Kayaking in the USA

The United States is a dream location for kayakers. From Alaska to Florida, there’s a multitude of places to kayak. Whether you love kayaking on quiet lakes or wild rivers, the USA has some of the best kayak destinations in the world, no matter what skill level you are. 

The diverse landscapes of the country provide different kayaking experiences for different types of kayakers. Kayaking around the USA is a great way to tour the country and take in all the sights the country has to offer. So where can you go kayaking in the USA? Here are some of the best locations to kayak in the USA.

Top 10 Kayaking Locations

In order to ensure safe journeys for kayakers, the rivers in the USA are classified according to difficulty levels. Class, I would be the lowest level of difficulty, and class V+ would be the highest level of difficulty. Some sections of the rivers change classes and can move from a class I in one section to a class IV in another section.

The Colorado River

Located in Arizona, the iconic river is 1450 miles long and runs through seven states of America, including Arizona, California, Wyoming, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, and of course, Colorado. The river is bound to give you an adrenaline rush with its curves, rapids, and incredible river winds. 

Once you’ve had enough adventure, there are plenty of spots for you to choose from where you can sit and relax. There is no permit required for this location. The whitewater rapids vary from a class I to a class IV. Whether you are a beginner or an expert, you can enjoy the waters of the river. There are guides located in Arizona that will assist you through the daunting river.

Prince William Sound

The sound was named after Prince William Henry, King George’s third son. This location is known as the kayaker’s paradise. You can expect to see an abundance of wildlife such as bears, whales, sea-lions, and seals. Enclosed by the icebergs and marvellous mountains, this sound is sure to give you an experience you will never forget. You are not required to have a permit to explore the sound, and there are camping sites available on location. The whitewater rapids are classified as a class III. Explore Alaska like never before on the waters of the Prince William Sound.

Salmon River

This river is known as the river of no return. The river has a length of 14,000 square miles. The wonderous things to see on the river include otters, bears, and eagles. The river also has beaches, mountains, and waterfalls for you to take in. You can also go on a hike as there are hiking facilities available. 

You will need a permit to access the river located in the Salmon-Challis National Forest in Idaho. The whitewater rapids fall under classes III-IV. After you’ve had your adrenaline on the water, you can wind down at the camping sites available. This is a river you will want to tackle.

Eleven Point National Scenic River

If you love fishing, this river is perfect for you. Some fish will require a special permit to catch. The river is located in Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri. The river is famous for the history that it holds. 

The river flows through a historical gold mine, now known as the Ozark Hills of Missouri. The river also has breathtaking scenery. The sycamore and birch trees are on full display. The whitewater rapids are classified under class I to class II. The calm river allows you to peacefully drift through it. You can also camp at this beautiful location.

The Gauley River

The river, located in West Virginia, happens to be one of the best destinations for whitewater rafting. The waterways are between the beautiful mountains. The rapids are classified from a III to a V. 

The season of fall is most looked forward to here due to the water from Summersville Dam that gets released. The water creates amazing rapids. Thrill-seekers are sure to enjoy this one. There are calmer sceneries in the river where you can enjoy the beauty, and these areas are not reachable by foot. You do not need a permit, and there are camping facilities available.

Chesapeake Bay

The 200-mile long river is the largest estuary in the United States. The river flows through six states, New York, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia. The river is home to a unique creature, the diamondback terrapin, as well as many other plant and animal species. 

A favourite activity here is fishing. The fishing experience is up-close and personal. You’ll be able to see the fish swim and catch them with your net. The location of the river is in Maryland, Virginia, and you do not need a permit. The whitewater rapids classification ranges from class I to class III. You are also allowed to camp here.

Devils River

The Texas river runs through two deserts, the Chihuahua and Tamaulipas. The river is for the bravest and adventure-seeking kayakers. It is a perfect fishing destination as it has some of the cleanest waters in the United States. 

The rapids of this river are extremely strong, ranging from a class I to a class IV. If you are a beginner, this won’t be the ideal river for you. The strenuous journey is definitely worth the view. The scenery is beautiful. It will be a three-day-long journey if you choose to paddle through the river. You will need a permit, and you can camp but only in certain areas.

Clearwater River Canoe Trail

This river is ideal for beginners. The calm waters and wildlife make it a good option for kayaking. The wildlife viewing blind allows you to see animals like birds and waterfowls nearby. The river is located in the Lolo National Forest in Idaho. You do not need a permit. 

The clear waters also make it a great place for fishing. The waters are relaxed and won’t require much effort from paddlers. The rapids are classified as class I and class II. The forest lands and beach places are great to explore. After exploring, you can also settle down and camp.

Arkansas River

This river offers an escape from the busy city life while you enjoy beautiful sunsets. The mild temperature waters near the mountainside will give you a relaxing experience like never before. If you really want to be one with nature, this is the perfect destination for you. If you still want to get a bit of an adrenaline rush, using an inflatable kayak will do the job. The rapids are classified from I to V. You are not required to have a permit, and you can camp here. The river is located in Colorado.

Tuolumne River

This adventure-filled river has a constant stream of class IV rapids. The river is located in Yosemite National Park. You are required to have a permit in order to kayak here. There are waterfalls and canyons to take in as you journey on the river. If you are a beginner, these types of waters will not be ideal for you. You can take in the beauty of nature and wildlife over a couple of days as there are camping facilities on site. There are spots to relax and even fish. Take in the fresh air on the Tuolumne River.

Rules and Safety Guidelines

There are rules and safety precautions for kayaking in the United States. Most of the rules remain the same in all the states, with only slight variations for some states. All general kayaking rules should be applied, as well as the following rules for kayaking in the USA.

Life Jacket Laws: All life jackets must be:

  • Approved by the U.S Coast Guard
  • Be the proper size according to the weight of the paddler
  • Be worn by children (Depending on the specific state’s minimum PFD age law
  • Readily available for use

When the PFD should be worn: 

The law states that PFDs must be worn while being towed, whether you’re on a waterski, wakeboard, or inner-tube.

 Boating Under the Influence (BUI): 

The laws are strict when it comes to drinking and paddling. In all states, you can receive an equivalent to a DUI for paddling under the influence.

Be sure to look up the different laws in each state before you start your trip. It’s clear to see that the United States has a lot to offer. From all the beautiful locations to the wonder of sightseeing. Kayaking around the USA is an experience you don’t want to miss.

List Of Sights To See

  • The Grand Canyon – The Colorado River provides the sight of one of the eighth natural wonders of the world.
  • Chugach National Forest – Surrounded by the snow-covered Chugach Mountains in Alaska and located in the Prince William Sound.
  • Hells Canyon – See the famous site, home to many deers and cougars on Salmon River.
  • Ozark Hills of Missouri – The historical gold mine is a past monument that is a must-see. You can explore the site while kayaking on the Eleven Point National Scenic River.
  • Yosemite National Park – If you are kayaking down the Tuolumne River, you’ll be able to visit the Yosemite National Park.
  • Mark Twain National Forest – Located in Missouri. The Eleven Point National Scenic River flows through the forest.
  • The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel – Make sure to visit the popular kayak fishing location while you are paddling through the Chesapeake Bay.
  • Royal Gorge – Located on the Arkansas River. Go for an adventure here. 
wp_get_post_categories($post->ID), 'numberposts' => 5, 'post__not_in' => array($post->ID) ) ); if( $related ) foreach( $related as $post ) { setup_postdata($post); ?>

About Me

We are passionate about the outdoors, kayaking in particular. We have built this website to share all of the tips and tricks that we have learned along the way, we hope you have as much fun as we do.


Legal Information

Planet-Kayak is part of an amazon affiliate programme, this means we may earn a small referral fee if a product is purchased from one of our referral links. This in no way affects the price you pay if you choose to purchase a product via one of our links. Amazon affiliate links help to support this website. Thank you for helping us produce valuable content.

Latest Posts

Paddling with the Birds: A Guide to Kayaking Birdwatching

“Paddling with the Birds: A Guide to Kayaking Birdwatching” combines the tranquility of kayaking with the thrill of birdwatching. This guide offers tips on the best gear, locations, and techniques to spot rare birds from your kayak. It’s a must-read for nature enthusiasts seeking a unique, immersive birdwatching experience.

Do You Need a License to Kayak in the UK?

Introduction Kayaking is a popular water activity in the UK, offering enthusiasts a chance to explore scenic rivers, lakes, and coastal areas. One common question that arises for newcomers to the sport is whether a license is required to go kayaking. In this article,...

What is difference between canoe and kayak

Introduction Canoeing and kayaking are popular water activities that offer unique experiences for outdoor enthusiasts in the UK. While both involve paddling across water, there are distinct differences between canoes and kayaks in terms of design, usage, and...

How much is a Kayak

In the UK, the price of a kayak can vary based on factors such as the type of kayak, material, brand, and any additional features or accessories. Here are some approximate price ranges for different types of kayaks in the UK: Recreational Kayaks: Entry-level models:...

Kayaking in Wales

Where are the best places to kayak in Wales? Starting with South Wales, the River Tawe, which flows through the city of Swansea, is one of the most popular rivers for kayaking in Wales. The river starts in the Brecon Beacons National Park, in the Cambrian Mountains,...

Kayaking in the far east

The Far East is a term used to describe all the countries of East Asia. The Far East includes countries like China, Japan, and Thailand. There are many places to explore and many cultures to experience. What better way to explore all that the Far East has to offer...

Best Kayaking Camping Holidays

Kayaking is ideal for you if you desire a surreal experience with nature. This favourite hobby of many is also bound to keep you physically and mentally fit. What if we told you that kayaking could also be your ticket around the world? Yes, you can visit some of the...

Kayaking Activities

Kayaking Activities Kayaking is an enjoyable activity for many people. Getting out on the water brings about relaxation and serenity. While for others, the adventure and adrenaline rush is what they are seeking. With so many different types of kayaking, such as...

Gift Ideas For a Kayaker

With the holiday season fast approaching, we are all keen to find the perfect gifts for our loved ones. If you have friends or family that enjoy kayaking, then there is a whole range of gifts you can get them to make their Christmas extra special. We’ve compiled a...

What should I wear while kayaking?

When going kayaking, your choice of clothing must be based on two important factors. First off, the weather condition for safety and next, your comfort. It's a good thing both factors go hand-in-hand, and that's why when you wear a loose, long-sleeved shirt on a hot...