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

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

Best Places to Go Canoeing and Kayaking in Portland

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

Willamette River

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

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

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

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

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

Clackamas River

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scappoose Bay

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tualatin River

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

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

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

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

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

Sparks Lake

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

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

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

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

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

Chetco River

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

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

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

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

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

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

Henry Hagg Lake

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

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

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

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

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

Sauvie Island

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smith and Bybee Wetlands Area

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

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

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

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

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

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

White Salmon River

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

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

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

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

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

Ross Island

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

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

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

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

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

Rogue River

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alton Baker Canal

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

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

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

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

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

Upper Deschutes River

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

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

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

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

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

Fort Stevens State Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cascades Range

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional Resources

What to Pack for Kayaking in Portland

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

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

Related Links to Kayaking in Portland

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

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

Related Links to Kayaking in Philadelphia


Los Angeles is blessed with great weather all year-round. That being said, there is no reason to waste these beautiful days by sitting inside. Instead, try canoeing and kayaking in Los Angeles! With inexpensive rentals and minimal coordination required, this is the perfect activity for anyone looking for an outdoor adventure. With sandy shorelines, crystal clear waters, and breathtaking cliffs, Los Angeles is the perfect place to try kayaking for the first time or hone your skills.

Below is a list of the best spots to canoe and kayak in Los Angeles. The scenic spots are a hot-spot for wildlife, especially fish and birds. Whether you want calm waters for a relaxing paddle or Class IV rapids, LA has it all.

Red canoes paddle across choppy blue waves along the coast of LA.
Kayaking in Los Angeles is a great way to explore the outdoors!

Best Spots to Go Canoeing and Kayaking in Los Angeles

Castaic Lake State Recreational Area

  • Location: Castaic, CA
  • Rentals Available: Yes

A principle part of California’s State Water Project, Castaic Lake State Recreational Area features 29 miles of beautiful shoreline, and contains two bodies of water. For canoeing and kayaking, head to Lower Lake for a scenic escape from the city and loud power-boats. Kayaking also is allowed on the upper reservoir, which includes more than 2,200 acres and 29 miles of shoreline and coves to explore.

If visiting, paddling to the 425-foot tall Castaic Dam is one major attraction in this beautiful reservoir. The park also lies next to Angeles National Forest- a great spot for an afternoon hike and lunch!

Just 40 miles north of downtown Los Angeles, Castaic Lake is a must for canoe and kayakers of all abilities. Kayaks, paddleboards and pedal-driven hydra bikes ($25 an hour; $75 for five hours on Saturdays and Sundays) are available for rent on weekends.

How to Get There: Take US-101 N towards Sacramento, then I-5 N towards Castaic to Castaic Road.

Lake Balboa

  • Location: Van Nuys, CA
  • Rentals Available: Yes- at Wheel Fun( $6 to $11/hour)

Located just north of the 101 freeway in the San Fernando Valley, Lake Balboa’s still waters provide the perfect environment for novice paddlers to improve their skills! A peaceful 27-acre oasis, Lake Balboa resides in Beilenson Park which is open everyday until sunset. Because this lake is on the smaller side, it is perfect for a novice paddler to get some practice under their belt.

These “flat waters” are wonderful for birdwatching and fishing- and for newcomers L.A. City Parks offers a learn-to-kayak program! Whether you’re looking for an easy nature paddle or trying to improve your skills, Lake Balboa is a great place to explore.

The park rents hand-cranked boats and pedal boats shaped like giant swans through Wheel Fun ($6 to $11 an hour). Paddling is free, but kayaks must be inspected by lifeguards before they are allowed on the lake to make sure they don’t carry invasive species.

How to Get There: Take the US-101 N exit toward Ventura/Ventura Fwy, then take exit 21 for Balboa Blvd to get to Lake Balboa.

A stack of canoes is ready for rent at many of Los Angeles' marinas!
Bring your own boat or rent from one of Los Angeles’ many marinas start your water adventure!

Puddingstone Reservoir

  • Location: San Dimas
  • Cost: $7
  • Rentals Available: Yes- at Wheel Fun ($12/hour)

There’s no better place to cool off from the California sunshine than Puddingstone Reservoir in Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park. With five miles of shoreline to paddle down and beaches to swim around, there is plenty for all ability levels to explore in this park.

With over 250 species of birds spotted around the reservoir, this lake is guaranteed to have abundant wildlife and is clean, as motorized boats are not allowed on the reservoir- go check it out!

Kayaking near Los Angeles is easy with Wheel Fun Rentals (kayaks start at $12 an hour, pedal boats at $20 and stand-up paddleboards, $12) at the swim beach and east shore. Visitors can bring their own kayaks and boats, but they must be inspected before entering the water.

How to Get There: Start on 101-S to San Bernardino Freeway towards E Via Verde St., then to Raging Waters Dr. and Puddingstone Dr.

Huntington Harbor

  • Location: Huntington Beach, CA
  • Rentals Available: Yes- at OEX ($10/hour)

A hot-spot for beginners, Huntington Harbor’s protected waters have a smooth and subtle current that will have your cruising around the beach! With tons of canals to discover, Huntington Harbor is perfect for thrill-seekers who want to experience something new (especially in the northwest corner of the beach).

Single kayaks and stand-up paddleboards are available for rent at OEX– $20 for up to two hours; a double kayak costs $30 for two hours. Typically, guided tours around the harbor last about 90 minutes.

If tired of canoeing and kayaking, feel free to test out the pedal boats also available for rent at the beach, $30 for two hours for singles, and $55 for doubles. If launching your own boats, head to Seabridge Park or Trinidad Island Park for a free launch into the water.

How to Get There: Start on 101-S, toward San Diego, then take exit 20 for Bolsa Chica Road to Wanderer Ln.

Boats, houeboats, and houses peek through bushes and tress around beautiful Huntington Harbor- the perfect place for beginners to kayak in Los Angeles!
Views of boats and luxury homes border the sprawling waters of Huntington Harbor. Photo Credit: Gregg L Cooper (Flickr CC)

Newport Back Bay

Located in the heart of Orange County, Newport Back Bay is the largest estuary in Southern California, and a huge destination for kayakers of all levels.

Newport’s coastline offers views of million dollar homes and tiny islands near the Balboa peninsula. Paddling south of the harbor you will find the scenic rock cliffs of Corona Del Mar. Here, you can paddle through Arch Rock, a naturally formed rock bridge coming out of the water. Although it can get a little windy, exploring rock cliffs and caves is definitely a must only list!

The Back Bay is a salt marsh that is home to many birds and several endangered species. You can take a two-hour guided kayak tour ($25) through the Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve with a naturalist every Saturday and Sunday morning year-round. Newport Bay Conservancy also offers tours that are great for novice paddlers and has rentals for $15 an hour.

How to Get There: Take US 101- S to CA-73 S towards San Diego, then take Jamboree Rd to Back Bay Rd.

Alamitos Bay

  • Location: Long Beach
  • Rentals Available: Yes- at Kayak Rentals ($12/hour)

Located in Long Beach, Alamitos Bay is a family-friendly protected harbor with still waters great for novice paddlers. Whether you enjoy looking at luxury homes on the shoreline or finding peace in nature, Alamitos Bay is one of the most popular places to kayak near Los Angeles.

The northern part of the bay is home to The Los Cerritos wetlands, a popular spot for birds and other wildlife. The canals running through Naples Islands also offer boat-free relaxation.

Kayaks and SUPs are available from Kayak Rentals; kayaks cost $12 an hour per person for singles and doubles; SUPs cost $25 per hour, with instruction included. A typical tour of the canals takes about 45 minutes, and you can even paddle to six restaurants. If launching your own boat, head to Naples Landing, Mothers Beach, or Marine Stadium launch spots.

How to Get There: Take US 101-S towards San Diego, then onto Studebaker Rd. toE Marina Dr.

A single kayaker marvels at the gigantic mountains and trees of Pyramid Lake in Los Angeles.
Kayakers can enjoy gigantic mountain views while paddling on Pyramid Lake. Photo Credit: NW Boating (Flickr CC)

Pyramid Lake

  • Location: Castaic, CA
  • Rentals Available: No

Hidden among interstate I-5 in the Angeles National Forest, Pyramid Lake is known for its fishing and peaceful paddle conditions. Pyramid Lake is known for being windy, especially in the afternoon, so be careful and hold onto your hats!

Novice paddlers should definitely explore the first four coves on the eastern side of the lake, a perfect hideaway from the wind, and conveniently located by the Tin Cup picnic area (food is fuel!). If you’re an early riser, get out on the water- deer are usually spotted grazing on the Priest and Glory Hole Coves.

If launching your own boat, head over to  Emigrant Landing Launch for free entry. Trust me, you won’t want to miss the vivid hues of green and blue that appear on Pyramid Lake.

How to Get There: Take I-5 N towards Sacramento, then take exit  191 for Vista Del Lago Rd.

Santa Cruz Island

  • Location: Santa Cruz
  • Rentals Available: Yes

Arguably the most popular island for sea kayaking near Los Angeles, Santa Cruz Island has hundreds of sea caves to explore- most notably Santa Cruz Island’s Painted Cave, one of the largest sea caves in the world.

Tons of companies offer tours of the island and its caves. Santa Barbara Adventure Company offers a deluxe all-inclusive Painted Cave day trip that departs from Santa Barbara harbor on a charter vessel equipped with hot showers and all the gear you’ll need. You’ll enjoy breakfast and hopefully some whale-watching en route to Santa Cruz Island, where you’ll then hit the water in kayaks for a day of exploring. Remember to pack a good headlamp to light up the multi-hued cave walls, with colors caused by lichen and minerals. 

Besides kayaking, the Island is known for awesome snorkeling and adventures to kelp forests and radical rock formations. Scorpion Anchorage is another well-known spot to paddle around the island.

Sea kayaking is a new level of paddling- novices beware! These tours are for all levels, but you might be sore the next day!

How to Get There: Visitor centers in Ventura and Santa Barbara are readily accessible by car or public transportation, but getting straight to Santa Cruz Island requires taking a ferry run by Island Packers (offered 5-7 days a week, hour-long ride).

Jagged cliffs and countless coves litter the coast of the Santa Cruz Islands, which makes kayaking in Los Angeles so thrilling to explore!
Explore the numerous coves along Santa Cruz Island!

Lake Hughes

  • Location: Palmdale, CA
  • Rentals Available: No

A rustic, small getaway, Lake Hughes is the perfect spot for a relaxing paddle and lunch on the water. Don’t be like the others and overlook this gem! Because of its small size, Lake Hughes is never too crowded and great for beginners.

Lake Hughes is located right across from the Rock Inn- a must-see historical landmark. Known for its kayaking, fishing, and hiking, Lake Hughes is a little slice of heaven. An afternoon of paddling around an area with a rich history is just what you need to have a stress-free weekend.

How to Get There: Start on US 101-N towards Sacramento, then I-5 N towards Castaic to Lake Hughes Rd.

Marina Del Ray Harbor

Bursting with life, Marina Del Ray Harbor is an awesome place to explore all LA has to offer! Paddlers can peruse Fisherman’s Village along the coast, a strip of cute shops and restaurants. Marina Del Ray offers eight protected canals for smooth and ideal paddling.

Kayaking through Marina Del Ray is always an exhilarating experience; wildlife, including leopard sharks, can be spotted all around. This popular spot can get crowded, so it is recommended to get out on the water as soon as possible.

The Pro SUP Shop at Mother’s Beach offers stand-up paddleboards and kayak rentals ($25 an hour for a single, $35 for a double). Standard paddleboard rentals cost $25 an hour, and lessons are also offered. Marina Del Ray Boat Rentals also has tons of rental options ready to go right on the beach!

If launching your own boat, head to Mother’s Beach or Marina Del Ray Launch Ramp for free entry to the water.

How to Get There: Start on I-10 W towards Long Beach, then CA-1 S to Playa Vista onto Via Marina Rd.

A group of kayakers huddle uo near the sandy shores of Marina Del Ray. With beaches and wildlife, Marina Del Ray is one of the most accessible places to kayak in Los Angeles.
Kayak along the sandy beaches of beautiful Marina Del Ray. Photo Credit: Alex Chong (Flickr CC)

Kern River Rafting

  • Location: Bakersfield
  • Rentals Available: No

Kern River Rafting offers a multitude of crazy white water rafting tours the whole family can enjoy! The river rafting tours explore the Upper, Lower, and Forks of the Kern River. Tours range from one day, to overnight, to two day rafting adventures.

Cruising through Class IV rapids, this adventure is not for the weak-hearted. Miles of rapids, waves, and rockfall scenery provide a beautiful backdrop for this epic journey.

All tours are led by certified river rafting guides, and there are special discounts on some tours too. Check out the outfitter’s website here for more information.

How to Get There: Start on US-101 N towards Sacramento, then CA-99 N to Bakersfield to Wolford Heights Blvd.

L.A. River

Kayaking near Los Angeles doesn’t get more convenient than the L.A. River. Once the weather warms up, the L.A. River becomes open to the public for a summer of amazing paddles. There are two zones open for kayaking. First is The Elysian Valley zone in the the Glendale Narrows. The only part of the river without a concrete base, you will find grassy lands all around. This part of the river is swift-moving, with Class I and II rapids along the way.

The other zone open to the public is The Sepulveda Basin zone near Lake Balboa. This area of the river has calmer waters and tree-lined banks. For this new to paddling, this is a great place to start.

If looking to kayak in the Elysian Valley zone, you must launch you boat from Rattlesnake Park, a sandbar before the currents. If looking to launch near The Sepulveda Basin zone, there are many spots along the coast to enter and exit the river. Rental kayaks and boats are available at L.A. River Kayaks.

How to Get There: Start on E Olympic Blvd to S Santa Fe Ave. From there, head to E 26th St. to bring you to the river.

White water rafting down the intense rapids of Kern River is one of the most challenging places to kayak in Los Angeles.
Experience the crazy rapids of the Kern River by whitewater rafting. Photo Credit: Dave & Anna Douglass (Flickr CC)

Catalina Island

  • Location: Catalina Island
  • Cost: $75 roundtrip ferry ride to the island
  • Rentals Available: Yes- at DBOS

Located just 22 miles off the coast of Southern California, Catalina Island boasts coves and clear waters that make it ideal for spotting wildlife while kayaking. Observant paddlers can catch a glimpse of California’s state marine fish, golden orange garibaldis, in addition to leopard sharks, dolphins, and other marine life.

Catalina Island’s 52 miles of coastline can be explored on a solo journey or through the tons of guided tours on the island. Kayak and SUP rentals are available from DBOS, and are priced by the hour, giving you total control over how much time you want to spend exploring this beautiful place.

Although it takes a little planning to get to Catalina Island, the shorelines are accessible to all levels, making it a great island-getaway. This paddle offers a truly unique experience kayaking near the Los Angeles area without having to spend big bucks on a vacation.

How to Get There: You can get to Catalina Island by boat or helicopter. There are daily ferry departures from San Pedro, Long Beach and Dana Point to Avalon and Two Harbors, and helicopters from Newport Beach.

Bright blue waters crash against the rocky cliffs of Catalina Island, a ferry ride away from Los Angeles.
There’s never a better time to explore the beautiful coastline of Catalina Island! Photo Credit: Matt Swiller (Flickr CC)

Additional Resources for Kayaking in Los Angeles

What to Pack for Kayaking and Canoeing in Los Angeles

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

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

Related Links to Canoeing and Kayaking in Los Angeles


One of the best ways to explore Washington DC is from one of its many waterways. While we love kayaking in DC, stand up paddle boarding is a different and equally as interesting way to see the city. Located where the Potomac River meets the Anacostia River, there are tons of great spots for stand up paddle boarding in DC.

We’ve compiled this list of 7 of the best places for paddle board in DC for all levels…even people who have never done it before!

Best Places to Go Stand Up Paddle Boarding in DC

Photo Credit: Alan Kotok (Flickr CC)

1. Georgetown

There’s no better place to go stand up paddle boarding in DC than in one of its most historic and iconic neighborhoods: Georgetown. Filled with charming row houses, old industrial buildings, historical sites, and tree-lined streets, 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 paddle board. If you choose to go stand up paddle boarding in Georgetown, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of Georgetown University, the Kennedy Center, and nearby Roslyn (in Virginia).

Where to Rent a Stand Up Paddle Board in Georgetown: Georgetown’s rental location is at the Key Bridge Boathouse, on the waterfront under the bridge. Their rates start at $22/hour for a stand up paddle board.

2. 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 stand up paddle boarding, 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 head all the way over to Navy Yard.

Where to Rent a Stand Up Paddle Boar in the Wharf: The Wharf Boathouse is located on the pier in front of the Hyatt House Hotel. You can rent a stand up paddle board for $22/hour.

3. 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 Stand Up Paddle Board in Navy Yard: Ballpark Boathouse is your one-stop shop for all things kayaking/paddling in Navy Yard. You can rent a stand up paddle board for $22/hour.

  • Address: Potomac Ave SE and First Street SE, Washington, DC 20003
Photo Credit: Ron Cogswell (Flickr CC)

4. Washington Sailing Marina

Located south of the Pentagon, the Washington Sailing Marina is a wonderful, less crowded area to begin your stand up paddle boarding 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 head 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 Stand Up Paddle Board 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

5. National Harbor

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 stand up paddle boarding in DC, since it’s a bit farther out from the city center. Paddling here will give you a different 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 Stand Up Paddle Board in the National Harbor: The National Harbor Boathouse has stand up paddle boards 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: $22/hour for an hour.

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

6. Chesapeake & Ohio Canal

For those wanting to paddle 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 stand up paddle boarding 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 than at Great Falls. Renting a stand up paddle board 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 Stand Up Paddle Board 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 stand up paddle board, with access to both the canal and the Potomac River and prices starting at $22/hour.

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

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Houston goes by a lot of nicknames, like Space City or Bayou City, but it’s not often referred to as a great city for paddling. However, with sunny summers and several accessible bodies of water nearby, you can actually find fantastic places to go stand up paddle boarding in Houston and its surroundings.

While stand up paddle boarding might seem like an unconventional activity for Houston’s giant sprawl, we’ve compiled this guide to 8 of the best places to go stand up paddle boarding in Houston.

Places to Go Stand Up Paddle Boarding in Houston

Photo Credit: Randall Pugh (Flickr CC)

1. Buffalo Bayou

For a quintessential stand up paddle boarding experience, Buffalo Bayou is a must-see spot. If you’re looking for an opportunity to go stand up paddle boarding with views of Houston’s skyline, Buffalo Bayou is virtually the only place. This central waterway runs through the main areas of the city, and is one of the most picturesque and accessible places to go stand up paddle boarding in Houston.

On Buffalo Bayou, you can paddle by views of the downtown Houston skyline, under industrial bridges, and through the city’s most vivid green spaces. You’ll pass by the city’s iconic Buffalo Bayou Park and soak in the city views for miles. To get started, you can rent a stand up paddle board from Bayou City Adventures at the new Lost Lake Visitor Center. They provide hourly and daily rentals, as well as guided excursions, tours, and lessons.

  • Address: 3422 Allen Pkwy, Houston, TX 77019

2. Lake 288

Located south of Houston’s city center, 288 Lake is a small, spring-fed lake with clear water and tranquil surroundings. Known best for being a hotspot for triathlon swimmers, it’s also a peaceful place to go stand up paddle boarding in Houston if you’re seeking cool, clean water and a peaceful vibe. Be sure to bring sunscreen, as 288 Lake doesn’t have much shade.

Note that there’s a fee to enter 288 Lake ($15 per person per day), and you can rent a stand up paddle board at the lake starting at $15 per hour.

  • Address: 4800 Schurmier Rd, Houston, TX 77048
Photo Credit: Trey Perry (Flickr CC)

3. Lake Conroe

Lake Conroe is Houston’s most popular lakeside getaway, and it’s a perfect short trip to go stand up paddle boarding for a few hours. The lake is 21,000 acres, and is full of people in pontoon boats, jet skis, paddle boards, and more. Boasting plenty of docks and green spaces along its shores, Lake Conroe a lovely place to escape the downtown area and soak up the summer sun. We’ll admit it – Lake Conroe isn’t quite within Houston city limits, but it’s a very easy day trip that’s popular among Houston locals!

Don’t forget sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat, since there isn’t much shade above the lake. Additionally, be careful paddling on especially crowded days, as there are often people speeding around on motor boats and jetskis.

In the Lake Conroe area, there are a few places to rent a stand up paddle board if you don’t have your own. Paddle board rentals at 1097 Watersports start at $22 per hour.

  • Address: 12947 Lake Conroe Hills Dr Suite B, Willis, TX 77318
Photo Credit: evan00024 (Flickr CC)

4. The Woodlands

Situated on the north side of Houston, the Woodlands is a suburb of the city that’s home to a large lake area surrounded by various waterways and tributaries. Because there aren’t tides or crazy currents, it’s a perfect beginner-friendly spot for stand up paddle boarding in Houston!

Like its name suggests, the Woodlands is full of neighborhoods, parks, and green, wooded areas. Because it’s not too far from Houston, it’s a great way to leave the city without going too remote, and it’s a very easily accessible Houston paddling spot.

There are two places to rent stand up paddle boards on the waterfront in The Woodlands – Lakes Edge Boathouse and Riva Row Boathouse. Rentals start at just $20 for the first hour, plus $5 for each additional hour – some of the cheapest Houston stand up paddle board rentals available!

  • Lakes Edge Boathouse – Address: 1970 Hughes Landing Blvd, The Woodlands, TX 77380
  • Riva Row Boathouse – Address: 2101 Riva Row, The Woodlands, TX 77380
Sunset over the Kemah Boardwalk. Photo Credit: Jon Burns (Flickr CC)

5. Kemah Boardwalk/Clear Lake

Kemah is on eastern side of Houston by the bay, and is most famous for its buzzing boardwalk that has tons of rides, shops, and restaurants. Many locals go there with their friends or families to enjoy a nice meal and watch the sunset over the water. However, one thing that locals don’t know is that Kemah is also an excellent place to go stand up paddle boarding in Houston. With several bay areas and inlets to explore, it’s a paddler’s paradise, and there’s enough to see and do there to fill several hours.

In Kemah, you can rent a stand up paddle board from nearby Kayak Shack, which offers rentals starting at $25 an hour. They also offer guided tours of the area – two of the most fun ones are their Friday night fireworks tour and their sunset tour (offered on kayak and SUP).

  • Address: 622 Marina Bay Dr, Kemah, TX 77565

6. Seabrook

Not far from Kemah lies Seabrook, which is close to NASA, the bay, and a charming residential area called Taylor Lake. For a fun and peaceful Houston paddle boarding experience, you can hit the waters near Taylor Lake and paddle around for hours. For extra fun, pair your Seabrook stand up paddle boarding adventure with a trip to NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

You can rent a stand up paddle board near Taylor Lake at Pinky’s Kayak Rentals. Rentals start at $25 per hour and cost less the more hours you rent for. Pinky’s also has SUP Yoga and guided group offerings if you’re interested in trying something new and different on your paddle board!

  • Address: 4106 E NASA Pkwy #1, El Lago, TX 77586

Map of Houston Stand Up Paddle Boarding Spots

Places to Go Stand Up Paddle Boarding Near Houston

Photo Credit: Katie Haugland Bowen (Flickr CC)

7. Galveston

Galveston is an island located off the coast of Texas in the Gulf of Mexico, and it’s a common spot for Houstonians to spend a day or a weekend when they want to be closer to the water. With all of the waterways in the area, Galveston is another perfect spot to go stand up paddle boarding near Houston.

The most obvious place to start is at the beach, where there is tons of open water to paddle on. However, when there’s a lot of wind or strong currents, it can be a really tough workout to paddle on the open gulf water. Aside from the beach, there are several places to paddle in Galveston through its many inlets and channels, which typically have calmer water and are more beginner-friendly.

To rent a stand up paddle board, you have several choices. SUP Gulf Coast offers paddle board rentals, guided tours, classes, and more on Galveston Island. You must make a reservation on their website in advance.

Photo Credit: Jerry and Pat Donaho (Flickr CC)

8. San Marcos River

No list of places to go stand up paddle boarding near Houston would be complete without a section on the San Marcos River. Located between Houston and Austin, this Texas waterway is one of the most beloved recreation areas in the state. It’s got lots of shady areas, a few small rapids, and plenty of beautiful nature views.

You’ll find clean water and plenty of fellow paddlers along the San Marcos River, especially in the summer, when Texans come ready to hit the cool waters. Here, it’s best to go on a guided stand up paddle boarding tour to get the most out of your experience. Paddle SMTX offers incredible SUP Glow Night Tours and Sunset River Tours that include rentals and some free time to explore on your own. Check out their website to learn more.

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Stand up paddle boarding is a wonderful Houston outdoor activity that's perfect for seeing the city. We wrote this guide to the best places for stand up paddle boarding in Houston, including paddle board rentals, where to go, and cool tours you can take on a SUP! #SUP #paddling #Houston #Texas