for its unique formation. Coffenbury Lake is a dune lake, meaning that is was formed between two dunes as rainwater filled the basin. Usually, dune lakes only last about 100 years (due to erosion) so kayaking at Coffenbury lake is a real treat! Although small in size, Coffenbury Lake is an excellent place for novice paddlers to explore and you can spot elk right on the shore!

Fort Stevens State Park’s other hidden treasure is Crabapple Lake. Although too much vegetation has made it un-kayakable, this small pond is a hotspot for wildlife. Crabapple Lake is a nice spot to break up a long day of paddling and hopefully see some awesome wildlife! Bonus- Social Security Beach is an awesome fishing spot!

Kayaking around Fort Stevens’ Coffenbury Lake is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The crystal blue waters and insane geological features make this park a must-see. Visitors can launch their own boats at the park. Or, you can rent gear from Wheel Fun Kayak Rentals.

How to Get There: The easiest way to get to Fort Stevens State Park is to drive. If you are driving, take I-405 N and take exit 1D for U.S. 26 W toward Beaverton. Continue on Columbia Beach Rd. to the park.

Deschutes River kayaking is a wonderful place for beginners to interact with nature and practice their paddling skills!
Fall foliage is breathtaking to see while paddling down the Deschutes River. Photo Credit: Robert Shea (Flickr CC)

Cascades Range

Kayaking in Portland doesn’t get much better than the Cascades Range. A series of mountain lakes, the Cascades Range has bodies of water ideal for all types of paddlers.

The North Cascades is the place for outdoor thrill-seekers! Known for its whitewater kayaking, there are tons of outfitters to help you navigate the Class III, IV and V rapids in the North Cascades.

The Cascades Range has other waterways (that are a bit calmer) still with breathtaking mountain views. Many paddlers enjoy kayaking the Skagit River and the Skykomish River alongside Highway 2. Also, the Wenatchee River along the eastern side of the Cascades Range. All of these options offer a unique way to interact with this massive mountain range!

Kayaking around high-elevation lakes is an awesome experience. These, crystal clear lakes and mountain views of central Oregon are unbeatable- especially from the seat of a canoe! You can launch your own boat at these lakes. Or, you can rent gear and book tours through Wanderlust Kayak Tours.

How to Get There: The best way to get to the Cascades Range is to drive. If you are driving, take I-84 E and take exit 44 for US 30 E toward Cascade Locks. Continue on NF-68 to the lake.

From mountain lakes to whitewater rapids, kayaking in Portland is a wonderful way to interact with Oregon’s environment. Now that you are in the mood to kayak, check out our destinations page to see where else your boat can take you! Need some more inspiration before heading outdoors? Check out these motivational outdoors quotes. Happy paddling!

kayaking in Portland is a wonderful way to see the city and its luscious environment.
Canoeing and kayaking in Portland is an awesome way to experience the outdoors. Photo Credit: Aleksey Kuprikuv (Flickr CC)

Additional Resources

What to Pack for Kayaking in Portland

  • Swimsuit: Wearing a swimsuit is essential for being out on the water! When canoeing and kayaking, chances are you are going to get wet, so best to be prepared! Click here to compare styles and prices for our favorite swimsuits.
  • Sunglasses: Being out on the water is beautiful, but the water can really reflect light! Make sure to bring a pair of sunglasses and croakies to keep them from falling off.
  • Hat: It’s best to keep the sun of your head to keep you cool. Whether you prefer a nice bucket hat or a vintage baseball cap, keeping cool will ensure an awesome trip.
  • Water Bottle: Keeping hydrated is no joke! Paddling is a great way to exercise and relax, but that means it takes a lot of energy too! Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout your trip with these cool water bottles.
  • Sunscreen and Bug Spray: Don’t let the elements stop you from having an amazing paddle! I recommend bringing sunscreen and bug spray in the boat with ou to ward off any pests and sunburns.

For a more complete packing list, check out our ultimate kayaking packing list to help you prepare for all of your outdoor kayak adventures. These essentials will make your time kayaking and canoeing in San Diego an unforgettable experience!

Related Links to Kayaking in Portland

Although Charlotte, North Carolina, is nicknamed the “Queen City” because of its booming financial district, this title should also be applied to the epic canoeing and kayaking in Charlotte. Yes- Charlotte is full of beautiful places to go paddling! From gusting whitewater currents to peaceful ponds, Charlotte has a range of waterways perfect for all types of water adventures.

Whenever I go to a new city, my favorite way to explore is through canoeing and kayaking. Adventuring around Charlotte’s lakes and streams is a wonderful way to stay in touch with nature and enjoy the city’s natural beauty. Below is our complete guide to the most scenic places to go canoeing and kayaking in Charlotte!

Best Places to Go Canoeing and Kayaking in Charlotte

kayaking in charlotte is a wonderful  way for all ages to enjoy the outdoors.
Kayaking in Charlotte is a wonderful way for all ages to explore the outdoors! Photo Credit: Will Fisher (Flickr CC)

Latta Plantation Nature Center

Full of adventure and outdoor activities, Latta Plantation Nature Center is an awesome place for families to engage with the great outdoors.

Paddlers from all around come to Latta PlantationNature Center to kayak around Mountain Island Lake. With stretches of wooded banks and little coves to explore, this flat water paddling is perfect for beginners and SUPing.

Feeding into the Catawba River, Mountain Island Lake is a true sanctuary for wildlife- especially blue herons! This protected waterway is known for its smooth waters and serene vibe- if looking for a peaceful paddling spot, check out Mountain Island Lake!

Besides providing access to the lake, Latta Plantation Nature Center is also home to the largest eagle sanctuary in the Southeast (the Carolina Raptor Center). Visitors also enjoy exploring the Historic Latta Plantation- dating back to the 1800s- and over 18 miles of hiking and horseback riding trails.

Clearly, a day spent at Latta Plantation Nature Center is a day spent immersed in all aspects of nature. From Mountain Island Lake’s quiet coves to the center’s multiple gardens, friends and family can spend a whole day here without getting bored. You can launch your own boat from the center. Or, you can rent gear from Latta PlantationNature Center seasonally.

How to Get There: If driving, take I-77 N and take exit 16B for Sunset Rd W to the nature center.

U.S. National Whitewater Center

Kayaking in Charlotte is taken to a whole new level at the U.S. National Whitewater Center. Making whitewater kayaking accessible to all ages and abilities, anyone up for an adventure must try the center’s epic paddling programs.

Focusing on education and land resource management, the U.S. National Whitewater Center is a non-profit with over 1,300 acres of protected areas encompassing Catawba River and Long Creek. Motivated to protect these beautiful natural areas and share how special they are, visitors are encouraged to not only go white water rafting, but also try rock climbing, zip lining, and more.

At the center, a professional will guide down majestic waterways with Class II-IV rapids. Don’t worry- you can choose where you want to go based on your own skill level! With lush wooded areas all around, kayaking down Charlotte’s most famous rivers is a true outdoors experience.

After an afternoon of kayaking, many visitors also enjoy “adventure dining”. Paddle boarding to a private dinner or dining among the tree tops is definelty a new way to enjoy a meal! From epic rapids to forest climbing, the U.S. National Whitewater Center is an oasis for all outdoor enthusiats.

You can launch your own boat within the park if you purchase a day pass. Otherwise, guided sessions are the main way to explore the whitewater areaa and can be booked through U.S. National Whitewater Center.

How to Get There: If driving, take I-85 S and take exit 12 for Moores Chapel Rd. Continue on Whitewater Center Pkwy until you reach the Whitewater Center.

Whitewater rafting and kayaking is a thrilling adventure with all of those rapids and crashing waves!
Charlotte is known for epic whitewater rafting and kayaking adventures! Photo Credit: Laurelville (Flickr CC)

Anne Springs Close Greenway

With over 2,100 acres of land, Anne Springs Close Greenway provides the much needed connection to nature that we outdoor lovers are looking for! With countless ways to engage with nature, Anne Springs Close Greenway is an excellent place to visit for hiking, biking and kayaking near Charlotte.

Within the park, canoe and kayakers flock to scenic Lake Haigler. This flat water lake is calm enough for novice paddlers, but all abilities will enjoy the lake’s openness and tree-lined shores. Lake Haigler is also kown for its fishing. Avid fishermen will be drawn to Lake Haigler’s peacefulness, and can even try kayak fishing!

Most visitors spend a whole day exploring all that the grounds have to offer. With over 50 miles of trails, hiking and mountain biking are also popular activities at Anne Springs Close Greenway. With the park’s foundation in conservation and education, it is clear that this is a place where a community of outdoorsmen gather to celebrate their love of nature.

You can launch your own non-motored boats at Lake Haigler’s access ramp for free. Or, on Saturdays and Sundays you can rent kayaks at Anne Springs Close Greenway.

How to Get There: If driving, take I-77 S and take exit 88 for Gold Hill Rd. Continue on Adventure Rd. to the park.

Crowders Mountain State Park

Created over 500 million years ago, Crowders Mountain is apart of the Appalachian Trail that has withstood the test of time (and erosion)! With stunning views of Crowders Mountain and Kings Mountain, Crowders Mountain State Park is an awesome place to escape from the busy city.

Inside the park, a nine-acre wooded lake boasts views of both mountain peaks. A quiet, flat water place to paddle, Crowders Mountain State Park is known for its serenity and excellent fishing. With forests all around and epic mountain peaks on the horizon, this park is definitely a place for sight-seeing and relaxing paddles.

Besides being a beautiful place for canoeing, paddle boarding and kayaking near Charlotte, Crowders Mountain State Park has an abundance of rock climbing and backcountry camping opportunities. Thrill-seekers will love Crowders’ vertical cliffs which reach an elevation of 1,700 feet! If climbing isn’t your scene, the park also has tons of hiking trails that stretch from the lake all of the way to the summit of Crowders and Kings Mountain.

With breathtaking views from the lake and various hiking trails, Crowders Mountain State Park is the perfect way to enjoy the rugged outdoors. You can launch your own boat inside the park. Or, you can rent a boat at Crowders Mountain.

How to Get There: If driving, take I-85 S and take exit 13 for Edgewood Rd toward Bessemer City. Continue on Linwood Rd. to the park.

Cedar Creek

In the heart of Congaree National Park, surrounded by forests and mossy creeks lies Cedar Creek. Full of native flora and fauna, Cedar Creek is the hidden gem of this acclaimed national forest.

Kayakers of all ages and abilities flock to Cedar Creek to explore this intense and expansive swamp-like ecosystem. With tons of inlets and creeks to explore, curious paddlers will have so much discover!

Besides a relaxing paddle spot, Cedar Creek is known for its expansive hardwood forests- some of the oldest in North America! Whether you decide to kayak around these scenic spots or hike along the many walking trails, Cedar Creek is a place for families and friends to get together and explore this unique paddle destination.

You can launch your own boat at the Cedar Creek Landing. Or, you can rent kayaks at Congaree National Park. Cedar Creek’s intricate tree networks and calm waters make a wonderful spot to go canoeing and kayaking near Charlotte.

How to Get There: If driving, take I-77 S to National Park Rd.

Kayaking in Charlotte has stunning mountain views with lush forests all around.
Mountain views and lush forests are stunning backdrops for kayaking in Charlotte. Photo Credit: DanniePhoto (Pixabay)

Rock Hill Riverwalk

In the city of Rock Hill, the Piedmont Medical Center Trail is the newest addition to a chain of trails that follow the beautiful Catawba River. This 3.5 mile-long trail is perfect for novice and experienced paddlers alike. Slow moving waters with a dash of rapids makes kayaking down Charlotte’s Catawba River an epic journey for all.

The canoe and kayak put-in is at the beginning of the trail. Kayakers can effortlessly follow the flow of the Catawba River and enjoy the lush green scenery. The Rock Hill Riverwalk is an awesome place for canoeing, fishing and kayaking in Charlotte- fans of kayak fishing can enjoy this activity here!

Along the river route, visitors can also enjoy bike and jogging paths. However, the kayak trail truly steals the spotlight! Close to the charming city of Rock Hill, visitors can get a bite to eat and explore historic landmarks after an afternoon of kayaking.

You can launch your own boat- and rafts!- at the start of trail near Fort Mill Dam. Or, you can rent canoe and kayak gear from Twisted Beaver River Adventures. Whether you are floating or paddling, Rock Hill’s Riverwalk is an altogether charming experience for beginners and experts!

How to Get There: If driving, take I-77 S toward Columbia. Continue on Herrons Ferry Road to the riverwalk.

Ramsey Creek Park

Looking for a beach-day getaway? Ramsey Creek Park is a nice little spot to get some sun and sand! Sandy shores line Lake Norman, a flat water lake ideal for intermediate paddlers.

Launching right off of the beach, paddlers can cruise around Lake Norman’s open waters and spot gorgeous trees along the coastline. A fun way to spend the day, Ramsey Creek Park is a great spot for families to escape from the city! Besides canoeing, kayaking and paddle boarding, visitors can enjoy the beach and park.

There are many lovely vacation homes along Lake Norman. However, if house hunting is not your preferred paddle activity, head toward the north end of the lake. The north end of Lake Norman has shallow, open waters ideal for paddling and swimming.

Because Ramsey Creek Park is so close to Charlotte, it often gets busy quickly! We recommend getting there before 10 am if you want a prime spot on the beach. Visitors love coming to Ramsey Creek Park because they can spend a whole day enjoying the outdoors- it is the perfect day trip!

You can launch you own boat off of the beach at Ramsey Creek Park. Or, you can rent gear from Lake Effects.

How to Get There: If driving, take I-77 N and take exit 25 for NC-73 toward Concord. Continue Nantz Rd. to Ramsey Creek Park.

paddling down quiet streams ia peaceful way to enjoy the outdoors.
Peaceful streams are a wonderful way to explore Charlotte’s great outdoors. Photo Credit: Chanh Nguyen (Flickr CC)

French Broad River

Kayaking down the pristine waters of the French Broad River provides paddlers with an up close view of Ashville’s historic sites and beautiful scenery. Perfect for all ages and abilities, no experience is necessary to enjoy these views! While kayaking down French Broad River, you can choose a 6,7 or 12 mile route that flows into Ashville.

Beginning in Bent Creek Park near the North Carolina Arboretum and Blue Ridge Parkway, paddlers will have miles of uninterrupted nature- this stretch is especially good for birdwatching! Ending your water adventure at Hominy Creek will make your trip 6 miles. Paddling a little more to the Asheville Outdoor Center will make your trip 7 miles long. Or, you can continue down the French Broad River through the River Arts District and New Belgium Brewery for a 12 mile urban adventure.

Canoeing, rafting, and kayaking down this classic river is a favorite among visitors because of the variety of sites you can see along the way! Among the most popular is the famous Biltmore Estate and Hotel. And, as always, experiencing these places by boat allows you to see them in a whole new perspective!

You can launch your own boat at Bent Creek Park. Or, there are tons of kayaking and rafting tours that target different portions of the river. French Broad River Tours can help guide you down different areas of the river to highlight the art scene, hardwood forests and historical landmarks.

How to Get There: If driving, take I-85 S to I-26 W toward Ashville. Continue on NC-63 W to Old Macedonia Rd. until you reach the river.

Kevin Loftin Riverfront Park

Sitting right on the edge of the stunning Catawba River, Kevin Loftin Riverfront Park is a hidden gem for kayaking in Charlotte. With a nice pier, unique playground and picnic area, Kevin Loftin Riverfront Park has everything you need for a fun family day out!

With easy access to the Catawba River, novice and intermediate paddlers can improve their skills on this easy-going river. With tree-filled greenery all around, a day spent kayaking down this picturesque river is sure to be relaxing.

Many visitors flock to Kevin Loftin Riverfront Park because of its unique wooden playground. Built with all natural wood, these intricate structures provide a beautiful piece of equipment to play on (no matter your age)! This neighborhood favorite is the perfect place for family and friends to gather and enjoy breathtaking riverfront views.

Taking a detour to this riverfront property will not disappoint! This gem is a wonderful spot for launching your own boat on the Catawba River, or having a picnic with stunning river views. If you need to rent kayak gear, check out Riverside Marina to get you started.

How to Get There: If driving, take US-74 W to Catawba St. to the park.

Canoeing and kayaking in Charlotte is  a scenic outdoor experience
Explore Charlotte’s beauty by boat! Photo Credit: Sorbyphoto (Pixabay)

Goat Island

Although goats no longer roam on this parcel of land, Goat Island is still one of the best places to go kayaking in Charlotte and spot tons of wildlife! Scenic Goat Island Park is the perfect launch spot for your water adventure.

Goat Island features the clam waters of the Southern Catawba River. Perfect for beginners, Goat Island’s small and secure base provides an ideal setting for paddle adventures. While paddling around Goat Island, visitors will revel in the lush hardwood forests and serene greenways.

This gem also boasts a treehouse playground, paved walking paths, a disc course, and many other spaces fitted for outdoor activities. Two distinct bridges are Goat Island’s calling card and offer awesome panoramic views of Charlotte’s natural beauty.

This family-friendly spot is ideal for an afternoon getaway! With green spaces all around, paddlers will surely feel a connection to nature- I know that being on the water always helps me clear my mind and find peace.

You can launch your own boat on Goat Island at two different ramps. Or, you can rent gear and book tours through The Floating Goat.

How to Get There: If driving, take I-85 S and take exit 26 toward Mt Holly. Continue on Lakewood Rd. to Cramerton Goat Island Greenway.

Colonel Francis Beatty Park

A neighborhood favorite, Colonel Francis Beatty Park has over 250 acres of space devoted to numerous outdoor activities! Whether you want to fish, bike, hike or paddle, Colonel Francis Beatty Park encourages all types of outdoor play.

A small, shallow lake, Colonel Francis Beatty Park Lake is best known for evening paddles. Perfect for some after-work adventures, this lake is surrounded by gorgeous forests and has an amazing view of the stars. Besides a few submerged trees, kayaking on this lake is smooth and easy for all ability levels.

In addition to a late-night adventure spot, the park has wonderful hiking and mountain biking trails that follow the lake. A low-key place for outdoor lovers to immerse themselves in nature, this park has something for everyone. Lighted basketball courts and soccer fields make this park a destination for families with young children too.

Paddling under the stars at Colonel Francis Beatty Park is a truly magical experience. With the moonlight guiding your way, kayaking in Charlotte will take your breath away. You can launch your own boat in the park. Or, you can rent gear from Rockin’ River Adventures.

How to Get There: If driving, take US-74 E to Matthews Township Pkwy. Continue on Weddington Rd. to the park.

kayaking around mii islands and lakes is a great way to get around!
Mountain views and mini islands make Charlotte a stunning place to go kayaking! Photo Credit: Gregory Zhdanovich (Flickr CC)

Copperhead Island

It’s no wonder why the largest park in Charlotte is a hotspot for outdoor activity. Copperhead Island, surrounded by Lake Wylie, is an awesome spot to launch your boats for an epic day on the water.

Kayakers love paddling around Copperhead Island because this nature paradise is only 30 minutes from downtown Charlotte. Therefore, taking a quick trip to this beautiful nature center is super convenient!

With 4 different public access ramps, enjoying Copperhead Island is easy and accessible for all. For easy paddling, try kayaking or SUPing around the wooded inlets of McDowell Nature Preserve. The preserve sits on a peninsula that juts into Lake Wylie and shelters tons of wildlife. Bonus- paddle among turtles in their natural habitat!

For a bit of a challenge, try kayaking across the narrow section of the lake to a lakefront restaurant. This lakefront meal is a well-deserves treat after a long day of paddling! Lake Wylie’s clam waters are perfect for all ability levels and Copperhead Island’s views are unbeatable.

With over 50 campsites, Copperhead Island is also a premier spot for camping trips. Sturdy wooden bridges string together campsites over bubbling brooks and streams so the whole island feels connected. If camping with a large group or hosting a party, Copperhead Island is able to be rented out for the night- imagine an epic outdoor party!

You can launch your own boats on Copperhead Island. Or, you can rent gear and book guided tours through Long Cove Harbour, Lake Wylie’s Marina. From spotting beavers to ancient hardwood forests, Copperhead Island is a magical place to put-in at Lake Wylie.

How to Get There: If driving, take I-77 S and take exit 1B for I-485 toward Huntsville. Continue toward Fort Mill to the island.

Falls Reservoir

Also known as the “Narrows of the Yadkin”, Falls Reservoir is considered the most scenic place to paddle within an hour of downtown Charlotte! With sloping mountainsides and greenery all around, Falls Reservoir will quickly become your new favorite place to go kayaking in Charlotte.

Just to the north of Morrow Mountain State Park, Falls Reservoir has all of the views of the Uwharrie Mountains without the huge crowds. 200 ft. deep waters make for epic whitewater waves throughout the reservoir- this waterway has a moderate current so be prepared for a more challenging paddle.

With waterfalls and mini islands to explore, kayaking around Falls Reservoir is a truly unique experience. Surrounded by the Uwharrie Forest and mountains, time will fly when paddling around this stunning landscape. Bonus- there are also caves you can explore by boat when the tide isn’t high!

You can launch your own boat at the Falls Dam. Or, you can rent kayak gear from Uwharrie Hoof & Paddle.

How to Get There: If driving, take NC-49 N to Falls Dam Trail to the reservoir.

Charlotte has tons of waterfalls to explore by boat!
Get up close to these beautiful waterfalls around Charlotte! Photo Credit: Jake Colvin (Pexels)

Additional Resources

What to Pack for Kayaking in Charlotte

  • Swimsuit: Wearing a swimsuit is essential for being out on the water! When canoeing and kayaking, chances are you are going to get wet, so best to be prepared! Click here to compare styles and prices for our favorite swimsuits.
  • Sunglasses: Being out on the water is beautiful, but the water can really reflect light! Make sure to bring a pair of sunglasses and croakies to keep them from falling off.
  • Hat: It’s best to keep the sun of your head to keep you cool. Whether you prefer a nice bucket hat or a vintage baseball cap, keeping cool will ensure an awesome trip.
  • Water Bottle: Keeping hydrated is no joke! Paddling is a great way to exercise and relax, but that means it takes a lot of energy too! Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout your trip with these cool water bottles.
  • Sunscreen and Bug Spray: Don’t let the elements stop you from having an amazing paddle! I recommend bringing sunscreen and bug spray in the boat with ou to ward off any pests and sunburns.

For a more complete packing list, check out our ultimate kayaking packing list to help you prepare for all of your outdoor kayak adventures. These essentials will make your time kayaking and canoeing in San Diego an unforgettable experience!

Related to Links to Kayaking in Charlotte


Like many of you, I find myself continually inspired by nature and being outdoors. From the fresh mountain air to the desert sun, adventuring outdoors always puts me in a better state of being. Although hiking and skiing have a place in my heart, I am a paddling girl through and through! Hopefully, these canoe and kayaking quotes can inspire your next epic outdoor adventure!

Quiet ponds and ocean waves never fail to remind me of nature’s beauty and inspiring ways. Whether you need some motivation to start exploring or just love to paddle (like me) here are some insightful and inspiring canoe and kayaking quotes.

Inspiring Canoe and Kayaking Quotes for Paddlers

Red canoes paddle across the river as inspired paddlers think of their favorite canoe and kayaking quotes.
Kayaking is a great way to explore the outdoors!

Motivating Canoe and Kayaking Quotes for Challenging Paddles

During long or challenging paddles, it is easy to give in to tired arms and fatigue- I know that when my muscles start to burn I usually want to stop paddling! In times like these, I turn to an inspirational quote to help me stay strong. Hopefully, these motivational canoe and kayaking quotes will give you an extra push during those difficult paddles.

1. “As one goes through life, one learns that if you don’t paddle your own canoe, you don’t move.” – Katharine Hepburn

2. “Paradise is just a paddle away.” – Author unknown

3. “Keep your face always toward sunshine and shadows will fall behind you.” ~ Walt Whitman

when the waves become choppy, remember the inspiration canoe and kayak quotes in this guide to help you push through.
Adventure awaits- push through and enjoy the ride! Photo Credit: VisitCOS (Flickr CC)

4. “The storms come and go, the waves crash overhead, the big fish eat the little fish, and I keep on paddling.” – George R. R. Martin

5. “A rough day at sea is better than any day at the office.” – Author unknown

6. “There’s no mastery to be had. You love the attempt. You feel lucky to canoe down it.” –– Garrison Keillor

7. “A river cuts through rock not because of its power but because of its persistence.” – Jim Watkins

8. “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” — Author unknown

a group  of kayakers start on a long yet epic kayak journey beside mountains.
Think back to these quotes during long or challenging paddles for some extra motivation! Photo Credit: Headshatter> (Pexels)

Inspiring Canoe and Kayaking Quotes about New Adventures

One of my favorite aspects of canoeing and kayaking is the chance to explore new places- uncharted waters if you will. Out on the water, there are endless possibilities for where you can go and what you may see. In case the thought of water adventure does not immediately inspire you to plan a paddle trip, here are some inspirational canoe and kayaking quotes about embracing new adventures.

9. “When a man is part of his canoe, he is part of all that canoes have ever known.” – Sigurd F. Olson

10. “Open water is a highway to adventure, best traveled by canoe or kayak.” – Author unknown

11. “Originality is unexplored territory. You get there by carrying a canoe – you can’t take a taxi”    Alan Alda

experience new adventures around every bend when going canoeing or kayaking.
New adventures are around every bend when exploring on the water. Photo Credit: Headshatter (Pexels)

12. “It is not down in any map; true places never are.” – Herman Melville

13. “The river delights to lift us free, if only we dare let go.” – Richard Bach

14. “Be like water. Flow, crash, fly!”― Md. Ziaul Haque

15. “Adventure is worthwhile in itself.”– Amelia Earhart

catch the early morning sunrise for a paddle experience you will never forget- the views are almost as inspiring as these canoe and kayaking quotes!
Sunrise paddles are full of beauty and adventure for all. Photo Credit: Josh Hild> (Pexels)

Uplifting Canoe and Kayaking Quotes

Besides being a great way to get outdoors and exercise, canoeing and kayaking is simply fun! These uplifting canoe and kayaking quotes will help you acknowledge the sheer awesomeness of paddling outdoors.

16. “Paddling a canoe is a source of enrichment and inner renewal.” -Pierre Trudeau

17. “A canoe does not know who is king. When it turns over, everyone gets wet.” – Malagasy proverb

18. “Happiness is finally leaving the shore.” – Author unknown

19. “The way of a canoe is the way of the wilderness, and of a freedom almost forgotten.” — Sigurd F. Olson

two kayakers enjoy a scenic route down a river and remind themselves of inspirational canoe and kayaking quotes that motivated them to take this journey.
Grab a friend and experience the joy of paddling together! Photo Credit: Lostangelino (Pixabay)

20. “The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful” — e. e. cummings

21. “Water in the boat is the ruin of the boat, but water under the boat is its support.”― Jalaluddin Rumi

22. “A man of wisdom delights in water.” – Confucius

Beginners looking to kayak can rent their gear from outfitters, marinas, or shops along the beach.
Paddlers of all ages come together to share their love of paddling and the outdoors.

Insightful Canoe and Kayaking Quotes about Appreciating Nature

Whether you are bow or stern, nothing compares to looking at the world from the seat of a boat. From spotting wildlife to exploring beautiful ecosystems, paddling offers such a unique way to view and appreciate nature. That being said, these insightful canoe and kayaking quotes will resonate with paddlers who enjoy nature’s beauty.

23. “The rivers flow not past but through us.” – John Muir

24. “So lovely was the loneliness of a wild lake.” – Edgar Allan Poe

25. “A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is Earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.” – Henry David Thoreau

26. “Nature always wears the colors of the spirit” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

a kayaker is inspired to explore the green moss forests in this new outdoor adventure.
Reconnect with nature by canoeing or kayaking through epic ecosystems. Photo Credit: Scott Younkin (Pixabay)

27. “The outside is the only place we can truly be inside the world.” ― Daniel J. Rice

28. “There are always flowers for those who want to see them” — Henri Matisse

29. “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.” — William Shakespeare

30. “A river seems a magic thing. A magic, moving, living part of the very earth itself.” ― Laura Gilpin

With these words of wisdom in mind, you are ready to conquer any outdoor adventure! Now that these inspirational canoe and kayaking quotes have you in an outdoorsy mood, why not check out out latest destination guides and get suited up with our ultimate kayak gear list.

Additional Resources

What to Pack for Canoe and Kayaking Trips

  • Swimsuit: Wearing a swimsuit is essential for being out on the water! When canoeing and kayaking, chances are you are going to get wet, so best to be prepared! Click here to compare styles and prices for our favorite swimsuits.
  • Sunglasses: Being out on the water is beautiful, but the water can really reflect light! Make sure to bring a pair of sunglasses and croakies to keep them from falling off.
  • Hat: It’s best to keep the sun of your head to keep you cool. Whether you prefer a nice bucket hat or a vintage baseball cap, keeping cool will ensure an awesome trip.
  • Water Bottle: Keeping hydrated is no joke! Paddling is a great way to exercise and relax, but that means it takes a lot of energy too! Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout your trip with these cool water bottles.
  • Sunscreen and Bug Spray: Don’t let the elements stop you from having an amazing paddle! I recommend bringing sunscreen and bug spray in the boat with ou to ward off any pests and sunburns.

For a more complete packing list, check out our ultimate kayaking packing list to help you prepare for all of your outdoor kayak adventures. These essentials will make your time kayaking and canoeing in San Diego an unforgettable experience!

Related Links to Canoe and Kayaking Quotes to Inspire Your Next Adventure


With some of the best beaches and coastlines in the U.S., it is no wonder that Miami is such a hotspot for water activities. From swimming to sunbathing, Miami’s conditions are perfect for spending the day outdoors. Canoeing and kayaking in Miami offer a unique way to tour these beautiful places! Whether you’re looking for a thrilling ocean adventure or a quiet pond, a day spent kayaking in Miami is an awesome way to explore the outdoors.

Kayaking in Miami is a great activity for all ages and abilities. It’s time to take advantage of the blue waters, beaches and sunshine! Below is our complete guide to the most scenic places to go canoeing and kayaking inMiami.

Best Places to Go Canoeing and Kayaking in Miami

Beautiful blue waters and sandy beaches make urban living and outdoor activities easy and fun, like kayaking in Miami!
Florida’s natural beauty makes kayaking in Miami an amazing outdoor activity all year-round! Photo Credit: Antonio Cuellar (Pexels)

Crandon Park

A natural beach boasting tons of wildlife, Crandon Park is a family-friendly spot open to canoe and kayakers of all abilities! Crandon Park is divided into North and South Beaches- North Beach offers prime paddling views while South Beach has more challenging waters.

Many paddlers enjoy exploring the nearby mangroves and Rickenbacker Causeway. If you are in the mood for a longer paddle, Crandon Park has a stunning route that reaches the famous Cape Florida Lighthouse.

Known for its relaxing and family-friendly atmosphere, Crandon Park is a wonderful spot for beginners to experience the joys of paddle boarding, canoeing and kayaking in Miami. Quaint picnic spots, volleyball nets and scenic bike paths will make Crandon Park your new favorite beach getaway!

Rentals are available on the North Beach side of Crandon Park next to the Marjorie Stoneman Nature Center ($25/hour). Or, you can rent gear from nearby Miami Kiteboarding ($20/hour). If you have your own boat, you can launch anywhere along the sandy coastline.

How to Get There: Take FL-913 S and keep left on the Rickenbacker Causeway until you reach the park.

Virginia Key

A perfect combination of the urban and the outdoors, Miami’s Virginia Key is a must- see island to explore this Summer. With gorgeous skyline views on one side and the scenic Key Biscayne on the other, touring Virginia Key will amaze all paddlers.

Virginia Key has tons of paddling activities for each age and ability level. Intermediate and advanced paddlers can challenge their skills by paddling around the island (six miles total) in the blue waters of Key Biscayne. Families and beginners can easily paddle along the coast and see the Miami skyline.

Special to Virginia Key, visitors really love seeing the historic Miami Marine Stadium. Once an epic concert venue, now the Stadium’s unique architecture draws in admirers and is a nice distance to paddle to from the beaches of Virginia Key.

From the hidden wildlife in Key Biscayne to the urban architecture in the distance, Virginia Key’s diversity makes it a spectacular place to go kayaking in Miami.

Visitors can rent canoe, kayak, paddle board and mountain biking gear from the Virginia Key Outdoor Center ($25/hour). Or, you can launch your own boat from the Miami Rowing Center.

How to Get There: Take FL-913 S and keep left on the Rickenbacker Causeway and exit at Arther Lamb Jr. Rd.

Kayaking in Miami lets you explore countless miles of mangrove forests, a complex and unique ecosystem in Florida.
Kayaking in Miami allows you to explore the unique mangrove ecosystems in a new way. Photo Credit: Tom Fink> (Pexels)

Matheson Hammock Park

Sandy beaches and blue waters make up Matheson Hammock Park! A hidden gem for kayaking in Miami, Matheson Hammock Park’s reasonable size and calm waters are ideal for kids and families.

Designed to showcase all of Miami’s beautiful landscapes, visitors are able to explore swamps, mangroves, and the sparkling Biscayne Bay all in one place!

This man-made atoll is a lovely spot to go swimming and paddling. Skyline views are the backdrop for a small mangrove forest which boasts tons of wildlife! Matheson Hammock Park is the place to go for a quiet, relaxing, short paddle. In addition to these gorgeous views, visitors enjoy going to the nearby Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens.

Rentals are available at the Matheson Hammock Marina along with a boating school for young children. Otherwise, you can launch your own boat anywhere along these gorgeous beaches.

How to Get There: Take US-1 S to Matheson Park and continue straight to Matheson Park Rd.

Oleta River State Park

Miami’s Oleta River State Park is an outdoor lover’s dream! White sand beaches and an endless coastline provide the perfect location for any water adventure you could imagine.

The park itself provides tons of awesome programs for paddlers of all abilities and interests. Every Friday, the park has guided sunset paddle tours with views that will take your breath away. Other favorite programs include paddle board yoga on Sundays and Full Moon kayak tours.

If you want to explore the coast on your own, Oleta River State Park will set you up with kayak rentals and start you off in the right direction. During your paddle, you are sure to see tons of wildlife in the mangroves and other beautiful natural landscapes.

Oleta River State Park offers daily canoe, kayak, and SUP rentals ($17/hour). Or, you can bring your own boat and launch off of the park’s beautiful beaches.

How to Get There: Take I-95 N and exit at 10B for FL-916. Then, continue to Interama Blvd. to the park.

A stack of canoes rests on the shore of a beach in Florida. Kayaking in Miami is both a relaxing yet thrilling way to explore the outdoors.
Miami’s beaches are the perfect place to launch your next water adventure! Photo Credit: Sabel Blanco> (Pexels)

Biscayne National Park

From shallow bays teeming with marine wildlife to open fresh waters, kayaking around Biscayne National Park is the private paddling destination you have been looking for!

Shallow clear waters dedicated to non-motorized boats create the perfect atmosphere for paddlers of all abilities. Jones Lagoon and Adams Key are prime launch spots especially for novice paddlers. In these shallow areas, paddlers can spot jellyfish, rays, fish and birds.

Paddlers looking for a more challenging paddle can explore the seven mile expanse of Biscayne Bay to Elliott or Boca Chita Keys. Along the way, visitors can explore mini islands and other hidden gems.

Whether you are looking for a simple afternoon paddle or an exciting water adventure, Biscayne National Park’s diverse waterways provide some of the best kayaking in Miami! Rentals are available at Biscayne National Park from Wednesday to Sunday. Otherwise, you can launch your own boat from Adams Key.

How to Get There: Take US-1 S to FL-874 S. Use the Ronal Reagan Turnpike to to get onto SW 328th St. to get to the park.

Black Point Marina

With picturesque nature trails and calm water, Black Point Marina is an amazing place to begin your kayak journey. A major daytime destination, Black Point Marina is a gathering place for outdoor lovers all year-round.

With a few mapped canoe routes (ranging from 1-3 miles long) Black Point Marina’s mission is to get you on the water in a safe and efficient way so you can explore Miami’s diverse marine ecosystems.

The waterways near Black Point Marina are suitable for all abilities and all routes are relatively short paddles. A quiet, private, and scenic place to paddle, Black Point Marina is perfect for those looking to get away from busy city life.

As Miami’s largest marina, Black Point has all of your canoe and kayak essentials. You can rent gear from Black Point Marina or launch your own boat on their 24-hour open access ramps.

How to Get There: Take US-1 S to Fl-874 S. Then use the Ronald Regan Turnpike to get onto SW 87th Ave to reach the park.

A woman standing on a paddle board enjoys the wide-open waters and beautiful views around her.
Paddle boarding in Miami is another amazing way to enjoy nature’s serenity. Photo Credit: Aviv Perets> (Pexels)

The Everglades

  • Location: Miami
  • Rentals Available: Yes- at Ivey House

The third largest wilderness area in the U.S., Everglades National Park is a paddler’s paradise also vital for protecting endangered species like manatee, American crocodile, and the Florida panther.

The Everglades’ winding canoe and kayak trails can last from a few hours to several days. Popular paddle destinations are Flamingo Bay trails (launch from Flamingo Marina 38 miles from south of main park entrance) which include Nine Mile Pond and Hell’s Bay. These trails are famous for covering both mangrove forests and grassy wetlands. 

Backcountry kayaking is also an option near the Florida Bay, where you can explore over 100,000 mini islands along 99 miles waterway. This area of the park is best suited for advanced paddlers.

Kayak and boat rentals are available at Ivey House, but the park also has a list of recommended guides that can help you navigate the extensive trail network that make up the Everglades.

How to Get There: Take I-95 N and take exit 3A toward Jackson. Continue on US-41 W to Shark Valley Loop Rd. reach the visitor’s center.

Loxahatchee River

A full 8.5 miles of rugged scenery, kayaking in Miami’s Loxahatchee River is a wonderful way to explore the untouched beauty of Florida. From twisty and narrow passages to rushing waters, Loxahatchee River is the best river paddling in Miami.

While some paddlers enjoy kayaking the whole 8.5 miles of the river downstream, it is recommended to paddle around the two parks that span the river. About 4 miles of the river are through the majestic cypress forests and mangroves of Riverbend Park. Here, paddlers can enjoy a peaceful paddle among ancient natural landscapes.

The other park, Jonathon Dickinson State Park, offers a more thrilling kayaking experience. Here, paddlers can experience the rushing waters that surround Trapper Nelson’s Cabin. This historic landmark once belonged to a famous fur trapper who developed the area into a zoo and botanical garden. Now, paddlers can kayak the area and see Nelson’s livelihood.

These two sections of the river, both about 4 miles, offer vastly different ways to see Miami’s natural beauty. Returning paddlers love exploring both areas, and Loxahatchee’s stunning landscape keeps visitors coming back.

Rentals are available in Riverbend Park at the Jupiter Outdoor Center. There are also many outfitters that can guide you down the river with shuttles between the two parks. Otherwise, you can launch your own boat along the coastline.

How to Get There: Take I-95 N toward Florid’s Turnpike. Take exit 116 toward Jupiter and continue to River Dr.

Get away from the busy city and escape to the calm rivers hidden in Miami.
Escape busy city life and enjoy a relaxing paddle down one of Miami’s many rivers. Photo Credit: Anne Barca> (Pexels)

Sandlfy Island

The Ten Thousand Islands are home to some of the most vibrant foliage and wildlife in Southern Florida. Although most of these islands are too remote for casual kayaking, Sandfly Island provides to perfect peek into these beautiful tropical islands.

The best place to launch your boats is from the Gulf Coast Visitor Center of Everglades National Park. From there, paddlers can cross the wide-open waters of Chokoloskee Bay and pass many sandy beaches until arriving at Sandly Island.

With a rich pioneer history (with houses you can explore) and tropical wildlife, kayaking around Sandfly Island is one of the most unique paddling experiences around the Miami area. Roundtrip, the paddle is relatively short (about 5 miles) but is packed with stunning views, gorgeous trees, and tons of places to explore.

Rentals and guided expeditions to Sandlfly Island from Everglades Park are available through the Gulf Coast Visitor Center. Or, you can launch your own boat and explore this hidden gem at your own pace. Sandfly’s manageable size and flat waters make it an awesome water adventure to try on your own.

How to Get There: Take I-95 N and to exit 3A toward Jackson. Continue on US-41 W to Country Rd. 29 to reach the park.

Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park

Previously known as John U. Lloyd Beach State Park, Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park is one of Miami’s most beautiful mangrove-lined coastlines. With a rich history in the civil rights movement, visiting Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park offers a unique combination of culture and history in a stunning natural landscape.

Within the park, paddlers can enjoy scenic water routes on Whiskey Creek. This spot is ideal for beginner paddlers looking to spot wildlife on calm, flat waters. Whether you are canoeing, kayaking, floating or paddle boarding, Whiskey Creek is a nice place to get away from the city and reconnect with nature.

Besides paddling, visitors can also relax on pristine sandy beaches or have an active day on the many running and biking trails. Canoe, kayak, and paddle boarding gear are available for rent at the park. Otherwise, you can launch your own boat and explore miles of gorgeous mangrove ecosystems on your own.

How to Get There: Take I-95 N to exit 23 toward Griffin Rd. Continue on US-1 S to Dania Beach Blvd. and take exit FL-A1A S to reach the park.

a family enjoys kayaking in Miami and takes in the cypress forests in the distance.
Kayaking around Miami is a great way to spend time with loved ones outdoors! Photo Credit: eMiL rAjAn> (Pexels)

Hugh Taylor Birch State Park

A vibrant center for the community, Hugh Taylor Birch State Park has an abundance of water activities and environmental spaces to explore. With access to both the Atlantic Ocean and intercoastal waterways, this park has prime paddling conditions all year -round.

From mangrove-lined coasts to wide-open water, avid canoe and kayakers will love exploring Hugh Taylor Birch State Park. Out on the water, kayakers can get a special look at the dune ecosystems on the beach. This beautiful natural landscape is complimented by rare maritime tropical hammock forests. Between leisurely hikes in the forest to epic ocean kayaking, there is no shortage of places to explore here!

Rentals are available in the park. Visitors can also experience guided tours of the coastal area, and many people especially love the Full Moon Paddle. Or, you can launch your own boat at one of the many open access boat ramps in the park.

How to Get There: Take I-95 N to edit 23A toward Sunrise Blvd. Continue to N Birch Rd. to reach the park.

Additional Resources

What to Pack for Kayaking In & Around Miami

  • Swimsuit: Wearing a swimsuit is essential for being out on the water! When canoeing and kayaking, chances are you are going to get wet, so best to be prepared! Click here to compare styles and prices for our favorite swimsuits.
  • Sunglasses: Being out on the water is beautiful, but the water can really reflect light! Make sure to bring a pair of sunglasses and croakies to keep them from falling off.
  • Hat: It’s best to keep the sun of your head to keep you cool. Whether you prefer a nice bucket hat or a vintage baseball cap, keeping cool will ensure an awesome trip.
  • Water Bottle: Keeping hydrated is no joke! Paddling is a great way to exercise and relax, but that means it takes a lot of energy too! Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout your trip with these cool water bottles.
  • Sunscreen and Bug Spray: Don’t let the elements stop you from having an amazing paddle! I recommend bringing sunscreen and bug spray in the boat with ou to ward off any pests and sunburns.

For a more complete packing list, check out our ultimate kayaking packing list to help you prepare for all of your outdoor kayak adventures. These essentials will make your time kayaking and canoeing in San Diego an unforgettable experience!

Related Links to Kayaking in Miami


With lakes, rivers, and streams right outside a lovely urban city, it is no wonder that Denver, Colorado is one of the fastest growing cities in the US. Sunny and warm, Denver is home to some of the most beautiful places to canoe and kayak at year-round- and most of them are free! With snow-capped mountains meeting the edge of crystal clear waters, kayaking in Denver provides an amazing backdrop to explore Colorado’s natural landscape.

Whether you are interested in raging rapids or calm waters, paddlers of all abilities can enjoy canoeing and kayaking in Denver, Below is a list of of some of the most scenic spots for paddling in Denver- take advantage of your summer vacation and get out on the water!

Best Places to Go Canoeing and Kayaking Near Denver

Kayaking in Denver has panoramic scenic views of mountains and forests in the distance.
Experience the panoramic views of Colorado while kayaking in Denver

South Platte River

Just minutes from downtown Denver, South Platte River is called the best urban kayaking destination in the state. While views of REI and Starbucks may replace giant cliffs and boulders you may find at other sites, South Platte River is the perfect spot of for all abilities, especially those looking for quick access to water.

The river does have rapids, some that converge into major waterfalls! Please beware of these rapids- scope them out before choosing to paddle through them!! Besides the rapids, calmer sections of the river are often used for floating and tubing. Avid paddlers especially love this river because of its accessibility; launch sites are found throughout the river.

If paddling at a relaxed pace, the main section of the river can be paddles in about 4 hours (5.5. miles). Kayaking is definitely exercise- and food is fuel! There is a put-in at Prince Street Bridge which is full of amazing restaurants.

Rentals are available at Confluence Kayaks, right in downtown Denver. With over two decades of experience, this shop has all the gear necessary to fully prepare you for your water adventure! Bonus: You can set up your personal pick-up and drop-off times for any rental equipment- it is a completely customizable experience ($40)!

How to Get There: If driving, start by heading towards Fort Collins, then take I-76 E toward Fort Morgan to NE-51B Link to  E Roscoe Srv Rd. If not driving, you can get there by train (A) from Denver International Airport or Union Station, or by bus with lines 24, 28, 32, 43.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Paddling through Rocky Mountain National Park on the Upper Colorado River or one of its many lakes is a beautifully serene experience. Home to the headwaters of the Colorado River, the park’s many attractions are perfect for the whole family.

The west side of the park is best for paddling; Estes Park provides lovely pools for beginners to paddle around while the river is better for intermediate kayakers. Both of these bodies of water are near Performance Park Pavilion, a beautiful spot for an afternoon picnic after paddling.

Whether looking to spot trout in the deep, calm water of Lake Estes or experience the rapids in the shallows of the Colorado River, Rocky Mountain National Park has no shortage of things to explore! Boat rentals are available at Lake Estes Marina for only $15- on of the best deals out there!

How to Get There: If driving, start by heading toward Fort Collins, then take US-36 W towards Boulder. Take CO-7 W to the park. If not driving, there is a bus from Union Station to Estes Park, the nearest place public transportation goes to Rocky Mountain National Park.

Grassy hills and mountains make up the horizon of kayaking in Denver's Rocky Mountain  National Park
Smooth waters meet the edges of the grassy hills and mountains of Rocky Mountain National Park. Photo Credit: Vijay Chittoor (Flickr CC)

Lake Pueblo State Park

Known as Colorado’s fishing “hot spot” kayaking around Lake Pueblo State Park is known for its abundant fish populations, pristine shorelines, and clean campsites among 10,000 acres of land.

A historical site, paddling through the park is truly a transformative experience. Paddlers looking for long passages (most visitors opt for 7 to 9 mile routes) will absolutely love this park. With steep walls all around, Pueblo Lake has a unique look compared to other lakes in Colorado, and is even said to be a good place to find fossils near the shore!

Because the lake is a considerable size, it is not well-protected from the wind. Visitors should be w ary of weather conditions, like high winds, that might make the lake not safe for paddling.That being said, Pueblo Lake islets suited for paddlers with some experience. When the weather is permitting, the lake is used for both motorized and non-motorized vehicles- it is truly a place enjoyed by all!

Lake Pueblo State Park is a must-see for lovers of history and nature. Rentals are available at the North Shore Marina inside the park for $40/day. If planning to launch your own boat, equipment is required to be checked by park rangers before entering and exiting the water at the launch site.

How to Get There: If driving, take I-25 S and take exit 99 A towards 6th St. Then take CO-96 W to Pueblo Reservoir Access Rd. If not driving, there is a bus from Union Station to Pueblo which requires an extra 30 min drive to the park itself.

Cache La Poudre River

Searching for invigorating and adrenaline-pumping paddling? Look no further- Cache la Poudre is the place for quintessential Colorado terrain. With Class II-V rapids, kayaking in Denver has been elevated to a whole new level.

The Filter Run is 2.5 mile segment of the river that is recommended for beginners nervous about tackling the rapids and advanced paddlers looking to ride the waves. This portion of the river has Class II and III rapids arranged in a loop that kayakers can paddle a few times during one outing.

Besides kayaking, this area is also popular for whitewater rafting. Mishawaka and Pineview Falls are a haven for thrill-seekers, and are best viewed from rafts instead of kayaks. Cache La Poudre is renowned for its wild waters- be sure to wear a lifejacket and buckle in for a guaranteed crazy journey.

Renting equipment at the river is available through Mountain Whitewater. Kayaks can be rented for $50 and rafts for $70, with a discounted price if used two days in a row. Mountain Whitewater also offers tours to help make you experience paddling Cache La Poudre as fun and safe as possible.

How to Get There: If driving, head towards Fort Collins, then take I-76 E toward Fort Morgan to US-34 W to 12th St. If not driving, there are multiple trains a day that leave from Union Station that go to the river, or trains from Greeley Evans Regional Transportation that will also take you there,

Perfectly calm waters reflect the clear blue skies above Lake Pueblo.
Calm waters reflect the blue skies overlooking Lake Pueblo. Photo Credit: jaygannett (Flickr CC)

Evergreen Lake

Only 45 minutes from downtown Denver, Evergreen Lake’s naturally beauty is truly astounding. With pine trees adorning sandy shores, Evergreen Lake’s medium size and remote location makes for the perfect spot for beginners or anyone looking for a leisurely paddle during the day.

Protected and calm waters offer a great place for learning how to kayak and paddle board for all ages. However, swimming is not permitted in the lake as it acts as a water supply for nearby towns.

With hiking trails and picnic areas surrounding the lake, Evergreen Lake is an ideal day trip away from the city. Evergreen Park & Recreational District offers boat rentals for $17/hour. Whether you’re looking for kayaks, canoes, paddleboat or paddle boards, the boathouse has tons of equipment ready to help you make the most of your trip.

Gore Canyon

When it comes to adventure kayaking and rafting near Denver, the headwaters of the Colorado River is the place to be. Flowing around Gore Canyon and Hot Sulphur Springs, paddlers seeking out adventure should definitely check out Gore Canyon.

The area surrounding Gore Canyon has Class IV and V rapids ready for advanced paddlers tackle. However if visiting with novice paddlers, stretches of the Colorado River below Gore Canyon offer calmer waters for them to enjoy.

River rafting is the most popular way to explore these Class V rapids, although inflatable kayaks can also be used. Before heading out, know that kayaking around Gore Canyon is challenging and best suited for experienced kayakers. Said to be some of the wildest river terrain in the U.S., kayaking Denver’s Gore Canyon will no doubt be an adventure!

Pumphouse Whitewater Park is the ideal launch site for this area. With camping grounds and picnic areas, it is a great starting point for this epic journey. Rentals and guided tours of the river are offered by Colorado River Rentals (kayaks $49/day).

How to Get There: If driving, take US-6 W to !-70 W towards Grand Jct. Then take C0-74 S and exit towards Evergreen Parkway. If not driving, there are multiple trains a day that leave from Civic Center Station that will take you to Evergreen Park.

Boulder Reservoir

Owned and maintained by the city of Boulder, the Boulder Reservoir guarantees clean water and beaches for all visitors to enjoy. With calm waters and camping grounds, the Boulder Reservoir is ideal for families and beginners looking to spend an afternoon out in nature.

Called the “Dream Cove” in the otherwise dry Boulder area, the Boulder Reservoir provides a water oasis for flat water kayaking, paddle boarding, and canoeing. On this 700 acre recreational site, it is best to launch your kayak from the southeast or southwest beaches and to paddle near the shoreline (motorized boats are allowed).

Bonus- dogs are allowed after labor day; enjoy the beauty of the Boulder Reservoir with your furry friends! Rentals are available through Rocky Mountain Paddleboard for $25/hour. Of course, bringing your own boat is always welcome, but you must acquire a permit before your trip.

How to Get There: If driving, head towards Fort Collins then take US-36 W towards Boulder. Then take CO-157 N to Reservoir Rd. If not driving, you can take the Regional Transportation District (RTD) bus from Denver International Airport to Boulder (Route AB). Buses leave every hour.

Denver's dry and arid climate meets the water at the sandy Boulder Reservior. Shallow waters make Boulder Reservior an ideal choice for beginners looking to kayak in Denver.
Denver’s dry climate meets the water at the beautiful Boulder Reservoir. Photo Credit: Jeremy (Flickr CC)

Arkansas River

This stretch of the Arkansas River provides calm waters for kayakers, cancers, and river rafters looking to experience the beauty of pure nature.

Major canyons and valleys offer a variety of routes for different ability levels. The most popular, and most challenging, sections of the river include Pine Creek (class V), the Numbers (class IV-V), the Narrows (class III-IV), Browns Canyon (class III-IV), Bighorn Sheep Canyon (class II, III-IV) and the Royal Gorge (class IV-V). Paddlers can enjoy these sites year-round, or choose to kayak through calmer waters too.

Kayaking the Arkansas River is also extremely popular because of its proximity to hotspots Buena Vista, Salida and Cañon City. With the river flowing right alongside these cities, it has never been easier to take a pitstop at these quaint cities and explore their restaurants and shops.

Recently named the best place for whitewater rafting and kayaking in the U.S., kayaking in Colorado will not disappoint! Rentals and tours are available through Arkansas River Tours. Not only do they have tours that pass through some of the most challenging rapids, but also have tours specially catered towards families, scenic tours, and yoga retreats.

How to Get There: If driving, take US-6 W to I-70 W towards Grand Jct. Then take Co-91 S to Poplar St. If not driving, there is a bus from Denver International Airport that goes to Leadville, but it costs about $60.

Horsetooth Reservoir

With several little inlets boasting jagged cliffs and sandy shores, the Horsetooth Reservoir is the best spot near Denver to paddle near mountain goats while improving your kayaking skills. Located alongside Fort Colins, CO, the Horsetooth Reservoir is loved by locals and visitors alike for its accessibility and convenient campgrounds.

Most people paddling around the Horesetooth Reservoir recommend spending at least one to two days in the area to fully experience all it has to offer. With campgrounds along the South Shore, paddlers often start at the North Shore and end up at the South Shore for an overnight trip.

Because motorized boats are allowed on the lake, the lake can get a bit choppy; therefore, this paddling is best suited for people with some experience paddling. Besides the choppy waves, Horestooth Reservoir is truly a great place to bring the family- it’s close to city but feels like worlds away!

If bringing your own boats, there are launch sites on both the North and South Shores of the reservoir. Otherwise, rentals can be purchased near the reservoir at Inlet Bay Marina for $20/hour. Only 7 miles long, Horsetooth Reservoir is the perfect place to start you paddle journey without being too overwhelmed (and again- look for the mountain goats!).

How to Get There: If driving, head towards Fort Collins then take I-25 N to E Harmony Rd. Take CO Rd. 23 to the reservoir. If not driving, there are buses from Union Station and Denver International Airport that drop you about 15 minutes away from the reservoir.

Experience paddling through rapids in the Arkansas River. Lush green scenery surrounds the river.
Adventure awaits on the Arkansas River paddling through intense rapids! Photo Credit: VisitCOS (Flickr CC)

Eben G. Fine Park

  • Location: Boulder
  • Rentals Available: Yes- at Whitewater Tubing & Recreation

Nicknamed “Mr. Boulder” for his passion and enthusiasm for the city, Eben G. Fine was elected secretary of the Boulder Chamber of Commerce in 1927 and held this position for many years. His love for Boulder culminated into this park, where playgrounds, campgrounds, and access to the Boulder Creek are visited by thousands each year.

Eben G. Fine Park’s access to Boulder Creek is perfect for new kayakers looking to build their skills! The park has an awesome ½ mile slalom course with purpose built obstacles and some exciting drops and slides. Because this part of the course is pretty short, paddlers can do a few laps or choose to kepp paddling down the Creek for about another mile.

Boulder Creek itself is pretty shallow and rocky, so make sure to wear water shoes and be prepared to walk your boat through extremely shallow areas. Because it is so shallow, Boulder Creek is easy to navigate and an ideal place for novice paddlers and little kids. Therefore, families will especially love paddling in Eben G. Fine Park because of its numerous play areas and picnic tables.

Visitors can launch their boats at Eben G. Fine Park’s access point, and can get out of the creek at any point. If looking to rent kayaks or tubes (Boulder Creek is also known for being an awesome lazy river) Whitewater Tubing & Recreation has you covered. Eben G. Fine Park is truly a great place for families and novices to experience kayaking in Boulder.

How to Get There: If driving, head towards Fort Collins, then take US-36 W towards Boulder. Then take the Baseline Rd. exit towards Broadway  Arapahoe Ave. If not driving, bus lines AB1, Dash, Bolt, Hop, and N will take you to the park.

Chatfield Reservoir

Bordered by wide-open prairies and grasslands, Chatefield Reservoir in Chatfield State Park is a beautiful mountain-clad setting for a tranquil paddle near Denver. Close to the city but still teeming with wildlife, Chatfield Reservoir is an ideal destination for someone looking to relax and enjoy Colorado’s natural beauty.

Paddlers are recommended to explore the southwest section of the reservoir because it is shallow enough that it does not attract many motorized boats. This area ends up connecting to Platte River (can paddle about a mile upstream before the current gets too strong) and Plum Creek as well as several other small ponds.

Many visitors enjoy paddling and portaging between Chatfield’s many small ponds- you can basically forge you own path anywhere in the park! However, the best put-in is Eagle Cove on the main portion of the reservoir.

Renting equipment to enjoy these breathtaking views from the water is offered by Colorado Water Sports for $30/hour. Colorado Water Sports also rents SUPs and paddleboat which are great alternatives for experiencing Chatfield Sate Park.

How to Get There: If driving, take I-25 S towards Santa Fe Dr., then US-85 S towards Titan Parkway to Titan Rd. If not driving, bus 402L passes by the park or you can get there from the Denver International Airport’s train to Arapahoe, 20 min away from the park itself.

Blooming trees stand on the shore of the Chatfield Reservoir, a relaxing spot to kayak in Denver for all ability levels.
The Chatfield Marina perches on the calm waters of the Chatfield Reservoir. Photo Credit: Cathy McCray (Flickr CC)

Lake Dillon

Originally built in 1965 to supply Denver’s growing water needs, Lake Dillon– also called Dillon Reservoir- is now one of the most beautiful vacation destinations in Colorado. Surrounded by snow-capped mountains, paddlers can enjoy activities on Lake Dillon year-round.

A small lake with calm waters, Lake Dillon is an ideal spot for novice paddlers or those looking for a quaint vacation getaway. Its recommended to start you paddle early in the morning to catch flat waters before the winds pick up- then you cain sail!

Lake Dillon is usually a full-day or weekend destination with cute towns of Silverthorne and Dillon on the edge of the lake to provide the perfect bed-and-breakfast small town experience. Local farmers markets and blooming scenery make paddling on Lake Dillon truly an intimate and fun getaway.

On the shores of Lake Dillon Frisco Bay Marina rents all equipment necessary for a great kayak trip and also offers lessons. Kayak rental rates are $45/2 hours with 5% off if booked online in more than 24hours in advance.

How to Get There: If driving, take US-6 W to I-70 W towards Grand Jct. Then, take US- 6 E to Dillon Dam Rd. If not driving, there are shuttles to Frisco, Silverthorne and Dillon from Denver International Airport.

Green Mountain Reservoir

  • Location: Lower Blue River Valley
  • Rentals Available: Yes- at Heeney Marina

Just a quick hour and a half from Denver, Green Mountain Reservoir is a beautiful high-altitude lake surrounded by mountains and sandy beaches. Green Mountain Reservoir itself is a relatively calm lake with wide-open waters perfect for any ability.

Vistors also enjoy scenic hikes around the Blue River, famous for its trout. Although this part of the reservoir cannot be paddled, it is still a nice afternoon activity. The Lower Cataract Lake next to the reservoir is another favorite of visitors, and gets less boat traffic than Green Mountain.

This area is definitely meant for paddling and swimming! Picnic tables and campgrounds make it a perfect day-trip, and with no cell reception, you will get the much needed break from social media you deserve.

Large boat and paddleboard rentals ($15/hour) are available at the Heeney Marina right on Green Mountain Reservoir (note that kayaks are NOT available).Whether you are renting from the marina or bringing your own boat, you must launch from the Heeney Marina’s access point.

How to Get There: If driving, take US-6 W to I-70 W towards Grand Jct. Then, take CO-9 to Heeney Rd to Co Rd. 1775. If not driving, there is a Greyhound shuttle departing twice a day to Kremmling, 20 min from the reservoir.

A lone paddle boarder stands in the middle of mountain-lake looking at a green mountain near Denver.
Paddle boarding is another great way to explore Denver’s natural beauty!

Guernsey State Park

  • Location: Platte County, Wyoming
  • Cost: $9
  • Rentals Available: Yes- at Bellwood Boats

This 6,000 acre state park is known for its scenic overlooks and rugged terrain. While the park has numerous hiking, biking, and rock climbing trails, its real treasure is the Guernsey Reservoir.

The Guernsey Reservoir is a haven for kayakers and paddle boarders. There are tons of launch points along the reservoir; visitors especially enjoy launching from and kayaking around Sandy Beach on the southeast side of the lake and Long Canyon area on the north side of the lake. IF lake paddling gets tiring, there is also access to a small river just below the dam at Spillway Day Use Area.

Wyoming’s Guernsey State Park supports its mission to preserve history through engaging with the community by opening the Guernsey museum and castle, two historical sites that all visitors can enjoy.

Although this park is a bit of a drive from Denver, paddling around jagged cliffs and pure natural landscape is the perfect opportunity to explore Wyoming and improve your skills. The park rents water toys like wakeboards and paddle boards, but kayaks can be rented at Bellwood Boats.

How to Get There: If driving, take I-25 N and take exit US-26 E towards Guernsey, then take WY-317N all of the way to the park. If not driving, there is a bus from Denver to Wheatland once a day that brings you 30 min away from the park.

Tarryall Reservoir

  • Location: South Park
  • Rentals Available: No

A wildlife refugee for numerous Colorado animals, Tarryall Reservoir is the perfect place to get up close and personal with Colorado wildlife and nature.

Known for its excellent fishing and free campgrounds (first-come-first-serve basis), Tarryall Reservoir is a hotspot for kayakers living in Denver. A dry and often arid terrain, paddling around Tarryall Reservoir is a refreshing twist for this area.

Paddling the reservoir is accessible for all ability levels, and there is a small waterfall that borders the entrance into Tarryall Creek (a popular spot of fly fishing). Tarryall Reservoir is an isolated area surrounded by mountains and grasslands and is a fisherman’s dream!

This hidden gem is ideal for a relaxing morning paddle and fishing. Because it is tucked away between mountains, there are no rental shops nearby.However, there are tons of launch sites around the lake to put-in your own boats.

How to Get There: If driving, take US-6 W to I-70 W towards Grand Junct. Then, take US-285 S towards Colorado Springs to Co Rd. 77. If not driving, there are multiple buses a day from Union Station to FairPlay, CO, which brings you 30 min away from the reservoir.

Mountains and stony arches are reflected in the calm waters of the Tarryall Reservoir. These wide-open waters are perfect for beginners looking to kayak in Denver.
Mountains and stony arches are reflected in the calm waters of the Tarryall Reservoir. Photo Credit: Circled Thrice (Flickr CC)

Twins Lake Reservoir

Nestled under Colorado’s tallest mountains, Twins Lake Reservoir is named for the two glaciers that formed the lakes on the valley floor. With crystal clean alpine waters, Twins Lake Reservoir is known for its colorful trout and abundant mountain views.

Visitors are able to launch boats from two sites on the east and west sides of the lake. Paddling here is accessible to all, and other activities are a big draw to the area as well. Trailheads for Mt. Elbert and LaPlata Peak start here and the lake borders a 1880s abandoned lakeside resort. Rock climbing alcoves and inlet bays offer a private outdoor experience.

Twins Lake Reservoir is a unique place to kayak in Denver; its glacial waters provide activities year-round from ice fishing to paddle boarding. Said to be one of the most majestical places to visit in Colorado, Twins Lake should be on every paddlers’ bucket list.

Canoe and kayak rentals are available through Twins Lake Canoe and Kayak Adventures. Equipment, lessons, and guided tours of the area are all offered through this company, and will ensure that your time there is full of adventure!

How to Get There: If driving, take US-6 W to I-70 W towards Grand Junction. Then, take CO-91 S towards Leadville. Continue to CO-82 W to Country Rd. 25. If not driving, Denver International Airport provides a bus and train to Frisco, one of the towns bordering the lakes,

Grand Lake

Located on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park, Grand Lake certainly lives up to its name. With pine tree forests and snow-capped mountains in the distance, Grand lake has beautiful panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains and smooth waters enjoyed by all.

With a public dock on the lake, it is easy to enter the water. Grand Lake’s neighbor Shadow Mountain Lake is another place paddlers can explore, This lake and some small islands on the eastern side of Grand Lake have shallow clear waters that boast tons of wildlife- you can even spot moose!

The east bank is they place to paddle for scenery and wildlife! Since the west side is bordered by the highway it is a bit loud and not as scenic. Next to historic Grand City, Colorado’s largest and deepest lake is a popular spot for locals and visitors alike.

Right on the edge of the lake, Mountain Paddlers Kayak Shak has many types of kayaks for rent ($26/hour). It is a first-come-first-serve basis for rentals, and since Grand Lake is a very popular spot for paddling near Denver, kayaks go quickly! Be sure to get up early and have the lake to yourself to experience one of Colorado’s most beautiful places to paddle.

How to Get There: If driving, take US-6 W to I-70 W towards Grand Junction. Then, take exit 232 towards U.S. 40 E. Take US-40 W to US-34 E to W Portal Rd to Grand Ave. If not driving, there is a train from Union Station to Granby, CO, which leaves you about 20 min from the lake.

Kayakers paddle in front of snow-capped mountains around Grand Lake.
Snow-capped mountains provide a dramatic backdrop for kayaking around Grand Lake. Photo Credit: Ben_D (Flickr CC)

Blue Mesa Reservoir

Although Colorado is a land-locked state, the many lakes carving through Colorado’s mountains provide the perfect oasis for those who love to kayak. Blue Mesa Reservoir sits near the headwaters of Gunnison River and is said to be the largest body of water in Colorado.

Sparkling waters and sloping hills offer a stunning backdrop for kayaking and relaxing beaches. Although most of the shoreline is rocky, there are some reprieves of sandy shores great for swimming and launching boats near bay of Chickens, Dry Creek and Old Highway 50 beach.

A huge body of water, this lake has enough space to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of visitors that flock to Blue Mesa’s natural scenery annually. The waters stay relatively calm, but it is best suited for intermediate paddlers.

Blue Mesa Reservoir has two full service marinas and esteemed Poppy’s Restaurant overlooking the lake. Elk Creek Marina and Lake Fort Marina both have kayak and other boat rentals ($16/hour) and relocated on opposite sides of the lake. Blue Mesa is definitely a beach vacation destination that is loved by all in the area.

How to Get There: If driving, take US-6 W to I-70 W towards Grand Junction. Then, CO-470E towards Fairplay, then US-50 W to the lake. If not driving, there are multiple buses a day leaving from Union Station that go to Gunnison, CO, the town where the reservoir is.

Cotton-candy sunsets set behind mountains and lakes making Denver a premier kayaking destination.
Sunset paddles make kayaking in Denver an awe-inspiring experience.

Additional Resources

What to Pack for Canoeing and Kayaking in Denver

  • Swimsuit: Wearing a swimsuit is essential for being out on the water! When canoeing and kayaking, chances are you are going to get wet, so best to be prepared! Click here to compare styles and prices for our favorite swimsuits.
  • Sunglasses: Being out on the water is beautiful, but the water can really reflect light! Make sure to bring a pair of sunglasses and croakies to keep them from falling off.
  • Hat: It’s best to keep the sun of your head to keep you cool. Whether you prefer a nice bucket hat or a vintage baseball cap, keeping cool will ensure an awesome trip.
  • Water Bottle: Keeping hydrated is no joke! Paddling is a great way to exercise and relax, but that means it takes a lot of energy too! Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout your trip with these cool water bottles.
  • Sunscreen and Bug Spray: Don’t let the elements stop you from having an amazing paddle! I recommend bringing sunscreen and bug spray in the boat with ou to ward off any pests and sunburns.

For a more complete packing list, check out our ultimate kayaking packing list to help you prepare for all of your outdoor kayak adventures. These essentials will make your time kayaking and canoeing in San Diego an unforgettable experience!

Related Links to Kayaking and Canoeing in Denver