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Guide To Kayaking In Arizona

Mark Armstrong
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With a warm, dry climate, Arizona may not seem like a kayaker’s paradise, but the Grand Canyon State is packed with places for outdoor adventures on the water, not to mention awesome scenery and a wealth of wildlife.

With plenty of lakes and rivers, including the famous Colorado River, there are lots of options for kayaking in Arizona, no matter what your skill level is. So, where is the best place to kayak?

Guide To Kayaking In ArizonaPin

Where Are The Best Places To Kayak In Arizona?

There are many excellent locations for some Arizona kayaking, but in our opinion the best ones are Lake Powell, the Grand Canyon and the Salt River, as they offer a mixture of magnificent surroundings, good paddling and plenty of areas to explore. Here’s our good spots to kayak close to me map that may also help.

1: Lake Powell, AZ

Lake Powell Arizona KayakingPin

Fantastic scenery and geological history abound at this mesmerizing lake and fishing hub. There are plenty of areas to explore, whether you’re an experienced paddler or are just starting out. You can go on multi-day adventures or just head out for a couple of hours.

Paddle along the calm waters through breathtaking canyons, from Antelope Canyon and Labyrinth Canyon to Lone Rock Canyon, there’s enough here to keep all paddlers entertained with desert wildlife to spot along the way.

For kayaking on the lake you can rent kayaks and go on guided excursions at Hidden Canyon Kayak in Page, Arizona. Their guided tours start at $90 each for a 3-4 hour trip to Lone Rock Canyon or a 4 hour trip to Antelope Canyon and include kayak rental and equipment. They also offer multi-day excursions.

For daily rentals, Kayak Lake Powell has tandem kayaks for $45 a day and single kayaks for $30 a day, with discounted rates for multiple day rentals. They also offer touring kayak rentals, as well as canoes and camping equipment.

The lake borders the desert region of Utah on the north end but you can fish with a fishing license from an Arizona office.

> Guide to Kayaking in Lake Powell

2: Grand Canyon, AZ

As one of the 7 wonders of the natural world, this world-famous landscape is one of the most spectacular places in the world to kayak. From whitewater rapids to remarkable scenery, kayaking along the Colorado River through the famous canyon is an unforgettable trip but can be best suited to experienced kayakers.

One of the main launches for river trips is at Lees Ferry but there are others, including Willow Beach, which can be a drop off on some group tours.

For the thrill-seekers among you, there are spots for you to stop off along the way and dive off canyon walls.

Video: Grand Canyon Kayaking

Much of the Colorado River that flows through the canyon is whitewater, therefore in order to kayak through it all paddlers need to have Class 4 whitewater skills. At Current Adventures you can take guided kayaking tours, with 2 week trips at $4,050 (September 2017).

With Current Adventures, even less experienced paddlers can go on the trip, riding along on one of the rafts, with the possibility of kayaking where the water’s calmer.

Kayaking Nebraska

3: Salt River, AZ

If you’re looking for some authentic southern Arizona wilderness on the edge of the Sonoran Desert , the Salt River can deliver (it’s not far from Phoenix). You can also kayak on the Salt River at Tempe Town Lake, east of Downtown Phoenix.

The Lower Salt River features stunning scenery and is home to an abundance of wildlife, including wild mustangs and other desert wildlife!

The Upper Salt River requires a permit from the White Mountain Apache Tribe and this part of the river features up to Class IV whitewater from its beginnings in northern Arizona’s White Mountains. The Gila River is another kayaking destination where you can experience whitewater and flows out of the Salt River.

The Lower Salt waters are calm and it’s a relaxing experience paddling through centuries of geological history in the Tonto National Forest.

There are lots of places to rent kayaks and take part in other watersports, with one being Riverbound Sports, where you can rent a range of kayaks and SUPs.

Another good option is the Sagauro Lake Guest Ranch, which offers kayak rental from $40 for a 2 hour paddling trip. The trip is not guided but it includes return courtesy shuttle from the ranch to the river.

For a guided tour, Arizona Outback Adventures offers a fun half day kayaking tour that’s fully guided, with all your equipment included, for $145 per person. It even allows for a spot of swimming!

4: Blue Ridge Reservoir, AZ

Blue Ridge Reservoir KayakingPin
Courtesy: Coconino National Forest, Ariz. on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Blue Ridge Reservoir (also known as C.C. Cragin Reservoir) is a scenic and peaceful lake that has more of a river feel about it. This hidden gem can be one of the most beautiful places to kayak and is located in the Coconino National Forest, south of Happy Jack. It’s surrounded by pine forests, steep cliffs and canyons, which means launching your kayak is only really possible from the boat ramp.

The boat ramp is located on the northern side of the lake, just off Forest Service Road 751, where you will also find parking.

The lake can be a great spot for all paddlers, including standup paddleboards, with flatwater making it an ideal spot for kids and beginners. There are also motorized vessel restrictions at the lake, with a 10 hp limit on motorized boats and no gas engines, which can make for a more relaxing paddle.

5: Big Lake, AZ

Big Lake KayakingPin
Courtesy: Andy Atzert on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Big Lake is a 575 acre lake located in the White Mountains, at an elevation of 9000 feet in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. It features calm water and can be a popular destination for family paddling trips and beginner kayakers. It is known for its good trout fishing and cool waters.

There are several boat launches around the lake, with picnic areas, campgrounds and hiking trails nearby. You can rent kayaks from Big Lake Tackle And Supply, which is also a general store for food and supplies.

The lake can be one of the best kayaking spots for wildlife watching and photography and can be a good spot to escape the desert heat in the summer.

6: Lake Pleasant, AZ

Lake Pleasant KayakingPin
Courtesy: Mark Cameron on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

If you’re looking for a scenic spot just outside of Phoenix, this beautiful lake can be a perfect place. Surrounded by wildlife and rugged landscapes, this can be a fun spot for family kayaking trips. There are also areas in the Regional Park that allow for primitive camping, so you can make the most of your weekend on the water.

There are several areas around the lake where you can launch your own kayak, and you’ll also find a number of boat ramps too.

The lake features lots of coves and little islands that can make it fun to explore. It can also be a great spot for kayak fishing, with bass, catfish and a variety of other species being found in the lake.

7: Canyon Lake, AZ

Paddling through cliffs of Hidden Canyon at Lake PowellPin
Courtesy: Lake Powell Hidden Canyon Kayak on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Canyon Lake can be found in the Tonto National Forest northeast of Phoenix and is surrounded by scenic red cliffs, canyons, and spectacular views. This can be a good place for kayak fishing in the winter, with the lake being regularly stocked with rainbow trout. But it’s also great for bass fishing.

There is a boat-accessible campground along the eastern shores of Canyon Lake, along with a launch and plenty of picnic tables. It can be a relaxing spot for families and you may even spot a wild Big Horn sheep if you’re lucky.

8: Watson Lake, AZ

Beautiful scenery of the Watson Lake with kayakersPin
Courtesy: DC Tink on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Watson Lake offers some spectacular scenery and can let you get up close to the Granite Dells, the billion year old rock formations of mesmerizing granite boulders. There are two boat launches and restrooms available in Watson Lake Park, just east of downtown Prescott. You’ll also find kayak rentals on site.

The calm water can be a great place for beginners and families, with lots of rocky islands to paddle around and quiet coves to explore.  

9: Knoll Lake, AZ

Yellow kayak makes its way through Knoll LakePin
Courtesy: Alan Levine on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

If you’re looking for a wilderness adventure, Knoll Lake can be just the spot. Set within the remote Coconino National Forest, the secluded and picturesque Knoll Lake is surrounded by beautiful ponderosa pines.

This flatwater lake covers around 75 acres and offers some stunning views, as well as good trout fishing. You can also hike to the 2,000 foot Mogollon Rim, the southern point of the Colorado Plateau for epic views from the highlands to the deserts.

10: Fool Hollow Lake, AZ

A view at Fool Hollow Lake surface at the start of the dayPin
Courtesy: Keli Black on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Fool Hollow Lake lies within a state park inside the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest and White Mountain country. There are two boat launches, one on the east side of the lake and the other on the west side. The east boat launch ramp, near the campground has canoe and kayak rentals available if you don’t want to bring your own boat.

This can also be a good place to view wildlife, particularly elk, but you could also spot beavers in the lake on an early morning paddle.

11: Lake Havasu, AZ

London bridge at Lake HavasuPin
Courtesy: Sura Ark on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Lake Havasu lies on the Arizona/California border and is formed by the Colorado River so you can actually paddle upstream and downstream pretty easily. One of the highlights of the lake is the famous London Bridge that was dismantled and imported from London, UK and rebuilt in Arizona.

There are many kayak outfitters around the lake, along with many free places to launch and beautiful sandy beaches. The lake is also popular with other water sports.

A good place to launch if you want to paddle underneath the bridge is at London Bridge Beach on the Island. You can also explore the rocky shoreline and mountain scenery by paddling around the various coves and islands on the lake.

Are There Any Kayak Laws For Arizona?

US Coast GuardPin

Arizona Kayak Rentals & Tours

There are a plethora of kayak tours and rentals to choose from. Here’s a few of our favorites…

What about fishing around Arizona?

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