Best Kayaking in Ohio

Woman in a yellow kayak, paddling a lake in Ohio.
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If you’re seeking the best kayaking experiences in Ohio, you’re in for a treat! Ohio offers a diverse range of kayaking opportunities, from tranquil lakes and winding rivers to thrilling whitewater adventures. Whether you’re a novice looking for a leisurely paddle or an experienced kayaker seeking exhilarating rapids, the Buckeye State has something to offer every enthusiast. In this guide, we will explore some of the top kayaking destinations in Ohio, highlighting the stunning natural landscapes and waterways that make this state a fantastic place to explore by kayak. So, grab your paddle and get ready for an unforgettable kayaking adventure in Ohio!

Lake Erie

Lake Erie, one of the five magnificent Great Lakes of North America, stands as a testament to the natural wonders that grace the region. Nestled between the states of Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New York, this remarkable body of water is the shallowest and warmest among its counterparts, making it a prime destination for both adventure seekers and kayaking enthusiasts.

Reasons to Kayak in Lake Erie:

  • Island Hopping: Kayak from island to island in Lake Erie, exploring places like South Bass Island and Kelleys Island, each with its own unique charm.
  • Shipwreck Exploration: Lake Erie is known for its numerous shipwrecks, making it a fascinating destination for aquatic history enthusiasts.
  • Birdwatching Paradise: Experience exceptional birdwatching opportunities, especially during migration seasons, with chances to spot bald eagles, waterfowl, and more.
  • Lake Erie Bluffs: Paddle along the Lake Erie Bluffs, featuring impressive cliffs and rocky shorelines, offering a unique coastal kayaking experience.
  • Winery Tours: Combine kayaking with wine tasting by exploring the Lake Erie Wine Trail, accessible by kayak from several launch points.

Recommended Gear: Spray Skirt, Waterproof Headlamp, Towel, Emergency Flares, Dry Change of Clothes, Kayak Repair Kit, Snacks

Hocking Hills State Park

In the heart of Ohio’s captivating landscape, Hocking Hills State Park beckons adventurers and nature lovers alike to its enchanting embrace. While renowned for its hiking trails and breathtaking rock formations, this hidden gem also offers a lesser-known but equally mesmerizing experience—kayaking.

Reasons to Kayak in Hocking Hills State Park:

  • Waterfalls Galore: Kayak to secluded waterfalls within the park, such as Cedar Falls and Ash Cave, for a serene and picturesque adventure.
  • Rock Formations: Navigate through awe-inspiring rock formations, including towering cliffs and narrow gorges, showcasing the park’s unique geology.
  • Cave Exploration: Paddle through caves and tunnels formed by millennia of erosion, adding an element of adventure to your kayaking trip.
  • Wildlife Encounters: Encounter diverse wildlife like deer, wild turkey, and the occasional river otter as you explore the park’s waterways.
  • Stargazing: Experience unparalleled stargazing opportunities on clear nights, far away from city lights, while camping by the water’s edge.

Recommended Gear: PFD, Binoculars, Waterproof Phone Case, First Aid Kit, Insect Repellent, Navigation Map, Bilge Pump

Cuyahoga River

The Cuyahoga River, often referred to as the “River of Resurgence,” winds its way through the heart of Ohio, offering a remarkable journey through both nature and history. While it’s famous for its pivotal role in the environmental movement, the Cuyahoga River also holds a secret, known to kayakers and outdoor enthusiasts—a paddler’s paradise.

Reasons to Kayak in the Cuyahoga River:

  • Blossom Music Center Access: Kayak to the iconic Blossom Music Center, a renowned concert venue, and enjoy live music from the river’s perspective during summer shows.
  • Scenic Gorge Views: Paddle through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, taking in stunning views of the Cuyahoga River winding through the deep gorge.
  • Waterfront Dining: Visit waterside restaurants and cafes in towns like Kent, where you can dock your kayak and enjoy a meal.
  • Historic Locks: Explore remnants of the Ohio and Erie Canal, including historic locks, aqueducts, and towpath trails, showcasing Ohio’s history.
  • Seasonal Beauty: Witness the vibrant foliage in the fall or the tranquil winter landscape during snowfall, making each season a unique kayaking experience.

Recommended Gear: Sunglasses, Sunscreen, Paddle Holder, Dry Bag, Water Shoes, Bilge Pump, Sun Hat

Mohican State Park

Beyond its scenic hiking trails and captivating wildlife, the park offers a hidden gem for kayakers—an opportunity to explore its pristine waterways. Paddling through Mohican State Park unveils a world of serene beauty, where tranquil rivers wind their way through towering hemlocks and sandstone cliffs.

Reasons to Kayak in Mohican State Park:

  • Pine Run Gorge: Kayak along the scenic Pine Run Gorge, surrounded by towering hemlocks and sandstone cliffs, creating a serene natural environment.
  • Wild and Scenic River: The Mohican River is designated as a Wild and Scenic River, providing kayakers with a pristine and protected paddling experience.
  • Wildlife Abundance: Encounter white-tailed deer, great blue herons, and even river otters as you paddle through this diverse ecosystem.
  • Fishing Paradise: Mohican State Park offers excellent fishing opportunities, with kayak access to prime fishing spots along the river.
  • Campground Access: Stay in one of the park’s campgrounds and enjoy the convenience of launching your kayak directly from your campsite.

Recommended Gear: Kayak Wheels, Waterproof Headlamp, Towel, Emergency Flares, Dry Change of Clothes, Kayak Repair Kit, Snacks

Alum Creek Lake

Alum Creek Lake stands out as a unique kayaking destination thanks to its vibrant sailing regattas, status as a water sports hub, thriving bald eagle population, kayak-accessible picnic islands, diverse fishing opportunities, community events, and the surrounding natural beauty. Whether you’re drawn to the excitement of regattas, the serenity of eagle watching, or the picturesque picnic spots, Alum Creek Lake offers kayakers a multifaceted experience.

Reasons to Kayak in Alum Creek Lake:

  • Sailing Regattas: Witness exciting sailing regattas while kayaking on Alum Creek Lake, where local sailing clubs often host competitive events.
  • Water Sports Hub: Join in the water sports culture by kayaking alongside sailors, jet skiers, and paddleboarders, creating a vibrant atmosphere.
  • Bald Eagle Watching: Alum Creek is home to a thriving bald eagle population, offering fantastic opportunities for eagle watching during the winter months.
  • Picnic Islands: Explore the scenic picnic islands within the lake, perfect for a relaxing lunch break or a romantic paddle.
  • Fishing Variety: Catch a variety of fish species, including bass, crappie, and catfish, making it a great spot for anglers who love to kayak.

Recommended Gear: PFD, Paddle Holder, Dry Bag, Waterproof Phone Case, Sunscreen, Water Bottle, Snacks

East Fork State Park

In the heart of southwestern Ohio, East Fork State Park beckons outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers to its tranquil shores. While this picturesque park is renowned for its hiking trails and serene lakes, it also offers a hidden gem for kayakers—an opportunity to immerse themselves in the park’s natural beauty from the water’s perspective.

Reasons to Kayak in East Fork State Park:

  • Hidden Beaches: Kayak to secluded beaches along the shores of East Fork Lake, offering a private escape for sunbathing and relaxation.
  • Water Trails: Follow designated water trails that take you through diverse ecosystems, including wetlands, forests, and open water, providing a rich kayaking experience.
  • Wildlife Sanctuaries: Encounter waterfowl, songbirds, and deer in their natural habitats, making East Fork State Park a birdwatcher’s paradise.
  • Summer Camping: Camp at the park’s campgrounds and wake up to the tranquil sounds of the lake, ready for a day of kayaking right from your site.
  • Accessible Launch Sites: East Fork State Park offers numerous easily accessible launch sites, making it suitable for kayakers of all experience levels.

Recommended Gear: Sun Hat, Insect Spray, Cup Holder, Water Bottle, Paddle Holder, Water Shoe, Snorkel

Maumee River

Flowing through the heartland of the Midwest, the Maumee River carves a winding path of history and natural beauty. Spanning from Indiana through Ohio and eventually emptying into Lake Erie, this river holds a unique allure for kayaking enthusiasts. Beyond its scenic landscapes and urban sections, the Maumee River boasts a distinct charm that beckons paddlers.

Reasons to Kayak in the Maumee River:

  • Annual River Run: Participate in the Maumee River’s annual “Walleye Run,” where thousands of walleye migrate upstream, providing a unique and exciting kayaking experience.
  • Fossil Hunting: Paddle along the riverbanks and search for ancient fossils, as the Maumee River is known for its rich fossil deposits, including brachiopods and trilobites.
  • Historic Forts: Explore the historical significance of the region by kayaking past the remains of old forts, like Fort Meigs, with informational markers along the way.
  • Riverfront Dining: Enjoy riverfront restaurants in towns like Perrysburg, where you can dock your kayak and savor local cuisine.
  • Riverfront Festivals: Plan your visit during riverfront festivals and events, which often feature live music, food vendors, and a lively atmosphere.

Recommended Gear: Sunglasses, Sunscreen, Paddle Holder, Dry Bag, Water Shoes, Bilge Pump, Sun Hat

Grand Lake St. Marys

Tucked away in the heart of western Ohio, Grand Lake St. Mary stands as a tranquil haven for nature enthusiasts and water adventurers alike. Beyond its reputation as the largest inland lake in Ohio, Grand Lake St. Mary holds a special allure for kayakers seeking serenity and exploration.

Reasons to Kayak in Grand Lake St. Marys:

  • Floating Boardwalk: Experience the unique sensation of kayaking on the “floating boardwalk,” a feature that allows you to paddle over submerged vegetation and observe the lake’s wildlife up close.
  • Water Recreation: Join the lake’s vibrant water sports community, including kayakers, sailors, and anglers, for a diverse aquatic experience.
  • Historic Landmarks: Kayak to the historic Miami and Erie Canal Lock 1 South and learn about the area’s rich canal history.
  • Birding Hotspot: Grand Lake St. Marys is a haven for birdwatchers, with opportunities to spot ospreys, bald eagles, and migrating waterfowl.
  • Lakeside Camping: Stay at one of the lakeside campgrounds, where you can easily launch your kayak for early morning or sunset paddles.

Recommended Gear: Extra Water, Waterproof Headlamp, Towel, Emergency Flares, Dry Change of Clothes, Kayak Repair Kit, Snacks

Little Miami River

Renowned for its lush riparian forests and pristine landscapes, this scenic river offers a unique and enchanting kayaking experience. As you paddle through its meandering currents and under historic covered bridges, you’ll find yourself immersed in a world where time seems to stand still.

Reasons to Kayak in the Little Miami River:

  • Scenic Flora and Fauna: Explore the lush riparian forests lining the Little Miami River, home to diverse plant and animal species, including wildflowers and great blue herons.
  • Bike and Paddle: Combine kayaking with a bike ride by following the Little Miami Scenic Trail, which runs parallel to the river and provides easy access for paddlers.
  • Historic Covered Bridges: Paddle under historic covered bridges, like the Loveland Covered Bridge, adding a touch of nostalgia to your kayaking trip.
  • Tubing and Kayaking Combo: The Little Miami River is known for tubing, so you can switch between kayaking and tubing for a fun-filled day on the water.
  • Riverfront Cafes: Stop at charming riverfront cafes and ice cream shops in towns like Loveland for a delightful refreshment during your kayaking journey.

Recommended Gear: PFD, Binoculars, Waterproof Phone Case, First Aid Kit, Insect Repellent, Navigation Map, Bilge Pump

Shawnee State Park

Shawnee State Park beckons adventurers and nature enthusiasts to explore its pristine wilderness and serene waters. While the park is renowned for its rugged hiking trails and rich biodiversity, it also offers a hidden gem for kayakers—an opportunity to immerse themselves in the park’s natural beauty from a different perspective. Paddling through Shawnee’s tranquil lakes and winding waterways reveals a world where tranquility meets adventure.

Reasons to Kayak in Shawnee State Park:

  • Remote Wilderness: Immerse yourself in the pristine wilderness of Shawnee State Park, where kayaking offers a true escape into nature.
  • Ohio’s Only Wilderness Area: Paddle through the Shawnee Wilderness Area, Ohio’s only designated wilderness area, and experience untouched natural beauty.
  • Backcountry Camping: Camp at remote sites accessible only by kayak, allowing you to truly disconnect and enjoy a backcountry experience.
  • Fishing Haven: Enjoy excellent fishing opportunities for bass, crappie, and catfish while kayaking on the serene waters of Shawnee Lake.
  • Fall Foliage: Witness the breathtaking display of autumn colors as you paddle through the park’s hardwood forests during the fall season, creating a unique and vivid kayaking experience.

Recommended Gear: PFD, Paddle Holder, Dry Bag, Waterproof Phone Case, Sunscreen, Water Bottle, Snacks

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