Discover the 10 best kayaking destinations in the U.S., ranging from rivers to lakes to ocean.
If you’re traveling in your RV with kayaks strapped to the back, there’s no shortage of destinations to visit. You can follow the seasons to enjoy fantastic kayaking year-round from north to south and east to west. In this article, we’re going to highlight the 10 best kayaking destinations in the U.S. and give you some brief tips for maximizing your visit to each location.
Lake Tahoe — California and Nevada
North America’s second-deepest lake (1,645 feet at its deepest) provides amazing kayaking opportunities on flatwater. It also boasts astounding views of the Sierra Nevada and Carson ranges that hold this giant bathtub of a lake in place. If you’re visiting Lake Tahoe and want to get out on the water, be sure to check out Sand Harbor State Park on the lake’s eastern shore. You’ll have to get there early (gates open at 8 am, but the line develops around 7), but the crystal clear waters paddling south from the boat launch there are more than worth the early start. Lake Tahoe Kayak Tours offers one-day kayaking tours that cover comprehensive paddling instruction and include lunch on the beach.
Stay: Tahoe Valley Campground
San Juan Islands — Washington
The San Juan Islands to the northwest of mainland Washington offer a surprising microclimate. The growing season up here is nearly eight months long because of the way in which the Olympic Peninsula protects the islands and takes the brunt of the weather systems that move south and east from the Arctic. One of the coolest aspects of visiting these islands is that you can take your RV right on the ferry at Anacortes and choose which island to get off at. There is ample kayaking in this area in the many sounds and harbors that separate and surround the islands.
Youghiogheny River — Maryland
This 134-mile long section of river actually cuts through Maryland, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. The middle section of the river, which mostly runs through Maryland, offers mellow waters and great wildlife viewing in the region’s massive forests. Certain sections of “The Yough” (as locals call it) actually offer great whitewater kayaking as the river drops from the crest of the Appalachian Mountains. If you’re looking for an RV park with access to The Yough, be sure to check out Deep Creek Lake or Swallow Falls in Oakland, Maryland.
Rio Chama — New Mexico
There’s excellent kayaking for beginners at the mouth of the Rio Chama in New Mexico. The river offers easy paddling with amazing views of the cliffs and rock formations that dot the landscape throughout the American Southwest. The Abiquiu Reservoir offers the best spot for flatwater paddling here, but there are plenty of options for both flatwater and whitewater kayakers on the Rio Chama. The closest RV park to provides access to this kayaking destination is Abiquiu Lake – COE/Riana, which offers more than 50 sites. Just a little farther is Angel Fire RV Resort, a perfect 10/10*/10 Good Sam park with a ton of amenities like zip-lining, mountain biking, fishing and golf.
Snake River — Idaho
Running between rugged, rocky banks, Idaho’s Snake River captivates travelers with its untamed beauty. Whether you want to cut your teeth on some epic whitewater or just enjoy scouring the shoreline for moose, deer and other wildlife sightings, there are options for everyone on this scenic waterway. Launch your kayak on the stunning 50-mile stretch of river that flows through Snake River Canyon just north of Twin Falls, Idaho. This portion of the river includes two major waterfalls and several springs. Reserve a site in Anderson Camp, with stunning views of the Snake River as well as excellent trout and bass fishing.
Colorado River — Arizona
Whether you’re a kayaker or whitewater rafter, there’s nothing quite like the Colorado River. If you want to stay a little warmer, you can check out the stretches of the river that run south through Arizona. One of the stretches that you should be sure to check out actually runs right along the Arizona-California border from just south of Las Vegas, Nevada, down towards Lake Havasu City. If you’re looking for a calmer paddling experience, be sure to check out Lake Havasu State Park and the iconic London Bridge to the south. One of the best RV parks in this area is Campbell Cove RV Resort, which sits just about a half-mile from the water.
Lady Bird Lake — Texas
Texas’ version of the Colorado River (no, they’re not one in the same, but it does indeed exist!) also offers some exceptional flatwater kayaking in a lot warmer waters. Running through the city of Austin, you’ll find the iconic Lady Bird Lake, which is named after Lady Bird Johnson (President Lyndon B. Johnson’s wife). One of the major attractions along Lady Bird Lake is the largest urban population of Mexican Freetail bats, which live underneath the Congress Avenue Bridge. Stay at Oak Forest RV Park or Austin Lone Star RV Resort and be sure to head down to the lake for sunset!
Indian River Lagoon — Florida
If you’re into kayak fishing, you’ll love the fishing opportunities at Indian River Lagoon, which sits on Florida’s east coast just south of Orlando. Try your luck at pulling in a bull-red drum, gator-speckled trout or tarpon. You’ll also love the clear, warm waters in this lagoon and there’s plenty to do in the surrounding metropolitan area once you get off the water. Some of the most convenient RV parks for access to the lagoon include Camelot RV Park, Vero Beach Kamp, and Sonrise Palms RV Park.
Prince William Sound — Alaska
Get out your wetsuits (and maybe even drysuits) and booties for this kayaking destination. But it’ll be worth it when you experience the beauty of this glacial gulf on the Alaskan coastline. The Sound is located to the east of Anchorage and one of the more well-known cities with shoreline access is Valdez. The town of Valdez has a few nice RV parks to choose from, including Eagle’s Rest RV Park & Cabins.
Eleven Point River – Missouri
Coming back down to the lower 48, the last kayaking destination on our list is the Eleven Point River in Missouri. This river is actually a National Wild and Scenic River and it is a 44-mile section that meanders through the Ozark Hills of southern Missouri. The river offers alternating stretches of bubbling rapids and deep, slow-moving pools where you can take in the steep bluffs and sloping forested valleys along its banks. The river starts just north of Willow Springs and runs down through the Hutton Valley. Because of the remote nature of this stretch of river, there aren’t too many RV Park options, but one of the best in the area is Ozark Mountain Springs RV Park.
Which of These Kayaking Destinations Will You Visit?
As an RV traveler, I’ve concluded that these are some of the best kayaking destinations in the U.S. After looking through this list, we’d love to hear which of these destinations you plan to visit first!