Tips for Kayaking Urban Waterways

urban kayaker(photo courtesy of Jason Williams)

Most of us kayakers love paddling in gorgeous coastal waters, or in wilderness areas. We tend to dream of kayak trips to faraway places, exotic places.

A quick scan through Aqua-Bound’s Facebook photos shows almost all the pictures shared by our followers are from rural, coastal or wilderness areas:

aquabound's facebook screen shot wilderness kayakersA sampling of reader-shared paddling photos on Aqua-Bound’s Facebook page

But one thing we’ve all learned in the past few months during COVID season—paddling close-to-home can be wonderful, too!

For many of us, that means paddling near urban centers large and small.

(For a discussion on why paddling locally has benefits of its own, check out this article.)

Most major cities in the world are on waterways of some kind because they were founded back in the times when shipping was the way commerce and travel was done.

If you live near an urban center on or near water, take advantage of it! Learn about your paddling options nearby. You might be surprised how many there are.

woman fishing from SUP board(photo courtesy of Justin A. Hausner)

Here are a few tips for paddling in an urban environment…

Locate Public Access Points

Even if you’re surrounded by lakes or rivers, not every waterway has public access for boaters and paddlers. Sometimes it’s surrounded by private land, whether residential or commercial. Sometimes the shoreline isn’t suitable for launching.

Do some research first so you know where you’re headed.

Parks and Official Water Trails Often Cater to Paddlers

The best place to start looking for local paddling spots are parks and designated waterways in your city. Whether parks are federal, state, regional or county, if they’re on water there’s a good chance there’s a launch.

Designated water trails will certainly have a launch—probably several. You should be able to locate a map online that has them marked, along with parking areas.

Explore Parking Options Before You Head Out

Speaking of parking, are there parking areas near the launch you’re heading to? Or is it just street parking? This is especially important to know if you’ll tow several boats on a trailer. You’ll want to know you’ll have a place to park your vehicle and trailer once you’ve unloaded.

Another consideration: Is it paid parking or free?

stand-up paddleboarder in an urban area(photo courtesy of Mary Lou C.)

How to Avoid the Crowds

Summer weekends and holiday in cities will be crowded. That’s especially true this summer during this COVID stay-closer-to-home time.

If possible, do your kayaking on weekdays instead of the weekends. There will be far fewer people out on the water and in the parking lots (the bigger concern). Even weekday evenings will be less congested than weekends.

If weekends are your only option, make friends with early mornings! If you can arrive at your urban destination by 7:00 or 8:00, you’ve got a great chance of getting a parking spot close to the launch.

If mornings don’t work, try later in the afternoon or early evening when families and groups are calling it a day and heading home.

Be High-Viz in High-Traffic Areas

When you’re in an urban area, there will likely be plenty of other boats on the water. Kayaks, canoes and paddleboards will be the smallest out there. Be sure you’re easy to see so drivers of the bigger, faster boats don’t run you down.

Bright colors on your boat, your paddle or your PFD are a great idea. Combine that with bright clothing and you’re good to go in high-traffic areas.

If you’ll be out in the evening, be sure to have some kind of light once the sun sets. In most states it’s the law.

Appreciate Urban Beauty

There’s something to be said about being able to see the city sights you’re used to from a different vantage point. You’ll get a whole new appreciation for your city’s beauty.

kayaker in urban france(photo courtesy of Paul Villecourte &

You’ll be able to go under bridges instead over them. You might see your city’s skyline with its reflection in the water.

Some cities are beautifully situation on the water to take full advantage of it. Enjoy, take your time, and go back often for new routes.

Even if you’re not kayaking in alpine lakes with mountains surrounding you, or in blue-green seas or forested rivers—look for the hidden beauty in these cityscapes.

Especially that beauty that can only be seen from the water.

What questions do you have about choosing a new paddle? Get in touch with our friendly Customer Service team today: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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