America’s 7 Most Scenic Canoe and Kayak Runs

Is there a better way to experience nature than by gliding through the water? Slipping into a canoe or kayak can be a calm yet exhilarating escape into the wilderness. Not only that, but your arms will get a workout, too! The beauty of these water sports is in their versatility — you can opt for an easy, moderate, or challenging course depending on skill level — and on how much of an adrenaline junkie you are. There are beautiful destinations for enjoying these sports all throughout the United States — here are 7 of our favorites. Paddle safely!

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1. Juniper Run (Ocala National Forest, Florida)

Beauty isn’t hard to come by in the 607-square-mile Ocala National Forest, and Juniper Run is one of the prime spots to see it by boat. This section of the park was named among the Top 25 Canoeing Spots in America by Reserve America. Juniper Run has a lush canopy of old-growth forest, and the 7-mile journey takes canoers through the heart of the incredible Juniper Prairie Wilderness.

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2. Bois Brule (Brule River State Forest, Wisconsin)

Canoe or kayak to your heart’s desire along the 44-mile Bois Brule River, a part of Brule River State Forest. Located in northern Wisconsin, this winding river has sections that are well suited to a leisurely float downstream. Weather.com names Bois Brule as one of the top paddling destination in the U.S. Here, paddlers can enjoy the wildlife as they pass through various sections of the forestry, also noting the variations in landscape: parts of the river are bog-like; others, more stream-like. Visit the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources website to learn more about planning a trip suited to your interests.

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3. Tyger River Canoe Trail (Sumter National Forest, South Carolina)

Float leisurely down this wide, visitor-friendly, and scenic section of Tyger River for an up-close look at the diverse area wildlife. According to the National Forest Foundation, you’ll encounter bottomland forestry as well as marshier areas as you paddle. Try casting out a line as you bob down the river to see what kinds of fish you can hook, or simply sit back, relax, and enjoy the sights as you drift. Check out the Forest Service website for more details on visiting Tyger River Canoe Trail in Sumter National Forest.

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4. Prince William Sound (Chugach National Forest, Alaska)

Wilderness Inquiry calls Prince William Sound “paradise for sea kayaking.” Visitors will be awed by the shining azure waters, sheer fjord walls, rolling waterfalls, and mountain vistas this site has on offer. Additionally, you may catch glimpses of sea lions, eagles, porpoises, and other wildlife — as well as the occasional surface of a humpback whale. For more information on visiting and paddling upon Prince William Sound, read the Forest Service guide.

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5. Saint John River (Allagash Wilderness Waterway, Maine)

Explore the pristine blue waters and deep wilderness of Maine on a trip down the St. John River. According to the Great Outdoor Recreation Page, this destination is tops in terms of paddling in the northeastern United States. Weather.com also rates this scenic stretch of waterway among its top 10 paddling spots, calling it “the premier wilderness trip east of the Mississippi.” While there are indeed some areas further down the St. John River that require more dexterous, experienced paddlers, there are placid runs toward the river head that are suited for beginners. Take one of these leisurely paddles to admire the views and surrounding wildlife. Visit the website to learn more about the Allagash Wilderness Waterway and its various runs.

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6. Indian River Canoe Trail (Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan)

The Indian River stretches 51 miles long and was designated a Federal Wild and Scenic River in 1992, according to the Forest Service. The river’s excellent water quality makes it the ideal habitat for an array of fish and game species. The calmest time to visit the river is after mid-June, at which point visiting paddlers can canoe or kayak through the sweeping, diverse scenery, admiring everything from canyons to marshes. A continued float will lead visitors through the deeply inspiring Hiawatha National Forest.

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7. Clearwater Canoe Trail (Lolo National Forest, Montana)

The Clearwater Canoe Trail at Lolo National Forest is a meandering 3.5-mile waterway. It has a slight — but easily manageable — current, and can be canoed in full in about 2 hours, according to the Forest Service. Nearby, visitors can take advantage of the sprawling wilderness views on a 1.5-mile hiking trail. You’re even encouraged to bring a fishing rod along to see what you can catch!

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