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Kayaking In Alabama (Our Favorite Spots)

Mark Armstrong
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Alabama can offer a wide variety of paddling experiences, with stunning scenery and plenty of wildlife. From wild rivers and peaceful streams to large lakes and even the Gulf Coast, kayaking in Alabama can be fun wherever you go.

But there are so many great spots that it can be difficult to pick out the best ones. To give you a little idea of what to expect we’ve put together a list of some of our personal favorites.

5 Best Places To Kayak In Alabama

1: Sipsey River

Sipsey River KayakingPin
Courtesy: Quinn Rossi on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The Sipsey River is considered to be one of the last wild swamp streams in Alabama, flowing for 92 miles through one of the most diverse ecosystems in the state. Its rich wildlife habitats have earned it its place as one of the Ten Natural Wonders in Alabama.

The river generally consists of slow moving flatwater, although there is a section called the 100 yard dash, which has faster flowing water of Class II rapids.

There are several put-ins and take-outs within Bankhead National Forest and there is a kayak and canoe launch at the Sipsey River Picnic Area where you’ll also find parking and restrooms.

Along the paddling trail you’ll see waterfalls, bluffs and lots of wildlife. This could be a good spot for kayak camping, as there are plenty of miles to cover if you’re looking to extend your trip.

> The best kayaks for touring

2: Tallapoosa River

Tallapoosa River KayakingPin
Courtesy: Tricia on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The 265 mile long Tallapoosa River forms part of the Alabama Scenic River Trail and can be a great place to paddle whether you’re a beginner or a more experienced kayaker.

There is a lot of wildlife to spot along the way and it can be a peaceful, relaxing trip year round. You’ll also discover canyons and caves alongside the river, as well as places where you can camp.

There are many launch points and take-out points along the river, which can make it ideal both for longer overnight trips and for shorter trips.

Part of the Upper Tallapoosa forms the Lloyd Owens Canoe Trail, which can be great for beginners as it’s mostly flatwater and there are several take-outs. The start of this trail is actually just over the border in Georgia.

3: Locust Fork River

If you’re looking for a little more whitewater on your Alabama paddling trip you might want to head to Locust Fork River.

The first section from the put-in at the bridge on Highway 14 (just west of Snead, AL) flows for 10 miles to the take-out at Cold Branch Road. This section is more mild and can be good entry level whitewater, with mostly Class I rapids. You’ll also find kayak rentals near the put-in point.

Beyond this, you’ll find a combination of Class II and III rapids, which you might find more suitable if you have a little more whitewater experience under your belt.

4: Little River Canyon National Preserve

Little River Canyon National Preserve KayakingPin
Courtesy: Darren Duke on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Little River Canyon National Preserve can be a fantastic place to kayak if you’re looking for wild and scenic landscapes and a wide range of wildlife, including federally endangered plants.

Kayaking through the Little River Canyon (below the falls) is only for highly skilled and experienced whitewater kayakers, as this section of the river has up to Class VI rapids. Olympic athletes have used this section to train.

The portions of the river above the falls, around DeSoto State Park, and from Canyon Mouth Park on the other side of the canyon, can be more suitable for all levels of paddlers, with a range of Class I and II whitewater. There is a launch point at Canyon Mouth Park and you can paddle along the river to Weiss Lake.

5: Lake Guntersville

Lake Guntersville KayakingPin
Courtesy: Formulanone on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

If you’re into fishing, you’ve probably heard of Lake Guntersville, as it’s a frequent location for bass tournaments. But even if you’re not hunting for bass, this 75 mile long lake on the Tennessee River can be a great place to explore, with lots of coves, creeks and plenty of wildlife.

There are lots of places to stay in the area, whether you’re looking for a hotel or you’d prefer to camp. Lake Guntersville State Park can be a good spot for camping, parking and launching your kayak. You’ll also find kayak rentals (including fishing kayaks) at Town Creek Fishing Center.

On the other side of the lake, there is a public boat ramp at Marshall County Park, just over the water from Guntersville and there is also a campground.

What Are The Kayak Laws?

US Coast GuardPin
  • PFDs are required for each person on board a kayak or other vessel. The PFD must be in good condition and a suitable size for the intended wearer. If you are within 800 feet of a dam you must wear the PFD.
  • Children under the age of 8 must wear a US Coast Guard approved PFD at all times while on a kayak. PFDs for childrenPFDs for infants.
  • Boat Registration is not required for non-motorized kayaks.
  • Boating Under the Influence is illegal in Alabama. This applies to both alcohol and drugs. You will be considered under the influence if your blood alcohol level is 0.08% or more and could face a year in jail, a fine and loss of your boating privileges.

Kayak Rentals And Tours Around Alabama

Final Words

Alabama is filled with natural beauty and peaceful waterways, with lots of opportunities to get out in your kayak no matter what your skill level. Remember to have your PFD with you at all times, and wear it for your own safety.

If you’re paddling on any Alabama rivers, you might want to check them out beforehand, especially after bad weather.

Do you have a favorite kayaking location in Alabama? Tell us about it. And don’t forget to share this to help your buddies find new paddling places.  

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