The United States and Canada are vast land masses with two long coastlines. The Atlantic ocean running down the eastern side and the Pacific ocean running down the western side. Moreover, thanks to the topography of both these countries there are intricate networks of rivers originating high up in the mountains and culminating in lakes down below.
The most famous river being the Mississippi spanning the entire length of the United states from Minasotta to Louisiana. Next to it’s point of origin in Lake Itasca you have the Great Lakes to the east which border with Canada. These include lake Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario.
Needless to say, when it comes to kayaking there is a raft (excuse the pun) of wonderful opportunities in these two great nations. We’ve taken the time to speak to some experts and get their opinion on the best places to kayak in North America. Here they are in no particular order.
Situated on the border of North Dakota and Manitoba, it’s a great place to kayak if you have a flair for cross-border adventure. Because it is partially in the United States and partially in Canada, kayakers can meander along both countries’ borders without having to carry a passport or check-in with immigration (unless they dock on land). Plus, the lake is so shallow, 24 feet at its deepest, that it’s incredibly warm for a lake so far north.
Mikah Meyer of Outside Safe Space.
On the border of Utah and Arizona, it was created in the 60s by damming the Colorado River. It’s famous for its sheer sandstone cliffs and warm water. The lake has hundreds of fingers that go into stunning slot canyons that provide great places to explore in a kayak.
The best place for kayakers to go is Antelope Canyon. No doubt you’ve seen photos of this world-famous slot canyon near Page, AZ, but most people only see it via hiking tour.
Many people don’t know much of that same canyon is actually covered in water. It’s designated as a wakeless zone as well, so kayakers don’t need to worry about larger boats once they’re in the canyon. If you don’t have your own kayak, you can rent one from Antelope Point Marina.
Brittany Haglund of The Minivan Bucket List.
Rainbow River Florida
My love affair with the water started here. The Rainbow River, Florida, is quite possibly the most beautiful place that I have seen in Florida. There are only a couple of other sites as stunning and unique. Some of my friends will disagree when they read this. After all, this is Florida, and it is still a river.
To date, I have not seen river water this transparent or diverse in color in Florida. There’s a reason it’s named Rainbow River. It’s aglow with green and turquoise blues that flicker with the reflection from the sun. If you want to escape the rat race and feel refreshed with a swim in clear spring water, head to the Rainbow River, Florida.
Nikki Webster from Brit on the Move.
Located in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada. It’s absolutely stunning! The best time to go is June through August and the landscape of the Canadian Rockies is just superb. The air is so fresh, the sky is so clear, and the mountains are sharp and gorgeous. The water is also incredibly clear, and sometimes has tones of aqua and turquois.
Becca Siegel of Halfhalftravel.
My favorite kayak experience was a multi-day sea kayaking trip in the archipelago around Gwaii Haanas National Park in Haida Gwaii. The archipelago is located off the northern coast of British Columbia in Canada.
The trip goes around the southern islands of the national park, where there are good chances of seeing sea lions, orcas and even humpback whales swimming close by your kayak. I also saw black bears on the shore, and dozens of bald eagles and ospreys flying overhead. At night, we camped in clearings in the forest near the water’s edge. It was amazing.
The best part, however, was the opportunity to kayak to SG̱ang Gwaay Llanagaay (formerly called Ninstints). The abandoned Haida village has the largest collection of in situ totem poles in the world. There are dozens of wooden totem poles, gazing out to sea or fallen over.
In accordance with Haida traditions, they are being left to slowly rot and return nature. It is a magical, mystical experience that few people get to have, as the site can only be reached by sea.
James Ian from Travel Collecting.
The Colorado River
The best place where I have kayaked would be the Colorado River in the United States. The thing about the Colorado River is that not only does it have many gentle spots to kayak through but many of the sections are located within the Colorado River State Park that provides tourists and travelers with opportunities for picnicking and camping.
What makes kayaking in the Colorado River so interesting and unique are the breathtaking landscapes that you will encounter while floating. The beautiful cliffs, lush bottoms, and river-carved canyons are things that you won’t find anywhere else in North America. The lower Colorado River does not have any rapids, it is simply just beautiful green water making it perfect for beginner and seasoned paddlers alike.
Kevin Mercier of Kevmrc.com.
One of the best places to kayak in North America is in the largest freshwater lake by surface area in the world, Lake Superior! Where on Lake Superior should you paddle? Marquette, Michigan of course. With rugged coastlines and an amazing city to explore, kayakers love this spot.
For an even more amazing kayak experience, head 45 minutes west to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and paddle next to cliffs that are more than 50ft high! If you really have the strength, paddle yourself all the way there!
Eric Angerer of EZMoments.
Juneau is the capital of Alaska. The Southeast region is known for its coastlines, whales, and ocean wildlife. The city sits in the middle of the Tongass National Forest. The Tongass National Forest is the largest national forest in the United States, covering more than 6.5 million hectares of Alaskan wilderness. It is also the world’s largest intact temperate rainforest.
What does this mean for kayaking? Juneau has plenty of beaches, coastlines, wildlife, and water to make your adventure incredible.
Ben Rubenstein of Travel Juneau.
This river is the most popular destination for canoeists in North America and has 20,000 campsites located along its banks. It’s a river of extremes – you can dip your paddle into crystal clear water one minute and come out the next through a dark gorge or aqueduct.
The Chattooga River links Lake Tugalo to Lake Keowee with an incredibly diverse range of flora and fauna living along with it, such as beavers, otters, deer, and bald eagles. If you’re lucky, you may even see the resident bear family who is not shy at all about showing themselves off!
Robbins Jack of Honeymoon Inspirat.
Washington and British Columbia Coastline
In Washington, areas like Port Townsend, Whidbey Island, and Orcas Island offer outstanding kayaking because of the number of bays surrounding Puget Sound. You will see sea wildlife without risking your life on the open ocean, and the natural protection of the geography means you should usually be able to find a calm spot for kayaking.
A little further north, across the border, Vancouver Island offers great sea kayaking. We would recommend the town of Tofino as a great home base. You can explore many protected islands and see everything from sea otters to sea lions.
Paul Johnson of North Outdoors.
Whether you’re a seasoned kayaker or a newbie, getting out into some of North America’s inland and coastal waterways is an absolute must. Remember to always do your research before setting off on a kayak trip. It’s important to know the weather forecast for that day, whether there are any ocean or river currents to be aware of, and if there are any wild animals to be mindful of. Most importantly, get out there and have fun!