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
Latta Plantation Nature Center
- Location: Huntersville
- Rentals Available: Yes- at 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 Plantation Nature 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 Plantation Nature 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
- Location: Charlotte
- Rentals Available: Yes- at 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.
Anne Springs Close Greenway
- Location: Fort Mill
- Rentals Available: Yes- at 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
- Location: Kings Mountain
- Rentals Available: Yes- at Crowders Mountain
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.
- Location: Congaree National Park (Central South Carolina)
- Rentals Available: Yes- at Congaree National Park
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.
Rock Hill Riverwalk
- Location: Rock Hill
- Rentals Available: Yes- at Rockin’ River Adventures
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 Rockin’ 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
- Location: Cornelius
- Rentals Available: Yes- at Lake Effects
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.
French Broad River
- Location: Ashville
- Rentals Available: Yes- at French Broad River Tours
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
- Location: Belmont
- Rentals Available: Yes- at Riverside Marina
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.
- Location: Cramerton
- Rentals Available: Yes- at The Floating Goat
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
- Location: Matthews
- Rentals Available: Yes- at Rockin’ River Adventures
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.
- Location: Charlotte
- Rentals Available: Yes- at Long Cove Harbour
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.
- Location: Albemarle
- Rentals Available: Yes- at Uwharrie Hoof & Paddle
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.
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 men’s and women’s 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 off 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 you 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 an unforgettable experience!
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