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Best Urban Kayaking Spot (2021)

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Note from 10Best: Someday, we'll all be ready to pack our suitcases again and head out on our next adventures. In the meantime, we'll keep supporting the places that inspire us. Contact individual cities for the latest updates. 

  • Cuyahoga River

    Cuyahoga River
    Cleveland, Ohio

    The Cuyahoga River runs through the heart of Cleveland, providing a popular sport 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 iStock / PapaBear

  • 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

  • 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 Roanoke Valley CVB

  • Bartram's Garden

    Bartram's Garden
    Philadelphia

    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

  • Lady Bird Lake

    Lady Bird Lake
    Austin

    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

  • Inner Harbour

    Inner Harbour
    Victoria, British Columbia

    While paddling through Victoria’s Inner Harbour, you might spot seals basking in the sun and seaplanes taking off and landing. The harbor and its surrounding waterways serve as a migratory bird sanctuary, making this a favorite paddling place for birdwatchers.
    Photo courtesy of Tourism Victoria

  • 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

  • Rideau Canal

    Rideau Canal
    Ottawa, Ontario

    While Ottawa’s Rideau Canal may be best known as the world’s largest skating rink in winter, in summer, it’s a popular spot for kayaking. This relaxed urban canal has several put-in spots, as well as places to rent a kayak if you’re visiting from out of town.
    Photo courtesy of iStock / Ingram Publishing

  • Potomac River

    Potomac River
    Washington, DC

    From a kayak on the Potomac River, it’s possible to see the Washington Monument, Kennedy Center and the beautiful Georgetown waterfront. Paddle to the Tidal Basin for even more sightseeing, including the Jefferson Memorial and National Mall.
    Photo courtesy of Destination DC

  • Lake Union

    Lake Union
    Seattle

    Kayaking on the waters of Lake Union represents an excellent way to soak up views of the Seattle city skyline. From the water, it’s possible to spot float planes taking off and landing, sail boats gliding through the water and the occasional harbor seal basking in the sun.
    Photo courtesy of iStock / oksanaphoto

You don’t have to leave the city to enjoy a day out on the water, at least not with these 10 urban waterways. Urban kayaking offers an unexpected way to get active in the outdoors while seeing a destination from a new perspective. What’s your favorite place to go urban kayaking?

The top 10 winners in the category Best Urban Kayaking Spot are as follows:

  1. Cuyahoga River - Cleveland, Ohio
  2. James River - Richmond, Virginia
  3. Roanoke River - Roanoke, Virginia
  4. Bartram’s Garden - Philadelphia
  5. Lady Bird Lake - Austin
  6. Inner Harbour - Victoria, British Columbia
  7. Clark Fork River - Missoula, Montana
  8. Rideau Canal - Ottawa, Ontario
  9. Potomac River - Washington, DC
  10. Lake Union - Seattle

A panel of experts partnered with 10Best editors to pick the initial nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote.

Congratulations to all these winning kayaking spots!

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Katrina Johnston-Zimmerman

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