Best Kayaking in Pennsylvania

Kayaker taking a picture of the nose of the kayak gliding across the water in Pennsylvania.
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Pennsylvania, known for its scenic beauty and diverse landscapes, offers some of the best kayaking experiences in the United States. With its vast network of rivers, serene lakes, and challenging rapids, the Keystone State is a paddler’s paradise. In this guide, we’ll take you on a journey to explore the top kayaking destinations, share insider tips, and help you plan unforgettable paddling adventures in Pennsylvania. Whether you’re a novice or an experienced kayaker, there’s something here for everyone to enjoy.

Allegheny River

The Allegheny River, flowing through the picturesque landscapes of Pennsylvania and New York, beckons kayakers to embark on a captivating journey filled with scenic beauty, history, and adventure. As one of the major tributaries of the mighty Ohio River, the Allegheny offers a diverse range of experiences, making it a sought-after destination for kayaking enthusiasts.

Reasons to Kayak in the Allegheny River:

  • Urban Adventure: Embark on an urban kayaking adventure as you paddle through Pittsburgh’s skyline. Glide beneath iconic bridges and skyscrapers, offering a unique perspective of the city’s vibrant atmosphere.
  • Wildlife Oasis: Explore the Allegheny River’s serene stretches and be delighted by the abundance of wildlife that call its banks home. From graceful herons to majestic bald eagles, it’s a wildlife enthusiast’s dream.
  • Historic Sites: As you kayak along the Allegheny, you’ll pass by significant historical landmarks like Fort Pitt and Point State Park. Immerse yourself in the rich history of the region while enjoying the river’s tranquility.
  • Scenic Gorges: Venture into the heart of nature as you navigate through the Allegheny’s scenic gorges. Towering cliffs, dense forests, and pristine waters create a picturesque backdrop for your kayaking adventure.
  • Fishing Haven: Anglers will appreciate the Allegheny River’s reputation as a prime fishing location. Cast your line for bass and trout, and relish the thrill of reeling in your catch amid stunning surroundings.

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

Lake Erie

Lake Erie, one of North America’s renowned Great Lakes, stands as a testament to nature’s grandeur and a kayaker’s paradise waiting to be explored. Situated between the United States and Canada, this expansive body of water offers kayakers a unique and awe-inspiring opportunity to paddle through history, culture, and natural beauty.

Reasons to Kayak in Lake Erie:

  • Great Lakes Majesty: Lake Erie offers a taste of the open sea with its vast expanse of water. Kayak across its majestic waters, feeling the gentle rhythm of the waves as you soak in the awe-inspiring grandeur of a Great Lake.
  • Sandy Shores: Explore sandy beaches along Lake Erie’s coastline, perfect for a refreshing swim or a relaxing break during your kayaking expedition. Crystal-clear waters invite you to take a dip in this natural paradise.
  • Shipwreck Diving: Dive into history as you discover aquatic shipwrecks. These relics provide a fascinating glimpse into the maritime heritage of the area, creating a unique kayaking experience.
  • Bird Watching: Lake Erie is a haven for migratory birds and waterfowl. Bring your binoculars and observe these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat, adding an element of wildlife exploration to your kayaking adventure.
  • Sunset Serenity: There’s nothing quite like witnessing Lake Erie’s stunning sunsets from the tranquility of your kayak. Paddle out in the evening to experience the sky ablaze with vibrant colors over the shimmering waters.

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

Youghiogheny River

The Youghiogheny River is renowned for its whitewater rapids, making it a popular destination for kayakers, rafters, and thrill-seekers. It offers a variety of rapids ranging from Class II to Class V, catering to paddlers of all skill levels. The river’s Middle Yough section is ideal for beginners, while the Lower Yough section is famous for its challenging rapids and is considered one of the best whitewater runs in the eastern United States.

Reasons to Kayak in the Youghiogheny River:

  • Whitewater Thrills: The Youghiogheny River boasts world-class whitewater rapids that will test your paddling skills and offer adrenaline-pumping adventures for kayakers seeking excitement.
  • Ohiopyle State Park: Paddle through the heart of Ohiopyle State Park, where lush forests, cascading waterfalls, and abundant wildlife create a natural wonderland for kayaking enthusiasts.
  • Riverfront Dining: After your kayak adventure, enjoy the charm of Ohiopyle village with its riverside dining options, allowing you to savor local cuisine while taking in picturesque river views.
  • Waterfalls Galore: Encounter several stunning waterfalls along the Youghiogheny River’s course, offering scenic stops and photo opportunities.
  • Challenging Rapids: If you’re seeking an adrenaline rush, the Youghiogheny River’s Class III and IV rapids provide an exhilarating challenge for experienced kayakers.

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

Raystown Lake

In the heart of Pennsylvania, Raystown Lake is a serene 8,300-acre oasis for outdoor enthusiasts. Kayaking is a popular pastime here, allowing you to explore its clear waters, hidden coves, and lush islands. Fishing is exceptional, with various species waiting to be caught. Campgrounds and hiking trails cater to extended outdoor adventures, while wildlife observation adds a touch of nature’s wonder.

Reasons to Kayak in Raystown Lake:

  • Houseboat Camping: Explore the many coves and bays of Raystown Lake while camping on a houseboat, allowing you to combine the joys of kayaking with the convenience of a floating home.
  • Fossils: Dive into the lake’s clear waters and discover ancient fossils, providing a unique twist to your kayaking adventure.
  • Night Sky Stargazing: Experience the beauty of the night sky by camping on the lake’s remote islands, where minimal light pollution ensures a stellar stargazing experience.
  • Quiet Coves: Seek out tranquil coves for peaceful kayaking, creating opportunities for solitude and relaxation.
  • Scenic Bluffs: As you paddle along the lake’s shoreline, marvel at the towering bluffs that frame the scenery, making for breathtaking views during your journey.

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

Susquehanna River

The Susquehanna River, often hailed as the “Mighty Susquehanna,” flows through the eastern United States, offering kayakers a diverse and captivating journey through some of America’s most scenic landscapes. Originating in upstate New York and winding its way through Pennsylvania, Maryland, and beyond, the Susquehanna River presents paddlers with a remarkable blend of serene flatwater stretches, exciting rapids, and cultural history.

Reasons to Kayak in the Susquehanna River:

  • River Islands: Kayak to one of the many river islands scattered along the Susquehanna. These islands offer secluded spots for picnics, camping, and a sense of remote tranquility.
  • Bald Eagle Spotting: The Susquehanna River is a prime location for spotting majestic bald eagles in their natural habitat. Keep your eyes peeled for these impressive birds during your kayaking tours.
  • Charming Towns: Take a break from kayaking and explore the charming river towns that dot the Susquehanna’s banks, such as Marietta. Discover local history, cuisine, and culture.
  • Calm Paddling: Enjoy leisurely paddling on the river’s calmer sections, ideal for beginners or those seeking a relaxed kayaking experience.
  • Fall Foliage: In the autumn, the Susquehanna River showcases breathtaking fall foliage as you paddle through its picturesque valleys, providing a vivid and colorful backdrop.

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

Lake Wallenpaupack

Spanning approximately 5,700 acres, this man-made lake was created in the mid-20th century as a reservoir and has since become a hub for outdoor enthusiasts and kayakers. Lake Wallenpaupack provides a refreshing escape into nature, offering a wealth of recreational opportunities and scenic beauty for those seeking relaxation and adventure in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.

Reasons to Kayak in Lake Wallenpaupack:

  • Boating and Fishing: Lake Wallenpaupack is not only great for kayaking but also for boating and fishing. Explore the lake’s 52 miles of shoreline and try your hand at catching bass, trout, and more.
  • Scenic Beauty: Paddle along this pristine lake surrounded by the picturesque Pocono Mountains. The stunning natural scenery, especially during the fall foliage season, makes for breathtaking kayaking trips.
  • Water Activities: Beyond kayaking, Lake Wallenpaupack offers various water activities, including jet skiing and paddleboarding, making it a versatile destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
  • Lakefront Dining: Enjoy lakeside dining at the numerous restaurants around the lake. Savor delicious meals with a view, making your kayaking adventure even more enjoyable.
  • Festivals and Events: Depending on the season, Lake Wallenpaupack hosts various events and festivals. Plan your kayaking trip to coincide with these fun and cultural activities.

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

Pine Creek

Pine Creek, often referred to as the “Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania,” is a spectacular waterway that winds its way through the heart of the Keystone State. This pristine creek, flanked by lush forests and steep canyon walls, has become a mecca for kayakers seeking thrilling adventures in a breathtaking natural setting.

Reasons to Kayak in Pine Creek:

  • Scenic Gorge: Pine Creek is known for its breathtaking scenic gorge. Paddle through this deep canyon, surrounded by towering cliffs, lush forests, and the soothing sounds of flowing water.
  • Wilderness Experience: Experience the thrill of kayaking in a remote wilderness setting. Pine Creek is a designated Wild and Scenic River, offering unspoiled beauty and a chance to disconnect from the outside world.
  • Wildlife Encounters: Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife sightings along the creek’s banks. You may spot deer, otters, and a variety of bird species, enhancing your kayaking experience.
  • Camping Opportunities: Pine Creek features riverside campsites where you can set up camp after a day of kayaking. Campfires, stargazing, and the gentle sound of the creek complete the outdoor experience.
  • Annual Canoe Classic: If you’re up for a challenge, consider participating in the annual Pine Creek Gorge Canoe Classic, a celebrated event among paddlers and kayakers.

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

Lake Nockamixon

situated in beautiful Bucks County, Pennsylvania, is a vibrant hub of outdoor activity and natural beauty. This 1,450-acre lake, surrounded by Nockamixon State Park, offers a diverse range of recreational opportunities for visitors of all ages and interests, making it a popular destination for both residents and traveling kayakers.

Reasons to Kayak in Lake Nockamixon:

  • Sailing and Windsurfing: Lake Nockamixon is not just for kayaking; it’s a hub for sailing and windsurfing enthusiasts. Share the water with colorful sails and feel the breeze as you paddle.
  • Picnic Areas: Take a break at one of the lake’s numerous picnic areas and enjoy a meal with friends or family. The shoreline provides scenic spots for a peaceful lakeside picnic.
  • Swimming Beaches: Cool off during your kayaking adventure by taking a refreshing swim at one of the designated swimming beaches around the lake.
  • Hiking Trails: Explore hiking trails that wind around Lake Nockamixon. Combine your kayaking trip with a hike and immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the area.
  • Birdwatching: Bird enthusiasts will appreciate the opportunity to spot a variety of bird species, including waterfowl and songbirds, as they paddle through the serene waters.

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

French Creek

Immerse yourself in the beauty of the creek, listen to the soothing sounds of nature, and observe the rich history and culture of the region. French Creek invites outdoor enthusiasts to embark on a kayaking adventure that reveals the essence of Pennsylvania’s unspoiled landscapes. Join us as we navigate the waters of French Creek, uncovering the secrets of this hidden kayaker’s paradise.

Reasons to Kayak in French Creek:

  • Remote Wilderness: French Creek offers an unparalleled sense of isolation and immersion in nature. Paddling through its serene waters, you’ll feel truly disconnected from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, making it a perfect escape into the wilderness.
  • Scenic Beauty: The creek winds its way through some of Montana’s most beautiful landscapes, including lush forests, rolling hills, and rugged terrain. Kayaking on French Creek means you’ll be treated to breathtaking scenery around every bend.
  • Abundant Wildlife: As you quietly paddle along, keep an eye out for native wildlife such as deer, beavers, and various bird species. French Creek’s untouched habitat provides an excellent opportunity for wildlife observation.
  • Secluded Paddling: French Creek is less frequented by crowds, ensuring a peaceful and uninterrupted kayaking experience. You’ll have the tranquil waters and scenic beauty all to yourself.
  • Connection with Nature: Kayaking on French Creek is a chance to reconnect with nature on a profound level. The soothing sounds of the creek, the rustling of leaves, and the gentle flow of water create a serene ambiance that rejuvenates the soul.

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

Blue Marsh Lake

Discover the lake’s diverse ecology, observe native wildlife, and explore the network of coves and inlets that dot its shoreline. Blue Marsh Lake beckons adventurers to connect with the great outdoors and savor the joys of kayaking in a pristine and peaceful setting. Join us as we delve into the wonders of Blue Marsh Lake, where the allure of exploration and the serenity of nature converge for a memorable kayaking adventure.

Reasons to Kayak in Blue Marsh Lake:

  • Scenic Beauty: Blue Marsh Lake is renowned for its stunning natural beauty. Paddling on the lake allows you to immerse yourself in picturesque landscapes, with lush forests, rolling hills, and serene waters providing a captivating backdrop for your kayaking adventure.
  • Abundant Wildlife: The lake and its surrounding areas are a haven for wildlife enthusiasts. Keep an eye out for a variety of bird species, including eagles and herons, as well as deer, foxes, and other wildlife that call the lake home. It’s an excellent opportunity for birdwatching and wildlife photography.
  • Recreational Opportunities: Blue Marsh Lake offers more than just kayaking. You can extend your adventure by enjoying other recreational activities such as hiking, fishing, and picnicking, making it a versatile destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
  • Calm Waters: The lake’s calm and clear waters are ideal for kayaking, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced paddler. You can enjoy a peaceful and relaxing paddle, taking in the tranquility of the surroundings.
  • Year Round Enjoyment: Blue Marsh Lake is open year-round, providing opportunities for kayaking in all seasons. Each season offers a unique experience, from the vibrant colors of fall foliage to the serene beauty of winter. Whether you visit in summer or winter, you’ll find something to love about kayaking at Blue Marsh Lake.

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

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