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Kayaking In Louisiana – Where to Launch your Kayak Around the Pelican State

Mark Armstrong
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Kayaking in Louisiana can let you experience, up close, some of the most diverse habitats in the US. From incredible swamps and cypress forests to bayous and miles of Gulf coastline, there are opportunities for paddling through lots of wild and natural areas.

As well as the many miles of paddling trails, there’s also the chance to spot a variety of wildlife, including gators and hundreds of species of birds. To help you get started, we’ve listed some of our favorite paddling spots in the Pelican State.

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7 Best Places To Kayak In Louisiana

1: Whiskey (Ouiska) Chitto Creek

Whiskey Chitto Creek, also known as Ouiska Chitto, is a scenic river that runs through central Louisiana. It can be a relaxing place to paddle, with slow-moving water (that can be paddled in both directions) and lots of white sandy beaches to stop for picnics.

There are several canoe outfitters offering rentals and guided tours, with a few along Highway 26 in Mittie. You can board your kayak at the access point by the Highway 26 bridge. It’s around an eight-mile paddle to the take-out at Carpenters Bridge. But you can continue along the trail to the Highway 190 launch ramp, a further 13 miles downstream.

There are also plenty of places alongside the river where you can camp on beaches to spend a night under the stars.

Class of Rapids rating:

Class I (easy)

Where to launch & how to get there:

LA-26, Mittie, LA 70654. The launch is at the bridge over the creek.

2: Lake Fausse Pointe

Just southwest of Lafayette is Lake Fausse Pointe, part of the Atchafalaya Basin (the biggest swamp in the United States). This can be a fantastic place to experience some of Louisiana’s wilderness and paddle through the flooded cypress forests.

Lake Fausse Pointe State Park can be a great place to launch, with an easy-to-access boat ramp and parking. Kayaks and canoes can be rented at the park, with hourly and daily rates.

There is a seven-mile canoe trail and there are several primitive campsites throughout the park that are designed for boat-in access. The park also has waterside cabins, if you’d prefer a few more home comforts on your trip.

Class of Rapids rating:

Class I/Flatwater (easy)

Where to launch & how to get there:

5400 Levee Road, St Martinville, LA 70582. Take the first right after the park entrance and the boat ramp is at the end of the road.

3: Lake Pontchartrain

New Orleans sits on the southern shores of Lake Pontchartrain, so it can be easily accessible from the city. Covering around 630 square miles, Lake Pontchartrain is technically not a lake but rather an estuary.

There are many rivers and bayous that feed into the lake, which can be excellent places to explore with a paddle. One spot to launch is at the boat ramp in Mandeville, on the north shores. You can paddle along the shores of Fontainebleau State Park, with its beautiful sandy beaches and lakefront cabins.

You can also paddle into Cane Bayou for alligator viewing with your kayak. This scenic bayou is located within Fontainebleau State Park. There’s also a canoe launch at Cane Bayou where you can arrange to rent kayaks or take a guided tour.

Class of Rapids rating:

Class I/Flatwater (easy)

Where to launch & how to get there:

Mandeville Boat Launch, 198-100 Jackson Avenue, Mandeville, LA 70448.

4: Bayou Bartholomew

Bayou Bartholomew is believed to be North America’s longest bayou and is a designated Scenic and Natural Waterway that begins in Arkansas. This can be a great spot for multi-day trips or a few hours. If you camp on the banks, you might want to make sure you’re above the water line, as the water can rise quite easily.

Kayak rentals are available at Chemin-A-Haut State Park, which can be a good place to launch and camp overnight. You can also fish in the bayou.

The bayou is home to lots of wildlife and natural scenery, including huge cypress trees. One of the large trees is called “the Castle” and you can even paddle into it.

Class of Rapids rating:

Class I/II (easy)

Where to launch & how to get there:

State Park Road, Bastrop, LA 71220. The boat ramp is at the end of the state park road, where there is also a paved parking area.

5: Bogue Chitto River

The Bogue Chitto River is part of Louisiana’s Natural and Scenic River System. With its slow-moving water, it can be ideal for family canoe trips but it can also be a popular spot for tubing, with various outfitters along the river.

Bogue Chitto State Park has canoe and kayak rentals on-site and a day-use area with river access.

The river has many sandy beaches and is surrounded by forests and wildlife. It can also offer good opportunities for kayak fishing, with spotted bass being one of the target species.

There are several access points for setting off with your kayak, in addition to the state park. These include the Highway 16 bridge in Franklin, north of the state park, and the Highway 437 bridge south of the park. 

Class of Rapids rating:

Class I/II (easy)

Where to launch & how to get there:

State Park Boulevard, Franklinton, LA 70438.

6: Cajun Coast

The Cajun Coast can be one of the best places in Louisiana for bird watching, with hundreds of species to be found. With miles of coastline on the Gulf of Mexico, as well as swamps and bayous, this can be a diverse paddling spot, with several paddling trails and great fishing.

A good place to launch is at Cypremort Point State Park, which gives you direct access to Shark Bayou and Vermilion Bay. Kayak rentals are also available in the park.

If you’re an experienced paddler with sea kayaking experience, you can paddle across Cote Blanche Bay on the paddling trail to the take-out or alternative launch at Burns Point Park. However, this is around a 25 to 36 mile trip depending on whether you cross the bay or follow the shoreline.

Less experienced paddlers can paddle on the calmer waters of the bayous.

Class of Rapids rating:

Class I/II (easy to moderate)

Where to launch & how to get there:

Beach Lane, Franklin, LA 70538.

7: Tensas River

The Tensas River can be a good place to paddle if you’re looking for nature and wilderness, as it flows through the Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge. There are plenty of trails that can be paddled, depending on the length of time you want to spend on the water.

The river can be a good place to spot alligators. One of the main paddling trails begins from the launch at Fool River and ends at the Ben Lilly Bridge – a 15-mile trip.

However, there are several other routes you can take for shorter trips, including from Tendal Landing to the Visitor’s Center, roughly seven miles through scenic cypress trees.

While there are no kayak rentals on site, there are kayak rentals available in Monroe, where you may be able to transport them to the Tensas River yourself.

Class of Rapids rating:

Class I/II (easy to moderate) – level of difficulty can depend on the level of water.

Where to launch & how to get there:

Fool River Boat Ramp, LA 71282. The launch can be found north of Big Lake Road, west of Westwood.

What Are The Louisiana Kayak Laws?

US Coast GuardPin

These are just some of the regulations. However, this is not legal advice and it’s recommended that you research the specific location where you plan to paddle.

  • PFD is required for each person paddling or a passenger on a kayak or canoe.
  • Children under 17 must wear a US Coast Guard-approved PFD at all times while on the water.
  • Registration is not required for non-motorized vessels, except when a trolling motor is added.
  • Boating Under the Influence (BUI) is illegal in Louisiana. The blood alcohol limit is 0.08%. If you’re under 21, the limit is 0.02%.
  • white light is required for paddling between sunset and sunrise.
  • Visual Distress Signals (VDS) for night use are required for paddlers on federal/coastal waters between sunset and sunrise.

Kayak Rentals And Tours Around Louisiana

Final Words

Louisiana can be a fantastic place to paddle, with many different types of waterways and paddling trails to explore.

Remember, the weather can be hot during the summer, so it can be wise to pack plenty of water and sunscreen.

And you may need your bug spray no matter when you go.

Check out some of these spots and tell us about your trip. Share this to help others discover new paddling trails. 

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