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kayaker paddling through mountains
Paddling with water shoes allows you to embrace the great outdoors. Photo Credit: Andre Furtedo

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Top Canoeing & Kayaking Shoes for Every Budget and Style

One of my favorite parts of going canoeing, kayaking and paddle boarding is that you do not need to bring too much gear for your trip. However, this means that what you do bring matters, and a good pair of kayaking shoes acts as the foundation for every successful paddle trip.

Inside of a kayak or canoe, you are likely to stay relatively dry. However, we all know that paddle trips can end up involving unplanned portaging, swimming or heavy lifting. For these rather spontaneous moments in the water, having the right pair of water shoes is crucial. In this guide, we have researched multiple different materials, fits and styles to help you decide which kayaking shoes fit your needs as a paddler.

But first, why wear water shoes for kayaking at all?

Many outdoors people often question whether you need to wear shoes while paddle boarding and kayaking. Doesn’t barefoot paddling create a closer connection to nature? What can a pair of water shoes offer that my other athletic shoes can’t?

While these musings have good intentions, the consequences of wearing ill-fitting water shoes while paddling can be quite drastic. Wearing water shoes protects your feet from all of the types of terrain you may encounter on your trip (such as sharp rocks and roots). On both land and water, proper-fitting water shoes offer support, stability and traction needed to embrace the great outdoors.

That being said, take a look below to see the multiple styles of water shoes and how finding the right kayaking shoes doesn’t have to break your bank.

3 Types of Water Shoes for Kayaking & Paddling

Water Shoes

Water shoes will look like your typical athletic shoe, but are made out of waterproof and breathable material. Since they are built with more support, water shoes are an ideal choice if your trip includes hiking between paddling sites or includes diverse terrain.

If you are planning a backcountry paddle trip, have to portage, or want to explore trails while camping, water shoes offer the proper coverage and durability required for rugged adventures.

Water Booties

Water Booties are an excellent choice if you are paddling in a slim or compact kayak. They are usually made out of neoprene, a wetsuit-like material, that makes the booties a slim and lightweight option for outdoor adventuring.

While water booties are an awesome choice for paddling in small vessels and colder climates, they do not provide as much protection for your feet as water shoes and water sandals. So, if you are paddling in a rocky area or want to hike between paddle trips, water booties may not be the best option.

Water Sandals

Water Sandals are similar to water shoes, but usually have less material covering the foot. However, less material does not mean less support and structure. This type of shoe has open and closed-toe options which makes it ideal for any type of paddle trip.

Water Sandals are well-suited for all types of paddle trips, especially those in warm or mild climates. If you are new to kayaking or like to have your feet free, water sandals provide the perfect balance between breathability and durability.

What to Look for in Canoeing & Kayaking Shoes for Paddling

a women stretches to reach her shoes
The right pair of kayaking shoes makes all of the difference when paddling. Photo Credit: Ketut Subiyanto

Durability

Wearing durable water shoes becomes increasingly important as your paddle trips become more challenging. When canoeing or kayaking, simply wearing flip flops or crocs will not give you the proper support for activities both inside and outside the boat.

When purchasing water shoes for kayaking, it is best to look for a design that supports the entire foot and ankle. This can come in the form of an ankle or toe strap, a thick rubber sole and possible shoelaces or velcro. By having these components, your feet can move freely yet have enough structure to avoid injury.

  • Rubber Sole
  • Grip Texture
  • Textile and Synthetic Fabrics

Flexibility

Flexibility in water shoes compliments the need for durability described above. While sound structure is important, water shoes are meant to allow your feet to move freely. When you are out on the water, things can change pretty rapidly. You have to be able to easily adapt to changing tides, currents and water levels.

The best water shoes for kayaking understand the need for this versatility and use materials that allow your feet to stay grounded and moving. Materials such as neoprene and mesh are commonly used in water shoes because they are quick-drying and lightweight. As a result, you don’t have to worry about waterlogged kayaking shoes slowing you down.

  • Neoprene
  • Mesh
  • Textile and Synthetic Materials

Materials

Although water shoes may look similar to regular sandals, they are specifically designed to handle water and other natural elements. Whether you are a novice paddler or an expert, purchasing water shoes with proper weather-resistant materials is a must. Otherwise, your shoes will easily deteriorate, which can be even more dangerous than wearing no shoes at all.

Some kayaking shoes use rubber and leather to achieve a waterproof sandal. These types of water shoes are great for multi-day trips in moderate climates. If you are paddling in colder temperatures and want added insulation, look for water shoes made out of neoprene, a wetsuit-like material.

  • Rubber
  • Neoprene
  • Leather

Comfort, Fit and Style

Who says water shoes can’t be fashionable! In this market, there is a wide variety of fits and styles of water shoes. While looking through the various colors and patterns of water shoes is thrilling, it is important to look at the construction of the shoe to see if it fits your needs as a paddler.

Some water shoes cover your toes while others leave them exposed; both choices are fine, but take into consideration the type of terrain you may encounter on your trip. For backcountry paddling or trips with portages, having shoes that cover your toes may be a better option. Whereas kayakers exploring warm or tropical climates may want a lighter and more open shoe design.

Along with the open versus closed-toe design, kayaking shoes can have traditional shoelaces, bungee lacing or slip on and off. For quick and easy access, slip-on water shoes check all of the boxes and are usually made out of neoprene (an added bonus)! However, if your trip may involve portaging, hiking or climbing, it is best to choose a pair of water shoes with some type of laces or ankle strap.

  • Mesh or Synthetic Fabric
  • Velcro, Slip-On or Shoelaces
  • Open-Toe or Closed-Toe Options

Price

A good pair of water shoes does not have to be overly expensive. Most of the time, the difference in price comes from the type of materials used in shoe construction. For example, water shoes made with vegan leather tend to be pricer than shoes made from synthetic fabrics and textiles.

If you are an avid paddler, purchasing water shoes should be seen as an investment for all of your future trips. Once you decide on your desired style and fit, water shoes will last you a long period of time (and are usually the only shoes I bring on my own paddle trips).

However, if you are new to kayaking or don’t frequently go paddling, water shoes do not have to be a major investment. There are plenty of inexpensive options below to get you started on the right foot.

Pricing Guide

For the sake of convenience and clarity, the dollar sign symbols below will indicate the price of the kayaking shoes in this guide. Price should never be an obstacle for getting outside! Below, you will find a range of water shoes best for canoeing, kayaking and paddling that we have determined as the best buys in 2021.

  • $= $20.00-$49.00
  • $$= $50.00-$79.00
  • $$$=$80.00+

Our main goal with this guide is to help you make an informed decision on the best water shoes for your own activities, budget, and style. Here are our top picks:

Best Kayaking Shoes for Every Budget & Style

kayakers go paddling in the deep blue shoes
Canoeing and kayaking are great ways to enjoy spending time outside. Photo Credit: Benedikt Geyer

Chaco Z2 Classic Sport

Best Overall Water Shoe for Kayaking

  • Price: $$-$$$
  • Materials: Vegan-friendly leather construction
  • Notable Features: Rubber sole, adjustable ankle strap with polyester jacquard webbing for a customized fit
  • Pros: Lightweight, completely weatherproof and easily adjustable, great for a variety of paddle trips
  • Cons: Expensive, not much toe protection

If you are looking for a versatile water shoe, there is nothing that can beat the Chaco Z2 Classic Sport. Whether you are an avid paddler or are looking for the perfect beach-day shoe, Chacos are an excellent option.

These water shoes have a thick rubber sole which protects the bottom of your feet from rocks, sticks and anything else you may encounter on your trip. Besides this protection, these shoes have an open and airy top so your feet can move freely. The ankle and toe straps are easily adjustable (and give an awesome tan line if your’re under the sun).

The bottom line? The Chaco Z2 Classic Sport is the best water shoe for an all-around day on the water. Chacos has mastered the balance between stability and flexibility so your feet feel supported yet free throughout your entire outdoor adventure.

CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE CHACO ZX2 CLASSIC SPORT:

Merrill All Out Blaze Aero Sport

Best for Backcountry Trips

  • Price: $$$
  • Materials: Mesh, 100% fabric with a synthetic sole
  • Notable Features: Mesh lining with odor-preventing technology, cushioned with a protective UniFly midsole
  • Pros: Breathable mesh sides, high durability
  • Cons: Takes longer to dry, expensive

When you are up to your knees in mud portaging a canoe, you want a water shoe that can support your feet and help you maintain control. The Merrill All Out Blaze Aero Sport is an awesome water shoe designed to help you on the most rugged of paddle trips.

The best part of the Merrill All Out Blaze Aero Sport is the combination of mesh paneling and a synthetic sole. These elements allow for air and water to move through the shoe while still allowing for great traction on wet surfaces.

So if you have a backcountry adventure ahead of you, you may want to test out the Merrill All Out Blaze Aero Sport. From hiking along the shoreline to far-out paddling, these shoes offer the durability needed to enjoy some intense paddle trips.

CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE MERRILL ALL OUT BLAZE:

Speedo Surfwalker 3.0 Water Shoe

Best for Cold Climate Paddling

  • Price: $
  • Materials: 100% neoprene
  • Notable Features: No-slip grip, maximum breathability and quick-drying
  • Pros: Inexpensive, easy on-off design
  • Cons: Secure fit relies on neoprene (no laces or straps)

If you are new to paddling and do not want to spend too much money on a pair of water shoes, you need to look no further than the Speedo Surfwalker 3.0 Water Shoe. With easy on-off access, these neoprene water shoes will fit you like a glove.

Being made out of neoprene, you can expect great insulation from cold temperatures and a quick drying time once out of the water. With kayaking shoes like the Speedo Surfwalker 3.0 Water Shoe, you really get the best of both worlds. The tight-fitting neoprene provides a secure yet lightweight skin for your feet that allows for a full range of motion.

For easy paddle trips, especially in colder climates, the Speedo Surfwalker 3.0 Water Shoe is a great option. Although the sole of this shoe is not as robust as others on this guide, it is one of the best water shoes for kayaking, especially for kids.

CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE SPEEDO SURFWALKER 3.0 WATER SHOE:

Body Glove 3T Barefoot Max Water Shoe

Best for Paddle Boarding

  • Price: $
  • Materials: Quick-dry materials
  • Notable Features: Three toe design, ultra-grip outsole provides maximum traction, slip-on
  • Pros: Inexpensive, quick-drying
  • Cons: Is not the best fit for flat fleet, few color choices

Although you can wear the Body Glove 3T Barefoot Max Water Shoe for any outdoor occasion, these shoes really shine in the areas of paddle boarding, wake boarding and windsurfing. Since the Body Glove 3T Barefoot Max Water Shoe has awesome traction and individual toe grips, it is great for any water activity that involves a board.

This quick-drying water shoe is perfect for the adventurous outdoors person. The Body Glove 3T Barefoot Max Water Shoe is durable enough to handle some harsh conditions yet hugs the ankle in a comfortable way.

What does having secure support mean in a water shoe? It means that you have the freedom to own the ocean (or any waterway of your choice). The Body Glove 3T Barefoot Max Water Shoe is definitely the right choice for an adventurous spirit looking for an inexpensive pair of water shoes for kayaking and paddling.

CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE BODY GLOVE 3T BAREFOOT MAX:

NRS Freestyle Westshoe

Best for Stability

  • Price: $$
  • Materials: Neoprene
  • Notable Features: High-traction rubber sole for support and traction, zipper on the back for easy on-off
  • Pros: Inexpensive, highly protective, great traction
  • Cons: High-rise fit restricts foot motion

While this neoprene masterpiece may look intimidating, it is one of the best water shoes for kayaking and other water sports. The NRS Freestyle Westshoe offers support in a stylish way so you can show off those killer paddle board moves while staying safe.

The NRS Freestyle Westshoe is a great choice for avid paddlers, especially if you are paddling in a colder climate. The dual action of neoprene and synthetic materials makes these kayaking shoes completely weatherproof while still having some give.

Reaching the mid-calf, these shoes could be difficult to take on and off. However, the NRS Freestyle Westshoe has a secret zipper in the back that creates easy on-off access. You can go from water play to relaxing on the beach in no time!

CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE NRS FREESTYLE WETSHOE:

Sea to Summit Ultra Flex Water Booties

Best for Easy On-Off Access

  • Price: $-$$
  • Materials: Neoprene
  • Notable Features: Stiffened sole for added protection and walking, velcro strap for easy on-off and fit
  • Pros: Inexpensive, flexible fit, many color choices
  • Cons: Not super supportive

Although this guide features many types of water shoes and water sandals, water booties are also a great option to wear kayaking and paddling. These Sea to Summit Ultra Flex Water Booties are super easy to throw on so you can spend as much time as possible on the water.

Offered in multiple colors, the Sea to Summit Ultra Flex Water Booties are great for customizing your look. Since paddling does not require too much gear, it is fun to get creative with your kayaking shoes! These water booties have an adjustable strap and are extremely flexible. Out on the water, you will have total control.

Whether you are in a boat or on the shore, the Sea to Summit Ultra Flex Water Booties are an awesome inexpensive choice for keeping your feet safe while exploring.

CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE SEA TO SUMMIT ULTRA FLEX WATER BOOTIES:

Chaco ZX2 Classic Athletic Water Shoe

Best for Warm Weather Adventures

  • Price: $$-$$$
  • Materials: ChacoGrip rubber and fabric
  • Notable Features: Double-strapped polyester jacquard webbing for a customized fit, antimicrobial application for odor control
  • Pros: Stable rubber sole and shock absorbing heel
  • Cons: Expensive, little toe protection

Chacos kayaking shoes have nearly perfected the art of stylish activewear. The Chaco ZX2 Classic Athletic Water Shoe is another great option for avid paddlers and novices alike. With an adjustable ankle and toe strap, the Chaco ZX2 Classic Athletic Water Shoe is one of the most comfortable water shoes on the market.

This versatile water shoe is best for canoeing and kayaking, but can work in a multitude of terrains. Durable yet flexible, the Chaco ZX2 Classic Athletic Water Shoe has all of the right elements for an epic pair of water shoes. Best of all, the two-toned straps come in a variety of colors and designs. Who says water shoes can’t be fashionable?

CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE CHACO ZX2 CLASSIC ATHLETIC WATER SHOE:

NeoSport Wetsuits Premium Neoprene 3mm Low Top Pull-On Boot

Best for Rocky Shores

  • Price: $
  • Materials: Neoprene
  • Notable Features: Hardened sole for puncture-resistant protection, easy on-off, non-marking traction sole
  • Pros: Inexpensive, quick drying
  • Cons: Tight wetsuit fit, few color choices

If you are looking for an inexpensive water shoe for kayaking with great traction, than the NeoSport Wetsuits Premium Neoprene 3mm Low Top Pull-On Boot has got you covered. The shoe’s puncture-proof sole is great for more rugged trails.

Unlike other water shoes in this guide, the NeoSport Wetsuits Premium Neoprene 3mm Low Top Pull-On Boot is an easy on-off shoe that comes above the ankle line. This offers extra security from possible water leaking in.

You really can’t go wrong with purchasing a pair of water shoes like the NeoSport Wetsuits Premium Neoprene 3mm Low Top Pull-On Boot. The company’s attention to design is simplistic yet well thought-out and will do the trick for ay type of paddle excursion.

CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE NEOSPORT WETSUIT PULL-ON BOOT:

ALEADER Mesh Slip-On

Best for Paddling Trips with Portaging

  • Price: $
  • Materials: Mesh
  • Notable Features: Lightweight midsole with optimum cushioning, open mesh for breathability
  • Pros: Durable yet flexible fit, lace up
  • Cons: Does not dry very quickly

Lace up those shoes! The ALEADER Mesh Slip-On is a wonderful inexpensive option for paddlers who also want to explore other terrain. One of our favorite parts of kayaking is the possibility of discovering new environments and terrains. So, when you happen upon a hidden island you want to explore, the ALEADER Mesh Slip-On will help you stay safe and in control.

The mesh paneling on these kayaking shoes makes them breathable and light weight. This makes ALEADER Mesh Slip-On a great choice for longer paddle trips where your feet need to breathe. The added sock liner also helps create a cool and dry environment for you toes.

If you are looking for a water shoe that resembles an athletic shoe, the ALEADER Mesh Slip-On is defiantly one to check out. It has more structure and durability than water sandals and water booties, which makes it great for the unplanned- yet most memorable- paddle stops.

CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE ALEADER MESH SLIP=ON:

KEEN Evofit One Water Sandal

Best for Foot Support & Security

  • Price: $$-$$$
  • Materials: Rubber and fabric
  • Notable Features: Puncture-resistant rubber sole, adjustable fit tightening strap, easy slip-on
  • Pros: Great support, hard sole and breathable sides
  • Cons: Expensive, wearing wet can cause irritation

No need to worry about stubbing your toes in these trusty water shoes. The KEEN Evofit One Water Sandal is one of the best kayaking shoes for intermediate kayakers who are ready to make an investment in kayak gear.

The KEEN Evofit One Water Sandal has a great balance between durability and breathability. With open paneling along the sides, your feet have room to move and breathe, but the closed-toe protection is key for more challenging paddling.

With some mesh and the open paneling, the KEEN Evofit One Water Sandal won’t get waterlogged and has a moderate drying time.

It is an all-around good water sandal for kayakers and excels in the areas of support and security. If you have flat feet or weak foot muscles, the KEEN Evofit One Water Sandal has additional cushioning to keep your feet happy all journey long.

CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE KEEN EVOFIT ONE WATER SANDAL:

Teva Omnium Closed Toe Water Water Shoe

Best Closed-Toe Kayaking Shoe

  • Price: $$-$$$
  • Materials: Mesh and rubber
  • Notable Features: Closed-toe sandal with multiple drainage ports and quick-dry mesh lining, shock-absorbing heel
  • Pros: Bungee lacing, great toe protection, breathable sides
  • Cons: Expensive, little room water flow

Besides Chacos, Teva is one of the top companies to make water shoes for kayaking and paddling. While we love open-toe options, the Teva Omnium Closed Toe Water Shoe is another great choice for any type of paddle trip.

The Teva Omnium Closed-Toe Water Shoe’s bungee lacing creates easy on-off access and is adjustable. Secure around the ankle, these kayaking shoes will not come off in the water or on land. With open panels on the side, these shoes will not get weighed down with water and are extremely breathable.

With extra cushioning and special attention to a shock absorbing heel, these shoes are ready to be taken to the rugged outdoors. If you are interested in hiking or walking in addition to kayaking, the Teva Omnium Closed Toe Water Water Shoe is a great pair of shoes to through in your day pack!

CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE TEVA OMNIUM CLOSED-TOE WATER SHOE:

Speedo Seaside Lace 5 Athletic Water Shoe

Best for Beach Days

  • Price: $
  • Materials: Textile and neoprene
  • Notable Features: Features Speedo’s S-TRAC TPR outsole which streams water away from the shoe for incredible slip resistance, enhanced airflow
  • Pros: Lightweight, breathable mesh, inexpensive
  • Cons: Not too much support, best for a beach day

Light weight and inexpensive, the Speedo Seaside Lace 5 Athletic Water Shoe is a new type of water shoe that has as much style as it does substance. Made of breathable mesh, there is nothing rigid about this pair of kayaking shoes. Since they are so comfy, the Speedo Seaside Lace 5 Athletic Water Shoe doesn’t offer as much support as other shoes on this list, but still deserves a special shoutout.

For a low-key beach day or a walk by the water, the Speedo Seaside Lace 5 Athletic Water Shoe checks all of the boxes. With easy bungee lacing and a rubber sole, these water shoes are made to be worn on the water.

The Speedo Seaside Lace 5 Athletic Water Shoe is best for easy paddling or taking a spin in motorized boats. For more challenging paddling that involves portaging, we do not recommend these shoes. However, if you are in a pinch and are looking for a cheap solution, the Speedo Seaside Lace 5 Athletic Water Shoe comes in a variety of colors to complete your seaside look.

CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE SPEEDO SEASIDE LACE 5 ATHLETIC WATER SHOE:

white water kayaking
No matter where your paddling adventures take you, make sure to bring a pair of water shoes! Photo Credit: Hendrick Morkel

Best Water Shoes to Wear for Kayaking and Paddling

If there is one thing you take away from this guide, it is that wearing the right water shoes for your body is one of the best ways to have a safe and rewarding paddle trip. Our feet come in all different shapes and sizes, so it is important to find a pair that fits your individual needs.

Hopefully, the guide above provided some clarity on what to look for when purchasing kayaking shoes, and makes you excited to get out on the water.

FAQ’s for Wearing Water Shoes While Kayaking

Will wearing wet water shoes cause chaffing and irritation?

Water shoes are designed to get wet and dry quickly. Because of this, your feet should not stay wet for very long after being submerged in water (yay!). If your kayaking shoes fit your feet correctly, chaffing and irritation should not be an issue. You can fit your water shoes correctly by adjusting the straps around your ankles, heel and toes to make sure they are snug and supportive.

Can I wash my water shoes?

Absolutely! While washing your water shoes between trips is not necessary, rinsing them with warm water will help get rid of unwanted smells, dirt and grime that you may have picked up along your epic journey.

Will my water shoes float if they come off in the water?

While different types of kayaking shoes are made up of different materials, most shoes are designed to float if they come loose in the water. Water booties and water shoes may fill up with water if they come loose from your feet, but there is plenty of time to snatch them from the water before they start sink.

How often should I replace my water shoes?

Like most shoes, water shoes do need to be replaced after being worn for long periods of time. One way to tell if it is time to get a new pair of kayaking shoes is if the tread on the bottom of the shoe is worn down so you can no longer see the pattern designed for gripping wet surfaces. If you are able to easily bend your water shoes in half, that is also a sign that it is time for a new pair of shoes (water booties are an exception here).

Are water shoes unisex?

No, most companies have separate water shoes to fit the proportions of men and women’s feet. Within men and women’s options, factors such as arch support, flexibility and comfort should be things that you are looking for when purchasing any type of water shoe.

Additional Resources

What to Pack for Kayaking and Paddling

  • 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.

Now that you have the right pair of kayaking shoes, the possibilities for your outdoor adventures are limitless. Don’t know where to start? Check out our kayaking destinations page to explore some awesome paddling options.

Related Links to the Best Water Shoes for Kayaking & Paddling


While DC is best known for its museums, monuments, and memorials, it’s also a city full of waterways and green spaces to explore. One of the best ways to explore the city is from the river, and kayaking in DC is the perfect way to do it. Luckily, there are tons of places to go paddling around the city that give you a unique perspective of the Capital City’s famed buildings and monuments.

In this guide, we’ll share the best places to go kayaking in and around Washington, DC, as well as some of our top recommended kayak rental companies in DC. We’ve also included a few of our favorite kayaking tours in DC, in case you’d like to opt for a guided experience.

Best Places to Go Kayaking in DC

If you’re looking for a short, convenient kayaking adventure, there are tons of options for places to go kayaking in DC’s city limits. Read on for some of the best places to paddle in the capital city!

Georgetown is one of DC’s most popular kayaking spots for a reason: tree-lined riverbanks and historic views.

1. Georgetown

There’s no better place to go kayaking in DC than in one of its most historic and iconic neighborhoods: Georgetown. Filled with charming row houses, old industrial buildings, and tree-lined streets, Georgetown is a wonderful area to spend a day.

However, the best part of Georgetown is its bustling waterfront, which offers several opportunities to get out on the water. While there are boat tours and dinner cruises aplenty, we strongly recommend exploring the Potomac by kayak. If you choose to go kayaking in Georgetown, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of Georgetown University, the Kennedy Center, and nearby Roslyn (in Virginia).

Where to Rent a Kayak in Georgetown: Georgetown’s kayak rental location is at the Key Bridge Boathouse, on the waterfront under the bridge. Their rates start at $16/hour for a single kayak and $22/hour for a double kayak.

  • Address: 3500 Water Str. NW, Washington, DC 20007

Click here to see our complete list of kayaking gear essentials to bring with you 

2. Potomac to Rock Creek

For a bit of a quieter, greener location to go kayaking in DC, paddling up Rock Creek Park from the Potomac is a fantastic choice. Situated in the West End neighborhood, this is one of the largest parks in the city, spanning over 1,700 acres of green forests and walkways to escape the city streets for a while.

While there are plenty of running and biking trails all over the park, you can also paddle through the waters of Rock Creek nearest to the Potomac. However, be sure to stay where the creek is wide and easy to maneuver, and don’t venture into the creek itself – the waters there are extremely technical and should only be tackled by experts.

Where to Rent a Kayak near Rock Creek Park: The nearest kayak rental to Rock Creek is Thompson Boat Center. It’s located on the far end of the Georgetown Waterfront where the Potomac meets Rock Creek. Their rates start at $16/hour for a single kayak and $22/hour for a double kayak.

  • Address: 2900 Virginia Ave NW, Washington, DC 20037
The kayaks are located in a prime location on the Wharf – right on the main pier!

3. The Wharf

Home to a marina and DC’s historic Fish Market, The Wharf is now a bustling waterfront area full of upscale restaurants, high-end apartments, and a popular concert venue, The Anthem.

The Wharf also a prime location for kayaking, as it’s located near Navy Yard and the eastern side of DC. Here, you can paddle through the marina area along the banks of East Potomac Park, an especially beautiful area during cherry blossom season in the spring. From the waterways surrounding The Wharf, you can catch glimpses of the new International Spy Museum, or kayak all the way down to Navy Yard.

Where to Rent a Kayak in the Wharf: The Wharf Boathouse is located on the pier in front of the Hyatt House Hotel. You can rent a kayak starting at $16/hour for a single and $22/hour for a double.

4. Navy Yard/Anacostia River

Navy Yard is one of DC’s coolest up-and-coming neighborhoods located on the banks of the Anacostia River. Situated near Nationals Park, this riverfront area is the perfect place to grab a kayak and explore the eastern side of the city.

From the Anacostia River, you can see the historic Navy Yard and the Nationals ballpark to the north and the greenery of Anacostia Park to the south. Or, alternatively, you can paddle to Hains Point, the southernmost point of East Potomac Park.

Where to Rent a Kayak in Navy Yard: Ballpark Boathouse is your one-stop shop for all things kayaking/paddling in Navy Yard. You can rent a kayak starting at $16/hour for a single and $22/hour for a double.

  • Address: Potomac Ave SE and First Street SE, Washington, DC 20003
Washington Sailing Marina -- Daingerfield Island Alexandria (VA) June 2016
The Washington Sailing Marina is a lovely place to begin a kayaking adventure in DC!
Credit: Ron Cogswell (Flickr Creative Commons)

5. Washington Sailing Marina

Located south of the Pentagon, the Washington Sailing Marina is a wonderful, less crowded area to begin your kayaking adventure. The Washington Sailing Marina is technically located in Alexandria, VA, but we’ll count it since it’s within eyeshot of Washington, DC… With access to the Potomac River as well as the mouth of the Four Mile Run, it’s a great area to spend a few hours paddling around between DC and Virginia.

From the Washington Sailing Marina, you can kayak all the way up to the south end of East Potomac Park, which is a beautiful urban green space in DC. Alternatively, stick around the nearby areas of the Potomac and watch as planes land and take off above you from Reagan National Airport.

Where to Rent a Kayak in the Washington Sailing Marina: The Washington Sailing Marina has its own boathouse where you can rent kayaks, stand up paddleboards, and more. You can also take sailing lessons here, or enjoy a riverside meal at Island Time Bar & Grill.

  • Address: 1 Marina Dr, Alexandria, VA 22314

6. National Harbor

Think about your classic, Ferris wheel-laden boardwalk with tons of tourists, shops, and restaurants, and you’ve got DC’s National Harbor. Yup, you heard that right – the National Harbor is an entertainment hub, with tons of places to eat and drink, a large Ferris wheel, and an enormous MGM casino/resort.

Like the Washington Sailing Marina, the National Harbor isn’t technically in DC, but we’ve included it here because it’s close enough and can be reached by public transportation from downtown. It’s also a unique area to go kayaking in DC, since it’s a bit farther out from the city center. Kayaking here will give you a unique perspective of the National Harbor and the surrounding areas.

Located across the Potomac River from Alexandria, you can catch great views of the banks of Old Town Alexandria, or paddle along the banks of the Potomac River Waterfront Park.

Where to Rent a Kayak in the National Harbor: The National Harbor Boathouse has kayaks available for rent for reasonable prices. Since it’s run by the same company as the others listed in this post, the prices are the same: $16/hour for a single and $22/hour for a double kayak.

  • Address: 165 Waterfront Street, Oxon Hill, MD 20745

Map of DC’s Best Kayaking Spots

For you visual folks out there, here’s a handy map that shows all 6 of the places to go kayaking in DC that we’ve listed above (click on the point to see more information):

Best Places to Go Kayaking Near DC

While there are lots of places within DC to go kayaking, there are also plenty of awesome nature kayaking opportunities withing a few hours of the city. Based on locals’ recommendations, here are some of the most beautiful and popular places to go kayaking near DC:

There are some serious rapids at Great Falls – not for the inexperienced or the faint of heart!

7. Great Falls Park

People don’t usually think of whitewater rapids when they think of Washington DC. However, you can find both at Great Falls! Located just outside of Washington DC, Great Falls Park is a federally protected area that straddles the Potomac River into Virginia and Maryland. Marked by tons of hiking trails and lookout points, the main attraction is the Great Falls cascade, which is a series of waterfalls spanning the width of the river.

Not for the faint of heart, Great Falls has rapids up to class 6, so this definitely isn’t an area for beginner kayakers. However, if you’ve got the experience and you’re up for the challenge, advanced kayakers will find a unique and thrilling experience in the rapids of Great Falls.

*Note: There’s no place to rent a kayak at Great Falls, but you can take a guided tour/lesson with Potomac Paddle Sports that provides equipment. For more detailed information about this route, check out this guide.

The calm waters of the C&O canal are a beginner-friendly contrast to Great Falls.

8. Chesapeake & Ohio Canal

For those wanting to kayak in a more natural setting without the adrenaline rush of Great Falls, the Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) Canal is an excellent choice. This historic canal was once used as a shipping route, as it extends all the way to Ohio! Today, it’s a gorgeous recreation area with miles of trails and calm waterways, perfect for exploring by foot or boat. As far as kayaking near DC goes, it doesn’t get much better than the C&O canal.

The canal runs parallel to the Potomac River for several miles and has much more controlled rapids, meaning calmer waters for kayakers of all levels. Renting a kayak to explore the C&O Canal is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in quiet nature, without having to stray too far from DC’s city limits.

Where to Rent a Kayak Near the C&O Canal: Fletcher’s Boathouse is located right next to the C&O Canal and is the perfect place to rent a kayak, with access to both the canal and the Potomac River. You can rent a kayak starting at $16/hour for a single and $22/hour for a double.

  • Address: 4940 Canal Rd NW, Washington, D.C. 20007

9. Dyke Marsh

Located less than 30 minutes outside of DC’s city limits, Dyke Marsh is a fabulous place to go kayaking near DC. Dyke Marsh is actually a wildlife preserve and is home to dozens of species of birds, plants, and other wildlife. Much of the area where Washington, DC now stands used to be made of these freshwater tidal wetlands, but today, Dyke Marsh is one of the few remaining conservation areas.

Luckily, there are several ways to explore Dyke Marsh, with kayaking as one of the best. You can paddle through the wetlands and keep an eye out for bird species like loons, egrets, and herons.

Where to Rent a Kayak Near Dyke Marsh: Belle Haven Marina is a boating marina that offers kayak rentals. From there, you can paddle to Dyke Marsh and its surrounding areas.

  • Address: 6401 George Washington Memorial Pkwy, Alexandria, VA 22307
Photo Credit: F Delventhal (Flickr CC)

10. Mallows Bay

Possibly one of the most unique areas to go kayaking near DC is at Mallows Bay, MD. Here, you can find hundreds of abandoned or wrecked ships that dot the shoreline, some dating back to as early as the 1770s. For the urban explorers out there, this DC kayaking spot is one of the coolest and most unique spectacles of history, abandonment, and decay.

To kayak at Mallows Bay Skip Graveyard, you have to book a guided tour. This will not only take you to the best spots, but will also provide you with a local expert who can share historical information about the ships.

How to Kayak in Mallows Bay: Atlantic Kayak offers guided tours to Mallows Bay and they have excellent reviews from locals and travelers alike.

Photo Credit: Jeff Kubina (Flickr)

11. Patuxent River

For peace and tranquility just a few minutes outside of DC, the Patuxent River Park area in Price George’s County spans 7,500 acres of conservation land. Here, you’ll trade museums and monuments for leisurely riverbanks and greenery.

Wildlife lovers, outdoor enthusiasts, and bird watchers will love everything the Patuxent River has to offer. Moreover, there are several picturesque places to go kayaking near DC in the Patuxent River area, and it’s suitable for kayakers of all levels. Pair a day of kayaking with an evening of camping or an afternoon of hiking and you’ll be sure to have a memorable adventure!

Where to Rent a Kayak at the Patuxent River: The Patuxent River Park authority offers its own canoe and kayak rentals at very reasonable rates (just $20/day!).

  • Address: 6600 Kenilworth Avenue, Riverdale, MD 20737

Where to Rent a Kayak in DC

Wondering where you can get your feet wet with kayaking? Here are a few of the most highly-recommended places where you can find DC kayak rentals:

  • Boating in DC is the biggest (and most prevalent) boat rental company in the DC area. They offer the largest selection of kayak rentals in DC, including all of the places listed previously in this article. Their rates are affordable ($16/hour for a single kayak and $22/hour for a double kayak, with a maximum of $88/day). Most days, you can simply walk up to a boathouse to rent a kayak without a reservation. Life jackets are included in the price of any kayak rental.
  • Outside of the city, there are several other kayak rental companies near DC, depending on where you want to go. We’ve included several options throughout this post, but if there’s somewhere specific that you want to go, Google Maps is a great resource for finding a nearby kayak rental company.
Even if you’ve never been kayaking before, there are plenty of safe places to learn in Washington, DC!

Best Lessons & Kayaking Tours in Washington, DC

Interested in learning more about kayaking in DC? Look no further than these guided tours and kayaking outfitters, which offer a wide range of services tailored to paddlers of all levels:

  • Potomac Paddlesports is a kayaking lesson provider in the DC metropolitan area. They offer longer excursions in the area as well as across Maryland.
  • Active Nature offers beginner-friendly kayak and stand up paddleboard (SUP) lessons in Washington, D.C.

Additional Resources


Did you enjoy this post? Don’t forget to pin it for later!

Looking for fun things to do in Washington DC? Kayaking easily tops the list! With so many waterways and historic sites, there are tons of places to go kayaking in DC. This is the most comprehensive guide out there for kayaking in Washington DC! #WashingtonDC #USA #Kayaking #Outdoors

*The featured image in this post was taken by Potomac Conservancy and used by Skyline Adventurer under a Creative Commons license.

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 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!

Related Links to Kayaking in Portland

When the weather gets as hot as it does in Atlanta, Georgia, there is no better escape than hopping in a boat and paddling down some of the most stunning waterways in the U.S. From tranquil creeks hidden under a canopy of trees to sparkling blue lakes, a day spent kayaking in Atlanta is an awesome way to explore the city’s natural beauty.

Canoeing and kayaking in Atlanta is plentiful and diverse. Full weekend trips and quick paddles are both ways you can spend your time exploring Atlanta. With so many great spots, it can be hard to navigate which ones will offer you the best outdoor experience! Below is our complete guide to the most beautiful places to go canoeing and kayaking in Atlanta.

Best Places to Go Canoeing and Kayaking In & Around Atlanta

Chattahoochee River National Water Trail

As the first established National River Water Trail, paddling along the 48 miles of the Chattahoochee is an epic water adventure!

Beginning below Buford Dam, Chattahoochee offers some of the most beautiful sites in Atlanta! This spot is perfect for families and beginners looking to get outdoors. The Upper Chattahoochee River Blue Trail is especially good for novice paddlers. The river is relatively calm, although there are some Class I/II rapids along the route. The river is open for kayaking year-round, but water temperatures never really rise above 50 degrees- so make sure to bring a jacket.

With lush greenery on all sides, Chattahoochee is a prime spot for spotting wildlife and taking long, leisurely paddles. Visitors can also paddle past Civil War sites and historical mills while enjoying the beautiful scenery. With rich biodiversity and cool historical landmarks, there is certainly a lot to check out at Chattahoochee.

There are 17 different launch ramps along the river if you plan on bringing your own boat. Otherwise, you can rent all your kayak essentials from High Country Outfitters.

How to Get There: If driving, take I-85 N to I-985 N. Then, take exit 4 and continue on Buford Rd west towards the dam.

Sweetwater Creek State Park

Only minutes from downtown Atlanta, Sweetwater Creek State Park is a great spot for both history fans and kayak enthusiasts! With miles of outdoor trails, Sweetwater Creek State Park is known for its beautiful rocky bluffs and flowers.

Beginner kayakers will love this scenic creek. Its flat waters are surrounded by trees and flowers, and it is also super easy to navigate. Besides the sheer beauty of the park, visitors can also enjoy paddling past a textile mill from the Civil War Era and places used in filming The Hunger Games.

Sweetwater’s close proximity to the city makes it very convenient and accessible to all paddlers. If you have a limited amount of time but want to spend it outside, definitely check out Sweetwater Creek State Park. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful paddle or to catch some fish, kayaking in Atlanta has it all.

You can launch your own boat inside the park for free. Otherwise, you can rent kayaks, canoes and SUPs onsite.

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-20 W and take exit 41 for Lee Rd. to Lithia Springs.

Kayakers love paddling around the flat waters of Sweetwater Creek State Park.
Kayakers can enjoy the calm waters of Sweetwater Creek State Park year-round. Photo Credit: rroberts41 (Flickr CC)

Ocmulgee River Trail

With over 200 miles of connected waterways, Ocmulgee River Trail gives you total control over how long you want your water adventure to last. With 25 access points, it is easy to enjoy the flat waters and Class I rapids of this epic waterway.

Ocmulgee River is ideal for longer paddling trips. There are tons of mini islands to explore and camp on. Wide-open blue waters, sand bars, and forested islands all come together to make Ocmulgee an awesome weekend destination. However, there are alligators in the lake and sometimes on the islands- be careful!

Before or after your kayak expedition, check out Little Ocmulgee State Park. These gorgeous acres have rustic cabins if you want to stay overnight.

You can launch your boat for free all along the river. Eventually, this river way turns into the Altamaha River. If you need to rent kayaks or are looking for a guided tour, Ocmulgee Outdoor Expeditions has you covered.

How to Get There: If driving, take I-75 S to GA-83 toward Monticello.

Lake Blue Ridge

The pristine aquamarine waters of Lake Blue Ridge make it one of the most beautiful mountain lakes to kayak in Atlanta. With 65 miles of shoreline and a connection to Chattahoochee National Forest, kayaking around Lake Blue Ridge must be on your list of places to explore in Atlanta this summer.

Lake Blue Ridge’s calm waters make it a serene spot for paddling of all kind. Locals and visitors alike love Lake Blue Ridge not only because of its unique water color, but also enjoy the National Forest, campsites, and miles of sandy beach shorelines.

There are two main entries to Lake Blue Ridge that offer different opportunities. First, the Day Use/Boat Ramp area provides easy access into the water and has short trails along the coastline. The other entrance, Morganton Point Recreation Area, has a beach and swimming area great for children, and is a more developed part of the coastline. While you can launch from both of these areas, the Day Use area is more rugged and focuses on the water and Morganton is better for families looking to set up camp.

You can launch your boat for free at Lake Blue Ridge. Or, you can rent gear and find guided tours of the area from Lake Blue Ridge Outfitters. Kayaking in Atlanta doesn’t get much better than this!

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-75 N to US-76 E and head to Lakeside Dr.

Kayaking in Atlanta's Ocmulgee River is a beautiful way to explore Atlanta's outdoors!
Families love kayaking down the beautiful Ocmulgee River in Atlanta! Photo Credit: Mark Strozier (Flickr CC)

Lake Allatoona

About 30 minutes from downtown Atlanta, the “Lake City” of Acworth is home to two amazing lakes for kayaking. Lake Acworth is a large outdoor space great for beginners. But for those looking for a challenge, I recommend Lake Allatoona.

Intermediate and advanced kayakers will love exploring Lake Allatoona. The lake touches Cobb, Bartow, and Cherokee counties and has views of the magnificent Red Top Mountain Area. In addition to these natural beauties, Lake Allatoona is also a famous Civil War battle site with historical markers along the route.

Visitors can enjoy paddling around the large lake area, or take a mile detour and enjoy the Allatoona Falls around Little River. Between the lake’s open waters and the Falls, avid kayakers will love paddling around Lake Allatoona.

There are a few full-service marinas and boat ramps on the shores of Lake Allatoona where you can launch your own boat for free. Otherwise, feel free to check out Lake Allatoona Kayak for kayak rentals and awesome guided tours.

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-75 N and take the exit for Bells Ferry Rd. There are several boat ramps accessible from this branches off of this road close to the lake.

Chattooga River

Spend the day kayaking the Chattooga River. It has different sections to accommodate all ability levels. About 2.5 hours from downtown Atlanta, exploring the diverse Chattooga River is an awesome weekend getaway.

Beginners looking to go kayaking in Atlanta should check out Tugaloo Lake. Opening up into Lake Tugaloo, Chattooga River’s wild waters become nice and calm- perfect for novice paddlers. Tugaloo State Park is also an awesome outdoor destination.

Intermediate and advanced paddlers will have a blast kayaking the whitewater waves of the Chattooga River. Notorious for the legendary Five Falls, Chattooga River’s rocky whitewater runs provide epic trails for skilled kayakers.

You can launch your own boat on Chattooga River, but guided tours are recommended because of the rough waters. Chattooga Adventures has kayak rentals, whitewater tours, and weekend clinics to help you along this epic water adventure.

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-85 N toward Gainesville, then take US-23 N toward Clayton. Tugaloo Lake is near Tallulah Falls, and the Chattooga river stretches the state border north of the lake.

Kayaking in Atlanta is an exciting adventure! You can explore tree-lines islands and little inlets too!
Lake Allatoona is one of the most scenic spots near Atlanta. Photo Credit: Sporadic (Flickr CC)

Tybee Island

Kayaking around Georgia’s Tybee Island is one of the best ways to explore the coast. Visitors can kayak and SUP around tons of different areas like marshes, creeks, estuaries, and more.

The southern end of Tybee Island is best for beginners. There, Tybee Creek and Chimney Creek have calm sheltered waters and sandbars which provide an easy and safe area for novice paddling. Novices and families may also enjoy the shorter scenic paddles around Little Tybee Island and Skidaway River.

Kayaking at Tybee Island also has great spots for more experienced paddlers too. Experienced paddlers can head to the north end of Tybee Island for more challenging waters that surround the historic lighthouse of northern Tybee, Cockspur Island and Fort Pulaski. Bonus- you can spot dolphins here too!

From the quiet waters of the marsh to the exciting ocean waves, Tybee Island has something for everyone! You can spend an afternoon paddling around the different areas or take longer trips out to nearby barrier islands.

You can launch your own boat at Tybee Island for free. Or, you can rent gear and take guided tours from North Island Surf & Kayak, a family-run business specializing in eco-tours of the area.

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-75 S and then exit onto I-16 E toward Savannah. Continue on Islands Expy to US-80 E.

Altamaha River

Known as the “Little Amazon”, the Altamaha River is one of the mightiest river sources flowing into the Atlantic Ocean. Home to over 100 rare and endangered species, paddlers interested in wildlife and birdwatching should add the Altamaha to their list.

The Lower Altamaha is the best place for paddlers to go canoeing and kayaking in Atlanta. This section of the river has pretty tame waters and is surrounded by beautiful scenery and wildlife on both sides. Going downstream, paddlers can explore Stud Horse Creek, Lewis Creek, Rifle Cut, and Darien Creek- a stretch of about 17 miles.

Darien Creek, located at the mouth of Altamaha, is a favorite among paddlers. You can kayak to barrier islands, explore Georgia’s coast and the Altamaha’s flat waters all in one place! Kayaking along the Altamaha is usually done in large stretches for long paddle trips, but 29 different access points make it easy to get in and out whenever you choose.

You can launch your boat anywhere along the Altamaha for free, but it is best to steer clear of the raging water of the Upper Altamaha River. Rentals and guided tours are also available at Altamaha Coastal Tours.

How to Get There: If driving, take I-75 S toward Macon then continue to I-16 E and GA-169 S to the river.

Kayaking in Atlanta becomes an ocean adventure if you head out to Tybee Island! Sandy beaches all around!
Kayaking along the sandy beaches of Tybee Island is an awesome way to explore Georgia! Photo Credit: Simon Foot (Flickr CC)

Etowah River

Kayaking in Atlanta’s Etowah River is simply awe-inspiring. The Etowah River Water Trail is considered one of the most biodiverse rivers in the country and connects numerous historical landmarks, state forests, and conservation sites.

The Etowah River is relatively flat and an easy paddle for all abilities. As you paddle down the 136 miles that comprise the trail, you can pass cool sites like the Etowah Indian Mounds State Historic Site, and the natural landscapes of Dawson Forest, McGraw Ford, Allatoona and the Chattahoochee National Forest.

Besides these beautiful places, Etowah River has another hidden gem- the “underground river”. 3.5 miles from the Castleberry put-in in Dawsonville, an abandoned mining tunnel bridges together two sections of the river. Originally created to search for gold, the 1/4 mile tunnel makes for a spectacular water adventure if you’re brave enough to get to the other side! Please plan ahead and bring a flashlight for this journey, and check to make sure the tunnel is not blocked.

Between the abundance of wildlife, natural scenery, and unique places to explore, kayaking the Etowah River is a utopia for adventure-seekers. You can launch your own boat anywhere along the river for free. Or, you can rent gear from Euharlee Creek Outfitters.

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-75 N toward Emerson and take GA-293 N to the river.

Yahoola Creek

Known as a whitewater kayak destination, Yahoola Creek is a fun place for intermediate and advanced kayakers to try out this summer.

Sections of Yahoola Creek have Class I to Class V rapids, so make sure you are prepared for a bumpy ride. Yahoola has two main gorges that have massive drops which make for an exciting ride. Twists and turns in the creek make turning every corner an adventure- rapids and drops come out of nowhere. That being said, it is best to have some experience paddling in rapids before tackling this hidden gem.

For less experienced paddlers, there is one portion of Yahoola Creek that is flat water. In addition to some epic kayaking, visitors also enjoy nearby Vogel State Park and hiking DeSoto Falls and the Blue Ridge Mountain area.

There are a few places to launch your boat for free on Yahoola Creek, but know that the rapids start right away. If you need to rent gear or want a guided tour of the area, check out Appalachian Outfitters. Kayaking Yahoola Creek will certainly leave you breathless!

How to Get There: If driving, take GA-400 N toward Chestatee, then take Yahoola Creek Farm Rd. to the water.

Yahoola Creek is absolutely beautiful in the fall! Kayaking in Atlanta is gorgeous under this fall foliage!
Kayaking at Yahoola Creek is gorgeous under this Fall foliage! Photo Credit: Betty Phillips (Flickr CC)

Lake Lanier

From regatta racing to luxury homes, Lake Lanier is one of the most popular destinations for canoeing and kayaking in Atlanta. Lake Lanier itself has wonderful waters for all ability levels, and its tributaries connect to more challenging portions of the Chattahoochee.

Paddling around Lake Lanier is certainly beautiful, but it is not the most remote or tranquil place to kayak. It has tons of lake activities for groups and families, making it a premier destination for outdoor lovers. With so many awesome programs, Lake Lanier is a great option for beginners or those looking for a more structured time paddling.

Around the lake, paddlers can cruise past luxury lake homes and cute houseboats on calm waters. Those looking for more rugged terrain should check out the tributaries connecting the lake to the Chattahoochee.

Lanier Canoe & Kayak Club offers rentals, tours, and classes for all ages. Visitors especially love the Moonlight Paddles where you can explore Lake Lanier’s natural beauty under the stars! Or, you can launch your own boat for free.

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-85 N toward Gainesville. Then, take Jim Crow Rd. to Old Federal Rd.

Chestatee River

Perhaps the best adventure for beginners in Atlanta, kayaking Chestatee River has the perfect water conditions for novice paddlers to feel confident in their skills. The river, however, is still exciting for advanced kayakers too.

Located about an hour outside of downtown Atlanta, the serenity of Chestatee River makes it feel like you’re a million miles away. The river is about 6.5 miles long, which takes roughly three hours to paddle for beginners. Chestatee’s waters are calm throughout with some Class I rapids to keep things interesting at the beginning and end of the route.

Chestatee River is perfectly laid out for a relaxing afternoon or day trip. About halfway down the river, Big Bend Beach is a sandy oasis where you can take a break and have some lunch. After that, it is smooth sailing until the last few rapids at the end before the boat ramp.

You can launch your own boat for free. Or, you can rent gear and take guided tours with Chestatee River Adventures. This spot should definitely be on your list if you are a beginner ready to put your skills to the test!

How to Get There: If driving, take GA-400 N to US-19 N and turn onto River Knoll Way.

Chestatee River is a beautiful spot to enjoy a relaxing paddle this summer! Kayaking in Atlanta is such a fun outdoor activity!
The Chestatee River is a wonderful spot for families to enjoy the outdoors together! Photo Credit: Georgia Sierra Club (Flickr CC)

Fort Yargo State Park

Visiting Fort Yargo State Park is the urban escape everyone is looking for this Summer! From the park’s wide-open waters to beautiful hiking trails, a day spent kayaking in Fort Yargo has no shortage of activities to try.

Fort Yargo State Park features two boat ramps for easy access to the water. Most visitors prefer using the ramp at the end of the park near the luxury yurts for the most scenic waterfront views. Paddlers can peruse the sandy beaches and enjoy miles of coastline on flat water.

After your relaxing paddle around the lake, make sure to check out Old Fort Yargo. Originally built as a defense against Cherokee and Creek tribes, it is now a historical landmark any history buff would enjoy.

With hundreds of acres of land, Fort Yargo State Park is a wonderful getaway with tons of outdoor recreational activities. Visitors love spending the day kayaking around the beach and staying overnight in the luxury yurts and cottages on the park grounds.

You can launch your own boat for free at either boat ramp in the park. Otherwise, you can rent kayaks and SUPS at Fort Yargo State Park.

How to Get There: If driving, take I-85 N toward Athens, then Highway 316 E. Turn onto GA-81 N and head to Yargo Area B Rd.

Morgan Falls Overlook Park

For families and novice paddlers, I would definitely recommend going canoeing, paddle boarding, or kayaking at Morgan Falls Overlook Park. Situated on the banks of the Chattahoochee River, Morgan Falls’ quiet creeks and tributaries provide easier paddling with amazing views.

Unlike other parks along the Chattahoochee, visitors can swim and paddle board at Morgan Falls. A new playground and fire pit also make it a wonderful destination for a low-key family get together. Kayaking this part of the river, technically called Blue Sluice Lake, takes about 2.5 hours. Paddlers can explore nearby marshlands and spot tons of wildlife along the coast.

If you’re looking for a low-key spot to get out on the water, Morgan Falls Overlook Park is an awesome place to explore this summer. Between the lake’s natural beauty and easy hikes along the shoreline, Morgan Falls Overlook Park is a wonderful spot for families to enjoy the outdoors together. Bonus- it isn’t too well known, so you will probably have the lake to yourself!

You can launch your boat here for free. Or, you can rent kayaks at High County Outfitters.

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-85 N and take exit 5B toward Sandy Springs. Then, take Roswell Rd. to Morgan Falls Rd.

Kayaking in Atlanta's marshes is great way to see diverse wildlife!
Kayaking around Atlanta’s marshes is great way to spot wildlife! Photo Credit: Adriaan Greyling (Pexels)

Additional Resources

What to Pack for Kayaking in Atlanta

  • 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!

Related Links to Kayaking in Atlanta


While many peoples’ minds immediately jump to eating one of Philadelphia’s delicious cheesesteaks, there is in fact another way to enjoy what this beautiful city has to offer: by kayaking! A day spent kayaking in Philadelphia covers both urban paddling with views of the Philadelphia skyline and waterways that are surrounded by lush trees and forests. Best of all, most of your adventures kayaking in Philadelphia are free of entrance fees (and rentals can be found at very affordable rates).

With so many awesome places to choose from, picking the best places to kayak in and around Philadelphia can be challenging. Below is our complete guide to the most scenic places to kayak in Philadelphia. From quiet creeks to Class II rapids, any outdoor lover must experience paddling around Philadelphia!

Best Places to Go Canoeing and Kayaking In & Around Philadelphia

Kayaking in Philadelphia is an amazing way to explore the city's natural beauty and get outdoors!
Kayaking in Philadelphia is a great way to explore the city’s natural beauty and get outdoors! Photo Credit: David Clow (Flickr CC)

Schuylkill Banks

This 8 mile stretch of river runs straight through the heart of Philidelphia. For an urban kayaking experience that still features beautiful scenery, head out to Schuylkill Banks!

Beginning at Walnut Street Dock, paddlers can launch their boats and cruise down calm waters. Industrial views and the Philadelphia skyline dominate the backdrop when first paddling, but it becomes more lush with greenery as you continue on. Schuylkill Banks’ convenient location and calm waters make it a great spot for beginners or those looking to get in a quick paddle this summer.

Kayaking in Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River truly brings an urban setting outdoors. Bonus- you can kayak in the late-afternoon and get back in time for a free movie screening on Schuylkill Banks (with free snacks)!

You can launch your own boat from Walnut Street Dock or Fairmont Water Works for free. Or, on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, Hidden River Outfitters offers tours of the river with exclusive river routes.

How to Get There: If driving, head towards S 25th St from Lombard st. This will take you to Locust point, where you can park your car and head down to the riverbank. If not driving, the Market Frankford Line of SEPTA Regional Rail will take you here.

Wissahickon Creek

With over 50 miles of rugged terrain trails and free-flowing streams, kayaking in Wissahickon Valley Park is not your average flat water experience.

Located within the park, Wissahickon Creek is 7 miles in total and ranges in depth and rapids. Kayaking here is a complete escape from busy downtown Philadelphia. Dense forests and wildflowers make Wissahickon Creek a beautiful outdoor oasis. While paddling along the rocky tree-lines shores, make sure to look out for shallow areas!

Visitors also enjoy touring historic sites in the park like Philadelphia’s last standing covered bridge and the Valley Green Inn. Between the park’s beautiful natural landscape and history, kayaking Wissahickon Creek is perfect for any age and ability.

The Philadelphia Canoe Club is an active paddling community that offers canoe, kayak, and white water rafting trips down Wissahickon Creek. Besides renting gear, joining this great community of outdoor enthusiasts is a wonderful place to meet others with a shared love for kayaking in Philadelphia.

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-76 W and take exit 331B toward Plymouth Mtg. Then, head toward State Route 3005 until the creek. If not driving, there is transit from 30th Street Station that drops you 0.5 miles from the creek.

Glistening waters of Core Creek Park invites cancers and kayakers for a paddle!
The pond at Core Creek Park is a beautiful place for kayaking in Philadelphia this Summer! Photo Credit: Chris Ronin (Flickr CC)

Cedar Creek

An ecological masterpiece, paddling along Cedar Creek showcases the unique beauty of cedar forests, bogs, marshes and more!

From the minute you arrive you’ll notice how special kayaking on Cedar Creek really is. Its unique tea-colored water is a result of the cedar tree roots of forests that line the shores. Cedar Creek itself is best suited for paddlers with some experience; there is a current that definitely aids you in paddling if going downstream.

Paddling Cedar Creek can be a full weekend trip; luxury campgrounds sit on the shores ready for you after you are done kayaking. Between the cranberry bogs adjacent to the creek and marshes that host diverse wildlife, Cedar Creek must be on your kayaking list this summer.

Cedar Creek Campground rents out campgrounds and canoe/kayak gear. They will even drop it off where you wish to begin your trip! Or, feel free to launch your own boat at the docks near the swimming area.

How to Get There: If driving, start on US-30 E and take the ramp to NJ–70 E. Turn right onto Warren Grove Whiting Rd and continue through Lacey Rd until a right turn onto Atlantic City Blvd. Turn right onto Harbor Inn Rd. Driving is the best way to get here! If you need to rent a car, Avis has you covered.

Kayaking in Philadelphia can have an urban setting ion the Schuylkill Banks- an easy way to get outdoors!
Kayaking along Schuylkill Banks gives the best skyline views and an urban feel. Photo Credit: Montgomery County Planning (Flickr CC)

Marsh Creek State Park

Marsh Creek Lake is your classic flat water lake with beautiful tree-lined coasts and sandy beaches. With blue skies and calm waters, Marsh Creek Lake is a wonderful place to spend an afternoon kayaking in Philadelphia.

Besides the gorgeous scenery, Marsh Creek Lake is known for their Night Tours. Offered every other Friday, seasoned tour guides provide vibrant glow sticks to help you navigate around the lake and experience it under the stars!

If you’re looking for a quiet getaway, Marsh Creek Lake is a perfect place to start. In addition to kayak and paddle board rentals, Marsh Creek Lake also has lessons and can host parties. Rentals are available at West Launch Boat Rentals. Or, feel free to launch your own boat too!

How to Get There: If driving, take I-76 W toward Harrisburg, then take PA-100 N to Park Rd. Turn left and continue to the lake. If not driving, you can take the SEPTA Paoli/Thorndale Line to Downington.

Penn’s Landing

Located near Spruce Street Harbor Park and the Hilton Penn’s Landing, kayaking Penn’s Landing is certain to be a unique way to see the city! You can kayak, paddleboat, or even rent rowboats to explore the Delaware River’s beachfront.

Kayaking Penn’s Landing is a great outdoor activity for kids and families living in Philadelphia. The Penn’s Landing paddle area is in a safe harbor where you are free to paddle and float to your heart’s content. Since Penn’s Landing recently added kayaking to its waterfront, it is in high demand. Kayaking here is best suited for kids and those looking to see some of Philadelphia’s history (not a long, scenic paddle).

Paddling at Penn’s Landing is sponsored by Independence Seaport Museum. The museum’s Workshop on the Water offers outdoors classes and rents kayaks. If you already have a boat, feel free to explore the harbor on your own!

How to Get There: If driving, head east on Chestnut St. over the freeway to get to Penn’s Landing on the Delaware river. If not driving, you can take the SEPTA MFL Line toward Frankfort to 2nd Station which is near Penn’s Landing.

Sailboats, boats, canoes, and kayaks take the water at Nockamixon State Park! Visitors enjoy paddling around the tree-lined coasts.
There are numerous ways to enjoy the waters of Nockamixon State Park! Photo Credit: (FlickrCC)

Nockamixon State Park

Nockamixon State Park may be one of the most treasured places in Pennsylvania. Close enough for a day trip, kayaking in Philadelphia’s Nockamixon State Park is absolutely breathtaking come Spring, Summer, or Fall.

With over 1,000 acres of waterfront property, you can do some serious kayaking on Nockamixon Lake. Full of fish, this is the perfect spot for fishing and taking a luxurious paddle along the forested coastline.

Dedicated to outdoor education and environmental conservation, Nockamixon State Park has tons of classes for people of all ages looking to learn more about nature and the park itself during your visit.

In total, the lake has six public launch sites, but Three Mile Run and Haycock launch ramps are best suited for kayaks and canoes. If not launching your own boat, feel free to rent gear from Nockamixon Boat Rental.

How to Get There: If driving, take N Broad St north and turn left onto Fort Washington Expy. Then, turn right onto Hilltown Pike and continue onto Blooming Glen Rd/Minsi Trail. Continue on PA-313 W, and then turn right and take PA-563 N to the park. If not driving, there is a bus once daily to Quakertown by Fullington Railways. Or, you can rent a car from Avis.

Core Creek Park

The small lake located in Core Creek Park is the perfect way to ease into kayaking this Summer. Between the flat water, hiking and picnic areas, you’ll never want to leave!

Core Creek Park’s waterfront access to Lake Luxembourg makes the transition from land to water super easy. A leisurely paddle around the lake doesn’t take too long, and is a great place to work on your paddle skills.

More experienced paddlers love Core Creek Park’s Moonlight Paddle Tours which explores the lake under the stars. Whether you are a newbie looking for a quiet place to practice or a seasoned paddle looking to kayak in a new environment, Lake Luxembourg can do it all.

You can launch your own boat or you can rent kayaks at the park from Core Creek Boat Rental.

How to Get There: If driving, take I-95 N toward Trenton, then take exit 3 towards US-1 Business N and turn left onto Woodbourne Rd. Continue here to the park. If not driving, you can take the SEPTA West Trenton Line to Langhorne (Core Creek Park).

Kayaking down the Delaware River is a great outdoor activity for the whole family! Kayaking in Philadelphia is a must-do activity this summer!
Kayaking down the Delaware River is a great activity for the whole family! Photo Credit: Stephen Harris (Flickr CC)

Delaware River

Separating Pennsylvania from New Jersey, the Delaware River is a diverse flat water river with excellent wildlife and campgrounds along the way.

Accessing this beautiful natural waterway is super easy- there are put-ins along routes 80, 84, 6, 206, 209 and 521. Once on the water, paddlers of all abilities can cruise down long stretches of the river and make camp along the way.

Kayaking along the Delaware River is a great choice for kayakers looking for long stretches of uninterrupted water and trips that can last up to a few days. While paddling, you may even spot wild turkeys, bears, and elk!

Bonus: Besides canoeing and kayaking, the Delaware River has the perfect conditions for tubing. Floating down the river on a sunny day is like having your own lazy river. Twin River Tubing has everything you need to make your journey awesome.

You can launch your own boat at any of the access points along the highway for free. Or, you can rent from Adventure Sports. Spots like the Delaware River make kayaking in Philadelphia an absolute epic time!

How to Get There: If driving, put-ins are located along highway routes 80, 84, 6, 206, 209 and 521. The best way to access the water is through these sites. If you need to rent a car, Avis has you covered.

Darby Creek

  • Location: Southeastern Philadelphia
  • Rentals Available: Yes- at Ridley Marina

A small place with huge opportunities, Darby Creek is home to scenic water trails and some of the most treasured historical landmarks in Pennsylvania.

Darby Creek is a wonderful place for all abilities. The creek itself is great for beginners and its larger tributaries provide more challenging water for intermediate paddlers. Flowing in and out of the Delaware River, Darby Creek is a peaceful spot for kayak enthusiasts to gather and explore Philadelphia’s natural beauty.

After a day of paddling through lush forests, visitors can tour the Swedish Cabin built in the 1650s and the Blue Bell Inn, built in the 1760s. Members of the Darby Creek Watershed work hard to preserve these pieces of American history for visitors to enjoy. Darby Creek also runs through John Heinz Wildlife Refuge– the first wildlife refuge established in America!

Clearly, there is no shortage of places to explore around Darby Creek. You can launch your own boat at the watershed. Or, you can rent gear from the Ridley Marina located next to the park.

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-95 S, then take exit 8 onto Stewart Ave and turn right. Turn right again on Chester Pike and finally, turn right onto S Swarthmore ave and continue to the creek. If not driving, you can take the SEPTA Line 11 Tram to Darby Creek Transportation Center.

The scenic Batsto River is a wonderful place to challenge your kayak skills in NJ.
Batsto River in Wharton State Forest is a scenic and challenging paddle! Photo Credit: Hammonton Photography (Flickr CC)

Brandywine River

Brandywine River Valley is a beautiful landscape with sloping hills and gorgeous greenery. The meandering river’s gentle flow makes it a wonderful spot for first-time paddlers and large groups.

Wilderness Canoe Trips is the prime outfitter for canoeing and kayaking down the Brandywine River. They have courses for 1.5, 6, and 12 mile paddles, and will help you get started on your water adventure (not a guided tour).

Visitors also love coming to Brandywine for its American history. In addition to some of the most scenic kayaking in PA, paddlers can watch Civil War Reenactments and tour the town’s historical landmarks.

Although it is a bit far from downtown Philadelphia, kayaking down Brandywine River is the ideal paddle experience. With beautiful nature on all sides, this can be the peaceful escape you were looking for. You can launch your own boat from the Wilderness Canoe Trips waterfront access and rent gear from them too.

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-95 S and take exit 8 for Rte 202 N. Immediately take the next exit onto Powder Mill Rd heading west. Then, take the next left onto W Park Dr and turn immediately right onto Rockland Rd. This road will take you all the way up onto Brandywine Creek State Park. The best way to get here is by car. If you need to rent a car, check out Avis.

Wharton State Forest

The Batsto River located in Wharton State Forest is an awesome place to go canoeing and kayaking near Philadelphia. Open glades and forests surround the river, which also has an abundance of wildlife.

There are tons of guided tours for the Batsto River, but if you want to explore on your own, almost every tour launches from Quaker Bridge. From there, the river has many sections. As you paddle, you will go through narrow, twisted streams, swamps, ponds, and finally end up at at Batsto Lake.

Due to the rugged terrain and flux in water, kayaking the Batsto River is best suited for intermediate and experienced paddlers. Paddlers really looking for an outback experience should camp at Lower Forge Campground. It is notorious for its “primitive” setting. Remember to bring your own water!

Like mentioned above, you can launch your own boat from Quaker Bridge or Hampton Furnance. Or, take a guided tour and rent gear from Mick’s Canoe & Kayak Rental.

How to Get There: If driving, take I-676 S and continue south on the Atlantic City Expy. Take exit 28 and turn left on 12th St. Then, turn right onto Central Ave and continue onto Pleasant Mills Rd (NJ 542). This road will take you to nearby Batsto Village. Driving is the best way to get here. If you need to rent a car, Avis has you covered.

A kayak floats down one of the many rivers in  PA- kayaking in Philadelphia is always a beautiful and exciting outdoor activity!
Kayaking in Philadelphia is a wonderful way to explore the great outdoors! Photo Credit: Jim Mullhaupt (Flickr CC)

Additional Resources

What to Pack for Kayaking in Philadelphia

  • 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!

Related Links to Kayaking in Philadelphia