Kayaking In Vermont – Places We Love The Most

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Ah Vermont...

Known for its trees, whether it’s the stunning display of colors in fall, the seemingly endless green forests, or even the abundance of maple syrup. This can make the Green Mountain State a fantastic place for a paddling trip, with beautiful backdrops and a whole host of wildlife.

We've narrowed down some of our favorite spots to go kayaking in Vermont, so you can check them out when you’re next in the area.

Kayaking In Vermont - PinterestPin

5 Best Places To Kayak In Vermont

1: Lake Champlain

Lake Champlain KayakingPin
Courtesy: Justin Henry on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Anglers have probably heard of Lake Champlain, as it is often thought to be one of the best bass lakes in the USA. This large north-flowing lake offers plenty of kayaking opportunities, including the Lake Champlain Paddlers’ Trail and with the Champlain Canal, it even connects to the Atlantic Ocean via the Hudson River in New York and via the Richelieu River to the St. Lawrence River in Canada.

There are lots of access points for Lake Champlain, including public boat ramps and state parks. A good spot where you can access the lake and rent kayaks is at Kill Kare State Park. You can paddle from Kill Kare to Woods Island State Park, where there is remote camping that’s accessible only by boat.

2: Connecticut River

Connecticut River KayakingPin
Courtesy: Slabcity Gang on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The Connecticut River stretches 410 miles and flows through four New England states from New Hampshire to the Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. The Connecticut River Paddlers’ Trail can let you experience scenic multi-day trips with lots of access points and places to camp along the route.

A nice spot to launch if you’re looking for a relaxing day trip, some fishing, or just a few hours of paddling, is Wilgus State Park. The park has camping, parking, and hiking trails. You’ll also find kayak and canoe rentals and even WiFi at the contact station.

3: Emerald Lake

Emerald Lake is a relatively small lake, covering just 20 acres, but it is surrounded by woodland and forests providing shelter and scenery. This can be a great place for beginners learning to kayak, as there are no motorized vessels allowed, so it can feel a little safer while you’re getting to grips with your paddle. It can also be a good spot for families with kids.

The lake is located within Emerald Lake State Park, where you’ll find a campground, picnic areas, a beach, and kayak rentals. The lake is also home to yellow perch, northern pike, and smallmouth bass if you want to do a little fishing.

4: Lake St. Catherine

Lake St. Catherine is a 930-acre lake that can be a great place for kayaking and fishing. At the southern end of the lake, there’s a boat ramp that gives you access to the main lake as well as Little Lake.

It’s a scenic lake with lots of trees and wildlife, making it a good spot for a relaxing paddle. Lake St. Catherine State Park sits at the northern end of the lake and can be a good place to park. There are kayak rentals inside the park, as well as restrooms, beaches, a campground, and a snack bar.

5: West River

West River KayakingPin
Courtesy: Shannon McGee on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

If you’re looking for whitewater action, West River can be a great spot. The dam releases are scheduled, usually twice a year, in spring and fall, by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The rapids are generally between Class II and Class IV.

A great place to get in on the action is at Jamaica State Park, where you’ll find lots of vendors and other whitewater enthusiasts. There are also shuttles available to take you to the most popular run, so you can run the rapids over and over.  

The state park has a campground but during the scheduled dam releases availability is limited as reservations tend to be made several months in advance.

What Are The Vermont Kayak Laws?

US Coast GuardPin

When kayaking in Vermont, you will need to follow the rules and regulations stipulated by the state. Lake Champlain, however, is considered federal waters because of its border with Canada, so if you paddle on Lake Champlain you will need to follow federal regulations enforced by the US Coast Guard.

●    Life Jackets - you are required to have a wearable US Coast Guard approved PFD on board your kayak on all Vermont waters. The PFD must be a suitable size and in a good condition.
●    Children under 13 must wear a correctly sized US Coast Guard-approved PFD at all times while on the water.
●    Registration is not required for kayaks and canoes that do not have a motor attached. If you have a trolling motor installed on your kayak you will need to register your kayak.
●    Boating Under the Influence (BUI) can result in a fine, prison and loss of boating privileges. You will be deemed under the influence if your blood alcohol level is 0.08% or higher. If you’re under 21, the level is 0.02%.

Kayak Rentals And Tours Around Vermont

You’ll often find that many of the state parks that are located on the banks of lakes or rivers in Vermont will offer kayak and canoe rentals. Private outfitters may be more likely to offer guided tours.

●    Basin Harbor (Lake Champlain, rentals and tours)
●    Vermont Canoe Touring Center (Connecticut River, rentals)
●    Emerald Lake State Park (Emerald Lake, rentals)
●    Lake St. Catherine State Park (Lake St. Catherine, rentals)
●    Zoar Outdoors (West River, tours/lessons)

Final Words

Whether you’re looking for a peaceful day’s paddle, a multi-day expedition, or some whitewater adventures, there are lots of great spots to kayak in Vermont. Remember to check out the rules before you head out and always wear your PFD to help keep you safe.

Maybe you have a favorite place to kayak in Vermont? Tell us about it. And let us know what you think of our favorite places. Feel free to share this to help inspire others.

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