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Kayaking In Cleveland, OH – The Best Spots For Paddling!

Mark Armstrong
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Being on the shores of one of the Great Lakes, finding a good place to go kayaking in Cleveland should be pretty easy.

As well as the expansive Lake Erie, there are many rivers, streams and lakes that can be ideal for a paddling trip.

Whether you’re just starting out kayaking or you’re looking for a peaceful spot to escape the crowds and experience nature, we have put together a guide to some places we think you should check out.

11 Best Places To Kayak In Cleveland, Ohio

1: Cuyahoga River

Cuyahoga River KayakingPin
Courtesy: Cuyahoga jco on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The Cuyahoga River flows for 100 miles from Burton, Ohio through downtown Cleveland and into Lake Erie. There are five sections that make up the Cuyahoga River Water Trail.

Sections four and five of the water trail can be easily accessed from Cleveland, with section four beginning in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and section five ending at Lake Erie in Cleveland.

There are several put-ins and take-outs along the trail, with five of them within Cuyahoga Valley National Park. If you’re looking for a good spot for beginners, the put-in at Boston Store Trailhead can be ideal. You can paddle calm water along to Red Lock Trailhead with or continue to the take-out at Station Road Bridge.

Class of rapids rating:

Class I/II – easy to moderate, mostly slow-moving water

Where to launch & how to get there:

Boston Store Trailhead, Peninsula, OH 44264

2: Rocky River

Rocky River KayakingPin
Courtesy: Tim Evanson on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The Rocky River can be a great spot to paddle if you’re looking for a peaceful trip through natural scenery with shale cliffs and lots of wildlife. The river can also be a fantastic spot for fishing, particularly for trout. It has even been considered in the top 150 fishing locations in the United States.

There’s a kayak launch at Scenic Park within the Rocky River Reservation, where you can also rent kayaks.

The river features flatwater and can be ideal for all skill levels. You can even paddle along to Lake Erie and back. As you get closer to the lake, keep an eye out for other water users, as there are motorized vessels on the river.

Class of rapids rating:

Class I/II – easy to moderate

Where to launch & how to get there:

Scenic Park, Lakewood, OH 44107

3: Put-in Bay

Put-in Bay KayakingPin
Courtesy: PAT at JUNO on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Put-in Bay is located on South Bass Island, one of the many islands off the coast of Ohio on Lake Erie. Put-in Bay can be accessed by ferry and can be a great spot to launch your kayak if you want to paddle around the bay and explore the island.

The bay is generally calm and can be ideal for all skill levels, although there can be a lot of motorized boat traffic, particularly in the busy summer season.

There is a nature preserve at the north end of the island if you want to check out the local flora and fauna, or you can choose to paddle over to Gibraltar Island to checkout its limestone cliffs.

There are a number of spots where you can launch, including at Oak Point State Park and on the southwest side of the island at South Bass Island State Park. You can also rent kayaks at both of these locations.

Class of rapids rating:

Class I/II – easy, mostly coastal flatwater

Where to launch & how to get there:

Oak Point State Park, Bayview Avenue, Put-In Bay, OH 43456

4: West Branch State Park

West Branch State Park KayakingPin
Courtesy: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

West Branch State Park is located about an hour’s drive southwest of Cleveland. The park surrounds the Michael J Kirwan Reservoir, which has lots of feeder creeks, coves and inlets that can be explored by kayak.

There are several spots where you can launch your kayak, including both the north and south shores just off of Rock Spring Road. You can even rent kayaks at the marina if you don’t have your own.

The lake has no motor limit, so there can be a lot of other boat traffic during the summer months. But if you’re looking for a more peaceful paddle, the west side of Rock Spring Road is a no-wake zone, so this area can be better if you’re new to kayaking.

The lake can also be good for fishing.

Class of rapids rating:

N/A – flatwater lake

Where to launch & how to get there:

5565 Rock Spring Road, Ravenna, OH 44266

5: Edgewater Park

Edgewater Park KayakingPin
Courtesy: Erik Drost on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Edgewater Park can be a great spot if you want to launch your kayak into Lake Erie. This Cleveland park has plenty of parking and picnic areas. If you can launch from the beach or from the public boat ramp. You can also rent kayaks from the beach.

If you’re looking to explore the Cleveland coastline and get great views of the city, this can be a fantastic spot to launch. Paddling northeast from the park you can check out the Cleveland skyline, including the Cleveland Browns FirstEnergy Stadium and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Remember, when you’re paddling on Lake Erie you need to follow the US Coast Guard regulations regarding PFDs, lights and Visual Distress Signals if you’re paddling before sunrise or after sunset.

Class of rapids rating:

Class I/II – coastal water

Where to launch & how to get there:

Edgewater Beach, Cleveland, OH 44102

6: Huntington Beach

Kayaker at Huntington Beach at sunsetPin
Courtesy: Erik Drost on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Huntington Beach can be a great place to launch your kayak onto Erie. The launch is from the beach at the eastern parking lot next to the creek.

Paddling east from the beach you’ll paddle alongside rocky cliffs.

This is also the launching spot for the water trail that takes you along the coast to Sims Park. There are lots of rest areas and beaches along the way if you want to stop for a picnic or cut your journey short.

Remember, you’ll be on coastal waters here and conditions can change quickly.

Class of rapids rating:

Class I/II – easy to moderate

Where to launch & how to get there:

Huntington Beach Reservation, Lake Road, Bay Village, OH 44140.

7: Wendy Park

Wendy Park can be a good spot for beginners looking for easy lake access in the heart of Cleveland. The breakwall around Cleveland Harbor helps to keep the water more sheltered at this location. Kayak tours often launch from here.

You can paddle past the historic Cleveland Coast Guard Station or head west along the shore to the Whiskey Island Marina. Just remember to watch out for freight traffic and other boats.

This can be a great spot for city views and wildlife. In fact, it’s one of the top birding locations in Ohio, with 260 species recorded in the park.

Class of rapids rating:

Class I/II – easy to moderate

Where to launch & how to get there:

Whiskey Island Drive, Cleveland, OH 44102.

8: Fairport Harbor Lakefront Park

Fairport Harbor Lakefront ParkPin
Courtesy: Rona Proudfoot on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Fairport Harbor Lakefront Park offers excellent kayak access for paddling on Erie. You’ll find a sloping sandy beach for easy launching and exiting and kayak rentals on site.

The beach is sheltered by breakwaters so the waters tend to be calmer, which can be great for families and beginners.

If you’re more experienced and want to explore beyond the beach zone, you can paddle out of the harbor and around the coast to the Headland Dunes State Nature Preserve. But this can be very windy.

Class of rapids rating:

Class I/II – coastal water

Where to launch & how to get there:

301 Huntington Beach Drive, Fairport Harbor, OH 44077.

9: Hinckley Lake

Hinckley Lake is one of the gems of Cleveland Metroparks. And it can be a fantastic place for new paddlers, with kayak rentals on site and plenty of other activities to make the most of your weekend.

This is a picturesque lake with a wooded shoreline and plenty of picnic spots. The lake covers 87 acres and is ranked the best lake for bass fishing in Cleveland Metroparks. I recommend kayak fishing here.

You can launch at the boathouse where you can also rent paddle boats and paddle boards in addition to kayaks. 

Class of rapids rating:

N/A – flatwater lake

Where to launch & how to get there:

1 Metropolitan Park W, Hinckley, OH 44233.

10: Vermilion River

Vermilion River At Mill HollowPin
Courtesy: Roy Luck on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The Vermilion River is a scenic river that is a relaxing paddle for beginners, intermediate, and experienced paddlers. Bald eagles can often be seen on this paddling route, with herons, ducks, and other wildlife also to be spotted by the keen-eyed paddler.

One of the highlights of the Vermilion River is the Vermilion Lorain Water Trail. This can be accessed from the Vermilion River Reservation at Mill Hollow.

The Vermilion Lorain trail covers 27 miles and provides a unique paddling experience as it takes you along the Vermilion to the Black River, via the open waters of Lake Erie.

Class of rapids rating:

Class I to II – easy to moderate

Where to launch & how to get there:

51211 North Ridge Road, Vermilion, OH 44089.

11: Wallace Lake

Wallace Lake is one of the best places for beginners and families to kayak in Cleveland. The surrounding park is one of eight of the lakefront parks in Cleveland Metroparks.

The 17.6-acre lake offers sheltered waters and there is a sloped sandy beach and a low dock for easy launching. You’ll also find a wooded shoreline for a peaceful paddle in natural surroundings.

This is also a good place to fish for largemouth bass and rainbow trout. It’s also stocked with channel catfish in spring.

Seasonal kayak rental is available in the park and there is a large parking lot next to the launch.

Class of rapids rating:

N/A – flatwater lake

Where to launch & how to get there:

Wallace Lake Drive, Berea, OH 44017.

What Are The Kayak Laws For Cleveland?

US Coast GuardPin

When kayaking in Cleveland you will need to follow Ohio state laws and particularly if you’re paddling on Lake Erie you will need to follow federal laws.

  • PFDs – a wearable PFD is required for every person on board a kayak. The PFD must be in good condition and be a suitable size for the wearer.
  • All children aged 9 and under must wear a correctly sized US Coast Guard approved PFD at all times while on a kayak.
  • All kayaks and canoes on Ohio waters must be registered.
  • It is against the law to operate a kayak while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The blood alcohol level limit is 0.08% if you’re 21 years or over and 0.02% if you’re underage.
  • It is illegal to drop or dispose of litter in any waterway in Ohio.
  • If kayaking at night remember to carry a flashlight or have a white light on your kayak
  • Visual Distress Signals will also be required if paddling on Lake Erie between sunset and sunrise. This can be an electric distress light.
  • A sound producing device, such as a whistle, is required to be carried on board your kayak.

Kayak Rentals And Tours Around Cleveland

Final Words On Cleveland Kayaking Places

There are plenty of exciting places to go kayaking in Cleveland without having to travel too far. Remember, if you have your own kayak it needs to be registered before you take it out on the water.

Keep your PFD easily accessible (ideally wear it) and make sure you follow the regulations for where you choose to paddle.

Where is your favorite spot to paddle in Cleveland? Let us know, and if you found this helpful, share it.

Kayaking In Cleveland - PinterestPin

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