10 GREAT KAYAK OR CANOE DESTINATIONS
Whether it’s in kayaks, canoes, surf-skis or sit-on-tops, paddling continues to be one of America’s favorite pastime activities. From the icebergs of Alaska to the sub-tropical waters of Florida, ideal paddling destinations abound from coast to coast and in between. Here are 10 top paddling destinations to set your sights on this summer.
Prince William Sound, Alaska—Alaska offers paddlers tidal glaciers, myriad islands and a roster of marine critters unequalled anywhere. Sea kayakers have a choice of day trips from several communities, as well as extended tours, either guided or independent. Be ready for cold water and chilly air temperatures even in summer. Trips out of Valdez get paddlers to glaciers quickly. Take your web browser to valdezalaska.org to get started.
San Juan Islands, Washington—The birthplace of modern kayaking in America, the San Juan’s offer a plethora of islands, interconnecting channels and the best Orca viewing in the Lower 48. With half the rain of Seattle, these islands offer the best in Pacific Northwest paddling. Puget Sound and nearby Vancouver Island offer countless kayaking opportunities. Go to visitsanjuans.com for more information.
Baja/Sea of Cortez—Mention Mexico to paddlers and places such as Loreto and fantastic whale watching immediately come to mind. Whether you are renting boats for an afternoon of scenic paddling near Cabo San Lucas or camping on remote islands above crystal clear water at Loreto, you’ll be experiencing a rare and beautiful south-of-the-border paddling paradise. Visit discoverbajacalifornia.com/ecotourism to begin making plans.
Apostle Islands, Wisconsin—A scattering of jewels along the southern shores of Lake Superior, featuring rocky shorelines, sea caves, and sandy beaches in protected bays. A dozen forested islands, some with lighthouses, are accessible by modestly challenging open lake crossings. Be prepared for some cold water paddling, and bring your camera! Learn more when you go to northerngreatlakescenter.org.
Isle Royale, Michigan—Portages here favor canoeists, but kayakers will also enjoy the many water routes woven amid the smaller islands around the main island. Isle Royale (reached only by boat or seaplane) also offers a vast network of foot trails throughout the main island’s interior. Rocky outcroppings, towering ridges, and evergreen forests combine with fantastic northern Lake Superior scenery to make this a must-have on any top paddling destinations list. To learn more, check out nps.gov/isro.
Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota—Voyageur mirrors most of the amenities of its neighbor immediately east, the BWCA (Boundary Waters Canoe Area). While there are no river systems to navigate or portage, the vast waterways of Kabetogama and Rainey Lakes, sprinkled with hundreds of islands, offers paddlers a rich northwoods experience. Incredible, one and two-tent campsites are comfortably set out throughout the park. See more about Voyageur at nps.gov/voya.
The Ozarks of Missouri/Arkansas—Most of the Midwest states offer numerous rivers and lakes in which to paddle. However, the National Scenic Rivers of the Ozark Mountains have a special, primitive sense about them. The Buffalo in northwestern Arkansas and Missouri’s Jack’s Fork offer good old-fashion backcountry scenery on usually lazy rivers with a few riffles. To start your trip, go to nps.gov/buff and nps.gov/ozar.
The Everglades, Florida—Think mangroves and 10,000 tiny islands and you can appreciate the lure of Florida to paddlers. America’s only sub-tropical “wilderness,” the area offers forests, fresh-water swamps and brackish estuaries for incredible bird and ‘gator watching. Farther north, the Suwannee offers great southern river paddling. Check both out at florida-everglades.com.
The Outer Banks, North Carolina—Long wind-swept beaches, fantastic fishing, and tidewater marshes all make this area popular for a variety of water-based outdoor recreations. Paddlers can look forward to exploring numerous uninhabited islands while paddling through salt marshes. And then there are the area lighthouses to tour. Several public launch sites and designated kayak trails offer many paddling opportunities. Surf-skiers will enjoy the outer, exposed Atlantic Coastline. To learn more, go to OuterBanks.org.
Acadia National Park, Maine – Circumnavigating Mount Desert Island and taking in splendid coast scenery is what Acadia is all about. Ocean kayaking can be dangerous with cold 55-degree water, though, and for those less experienced paddlers, several spots along Maine’s Atlantic coast (Frenchman Bay is a good place to begin your coastal adventure) offer great launch areas, kayak rentals and tours. For all the details, log on to acadia.national-park.com.