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Best Urban Kayaking Spot (2022)

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You don’t have to leave the city to enjoy a day out on the water, at least not with these 20 urban kayaking spots. This favorite water activity offers an unexpected way to get active in the outdoors while seeing a city from a new perspective. 

  • Roanoke River

    Roanoke River
    Roanoke, Virginia

    Roanoke sits in the heart of Virginia’s Blue Ridge, making it an excellent base for outdoor recreation. The 45-mile Roanoke River Blueway offers easy paddling for much of its length, with the exception of some Class II rapids near the gorge.
    Photo courtesy of Creative Dog Media - Visit VBR

  • Cuyahoga River

    Cuyahoga River
    Cleveland, Ohio

    The Cuyahoga River runs through the heart of Cleveland, providing a popular spot for all sorts of water recreation. The Cuyahoga River Water Trail features five segments along the 87-mile river. The last segment comprises 20 miles of the river as it passes through Cleveland and into Lake Erie.
    Photo courtesy of Wil Lindsey

  • James River

    James River
    Richmond, Virginia

    The Richmond region has no shortage of great kayaking spots, perhaps none as popular as the James River. From Huguenot Flatwater Park, paddlers can head downstream to Williams Island or upstream to Bosher’s Dam.
    Photo courtesy of Visit Richmond VA

  • Milwaukee River

    Milwaukee River
    Milwaukee, Wisconsin

    The Milwaukee River provides great Class I-II kayaking for beginning and intermediate kayakers. With an extensive watershed of almost 700 square miles, this comfortably broad and deep river with a good mix of riffles and minor rapids has a steady flow that rarely exceeds 1,100 cfs. It's a great place to master basic kayaking skills in the pools or drops. You'll float through rural countryside and small towns, but the icing on the cake is the final leg through downtown Milwaukee's skyscrapers and waterfront restaurants.
    Photo courtesy of Visit Milwaukee

  • Tennessee River

    Tennessee River
    Chattanooga, Tennessee

    The Tennessee River cuts directly through downtown Chattanooga, offering a relaxed flatwater kayaking experience. Launch just below the Chickamauga Dam along the riverwalk and float past downtown, where you can spot the Walnut Street Bridge, Tennessee Aquarium and the Hunter Museum of American Art.
    Photo courtesy of Visit Chattanooga

  • Bartram's Garden

    Bartram's Garden
    Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

    One of Philadelphia’s best kept secrets, Bartram’s Garden, offers a kayaking launch point with art installations along the Lower Schuylkill River. While put on hold for the time being, the garden typically offers free boating on Saturdays, giving members of the community a chance to get out on the water even if they don’t have their own kayak.
    Photo courtesy of Bartram's Garden

  • Boston Harbor Islands

    Boston Harbor Islands
    Boston, Massachusetts

    The Boston Harbor Islands comprise 34 islands and peninsulas just minutes from downtown. Those with some sea kayaking experience will find many interesting islands to explore by kayak. The park also offers guided paddles, perfect for beginners.
    Photo courtesy of Boston Harbor island Alliance, Photographer Tom Kates

  • St. Augustine Harbor

    St. Augustine Harbor
    St. Augustine, Florida

    With cooperative current and tidal flow to help in any direction and miles of protected water, many paddlers believe St. Augustine is one of the most kayak-friendly destinations in the United States. Even the most hard-to-please kayak enthusiasts will find much to appreciate in the beautiful surroundings of Florida’s oldest city. 10Best Contributor Rob Taylor of 2TravelDads recommends, “Kayak past Castillo de San Marcos National Monument and the colorful 1700s waterfront to the Bridge of Lions.”
    Photo courtesy of Provided by FloridasHistoricCoast.com

  • Lady Bird Lake

    Lady Bird Lake
    Austin, Texas

    This man-made reservoir on the Colorado River sits in downtown Austin. Lady Bird Lake attracts paddlers nearly every day of the week. Eight access points make it easy to put-in or take-out, and the city skyline is visible from just about anywhere. During the summer, it’s possible to kayak to Congress Avenue Bridge to see Austin’s bat colony take flight as the sun sets.
    Photo courtesy of iStock / RoschetzkyIstockPhoto

  • Clark Fork River

    Clark Fork River
    Missoula, Montana

    Kayaking is so popular in Missoula that the city built its own waves along the Clark Fort River as it passes through the heart of downtown. Brennan’s Wave, named in memory of a local kayaker, attracts kayakers, surfers and paddle-boarders to practice catching the wave.
    Photo courtesy of iStock / Jon Bilous

  1. Roanoke River - Roanoke, Virginia
  2. Cuyahoga River - Cleveland, Ohio
  3. James River - Richmond, Virginia
  4. Milwaukee River - Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  5. Tennessee River - Chattanooga, Tennessee
  6. Bartram’s Garden - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  7. Boston Harbor Islands - Boston, Massachusetts
  8. St. Augustine Harbor - St. Augustine, Florida
  9. Lady Bird Lake - Austin, Texas
  10. Clark Fork River - Missoula, Montana
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