Best Places To Kayak In Minnesota

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Kayaking in Minnesota is a great way to enjoy the great outdoors while also seeing some of the state’s natural wonders. The Land of 10,000 Lakes, as it is aptly named, has various magnificent rivers and waterways to explore, totaling thousands of miles. Minnesota is undoubtedly what you could call a kayaker’s dream come true. 

Minnesota is a must-visit location for kayaking as it is suitable for absolute beginners and whitewater masters alike. With countless exquisite lakes and rivers on offer, Minnesota promises a kayaking experience you won’t forget. Popular kayaking spots include the Root River and Mississippi River.

Could there be a more exciting name than The Land of 10,000 Lakes for a kayaking destination? Though the name already says it all, we will show you all that you need to know to ensure the best kayaking adventure for you and your family. Find out why Minnesota is the perfect kayaking destination for you.

Kayaking In Minnesota

Minnesota has numerous kayaking routes to choose from. In fact, as many as 35 exquisite waterways are available to be explored. The majority of Minnesota’s kayaking spots are all accessible within roughly a day’s drive of wherever you live in the state, and whether you have been kayaking for years or you’re still new to it, Minnesota has something for you.

If you do not live in Minnesota, it would be well worth taking the time to make a trip there if you are an avid kayaker. The Land of 10,000 Lakes offers everything from scenic flatwater paddling adventures all the way to adrenaline-pumping Class VI whitewater rapids. A kayaking adventure in Minnesota is not to be missed!

The Best Kayaking Spots In Minnesota

Let us get started in helping you plan your next paddling adventure by showing you some of the best kayaking spots in Minnesota:

Root River

The Root River State Water Trail, located in southeastern Minnesota, is an excellent kayaking spot for beginners with plenty of scenery to enjoy along the way. The trail is rather long and can take as long as a few days to complete, so it might be worthwhile to make the most of it and make it a weekend escape with some friends or family.

The Root River empties into the Mississippi River, and it is, therefore, a fantastic spot for fishing, with catch opportunities including smallmouth bass, catfish, and a variety of other species of fish. Many birds, including bald eagles and red-tailed hawks, can also be found here, making Root River a fantastic all-round adventure spot.

The Root River has a slow to moderate flow, which is ideal for novices or those looking for a quiet and enjoyable kayaking experience. Although the kayaking experiences vary depending on the season, the fantastic historic and hospitality landmarks along the way are the same all year. However, the best months to go kayaking at Root River are March and June, when the water levels are at their highest due to increased rainfall. 

The kayaking trails at Root River have numerous access points and as well as camping opportunities, making it perfect for multi-day adventures with the family. Should you need to rent a kayak, there are several places that will be able to assist you, with many of them located between the Lanesboro and Rushford areas.

Mississippi River

The world-renowned Mississippi River begins in northern Minnesota and is one of the world’s longest rivers. There are enough miles of kayaking available for an unforgettable time out on the water, with the option of one-day and multi-day guided tours available.

The Mississippi River offers a kayak rental program called Paddle Share, which is one of the best things about this exquisite spot. Basically, Paddle Share allows you to rent a kayak, and once you have paddled down the river, you are able to leave the kayak at your destination for someone else to use. This certainly is one of the best innovations in the kayak rental industry!

There are two specific spots worth mentioning when it comes to kayaking in the Mississippi River. The first starts near the University of Minnesota East River Flats Park and includes plenty of opportunities for wildlife sightings and stunning scenery to keep things interesting during your paddle. 

Here, you will have the chance to kayak through a lock and dam, which is a unique sight that very few kayakers get the opportunity to see. Hidden Falls Park is where this kayaking adventure comes to an end. The park is a tranquil nature reserve with waterfalls and picnic spots to enjoy a break at the end of the day.

To successfully travel this section of the Mississippi River, you will need a decent amount of kayaking experience. There are frequently large boats on the water that create quick currents and turbulent waters, which can be rather tricky for beginners, so if you’ve never kayaked before, opting for a guided tour would be an excellent option for your safety. 

Another great option begins at Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park and ends in North Mississippi Park. This kayaking trail provides a unique blend of nature and city life. This section of the Mississippi is best suited for moderate to skilled paddlers. The current here is strong, and you are likely to be sharing the river with a lot of other boats too.

St. Croix River

The St. Croix River offers a kayaking experience through the magnificent landscape, with trees and cliffs along the river, promising a calm and relaxing time suitable for kayakers of all skill levels. 

The St. Croix River is a designated Wild and Scenic River that runs along the Minnesota/Wisconsin state line and offers kayaking trails with numerous launches and landing spots, giving kayakers the opportunity to paddle for hours or even enjoy a multi-day outing.

You can take to the waters at the launch spot in the Minnesota Interstate State Park at Taylors Falls, where kayakers can enjoy a shorter paddle of roughly 7 miles. The water is tranquil and perfect for families with young children as well as inexperienced kayakers. At the State Park launch spot, you will also be able to hire kayaks, which is always great news for those without their own. 

Lake Superior

Well, its name says it all, really. Lake Superior is a popular kayaking spot due to its exquisite shorelines, stunning waters, and rich wildlife. However, despite its beauty, the lake is one of Minnesota’s most challenging kayaking trips, so you’ll need to make sure that your kayaking skills are, well, superior to successfully navigate these waters.

It’s not all bad news, though, as beginner kayakers can still participate in some Lake Superior kayaking activities. The harbor at Grand Marais is protected from the lake’s treacherous open waters, which means that it is a suitable place to determine your level of comfort. Make sure not to go too far, or you might end up in a situation beyond your expertise.

There are also numerous tour companies that may provide you with equipment or guides. If you are a beginner kayaker, make sure to go out with a guide the first time you go because the waters can quickly change from flat to turbulent.

On the other hand, Lake Superior promises an outstanding kayaking adventure for those who are more experienced kayakers. This is a kayaking location not to be missed! Additionally, when it comes to renting kayaking equipment at Lake Superior, there are more than enough options available to get you prepared for your outing. 

St. Louis River

As a final wildcard type of spot for this list, the St. Louis River State Water Trail is substantially more complex than some of the other spots mentioned so far. The waters at St. Louis River comprises almost 3,650 square miles, giving kayakers more than enough space for the adventure of a lifetime.

For the kayakers out there looking for some serious adrenaline-pumping action, the rapids at St. Louis River range from Class II up to Class VI, so you will undoubtedly need to be an accomplished kayaker with a lot of experience navigating whitewater rapids. 

The breadth of the St. Louis River varies greatly depending on which section you visit, ranging from 600 feet to merely 75 feet. As a result, be alert and keep a close watch for boats and other kayakers in the narrower portions, especially during the summer.

Because there are so many launch places along the St. Louis River, you should pick one based on your desired level of difficulty. There are several kayak outfitters in the area that will be able to assist you with where to start, provide you with kayaking equipment should you need it. 

Kayaking Clubs In Minnesota

Now that you have some of the best kayaking spots in Minnesota added to your bucket list, it will also be worthwhile to consider becoming a member of a kayaking club. Whether you are new to the world of kayaking or have years of experience, kayaking clubs are undoubtedly the best way to make the most of your paddling experience.

The land of 10,000 Lakes has many kayaking clubs to consider becoming a member of. We will help with your decision by listing some of the popular kayaking clubs in the state of Minnesota.

Minnesota Canoe Association

The Minnesota Canoe Association is a paddling club made up of several members of all ages. The club has a passion for paddling of all kinds, whether on a canoe or a kayak. Whether you are interested in racing, enjoying flatwater kayaking, or navigating some whitewater rapids, the Minnesota Canoe Club has it all for you.

Members will have the benefit of connecting with several other kayakers from around the state, as well as access to forums where you can buy or sell kayaking equipment. If you are competing in a kayaking event, members will even have access to insurance through the US Canoe Association.

The club also has several boat builders as members, which gives others the tremendous opportunity to receive discounts on boat building plans. Members get access to all these fantastic benefits for a minimal fee of $20 per year for individuals and $25 per year for families.

Rapids Riders Whitewater Canoe & Kayak Club


The Rapids Riders club is another exciting kayaking club in Minnesota. They are an organization with a particular passion for navigating whitewater rapids – as their name suggests – but also welcome kayakers of all levels of skill and experience. 

What makes Rapids Riders unique to most other kayaking clubs is that they do not have an annual fee but rather charge small amounts for each event and service that they offer. All of their excess revenue is donated to organizations aimed at the conservation of local lakes, rivers, and waterways. 

The club offers access to pool sessions for beginner training (or extra training during winter months) for $10 dollars per session, and specific kayak skills training suitable for all kayakers also at $10 per session. Each of their scheduled kayaking outings will cost the same to participate. 

The Rapids Riders could be an excellent option for those not looking to make a yearly commitment but rather benefit occasionally from the services offered by the club.  

Kayaking Laws In Minnesota

Now that you are ready to join a kayaking club and take to the waters at some of the best kayaking spots in Minnesota, take a moment to ensure that you are aware of all the necessary rules for kayaking in the state of Minnesota.

Remember that kayaking laws and regulations are put in place for the safety of you and your friends and families. Adhering to them is a great way to ensure that you have the best time out on the water.

Here are a few common questions regarding the laws and regulations around kayaking in Minnesota:

Do Kayaks Need To Be registered in Minnesota?

Minnesota only requires that you register your non-motorized kayak if it is longer than 10 feet. However, all motorized kayaks and other motorized water vessels will need to be registered. 

Do I Need A License To Kayak In Minnesota?

No. Once again, if you are operating a non-motorized kayak less than 10 feet in length, no licensing is required. Specific licenses will only be necessary for motorized water vessels. 

Can You Drink Alcohol While Kayaking In Minnesota?

All paddlers caught with a Blood Alcohol Level of 0,08% or more while operating a kayak will be charged with a DUI and face the necessary penalties involved. Overall, it is never a good idea to take to the waters while under the influence.

Do I Have To Wear A Life Jacket On A Kayak In Minnesota?

While you do not need to wear it at all times, a United States Coast Guard-approved life jacket must be on board for each person on the kayak. However, all children under ten years must wear their size-appropriate life jackets at all times.


By now, we are confident that you are bursting with excitement for your next kayaking adventure! And what better destination to go than the Land of 10,000 Lakes? You are sure to have the most incredible time on the seemingly countless waterways available! Grab everything you need and get ready for the kayaking adventure of a lifetime!