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Guide To Kayaking In West Virginia – Mountain State Paddling Spots

Mark Armstrong
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Kayaking in West Virginia can let you access some of the most remote and rugged areas of the beautiful Mountain State.

With forested hillsides, wildlife areas, and the stunning Appalachians, there are many places to explore with your paddle. Whether it’s whitewater or flatwater, here are some of the top spots to check out.

Paddlers at New River Gorge bridgePin

11 Best Places To Kayak In West Virginia

1: Elk River

The Elk River can be a fantastic place to paddle, with diverse ecology giving it its name of the “best all-in-one river in the state”. It can also be great for fishing, being home to WV Native brook trout and golden trout, as well as bass and muskie.

There are many places to launch along the water trail, beginning below the Sutton Dam and ending at the Kanawha River in Charleston. Kayak rentals are available east of Clendenin on Elk River Road.

Class of Rapids rating:

Class I/II (easy)

Where to launch & How to get there:

10-14 River Haven Road, Clendenin, WV 25045.

2: Tygart Lake

Tygart Lake can be an ideal spot for families and beginners thanks to its calm water and peaceful surroundings.

This scenic lake near the Allegheny Mountains covers 1,750 acres and is surrounded by forests and hills. Tygart Lake State Park surrounds most of the lake, with a launch next to the marina. You can rent kayaks at the swimming beach.

Class of Rapids rating:

Class I/Flatwater (easy)

Where to launch & How to get there:

Bath House Road, Grafton, WV 26354.

3: North Bend Lake

North Bend Lake is part of the North Fork Hughes River in the Mid-Ohio Valley. It features calm water surrounded by beautiful natural scenery for a relaxing paddle. One feature of this lake is the tree stumps and flooded forest that you can navigate your way through. You can also paddle into the river and creek arms.

Kayak rentals are available in North Bend State Park, where there’s also a kayak launch.

Class of Rapids rating:

Class I/Flatwater (easy)

Where to launch & How to get there:

701 S Spring Street, Harrisville, WV 26362.

4: Greenbrier River

The Greenbrier River can be an excellent place to kayak if you’re looking for some whitewater. It features mild rapids that can be ideal for beginners, with sections that can be better for intermediate paddlers.

You can launch at Island Park in Ronceverte and paddle just over eight miles to Fort Springs, or continue another two to Greenbrier River Campground. This section is up to Class II. If you’re after Class III rapids, you can continue from the campground to Alderson.

Kayak rentals are available at the campground.

Class of Rapids rating:

Class II to III (easy to moderate)

Where to launch & How to get there:

258 Island Park Road, Ronceverte, WV 24970.

5: Cheat River

The Cheat River can offer diverse paddling opportunities, with a combination of calm flatwater and exciting rapids. The water trail runs for 38 miles between Parsons and Rowlesburg and is mostly calm.

If you’re looking for whitewater, you can head north to Albright for guided tours through Cheats Canyon on Class III to IV whitewater.

Kayak and canoe rentals are available in St George and you can launch in Parsons.

Class of Rapids rating:

Class I to Class IV (easy to difficult depending on section)

Where to launch & How to get there:

210 Pennsylvania Avenue, Parsons, WV 26287.

6: Beech Fork Lake

Beech Fork LakePin
Courtesy: HuntingtonCorps on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Beech Fork Lake has 31 miles of shoreline, with coves and creeks along its natural serpentine shape. The water is calm and ideal for all skill levels, with lots of space to explore. The lake is surrounded by natural scenery and forested hills, with good opportunities to view wildlife.

You can launch at the boat ramp next to the marina. You can also rent canoes and kayaks from the marina and paddle along to the state park.

Class of Rapids rating:

Class I/Flatwater (easy)

Where to launch & How to get there:

5445 Co. Highway 13/8, Lavalette, WV 25535.

7: South Branch Of The Potomac River

South Branch Of The Potomac RiverPin
Courtesy: Pokerfloat on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The South Branch of the Potomac River is a remote river that can be great for a multi-day trip or just a few hours. For an extended paddle, you can launch at Petersburg Gap and paddle around 34 miles to Romney.

One of the highlights of this trip is the deep canyon known as the Trough. This is only accessible by boat or railroad. The forest scenery and remote remote setting can be perfect for wildlife viewing.

You can rent kayaks at Trough Outfitters.

Class of Rapids rating:

Class I/II (easy)

Where to launch & How to get there:

1979 Petersburg Gap Highway, Petersburg, WV 26847.

8: Moncove Lake

Moncove Lake is a picturesque lake covering 140 acres of calm flatwater. It’s located close to the Appalachian Mountains, offering stunning views of the surrounding forests and hills.

Moncove Lake State Park has a boat ramp and kayak rentals. This can be a great base for your adventures, with camping on-site as well as a wildlife management area. The area is known for its large variety of bird species.

Class of Rapids rating:

Class I/Flatwater (easy)

Where to launch & How to get there:

Co. Road 4/2, Gap Mills, WV 24941.

9: Tomlinson Run

Tomlinson Run can be a great day out for families and beginners, with calm water and picturesque scenery in every direction. Tomlinson Run State Park is considered the top state park in the state and features kayak rentals on the lake, as well as docks for launching.

Tomlinson Run is a tributary of the nearby Ohio River and can be a good place for kayak fishing. Make sure you have your WV fishing license.

Class of Rapids rating:

Class I/Flatwater (easy)

Where to launch & How to get there:

Tomlinson Run State Park, 473 Run Road, New Cumberland, WV 26047.

10: Wheeling Creek

Wheeling Creek can be an easy paddle and is mostly flatwater with some Class I rapids. The water trail begins near the West Virginia/Pennsylvania border and flows to where the creek meets the Ohio River at Wheeling.

There are several access points, with one being at Elm Grove next to Southpaw Outfitters where you can rent your gear. The scenery is diverse, flowing through a combination of urban and rural landscapes.

Class of Rapids rating:

Class I (easy)

Where to launch & How to get there:

2216 National Road, Wheeling, WV 26003.

11: New River

The New River can offer some of the best whitewater in WV, with up to Class V rapids on the Lower Gorge which runs downstream from Thurmond. The Upper Gorge section features up to Class III rapids and can be accessed from Hinton.

The river flows through the New River Gorge National Park so there’s some stunning scenery to check out while you navigate the rapids. Rentals are available near Thurmond.

Class of Rapids rating:

Class I to III or III to V (moderate or difficult depending on the stretch)

Where to launch & How to get there:

Brook Falls, New River Road, Hinton, WV 25951.

West Virginia Kayak Laws

US Coast GuardPin

Do You Need To Register A Kayak In West Virginia?

No, unless it has a motor.

Also note:

  • PFD is required for each person on a kayak.
  • Children under 13 must wear a PFD on a kayak.
  • Boating Under the Influence laws apply to motorized vessels only.

Kayak Rentals And Tours Around WV

Kayaking in Virginia State

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