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9 best places to kayak in North America

Home to breath-taking national parks, luscious forests and some of the world’s most challenging rivers, North America is bursting with adventure opportunities. From Yosemite to Yellowstone, there is a lot to discover from the water.

Exploring Mother Nature from your kayak is like nothing else. You get to experience wonder, push the limits of what’s possible and see places from a different perspective. Hidden bays, untrodden paths and undisturbed wildlife are all within reach.

From paddling the calming waters of Chesapeake Bay to the ancient Colorado River, there is much to explore. We’ve rounded up the best places to kayak in North America to inspire your next adventure!

1 Chesapeake Bay

Nestled in the Mid-Atlantic, you can find the awe-inspiring Chesapeake Bay – the largest estuary in the United States. The 200-mile long river winds through six states including Maryland, Delaware and West Virginia.

Rich in wildlife, spectacular scenery and home to the diamondback terrapin, Chesapeake is a kayaker’s dream. If you are lucky, you may even spot an Osprey nesting at the water’s edge.

A popular fishing destination, Chesapeake’s clear and calm waters are incredibly inviting. Having a slow-powered kayak or canoe is an undeniable advantage if you want to score a catch. If time is on your side, a Chesapeake Bay sunset is not to be missed!

2 Juniper Run, Ocala National Forest

Set under a dense canopy of tropical forest, you will discover Florida’s Juniper Run. The 7-mile winding waterway takes you through the heart of the Juniper Prairie Wilderness through to a take-out off SR 19.

For those who like adventure, Juniper Run offers many opportunities for you to hop off your kayak and explore the area. With the abundance of wildlife, longleaf pine islands and scrub ridges, you may spot a Mama bear and her cub on your journey. Early risers can enjoy hearing a symphony of birdsong as you immerse yourself in the wonder and bounty of the Ocala National Forest.

3 Lake Tahoe, California

Lose yourself in the crystal clear waters of Lake Tahoe. With its exciting ecological and geological wonders matched with an incredible history, this is a destination that should be on every kayakers map.

Straddling the states of California and Nevada, the area offers out of this world views in one of the planets most ancient lakes. Looking to the skies, you may catch a glimpse of a peregrine falcon, or catch the eye of a Mountain Lion wandering the water’s edge as you paddle from the safety of your yak.

Named as “America’s Best Lake” by USA Today, Lake Tahoe is a hub of activity. From a travel destination to skiers paradise, it’s not one to be missed. With the variety of campsites and kayak rental companies dotted around, you can turn your Lake Tahoe experience into a week-long adventure.

4 Colorado River

Rising from the Rocky Mountains down to the Gulf of California, you will find the fast rapid Colorado River. Perfect for the thrill-seekers to the gentle paddler, kayaking the Colorado River is an experience you won’t forget.

Flowing through seven US states – Colorado, Wyoming, Nevada, Arizona, California, New Mexico and Utah – you can experience outstanding natural beauty that has left people in awe for several millennia. What’s more, the river offers plenty of opportunities for you to hop off your yak and walk untrodden paths that will take you back to a forgotten time.

What’s more, you can discover the Grand Canyon as you take on the mighty Colorado River from the comfort of your yak!

5 Gauley River, West Virginia

A world-renowned whitewater destination, West Virginia’s Gauley River offers a unique kayaking experience. Each fall adventure-seekers rejoice as water cascades from the Summersville Dam creating those sought-out whitewater rapids we all love.

After getting your adrenaline fix, you can amble down the Gauley river to restore your calm and find some peace on the tranquil waters. In a world where its easy to take nature for granted, soak in the beauty of the Gauley – you’ll never see any of these places on foot!

6 Wambaw Creek Wilderness, South Carolina

A hidden gem, Wambaw Creek Wilderness is the perfect place to get lost in nature. Set deep in the heart of the Francis Marion National Forest, you can enjoy the perfect quiet of the natural world. Your paddles touching the water will be the only thing breaking the silent coos of birdsong travelling through the air.

Surrounded by its famous cypress-tupelo trees, Wambaw Creek Wilderness can help you reconnect to the outside world, and discover spectacular scenery that you simply won’t find anywhere else.

7 Tampa Bay, Florida

Taking a ride on the wild side, Tampa Bay has a lot to offer. From gliding by a resting alligator to having a snake dance around your toes, Tampa Bay is a great step away from the hubbub of city life. You may even have an unexpected manatee or dolphin pod greet you as you paddle through its waters.

With the Hillsborough River offering exhilarating rapids a stone’s throw away, Tampa Bay is well worth the visit.

8 Snake River, Grand Teton National Park

For those of you wanted some solitude or a place to breathe, Snake River on Jackson Lake may just be what the doctor ordered.

Snake River is aptly named for its winding, twists and turns that make for a phenomenal rafting adventure after your gentle paddle on Jackson Lake. If you’re fortunate, you may spot a playful river otter, a moose or a bald eagle.

9 Tyger River, South Carolina

A perfect city escape, South Carolina’s Tyger River is excellent for the aspiring kayaker and families to explore. Its mild whitewater rapids will help you gain confidence as you observe nature at its finest around you.

Home to some of the planet’s rarest plant species and teaming with wildlife, getting on the water is worth the effort.

Inspired by our top picks? Exploring nature from the comfort of your kayak is what dreams are made of – let’s see where your next adventure takes you!

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