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Kayaking In New Orleans – Paddling THE BIG EASY style

Mark Armstrong
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With lakes, rivers, and swamps to be found in every direction, the Big Easy can be the ideal spot for a paddling adventure. There are lots of opportunities for wildlife viewing, with resident and migratory birds to be seen as well as alligators and various mammals.

If you’re ready to go kayaking in New Orleans we’ve lined up a few of our favorite spots that you might want to check out.

Kayaking In New Orleans - PinterestPin

5 Best Places To Kayak In New Orleans

1: Bayou St. John

Bayou St. John KayakingPin
Courtesy: Infrogmation of New Orleans on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

This can be a great place for a peaceful paddle through residential areas and along the edge of City Park. The waters tend to be calm and it can be an easy paddle for beginners and families.

This designated “historic and scenic waterway” can be a relaxing way to spend a couple of hours, with places to stop along the way and culturally and historically important landmarks to look out for.

2: Honey Island Swamp

If you’re looking for a trip through some of Louisiana’s wilderness, Honey Island Swamp can be an exciting day out. Located within the Pearl River Wildlife Management Area, around forty minutes’ drive north of downtown New Orleans, this can be a great place to spot alligators, birds, and other wildlife (possibly even the fabled Honey Island Swamp Monster).

There are several boat ramps where you can access the swamp and kayak companies offering guided tours.

3: Bayou Sauvage

You don’t have to travel far to reach Bayou Sauvage. This National Wildlife Refuge can be found in the east of the city of New Orleans and is an area of marshland swamps, bayous, lagoons, and canals that sit between Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Borgne.

This area is filled with wildlife, including alligators, and can be a great place to experience nature while being so close to city life. There are a few spots to launch, including just before the Highway 11 bridge.

4: Fort Proctor

Fort Proctor is a 19th-century fort that was built (but never fully completed) as part of the defense system to protect New Orleans during the Civil War but was never used. It’s now a ruin that’s surrounded by the water of Lake Borgne and only accessible by boat.

You can launch from Campo’s Marina at Shell Beach, near the Katrina Memorial. To get to Fort Proctor you first have to cross the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet Canal and head up Bayou Yscloskey. You can access the fort if you want to explore but remember, it is a ruin so it can be dangerous.

5: Manchac Swamp

Manchac Swamp lies to the northwest of New Orleans between Lake Maurepas and Lake Pontchartrain and can be a good spot for wildlife viewing and a sense of isolation paddling through scenic cypress swamps and alligator habitat.

This can also be a popular place for moonlight paddling trips. You can launch at a couple of spots on the Old U.S. Highway 51. One is around 5 miles north of Laplace and the other is up by the North Pass.

There are several outfitters in New Orleans where you can arrange guided tours through the swamp.

What Are The Kayak Laws?

When kayaking around New Orleans you will need to follow the kayak laws for Louisiana.

  • Life Jackets – There must be a wearable, suitably-sized US Coast Guard-approved PFD on board for each person in your kayak
  • All children under 17 years – must wear a US Coast Guard-approved PFD at all times while kayaking
  • Boating Under the Influence (BUI) is illegal. You will be considered intoxicated if your blood alcohol level is 0.08% or 0.02% if you’re under 21
  • Registration is not required for kayaks unless you have a motor attached. Kayaks with trolling motors will need to be titled and registered
  • Lights are required when paddling between sunrise and sunset. An all-around white light is sufficient for a kayak.

Kayak Rentals And Tours Around New Orleans

If you don’t have your own kayak there are lots of places where you can rent or take a guided tour.

Final Words

New Orleans can be an exciting place for a paddling trip, whether you’re looking for a relaxing journey through the city or a wild adventure through swamps and rugged ancient forests.

Remember to bring water, sunscreen, and bug spray if you’re heading into the wilderness and, as with any kayaking trip, make sure you let someone know where you’re headed.

Maybe you have a better spot for kayaking in New Orleans? Tell us about it.

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