You’ve got your car cleaned out, your kayak all loaded up, your clothes and food and firestarters stuffed into dry bags, and a cooler full of cold beer. The sun is shining, a breeze is blowing, and you’re itching to get out on the water. You could head to your favorite local lake or river to get your paddling fix. You could also turn this into an adventure, and road trip your way to some spectacular new waters you’ve never gotten to try before. So make the most of that kayak roof rack and head out towards these three spectacular paddling destinations:
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan
There are a lot of gorgeous parts of Lake Superior— after all, it’s huge. Boundary Waters tends to get a lot of the credit, but one of the nicest spots on Lake Superior is Pictured Rocks, protected as a designated national lakeshore. Paddling along the shore is one of the best ways to take in the huge sandstone cliffs for which the park is named, along with its spectacular hardwoods, waterfalls, and beaches. There are 40 miles of shoreline to explore and numerous campsites along the way. You can definitely make a multi-day trip out of Pictured Rocks, ‘yakpacking your way along Michigan’s fringes.
Neches River, Texas
About a hundred miles from Texas’ biggest cities, the Neches River doesn’t get the same publicity as the Rio Bravo or Ladybird Lake or the Rio Grande. That’s perfect for paddlers who like a little peace and quiet, or who are hoping to catch a glimpse of nearby wildlife. It’s slightly better for day trips than longer excursions since so much of the river is banked by private property. That said, you’ll have prime birding and fishing opportunities. Pack your rod and reel to go after catch fish and a pair of binoculars to spy on Northern Parula, Summer Tanager, and Belted Kingfishers.
Ocoee River, Tennessee
If you like white water, the Ocoee is a can’t-miss destination. It’s got a long history in the paddling community, even earning accolades as the spot where freestyle kayaking originated. It’s what Olympic paddlers ran during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Just 2-4 hours from the South’s major cities and about 40 minutes from Chattanooga, you can find 10 miles of class III-IV rapids. There are plenty of rafting companies in the area offering tours, but you shouldn’t have any problem finding a spot to put in and enjoy your own journey down the river.
Whether you’re looking for scenery, wildlife, or thrills, there is no shortage of wonderful places to kayak. So don’t get in a rut this season! Make good use of that kayak roof rack and head out in search of your new favorite river.