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Both Kansas and Missouri are home to some of the most historically and culturally significant waterways in the United States. And with Kansas City covering both states, it’s no surprise that there are plenty of paddling opportunities around the city.
So where are the best places to kayak in Kansas City? To point you in the right direction we’ve put together a little guide to some of our favorite kayaking spots.
Why, When And Where To Paddle In Kansas City?
Kansas City is home to one of North America’s most famous rivers, the Missouri River. This is one of the most culturally important rivers in the United States, helping to support a large portion of the country’s agriculture.
It also has a history of being used for transportation over the centuries, including being part of Lewis and Clark’s famous expedition in the early 1800s.
1: Missouri River
The Mighty Missouri River flows right through the heart of Kansas City and, being North America’s longest river, it can offer days or even weeks of paddling adventures.
There are several points along the river where you can get access to and from the water. Some of these include Platte Landing Park (on the Missouri side of the river in the northwest of the city), EH Young Park (just a few miles downstream from Platte Landing), Kaw Point Park (on the Kansas side of the river), and a few miles downstream at Riverfront Park.
The river can be paddled all year long, provided you have appropriate cold weather paddling gear in the winter.
2: Kansas River
The Kansas River, known locally as the Kaw, is part of the National Water Trails system and can offer 173 miles of paddling through scenic landscapes from Junction City, Kansas, to Kansas City where it flows into the Missouri River.
There are plenty of access points along the river, giving you the option of paddling part or all of the trail. There are also sandbars along the route where you can stop for a rest or a picnic, or even camp overnight.
3: Fleming Park
It features two campgrounds, which can make it an ideal place for an overnight trip if you want a couple of full days for paddling or fishing. There’s also plenty of wildlife and a native hoofed animal enclosure, which could make it fun for a family day out.
4: Lake Of The Ozarks
If you’re looking for somewhere a little different while you’re in Kansas City, around two and a half hours away is the Lake of the Ozarks. This unusually shaped man-made lake has lots of paddling and fishing opportunities, with plenty of places for an overnight stay in the area.
Although there are many vacation resorts around the lake, there are also campgrounds, including one at Lake of the Ozarks State Park. The lake can be a great place to spend a weekend, or longer, exploring the various inlets, watching wildlife or fishing.
There are several public access points around the lake, and many of the resorts and campgrounds also have their own lake access for launching a kayak or canoe. If you wrap up accordingly, you can even go kayaking during the winter.
5: Smithville Lake
Smithville Lake is a huge 7200 acre lake that is just 20 minutes north of Kansas City. This can be a great place for kayak fishing, as well as family paddling trips and overnight stays. If you’re looking to fish, the lake is well stocked with a number of species, including a variety of catfish and bass.
There are three marinas at the lake, as well as a number of boat ramps, picnic areas, hiking trails and swimming beaches. Paradise Pointe Marina closes during the winter months but Camp Branch Marina and Sailboat Cove are open year round.
Kayaks, canoes and other non-motorized boats under 14 feet are free to launch but larger boats will incur a $14 a day fee (August 2020).
6: Watkins Mill State Park
Watkins Mill State Park is northeast of Kansas City and features the 100 acre Watkins Mill Lake. This small lake can be an ideal paddling location for beginners and children, as the water is relatively shallow and calm and you’re surrounded by nature and wildlife.
There are good places to launch your kayak and a boat launch for fishing boats. The lake can be a good spot for kayak fishing, with bass, crappie and catfish being found in the lake.
You’ll also find a campground for an overnight trip (with a number of year-round campsites) and places to stop for a picnic lunch.
Video: An Evening at Watkins Mill State Park
7: Shawnee Mission Park Marina
Shawnee Mission Park is located southwest of Kansas City and benefits from having a beautiful 120 acre lake, as well as restroom facilities, picnic areas, nature trails and even a theater.
Kayaks, canoes and stand up paddle boards can be rented during the summer from Shawnee Mission Park Marina.
Shawnee Mission Lake features calm, flatwater and can be a great place if you’re learning to kayak. It can also be ideal if you want to fish. The lake is well stocked and can be great for catching bass and catfish. It’s also stocked with rainbow trout in the months of February, March and October.
Are There Kayak Laws For Kansas City?
Because the Kansas City Metro area covers both Missouri and Kansas, the laws you will need to follow will depend on whether you’re kayaking in Missouri or Kansas.
- PFD Requirements: In Kansas, children under 13 years must wear a PFD while on a kayak. In Missouri, this applies to children under 7 years of age. In both states, each person on board a kayak must have a wearable US Coast Guard approved PFD.
- BUI: Boating under the influence is illegal in both states.
Kayak City Kayak Rentals & Tours
- Shawnee Mission Park Marina (Shawnee Mission Park, KS – rentals)
- Kansas City Kayak & Canoe (Missouri River & Kansas River, Kansas City, MO – rentals & tours)
- Lake Jacomo Marina (Fleming Park, Blue Springs, MO – rentals)
- WFO Watercraft (Lake of the Ozarks State Park, MO – rentals)
- Paradise Marina & Watersports (Lake of the Ozarks, MO – rentals)
- Northland Outdoor Adventures (Smithville Lake, MO – rentals)
- Dirty Girl Adventures (Kansas River, Topeka, KS – tours)
Kansas City can be a fantastic place for getting out in your yak and enjoying the water and scenery. Whether you’re in downtown KC or in the surrounding area, you should now be able to find some great places to paddle.
These are just a few of our favorite kayaking spots, so if your favorite one is not in our guide, leave us a comment to let us know. And don’t forget to share this with your fellow kayakers or Kansas City dwellers to let them know about the fun they can have nearby.
Just remember to stay safe out there.