Central California is a paddler’s dream. Just think of the sort of paddling you’d like to do, and chances are you can find it within a short drive of the state’s capital. Sacramento is blessed with plentiful kayaking opportunities and plenty of outfitters if you’re looking to rent a boat for the day.
For other kayaking destinations nearby check out our post on kayaking in California here.
1. Lake Natoma, CA
Lake Natoma is the premier flatwater kayaking destination for the Sacramento area. Why? There are other lakes and places to go, but Natoma has quite a few things going for it. This five-mile-long lake straddles the shores of the City of Folsom. It’s easy to get to and quiet–you won’t find motorboats or jet skis buzzing around. As a matter of fact, there is a five mph speed limit on the entire lake. This contrast to Folsom makes Natoma the go-to for paddlesports or small-boat sailors.
There are four areas where you can launch at Lake Natoma. All of them have a $10 entrance fee, and three are state parks. Negro Bar, Willow Creek, and Nimbus Dam are managed by the state, while the Sacramento State Aquatic Center is an enormous rental outfitter. If you’re heading there, you want to check their calendar to make sure no major rowing events are occurring. You can also rent boats from California Canoe and Kayak.
Lake Natoma is a beautiful place for wildlife viewing. You’re likely to see all sorts of birdlife, from herons and egrets to merganser ducks, kingfishers, and eagles. Everywhere you look on the lake, you’ll find little islands and coves where you can pause and relax. Many areas are bordered by bluffs, which keep the waters calm even on windy days.
2. The South Fork of the American River, CA
The American River flows through the heart of Sacramento, and everywhere it flows, kayakers are lured in. At various points, the river features rapids ranging from blood-pumping Class IIIs to death-defying Class Vs.
Each fork of the river – the North, Middle, and South – offers something different. If you’re a beginner looking for a taste of whitewater excitement, the South Fork is the place to go. For beginners, start at the three-mile stretch from Coloma to Lotus, which is all Class II.
On the South Fork, you’ll find a wide variety of conditions. The Chili Bar Rapids, in particular, draw expert whitewater paddlers from the world over. Here you’ll find sets of Class IIIs with great names like Meatgrinder and Troublemaker.
Below Chili Bar Rapids is the area known as the Gorge Run. This area features Class II and III rapids with more great names like Satan’s Cesspool and Deadman’s Drop.
The South Fork can get busy, especially on nice weekends. There are fees for parking at the put-in, and you’ll see busloads of rafters everywhere. For rentals check out The River Store here.
3. Jenkinson Lake, CA
With its gin-clear water and sandy beaches, Jenkinson Lake is well known in the Sacramento area. Swimming, fishing, hiking, biking, and, of course, paddling are popular here. The site is also known as Sly Park Lake.
Jenkinson is located in the El Dorado National Forest, near Placerville. In addition to gorgeous views and lovely kayaking, the lake features over nine miles of scenic trails to stretch your legs after your paddle.
If you don’t have your own kayak pay a visit to Current Adventures Kayak Trips who do rentals.
4. Slab Creek Reservoir, CA
If you want to get away from it all, head out to the Slab Creek Reservoir. No motorized vessels are allowed, making it the perfect spot for quiet and scenic flatwater kayaking in the Sacramento area.
The reservoir is located on the South Fork of the American River. A large dam blocks off the reservoir, making it a quiet and peaceful place to visit in an area otherwise known for roiling whitewater.
The reservoir is quiet and remote. Plus, it’s not as popular as many other sites in the area, which means you have a high likelihood of having the place to yourself. It’s also gorgeous, with tall canyon walls, old-growth pine forests, and wonderfully clear water. Lots of picturesque waterfalls add to the appeal.
There are no rental outfitters that serve the reservoir, which is a little less than an hour from downtown and in the Sierra mountains.
5. Lower American River, CA
Below the dams at Nimbus and Folsom, the American River is mellower than up in the mountains. Here, the river flows towards the Pacific and is famous for flatwater kayaking. You’ll see gorgeous wetlands, wildlife, and Sacramento from its prettiest angle.
You might want to check out a few places: Paradise Beach, River Bend Park, or the many other access points located along the river. All through town, the river is bordered by parks like these and access points. Even though the town was built on the shores of the river, the town has given the river space and room to bewild and scenic.
All portions of the American River below the Nimbus Dam are protected. The American River Parkway provides access points to the river for rafting or kayaking. And the best part? It’s right in town so there’s no travel required. For rentals give Mr. Kayak Adventures a call.
6. Folsom Lake, CA
With 75 miles of shoreline, Folsom Lake is a well-known destination in the area. Fed by the American River at the foothills of the Sierra mountains, Folsom is surrounded by beautiful scenery. In addition to fantastic paddling, Folsom Lake boasts 10 miles of paved bike trails and more than 60 miles of mixed-use trails for hiking or horseback riding.
Folsom is an extremely popular destination for many locals. But it’s also large enough that everyone can be spread out. Expect to see powerboaters and jetskis, especially on busy weekends. The shores can be lined with picnickers. The largest crowds come from April through September. The lake and surrounding area make up theFolsom Lake State Recreation Area. If you’re able to visit during a quiet time, Folsom is a lovely retreat. If the crowds and powerboaters are off-putting, consider Lake Natoma as an alternative.
The area has three popular campgrounds should you want to stay awhile. The campgrounds and swim areas make great put-ins. However, if you’re looking for rentals, you’ll want to head to Lake Natoma instead.
7. The North Fork of the American River, CA
If you’re a serious whitewater enthusiast, you probably already know about the legendary thrills of the North Fork. Here you’ll find some of the best Class IV and V rapids in the country. Prime season runs in April and May when flows reach 1,000 to 1,400 cubic feet per second, as released by the Oxbow Dam.
The area to put-in for this serious stretch is at the Iowa Hill Bridge, with the take-out at Ponderosa Bridge. The average drop for the area is 36 feet per mile.
The North Fork is no joke and is only for expert paddlers. Be sure to scout the rapids and in advance and get advice from the local outfitters. This is a professional area, so you aren’t likely to find rental gear up here.
8. Sacramento River, CA
The Sacramento is California’s largest river, and it flows an impressive 375 miles from Mount Shasta in the north. It winds its way through the Central Valley and empties into San Francisco Bay.
This river is everything that the American River is not. Where the American is for adrenaline junkies, the Sacramento is slower and leisurely, with nothing more than an occasional quick-moving riffle. The most “whitewater” you’ll find on the Sacramento is a mellow Class II.
The shores are lined with wildlife, and you’re likely to spot deer, beavers, otters, and maybe even foxes, bobcats, or coyotes. The river also features spectacular fishing, especially if you’re after trout. Additionally, Sacramento’s salmon fishery is a $100 million industry for the area. It’s estimated that more than 70 percent of the salmon caught off of the California coast every year spawned in the Sacramento River. And, of course, there are birds of every description.
One of the best sections of the long river is located from Redding to Balls Ferry. This 33-mile stretch has the best wildlife sighting opportunities and fishing. Again, check out Mr. Kayak Adventures to rent a kayak for here.
9. Grizzly Waters, CA
If you want to start heading out to sea, the best place to start is at Grizzly Waters. Located in the Suisun City waterfront district, the area is conveniently located about halfway between the Bay and Sacramento, right along Interstate 80. It’s part of theBay Area Water Trail.
The wildlife area borders Grizzly Bay and Suisun Bay, both of which are big, open stretches of water. You can stick near shore, or you can set off on a more extended adventure. Separating the two bays is Ryer Island.
Fishing and wildlife sighting opportunities abound in this beautiful area. There are several boat ramps where you can launch your vessels to explore the area and Grizzly Waters Kayaking offer rentals.
10. Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, CA
Stone Lakes is an urban refuge for birds and wildlife traveling through the Central Valley. It’s only 10 miles from downtown Sacramento.
The refuge offers a three-hour guided tour for wildlife viewing. The tour is free, and no reservations are necessary. You have to bring your own vessel and join the group to participate. The purpose is for wildlife viewing, so you cannot bring pets or fishing gear.
Summing Up Kayaking Near Sacramento
Sacramento has a little secret – it’s a paddler’s paradise. There’s literally something for everyone, from flat water scenic touring to the wickedest Class V rapids in the country.
So what are you waiting for? Grab your paddle and go!
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Central California is a paddler's dream. Just think of the sort of paddling you'd like to do, and chances are you can find it within a short drive of the
Lake Natoma is the premier flatwater kayaking destination for the Sacramento area.. The American River flows through the heart of Sacramento, and everywhere it flows, kayakers are lured in.. With its gin-clear water and sandy beaches, Jenkinson Lake is well known in the Sacramento area.. In addition to gorgeous views and lovely kayaking, the lake features over nine miles of scenic trails to stretch your legs after your paddle.. No motorized vessels are allowed, making it the perfect spot for quiet and scenic flatwater kayaking in the Sacramento area.. You might want to check out a few places: Paradise Beach, River Bend Park, or the many other access points located along the river.. The American River Parkway provides access points to the river for rafting or kayaking.. The lake and surrounding area make up the Folsom Lake State Recreation Area .. This river is everything that the American River is not.
When you think of California waters you'll probably picture images of clear skies over sandy beaches and surfers tackling a big wave. But kayakers know that
In fact, California is a kayaker’s haven, offering beginner and advanced kayakers multiple locations to build and test their skills while inspiring them with waters unrivaled anywhere else.. In this post, we’ve put together a list of locations that we think are some of the best places to kayak in California to help give you some ideas for your next kayaking trip.. In the remote areas, you enjoy trees and the occasional rapid.. Scott River, CAIf you are looking for an adrenaline rush, this river delivers all of the twists, spins, and complex rapids you could hope for.. Launching from here will mean you’ll embark on several miles of class-IV – V rapids that will test even the most seasoned kayakers.. The islands extend 160 miles along the Pacific Ocean, so although there are many calm inlets for beginners, it is a place that is best enjoyed by experienced kayakers due to the dangers of kayaking at sea.. June Lake, CA by Jayson ( CC BY 2.0 )The beautiful June Lake is nestled among the Sierra Nevada Mountains, which offer a post-card ready kayaking experience for beginners, families, or anyone who loves being out on the water.. It is a reservoir lake situated on the border of California and Nevada , which means if you paddle northward, you can lunch in Nevada.. After a day exploring, you can paddle southward and enjoy a picnic dinner in California.. But one particular spot that we’d recommend is Emerald Bay, a spacious nook along Lake Tahoe, and it is one of the most pristine, unspoiled places to kayak in the entire United States.. This lake offers sandy shores reminiscent of the ocean.. Whether you enjoy gliding out over open water or paddling under the overhanging underbrush and root systems that line a good portion of the vertical banks, you will enjoy a safe, fun excursion even if you are new to kayaking.. The great thing about kayaking in California is that it offers top-tier sights for beginners on lakes and lots for more experienced kayakers who prefer the ocean or thrills of whitewater.. Around some of the more popular locations, you can go it alone, or you can sign up for a guided tour if a group experience is something you or your family might enjoy.
Alaska is one of the last great wildernesses in the world. We have a former president to thank for preserving most of Alaska's natural beauty and forests, and
If you have ever wanted to explore Alaska, you should try doing it on the water.. There are several rivers, streams, and waterways in Alaska where you should attempt to kayak.. It’s a huge national park and is the only area in the United States where you can kayak and see massive fjords of frozen ice and rock.. One particularly beautiful spot to try is Ailik Bay which is large enough for you to paddle all the way around and catch many majestic views of the fjords and beautiful scenic views of the surrounding mountains and glaciers.. The views of the wild Alaskan mountains here are amazing, but nothing beats the sight of huge whales breaching off the sound.. You may even spot an orca or two, depending on the time of year and migratory patterns of these animals.. It’s the perfect location for a days paddle exploring the 760 acres of water and once you’re done there another 130 different lakes in the Nancy Lake State Recreation Area to check out after.. From your kayak, paddle around the island and watch the salmon run.. Be careful, or you might run into a bear looking for those tasty fish!. If that isn’t a sight to see, consider kayaking to Gull Island to see the bird sanctuary is definitely worth a trip surrounded by stunning mountainous scenery that will be certain to take your breath away.. Another interesting location to head to in your kayak is Noyes Island.. Nome is one of the last cities in the western part of the state.. You can even see Russia and Siberia from Nome’s shores on a clear day.. If you pick the right region, waterway and time of year, you will be well-rewarded with many scenic views, wildlife spotting, and possibly a shore lunch of fresh Alaskan fish or seafood.
With no shortage of water, it’s little surprise that San Francisco is a hot spot for kayaking. Locals and tourists gravitate to take advantage of the optimal
From leisurely rides with a low tide to more challenging rivers and bays, here is a list of the ten best places to kayak in San Francisco!. The launching area is within the Fort Baker recreational area, and you can veer off into several different kayaking routes.. Around an hour north of downtown San Francisco, the Russian River offers a variety of kayaking routes.. Although there are no kayak rental companies in the area, there is Kayaks Unlimited Co-op .. The drop-in point for Estuary Park is at Jack London Square, where they offer both classes and kayak rentals through California Canoe and Kayak .. Right behind Oracle Park, where the San Francisco Giants play, is an area of the bay that locals and tourists flock to in boats and kayaks in the hope of catching “splash hits,” which are home runs that make their way into the bay.. Petaluma River, CA by Lisa Padilla ( CC BY 2.0 )The Petaluma River offers something for everybody, but it’s especially popular with kayakers due to the variety of conditions on offer.
Although, on first thought, you might think of Kansas as flat and lacking in natural beauty, Kansas actually offers a variety of outdoor experiences for
In fact, Kansas is home to numerous rivers and lakes that provide calm waters as well as beautiful scenery that, together, deliver an unforgettable experience for any kayaking enthusiast.. Known for being one of the most beautiful parks in Kansas, Wilson State Park is home to Wilson Lake and is one of the best places in the state to enjoy some flat water kayaking.. Located in the heart of the Smoky Hills, Wilson Lake is a freshwater reservoir that features craggy shorelines that provide ample opportunities to snap a picture of the scenic cliffs as you enjoy your day kayaking on this beautiful lake.. ‘ Kansas River, KS ‘ by Jeff Turner ( CC BY 2.0 )If you are new to kayaking, the Kansas River provides 173 miles of mostly calm waters for you to safely develop your new-found skills while enjoying the beauty of the surrounding land.. ‘ Lake Shawnee, KS ‘ by Benjamin White ( CC BY-SA 2.0 )Located approximately eight miles northwest of Topeka Kansas, Lake Shawnee boasts 135 acres of pristine water for you to kayak on.. If you are new to kayaking, Lake Shawnee is a great place to learn, and if you do not own a kayak, you can rent one at Lake Shawnee Adventure Cove for a minimal hourly fee.. With 123 miles of winding waters, you can safely learn to kayak as this river is wide and provides up to three hours of unobstructed kayaking.. In fact, as Little Arkansas River is so popular for those new to kayaking, the Arkansas River Coalition has been known to provide kayaks as well as life jackets to interested paddlers–free of charge.. The first of many Kansas state parks, you can enjoy hours of kayaking pleasure on this 3,500-acre lake, taking in all the beauty this region has to offer while relaxing into the peace and tranquility that kayaking brings.. In fact, with an abundance of rivers and lakes to choose from throughout the state, not to mention the accompanying beauty of the indigenous flora and amazing fauna, you will no doubt find your favorite spots for kayaking that you can enjoy for years to come.
Arizona may be in the middle of the Sonoran Desert, and you'd think it would be severely lacking in water. But, despite being so dry, it it has some
Arizona boasts lots of beginner-friendly spots with calm water and beautiful views that are ideal paddling spots for both newbie kayakers and those with more experience.. The lake is a popular destination for local tourists and kayaking enthusiasts and so can get a little busy bu it stretches over 11.5 miles so there are lots of spots to explore all along it.. For those looking to make a trip of it, there are numerous camping spots along each with beautiful views and opportunities for biking, boating, and hiking.. Definitely one of the best spots for kayaking fishing in Arizona.. All around the lake you’ll see beautiful scenery including views of the mountains and vast forests.. A big part of the Colorado River flowing through the Grand Canyon is whitewater so if you plan on kayaking through it, you should have Class 4 whitewater skills.. Although the colorado river is known for the Grand Canyon, there are many other spots all along it for whitewater kayaking and some that you won’t need to get a permit for.. And, even though the Grand Canyon is one of the most popular options, it is not the only one.
South Carolina is a fantastic destination for kayaking adventures of all kinds. From remote wild rivers, to coastal inlets, to serene lakes, the state has
So whether you’re looking for white water rapids to test your skills or just looking for an easy paddle on a calm lake, here are some of what we think are the best places to kayak in South Carolina.. More adventurous kayakers will love exploring the Jocassee Gorges, a scenic area of waterfalls and breathtaking landscapes only accessible from the water.. It’s the lake that the Chattooga flows into and is an idea spot for a day of exploring in a kayak.. Shem Creek South CarolinaShem Creek in Mount Pleasant is just a few minutes from Charleston, making it a popular kayaking destination for day trips and visitors who want to see everything the state has to offer.. In order to truly appreciate the incredible diversity of South Carolina’s waters, a visit to Capers Island, near Charleston is a must.. This is a great day trip or overnighter.. You can kayak the wetland creeks, but only if you are prepared to navigate the area.. The 60,000 acre lake has swamps and marshes, black water ponds, and large open areas of water.. The state park makes a good jumping-off point for long or short kayak trips.. Kayaking is a great way to access Bull Island.
Whether you're looking to go camping or fishing, there’s a beautiful lake in California that’ll take your breath away.
Whether you’re looking to go camping near a lake , fishing, boating, or sightseeing, there’s a beautiful lake in California that’ll take your breath away.. Named after the Mojave word for the color blue, Havasu Lake boasts miles of shoreline and stunning blue water views.. Fishing, boating, water skiing, and swimming are frequently enjoyed at the state's second-largest reservoir.. Although Honey Lake is quite stunning on its own, the surrounding wildlife and wetlands make it one of the best lakes in Northern California.. The stunning beauty of Mono Lake will leave you mesmerized.. Previously home to the native Washoe tribe, Lake Tahoe is many Californians’ favorite lake vacation spot.. During the winter months, skiing on the mountain slopes around the lake is a popular pastime.. The best lakes in California for fishing. The area around the lake has more than 10,000 acres of vineyards—you’ll have plenty of scenic locations to explore both in and out of the water.. Head about an hour east of San Diego and you’ll stumble upon this 110-acre reservoir nestled in the scenic Cuyamaca Mountains.. Nestled in the scenic Shasta-Trinity National Forest , Lake Shasta is one of the best lakes in California for boating.