Best Places To Kayak In Nebraska

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Nebraska has a staggering 79,056 miles of river to explore. It has one of the longest rivers on the planet that flows through and the largest aquifer in the USA. It is safe to say Nebraska has abundant water and top-quality kayaking spots.

Nebraska has excellent kayaking facilities for professional white water kayakers, intermediate, or beginners. The eight best places to kayak in Nebraska are;

  1. Standing Bear Lake
  2. Lake McConaughy
  3. Platte River
  4. Olive Creek Lake
  5. Missouri River
  6. Dismal River
  7. Carter Lake
  8. Niobrara River

When you think of Nebraska, you think about water, rivers, the Ogallala aquifer, and the endless opportunities to enjoy watersports.

The 8 Best Places To Go Kayaking In Nebraska

Although there are many exciting and wonderful places to kayak in Nebraska, we have provided a shortlist of our top kayaking spots!

Standing Bear Lake

Are you are a novice kayaker or an intermediate?, then look no further than Standing Bear Lake. This 4.8 km looped trail sees moderate traffic and is open all year round. What can you expect at Standing Bear Lake?

  • Located in Northwest Nebraska.
  • 2 access points to launch your kayak.
  • A looped, 4.8km trail with a 58m elevation gain.
  • A new floating bridge has been installed, so kayakers don’t have to break the loop by going on the road.
  • Wheelchair access.
  • Dog-friendly park as long as the dogs remain leashed.

Lake McConaughy

Big Mac or Lake McConaughy is 20 miles long and 4 miles wide with over 100 miles of shoreline. There are several kayaking facilities around the lake, such as Lake Mac Bivouac Rentals. Lake Mac is a safe haven for beginner or novice kayakers who find the calm lake reassuring while perfecting their skills. What can you expect around Big Mac?

  • Camping or cottage accommodation
  • Fishing, hunting, and hiking
  • Beach launches for kayaking
  • Kayak rentals at a low daily rate
  • Kayak fishing during Spring

Platte River

The Platte River is what makes Nebraska. This broad, shallow river bisects the entire state of Nebraska up to where it joins the Missouri River and is 310 miles long. There are many fantastic kayaking spots along the banks where you can launch your kayak.

There are excellent facilities such as the Platte River State Park and Platte River Rentals, where you can hire kayaks. What can you expect at the Platte River facilities?

  • Calm waters for beginner or novice kayakers
  • Several sandy beaching spots
  • Bird watching  – there are Bald eagles and pelicans along the river
  • Fishing from your kayak
  • Family-friendly environments

Olive Creek Lake

Just outside Kramer, a small town in South-Eastern Nebraska lies Olive Creek Lake’s small reservoir. This lake is the perfect place for beginner and intermediate kayakers to practice and enjoy kayaking or kayak fishing with calm waters. What can you expect at Olive Creek Lake?

  • Abundant kayak fishing opportunities
  • Ample kayak launching spots
  • 4 miles of shoreline
  • Picnic and camping areas for a longer stay
  • Bird and animal watching

Missouri River, NE

The Mighty Mo or Missouri River is a tumultuous river best tackled by experienced kayakers. You will navigate shifting sandbars, strong currents brought on by wind, and weather that changes at a moment’s notice. The Missouri River is 2,540 miles long and has several Kayak rental facilities. A great resource is What can you expect from the Missouri River parks?

  • Experienced guides that you can book
  • Rentals of hard-shell kayaks
  • All safety gear can be hired
  • Life jackets are mandatory
  • Ponca State Park exploration
  • Bicycle trips through designated areas

Dismal River

The name of the Dismal River is completely contrary to what it offers. Throughout its 80 mile length, the rapids change often and flow at 6 to 8 miles an hour. The Dismal River is not for beginners or intermediate kayakers looking for a peaceful Saturday afternoon session. This is more like saddling up a Bronco while being blindfolded.

The river has beautiful scenery and is surrounded by the Sandhills area. Although the river appears shallow, it can reach depths of 100 feet in certain areas. Great places to visit and rent kayaks from are The Dismal River Club, where you can also acquire membership. What can you expect from the Dismal River?

  • Fast flowing water
  • Rapids flowing up to 8 miles per hour
  • New and fresh obstructions due to the fast currents
  • Challenging navigation

Carter Lake

Although small, this oxbow lake is a popular fishing spot. Carter Lake Reservoir was connected to the Missouri River via a channel. This quiet lake offers exceptional kayak fishing and kayaking for beginners or novices. There is an 8-mile shoreline to explore and has two well-known launching areas from Carter Knolls Camping grounds and Levi Carter Park.

The small lake has plenty of activities for the family and is considered one of the best kayaking locations in Nebraska. What can you expect from Carter Lake?

  • Kayaking for beginners
  • Kayak fishing
  • Boating and skiing
  • Picnic facilities and camping grounds
  • Hiking

Niobrara River

The Niobrara River is located in Northern Nebraska. It is one of the kayaking hotspots in Nebraska, being only 76 miles long and is easily accessible. The slow-flowing Niobrara is surrounded by beautiful scenery, giving the kayaker the feeling that there is no hurry to head home.

There are a few areas where more experienced kayakers can get their fill of adrenaline on some fast-flowing rapids. Norden Chute has Class IV rapids that are the most dangerous and only for experts. There are wildlife reserves around the river and sandstone bluffs where you can take a break.

You can launch your kayak at several places in the town, and you can rent kayaks at Graham Canoe Outfitters or Niobrara Adventures. What can you expect from the Niobrara River?

  • Kayaking for beginners to experts
  • Kayak fishing
  • Camping and picnic facilities
  • Horse trails
  • Smith Falls State Park
  • Kayak and canoe rentals
  • Bird watching
  • Family-friendly


Kayaking in Nebraska offers anyone the best locations and facilities available. The best place for novice kayakers is the Platte River. In contrast, the best place for intermediate kayakers is the Dismal River, and the two best places for expert kayakers are the Missouri River and The Niobrara River.