This lovely creek is within Saint Paul, Minnesota’s city limits
The kayaking world has exploded this summer! With COVID restrictions and social distancing, people are getting outside more than ever. And because we’re in the middle of our summer season in the US and Canada, paddle sports have hit an all-time popularity high.
If you’ve not paddled much before—or even if you have, but haven’t fully explored the waterways around you—how do find the best places to kayak (or canoe, stand-up paddle board or packraft) near you?
Of course much of that depends on where you live and how much water is around you. I happen to live in Minnesota in a northern suburb of the Twin Cities, so we’re surrounded by lakes and rivers on all sides.
But which ones are good for kayaking? Where can I launch? How do I find these places?
Here are some resources I’ve used to find kayaking spots in my area. There’s sure to be similar resources where you live:
1. Do Online Research by County
We have seven metro counties that make up the “Twin Cities.” Each county has their own Parks & Recreation Department. They each have their own regional, county and city parks and trails.
If you’re in a metropolitan area, you’ll have the same situation. There’s likely not one central source to find all the waterways near you. If you’re in a small town or rural area you may have better luck finding that central source.
Start with your county’s Parks & Rec online presence and see what you can find there. If a local park is on a lake or river there’s a good chance it’ll have at least one boat launch.
2. Do More Online Research by City
If your city is large enough, it’ll have its own Parks & Rec department, so do some research there, too. In my case here, the City of Minneapolis and the City of Saint Paul have information about where to paddle and what rentals are available.
Kayaking a segment of the Mississippi River State Water Trail in my county
3. Look at Your State Parks Website
If there are state parks near you with lake or river access, then head over to the website that handles those. In Minnesota and Wisconsin, it’s the Department of Natural Resources. In your state or province it may be something different.
They’ll have information about kayaking and canoeing spots in the state parks and also any state water trails.
4. Check Out the National Park Service
Then there are the parks, monuments and reserves set aside on the federal level. They’ll have information on those waterways in their system, often with links to rentals and outfitters.
If your area is anything like mine, you’ll notice a wide variety of online details and helpfulness across the city, county and state websites. Some are loaded with detail and others not so much.
5. Find Local Paddling Clubs
If there’s such a thing in your area (and a simple online search will let you know), a local paddling club would be a fantastic resource for the best kayaking spots near you.
These are a group of folks who love to paddle and do it regularly. They would naturally have a whole list of suggestions for you, and probably invite you along!
6. Ask Local Paddlesports Retailers and Outfitters
Another option is to look up local paddlesports retailers and outfitters. Ask the staff where their favorite kayaking spots are. See where the outfitters take their tours and either go along with them first to experience them first hand, or venture out on your own.
Kayaking the St. Croix River National Scenic Waterway between Minnesota and Wisconsin
7. Find Online Facebook and Discussion Groups
Another great way to learn about local waterways is through social media. Search in Facebook, Instagram or online for groups that focus on paddlesports. Join the group(s), pay attention to destination discussions and ask questions.
8. Tag Along with Friends who Kayak
Do you have friends who kayak? Invite yourself along! They likely already have their favorite local destinations and would be happy to take you and share them with you.
Once you discover these places, try them out! Some of them will just be so-so, but others may become treasured kayak spots for years to come.
Enjoy the water!
(All photos courtesy of Sharon Brodin)
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