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Top Kayaking In Ohio: Full Guide

Mark Armstrong
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With an abundance of rivers and lakes, including one of the largest lakes in the USA, the Buckeye State offers plenty of opportunities for getting out there on the water. But where are the best paddling spots? Are there any family friendly places?

After asking ourselves the same questions, we decided to explore and we think we’ve found some of the best places for kayaking in Ohio. We’ve put together some helpful information so you can get out there and experience these destinations for yourself. You may also find our general kayak and canoe near me guide useful.

Guide To Kayaking In OhioPin

Where Are The Best Kayaking Destinations In Ohio?

1: Paint Creek Lake

Paint Creek Lake KayakingPin
Courtesy: Kyle Hartshorn on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Paint Creek Lake can be found around an hour south of Columbus and can be a fantastic spot if you’re looking for stunning scenery. It can also be an ideal spot for fishing and wildlife viewing.

Paint Creek State Park surrounds the lake and features several launch spots and a marina. You can also paddle along Paint Creek on the northern side of the lake and Rattlesnake Creek on the western side.

There is a launch ramp at Paint Creek State Park Campground and another just off Route 753, which can be ideal for paddling up Rattlesnake Creek.

While the lake itself can have motorized vessels, the creeks can be quieter if you’re looking for a more relaxing paddle.

2: Scioto River

Scioto River KayakingPin
Courtesy: S Pisharam on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The Scioto River can be an easy trip from Columbus, as this 231 mile long river flows right through the city before joining the Ohio River at Portsmouth. There are several put-in spots along the river, including at the Scioto Audubon Metro Park and Scioto Grove Metro Park.

This river can be a great spot to see the cityscape and the water is generally flat as the river flows through the city, making it ideal for all skill levels.

If you’re looking to spend a few days on the water, the Scioto River can make a good kayak camping trip. A good spot to launch can be just under the Greenlawn Avenue Bridge in Columbus and you can paddle to the Ohio River in around three to four days.

Video: Kayaking The Scioto River

3: Lake Vesuvius

Lake Vesuvius KayakingPin
Courtesy: Wayne National Forest on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Lake Vesuvius is a 143 acre lake inside Wayne National Forest, around a two hour drive south of Columbus.

With a ban on motorized vessels (electric trolling motors are allowed), this can be a good spot if you’re a beginner looking for calm flatwater to learn on or can be equally ideal if you’re simply looking for a relaxing place to paddle surrounded by beautiful scenery.

There are picnic areas, campgrounds and restrooms, as well as a boat ramp and a beach. During the summer season you can rent kayaks near the boat ramp on the eastern side of the lake. The lake is also well stocked for fishing, with largemouth bass and catfish among the target species.

4: Maumee River

Maumee River KayakingPin
Courtesy: Benny Mazur on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The Maumee River is a State Scenic River with a 107 mile Water Trail that flows from the Indiana border to Lake Erie at Toledo. There are as many as 39 access points for the river trail, making it ideal for both long and short trips.

If you want to paddle the entire length of the Maumee River Water Trail, a good starting point can be the launch point at Riverside Park in Antwerp. There are also campgrounds at two state parks along the route, as well as at Maumee Bay State Park on the shores of Lake Erie.

The section between Antwerp and Defiance is the designated Scenic section of the river.

5: Hocking River

The Hocking River is one of the most popular places to kayak in Ohio. Its calm waters and peaceful surroundings make it a good choice for the whole family. There are various launch areas along the river, as well as a number of camping sites to really make the most of your river journey.

There are also various spots where you can stop for picnics or a bit of exploration. You can also stop off for a hike up to the Rockbridge; a natural bridge carved through the erosion of the landscape.

Kayak rental is available at the Hocking Hills Canoe Livery, where they offer sit-on-tops for $15 per hour (August 2017). They even include a shuttle service to the launch site. They also have trips starting at $24 for a 5 mile trip. You paddle yourself at your own pace and can stop on the sandbars and banks whenever you like.

You can also combine your paddling with a camping trip and it’s even possible to book moonlight paddling trips; however these are usually only on certain dates in summer and would require booking well in advance.

> Kayaking Hocking Hills

6: Mohican River

The Mohican River provides a scenic setting and excellent paddling. The river is slow moving, making for a relaxing day out to enjoy the surrounding nature.

Mohican State Park offers campsites, launch sites and plenty of other outdoor activities, including fishing. There are also a few places to rent kayaks along the river.

One of the most popular places is for outdoor recreation is Mohican Adventures. They offer trips from $25 for a 7 mile journey (August 2017), including transportation to or from the different launch sites. You can camp onsite and they even have cabins available, so you can make the most of your time in the great outdoors.

7: Lake Erie

What could be better than kayaking on one of the Great Lakes! This vast expanse of water offers outdoor fun for all levels and ages. With rocky cliffs and little islands, there’s lots to explore when you’re out on Lake Erie.

You can rent a yak from Kayak The Bay for $25 for up to 2 hours and at a rate of $10 per hour beyond that, meaning you can really explore the bay area and the rocky islands.

Weather is important to consider when you’re heading out to Lake Erie. Because of its sheer size, it can become very choppy, much like the sea, and conditions can change very quickly.

Another good area for paddling on Lake Erie is from Kelleys Island, which offers plenty of outdoor recreation and wildlife. You would have to take the ferry to get there but the paddling opportunities are worth it. You can take your own kayak on the ferry or rent one for $19 per hour from Kelley’s Island Kayak Rental

8: Cowan Lake State Park

For a peaceful day out, Cowan Lake State Park is the place to visit. With its 700 acre lake, you can bring your own yak or rent one from the South Shore Marina, where prices start at $28 for an hour’s rental of a sit-on-top (August 2017) but you can rent for 6 hours for $61.

There are also lots of hiking trails and picnic areas for when you fancy a rest from paddling. Not only that, there’s a campsite and plenty of fishing. The lake is also known for its American Lotus water lilies that can be found in the lake’s inlets.

The lake also has a 10 horsepower limit on boats, so the lake stays relatively calm, with mostly sailing boats and paddlers using it. The park has a campsite so it can be a good place to spend a family weekend away.

US Coast GuardPin
  • There must be a wearable US Coast Guard approved PFD on board for each person on your kayak. The PFD must be a suitable size and readily accessible.
  • Children aged 9 and under must wear a correctly sized US Coast Guard approved PFD at all times while on board a kayak.
  • All kayaks must be registered to be used on Ohio waters.
  • Boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal. You will be considered under the influence if your blood alcohol level is 0.08% or higher. If you’re under 21, the limit is 0.02%
  • whistle or other sound producing device is required if kayaking on Lake Erie, the Ohio River and the Muskingum River.
  • Visual Distress Signals for night use are required if paddling on Lake Erie after sunset and before sunrise.
  • An all-around white light or flashlight is required if kayaking on any Ohio waters after sunset or before sunrise.

Ohio Kayak Rentals & Tours

10 thoughts on “Top Kayaking In Ohio: Full Guide”

  1. There are so many more that you have missed! Paint Creek in Chillicothe is awesome. Waters Edge Canoey Livery and there is one at Shawnee Valley camp ground as well. Scioto Brush creek and Ohio Brush Creek are great if you have your own boats and are up for an adventure. The Scioto River is absolutley breath taking, again you will need your own boats. These are just from Southern Ohio. I know there are more up north and near Columubs as well.

    • Hi Sarah,

      Thanks for commenting!

      You are so right. We just covered some of the very top destinations, that have rentals in particular.

      We might update our “Guide to” posts in the future 🙂

      • I am new to kayaking and would love to see a map of put in and take out locations for kayak trips with a skill level rating and a time range estimate. Parking at both spots for kayak owners. Self guided. Preferably Southern Ohio Ross County Pickaway County area for me. Are there local club for kayakers? Any help would be much appreciated to get additional info to help me get in the water. Tips etc. Thanks in advance‍♂️

  2. I too am new to kayaking and would love to see your upcoming App with places to put in and take out and levels of difficulty. thanks!!


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