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Kayaking In Upstate New York – Canoes, Kayaks, Rentals and MORE

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Upstate New York can be a world away from the Big Apple, with rolling hills, green forests, plus the famous Adirondack Mountains and the Catskills. The area is filled with lakes, rivers, and ponds, making it a rich playground for all kinds of paddlers.

To give you some trip ideas for kayaking in upstate New York, we’ve made a list of some of the best spots to check out.

A view at a bay on a sunsetPin

15 Best Places To Kayak In Upstate New York

1: Saint Regis Canoe Area

A water race at Saint Regis canoe areaPin

The Saint Regis Canoe Area covers almost 18,500 acres of wilderness forests, ponds, lakes, and streams. It’s the only designated canoe area in the state.

Because of the number of ponds and waterways, it can be ideal for extended paddling trips. There are several campsites along the shores of many of the lakes and ponds. You can launch at Little Clear Lake to paddle the Seven Carries trail, which you can paddle in a day or choose to extend it.

Class of Rapids rating:
Class I/Flatwater (easy)

Where to launch & how to get there:
Little Green Pond Campground, Fish Hatchery Road, Paul Smiths, NY 12970.

2: Hudson River

The Hudson River flows 315 miles through New York and into the Atlantic Ocean. It can be a great place to paddle, with generally slow-moving water, making it easy to paddle in any direction. You can also paddle along the Hudson River Greenway Water Trail for either day or multi-day trips.

You can launch at the boat ramp in Waterford and explore the area, including along parts of the Erie Canal, the Mohawk River, and along the shores of Peebles Island State Park. However, there are small waterfalls that can create rapids on the southern and western sides of the island, but you can often paddle up to them before turning back.

Kayaks can be rented in Waterford near the boat launch.

Class of Rapids rating:
Class I/II (easy)

Where to launch & how to get there:
Waterford Boat Launch, Front and First Street, Waterford, NY 12188.

3: Lake Placid

A man in a yellow canoe at the Placid lake on a cloudy dayPin
Courtesy: Cindylouwhoknows on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Lake Placid can be the ideal paddling spot if you’re looking for picturesque scenery and calm water, surrounded by the Adirondack Mountains and green forests.  

There are islands and coves to explore, including Paradox Bay, as well as views of lakefront homes and Whiteface Mountain. There’s a public boat launch next to the marina in Lake Placid and you can rent kayaks opposite the launch.

Class of Rapids rating:
Class I/Flatwater (easy)

Where to launch & how to get there:
Public Access Site, George & Bliss Lane, Lake Placid, NY 12946 (just off Mirror Lake Drive, next to the marina).

4: Ausable River

Tubing on the Ausable riverPin
Courtesy: Shelby L. Bell on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The Ausable River flows through the Adirondack Park and can be a great place for wildlife viewing and natural scenery. This generally slow-moving river has several sections that can be paddled. However, there are dams and the Ausable Chasm, which cannot be paddled.

Launching just off Route 9 near Peru, you can paddle in either direction, including out to Lake Champlain. There are also other options, such as Lake Everest near Wilmington Beach.

Class of Rapids rating:
Class I/II (easy)

Where to launch & how to get there:
3004 US-9, Peru, NY 12972.

5: Raquette River

A girl and a dog on a red kayak on a calm riverPin
Courtesy: Patrick Ashley on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The Raquette River can be a relaxing paddle through, with various trip lengths available. A good access point is just off Highway 30, east of Tupper Lake, where you can paddle nine miles to Tupper Lake. Kayak rentals are available in Tupper Lake. You can also launch at Axton Landing for a longer trip.

This can be an ideal spot for seeing wildlife.

Class of Rapids rating:
Class I/II (easy)

Where to launch & how to get there:
Raquette River Boat Launch, Tupper-Saranac Highway, Tupper Lake, NY 12986.

6: Lake George

Lonely fisherman on a kayak on the lake GeorgePin
Courtesy: Jerseygal2009 on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Lake George is a large lake in the Adirondacks, which can be popular with vacationers and recreational boaters. There are lots of islands and bays to paddle around, with beautiful scenery in every direction.

You can launch at Vets Park in Bolton Landing and kayak rentals are available in the town. Heading northeast from the launch, you’ll find several small islands and some boat-in campsites.

Class of Rapids rating:
Class I/Flatwater

Where to launch & how to get there:
5034 Lake Shore Drive, Bolton Landing, NY 12814.

7: Fish Creek

Paddling on a calm Fish creek during a sunny dayPin
Courtesy: Andy Arthur on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Fish Creek flows just over 13 miles between Saratoga Lake and the Hudson River. Closer to Saratoga Lake, the water is calm and slow-moving but around half-way to the Hudson, it gets narrower and faster, with rapids.

Launching at the Kayak Shak, just off County Road 67, you can paddle four miles to Saratoga Lake. You can also paddle downstream to the small dam, where you can turn around if you don’t want to navigate the up to Class IV rapids beyond.

Class of Rapids rating:
Class I and II to IV (easy and moderate to difficult)

Where to launch & how to get there:
251 CR-67, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866.

8: Irondequoit Bay

Irondequoit Bay is a large bay on Lake Ontario, filled with coves to explore, with views of sandy cliffs and forests. You can also explore the wetlands area along Irondequoit Creek, through Tryon Park and Ellison Park, with opportunities to see lots of wildlife.

Kayak rentals and tours are available at the southern end of the bay, opposite the launch at LaSalle’s Landing.

Class of Rapids rating:
Class I/Flatwater (easy)

Where to launch & how to get there:
1080 Empire Boulevard, Penfield, NY 14580.

9: Buffalo River

The Buffalo River can let you discover the city’s industrial history and check out fantastic views of the city skyline as it empties into Lake Erie. The water is generally flat, allowing you to paddle in either direction.

There are a few places to launch along the river, depending on how far you want to paddle. A good place to launch for city paddling is at the Ohio Street launch. You can rent kayaks from several places in Buffalo.

Class of Rapids rating:
Class I/II (easy)

Where to launch & how to get there:
Ohio Street, Buffalo, NY 14204.

10: Rondout Creek

Rondout Creek is a peaceful, slow-moving river that can be ideal for a relaxed trip or some kayak fishing.

You can launch at the access point just off County Road 23 or you can launch at the kayak outfitter near Eddyville. You can paddle the creek in either direction but depending on your launch point, you may need to portage around the dam if you don’t want to turn around.

Class of Rapids rating:
Class I/II (easy)

Where to launch & how to get there:
CR-25, Kingston, NY 12401.

11: Moose River Plains

Navigating at Moose River PlainsPin
Courtesy: Andy Arthur on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The Moose River Plains is a wilderness area within the Adirondack Forest Preserve. This can be a remote spot but can be ideal for multi-day trips and kayak camping. There are several trails that can be paddled, with some requiring short portages to link between ponds.

You can rent kayaks on the eastern shores of Fourth Lake, where you’ll also find a public launch.

Class of Rapids rating:
Class I/Flatwater (easy)

Where to launch & how to get there:
Fourth Lake Boat Launch, Highland Trail, Inlet, NY 13360.

12: Cayuga Lake

Paddlers on Cayuga lakePin
Courtesy: Tim Lenz on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Cayuga Lake is one of New York’s eleven Finger Lakes. It’s 38 miles long and offers plenty of shoreline to explore.

You can launch at Taughannock Falls State Park, on the western shores, where you can also hike to view a spectacular 215-foot waterfall and deep gorges. There is a kayak outfitter inside the park, as well as lots of parking and easy launching from the beach or dock.

Class of Rapids rating:
Class I/Flatwater (easy)

Where to launch & how to get there:
Taughannock Falls State Park, Trumansburg, NY 14886.

13: Pepacton Reservoir

Start of the national championship race on a rainy Pepacton Reservoir Friday morningPin
Courtesy: Watershed Post on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The Pepacton Reservoir can be found in the Catskill Mountains and offers lots of shoreline to check out, with several coves and creeks. This 15-mile long reservoir is part of the East Branch Delaware River. It can be a quiet place to paddle, with chances to spot bald eagles and other wildlife.

You can launch your boat near the Highway 30 bridge, where there’s parking. Kayak rentals can be found on the western edge of the reservoir in the town of Downsville.

Class of Rapids rating:
Class I/Flatwater (easy)

Where to launch & how to get there:
Nyc 4 Road, Andes, NY 13731.

14: Beaver Lake

Beaver Lake, or Mud Lake, can be an ideal place to kayak for beginners. With calm, flatwater in a nature preserve, and no motorized vessels. Kayaks can be rented from the Beaver Lake Nature Center, where you’ll also find nature trails and a visitor center.

The 200-acre lake features lots of wildlife, including osprey and migratory Canada Geese. Private kayaks are only allowed on the lake during weekdays. Weekends are reserved for rental boats from the park.

Class of Rapids rating:
Class I/Flatwater (easy)

Where to launch & how to get there:
Beaver Lake Nature Center, 8477 E Mud Lake Road, Baldwinsville, NY 13027.

15: Genesee River

Frequently referred to as the “Grand Canyon of the East”, Letchworth State Park can be a scenic spot to kayak along the Genesee River, through the deep gorge, past waterfalls.

The river here is fast flowing, but is also rain dependent. During the summer, the rapids tend to be Class I and II, so it’s recommended that you have some whitewater experience prior to paddling, and take added safety precautions, such as wearing a helmet. Kayak and rafting tours are available in the state park.

Class of Rapids rating:
Class I/II (easy to moderate)

Where to launch & how to get there:
Adventure Calls Outfitters, 7051 Lower Falls Road, Castile, NY 14427 (Inside the state park).

What Are The Kayak Laws For NY State?

US Coast GuardPin

Do You Need To Register A Kayak In New York State?
No. Your kayak only needs to be registered if it has a motor attached.

We’ve included a few of the state boating laws but it’s always best to check the laws for the specific location where you plan to paddle.

●    A PFD must be readily accessible for each person on your craft. You are required to wear your PFD while kayaking or canoeing between November 1st and May 1st.
●    Children under 12 must wear a PFD at all times while on a kayak.
●    Boating Under the Influence is illegal in NY with a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or higher. There is a zero tolerance policy for under 21s.

Kayak Rentals And Tours Around Upstate New York

●    St Regis Canoe Outfitters (St Regis Canoe Area - rentals and tours)
●    Upstate Kayak Rentals (Hudson River - rentals)
●    Placid Boat Rentals (Lake Placid - rentals)
●    Adirondack River Rentals (Ausable River - rentals)
●    Raquette River Rentals (Raquette River - rentals)
●    Lake George Kayak Co. (Lake George - rentals and tours)
●    Kayak Shak (Fish Creek - rentals)
●    Bay Creek Paddling Center (Irondequoit Bay - rentals and tours)
●    BFLO Harbor Kayak (Buffalo River - rentals and tours)
●    A Day Away Kayak Rentals (Rondout Creek - rentals)
●    Frisky Otter Tours (Moose River Plains - rentals and tours)
●    Paddle-N-More (Cayuga Lake - rentals)
●    Al’s Sports Store (Pepacton Reservoir - rentals)
●    Beaver Lake Nature Center (Beaver Lake - rentals)
●    Adventure Calls (Genesee River - rentals and tours)

Final Words

Upstate New York has a lot to offer paddlers of all ages and abilities, with miles of waterways to explore, as well as beautiful, stress-reducing scenery and wilderness areas.

Let us know which one you plan to head to first. And if you want to help your fellow paddlers find new launches, share this.

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