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10 Best Kayaking Spots in the USA

Kayaking the Colorado River

Kayaking the Colorado River (photo: Mary Madigan)

If you’re an adrenaline junkie, action sports super fan, or just an outdoor lover, there is nothing better than hitting the open water on your kayak.

Facing bone-crushing currents, mammoth rocks, and raging rapids provide a challenge not equaled by any sport on earth.

As many have experienced, battling nature for an afternoon while taking in its beauty makes for an enjoyable and rewarding day.

But, you may be surprised to find out that kayaking isn’t just for those looking to conquer powerful rivers.

Plenty of people are using the crafts to navigate to hot fishing spots. Wading out into deep pockets or next to protruding rocks can offer some fruitful angling. Kayak fishing is on the rise in recent years.

In 2011 alone, there was an increase of nearly 200,000 participants — and that number isn’t shrinking.

Whether you’re wading into the middle of a stream to pull out your next big trophy, or facing gushing white ripples, there are plenty of spots to take advantage of the popular activity. From the East Coast to the West Coast, waters wind with the opportunity to bring home a new story.

So, are you ready to find the perfect fishing kayak and get to it? Good. These destinations should be first on your list.

1. Colorado River

Famed for its incredible rapids, the legendary river winds through three states and is full of adventure.

If you’re just jumping on for a rush, you’ll be missing out. Awesome scenery surrounds all 297 miles of the river.

As you wind through Arizona and Utah, you’ll find plenty of spots to cast a rod and relax.

There’s nothing more soothing than lying back between the walls of the Grand Canyon and reeling in a big one from your kayak. And at nights, simply pull your craft onshore and camp out.

2. Gauley River

West Virginia is renowned for its beauty and never-ending mountains. Nestled in those rolling hills are some fierce waterways perfect for kayaking.

Tackling the river during September and October will prove to be challenging, but well worth the adventure.

If you’re looking for a one-day trip, it’s hard to do better than the backcountry of the Mountaineer State.

Kayaking Arkansas River

Kayaking on the Arkansas River (photo: logos.opticos)

3. Arkansas River

From class II to class IV rapids, the sixth-longest river in the United States offers it all.

This meandering waterway begins in Colorado and finishes in its namesake’s state — and you can bet that there are plenty of spots to stop and test your angling skills.

Enjoy the 14,000-foot Rockies on either side before you descend into the Royal Gorge.

4. Devils River

There’s arguably no better spot for kayak fishing than this Texas river. Natural beauty engulfs the cove as you enjoy the fresh fish of the spring-fed body.

Hiking to the reserve can be a bit strenuous, but you won’t be disappointed.

Chesapeake Bay

Chesapeake Bay (photo: dwstucke)

5. Chesapeake Bay

Perhaps the most complicated body of water to maneuver in, the 4,500-square-mile bay provides deep pockets, jagged shorelines, and ample room to catch a trophy.

If you’re heading to the area, make sure to hit the Lower bay, where the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel provides the best fishing.

6. Lake Guntersville

No list of the top kayak fishing spots would be complete without a Southern stronghold. This Alabama lake is the largest in the state, with over 69,000 acres of water.

As with most of these sites, camping is recommended if you’re looking to maximize your experience.

7. Indian River Lagoon

Snag yourself a Bull Red Drum, Gator Speckled Trout, or Tarpon in one of the IRL’s three fantastic Florida members.

Kayaking Prince William Sound

Kayaking Prince William Sound (photo: Matt Zimmerman)

8. Prince William Sound

Visit the opposite end of the map when you travel to an Alaskan glacial gulf. You may want to check out some of their on-site cabins to fully enjoy the trip.

9. Eleven Point National Scenic River

In what looks more like an excerpt from the Amazon than rural Missouri, the Eleven Point River is calm enough to drift through on a warm summer day and exciting enough to offer some fun.

10. Tyger River

Another staple of the South, this South Carolina river flows through Sumter National Forest at a depth of two to six feet.

Head to an access point and start your kayak fishing adventure amidst the wildlife-loaded waterway.


This story was brought to you in partnership with Sportsman's Warehouse.

Planning a trip? Go Backpacking recommends:


Thursday 5th of January 2017

helo i am from Latvia and i love kayaking.

There is some good video in river daugava


Wednesday 12th of October 2016

Would totally agree with the Gauley river, although I've only whitewater rafted it, I've never kayaked it. Pretty gnarly river to navigate if you're not super experienced but super fun to paddle as part of a whitewater rafting trip!

Brad B.

Tuesday 12th of April 2016

Tampa Bay, Florida has some remarkable kayaking spots. You can kayak to undeveloped beach islands in just minutes or glide through mangrove tunnels. It's my favorite kayaking place so far.

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