Best Places To Kayak In Ohio

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Many beautiful waterways abound in Ohio, providing an incredible getaway from the summer heat. While swimming is always fun,  floating on top of the water may be just as delightful. There are, however, specific regulations that need to be adhered to before we can go kayaking in Ohio.  

Kayaking in Ohio requires a kayak to be registered, although kayaks without a trolling motor do not require licensure. Vessels sixteen feet or longer must have at least one Type IV buoy, and types I, II, or III wearable personal flotation device (PFD) is needed for boats smaller than sixteen feet.

Ohio is home to over three thousand named rivers and streams and sixty thousand lakes and reservoirs!  Ohio provides kayakers with plenty of opportunities to enjoy the sport in a variety of locations. Still, there are some necessary legal requirements to adhere to before you can start paddling.

Kayaking In Ohio

There’s no better route to your happy place than by canoe or kayak, right? Fortunately, Ohio is surrounded by beautiful lakes, streams, and rivers where you may spend a relaxing day.

However, there are a few essential things that you need to remember before going kayaking in Ohio.

It is required that a kayak be registered, although they do not require any form of licensure if an attached motor does not accompany them. Furthermore, the registration number and tag must be carried with you at all times so that they can be shown to a law enforcement officer when requested.

Life jackets are only required by children under ten, although the Ohio Department of Natural Resources urges everyone to wear one. Furthermore,

All vessels sixteen feet in length or more must have at least one Type IV buoy approved by the U.S. Coast Guard and a wearable PFD for each person on board. Failing to comply with these guidelines may have serious legal consequences.

Once you have all your requirements ticked off your list, it’s time to do some kayaking! There are many different routes available, each suited to each kayaker’s skill level.

The Vermilion and Black rivers in Lorain County are part of the 27-mile water path connected by Lake Erie. They are a great choice for those who are starting kayaking for the first time.

The Rocky River Reservation is a more casual and leisure kayaking experience for those who want to take their time and savor the journey. Mill Stream Run Reservation is over seventeen-point-five acres in volume, and it can be explored with different watercraft, like kayaks and paddleboats.

Do You Need Permits To Kayak In Ohio?

In Ohio, using a kayak or canoe does not require a license. Operator licensure and instruction are not required for kayaks and canoes that do not have an attached motor. No title is required for canoes or kayaks of any length, but they must be registered with a boat registration agent and display their given O.H. number and tags.

On the other hand, Motorized watercraft must be registered and show an O.H. number and appropriate tags. The trolling motor must be titled if it has more than ten horsepower. Registrations are suitable for three years and expire on March 1st of the following year.

You are exempt from registering your craft if it is registered in another state and you are visiting for less than 60 days. If you plan on competing in a sanctioned kayaking competition or are visiting from outside the United States, you do not need to register.

Furthermore, Paddleboards, sailboards, kiteboards, belly boats, and float tubes are exempt from the registration requirements.

How Do You Register Your Kayak In Ohio?

You may register your kayak at several places around Ohio. It can be done at an Ohio Department of Natural Resources office or a DNR-approved boat registration agent. Great Lakes Boat Works in Painesville, OH, and Sea Ray of Cincinnati in Cincinnati, OH, are two agencies.

Your registration will expire on March 1st after three years. Using your O.H. boat number and PIN, you may renew your registration online. On your renewal notification, you’ll see these details.

The Ohio Division of Parks and Watercraft states that every watercraft used primarily on Ohio waters be registered and awarded an Ohio Registration Certificate.

You’re also going to need a few things before registering, namely a completed application for registration, registration costs must be paid, evidence of ownership, a driver’s license or other kinds of official photographic identification, and an Identification Number for the Hull.

Do You Need Lights On Your Kayak In Ohio?

Powered Vessels such as kayaks and canoes with trolling motors with a length of fewer than thirty-nine-point-four feet must have a white masthead light and stern light visible for two miles. For a mile, the red and green sidelights must be visible.

Do You Need Life Jackets To Kayak In Ohio?

Every kayaker must have a personal flotation device (PFD). While the Ohio Department of Natural Resources only mandates children under the age of ten to wear a PFD, they highly suggest that everyone wear a life jacket.

Its website says that drowning accounts for eighty to ninety percent of all boating deaths and that most of these might have been avoided if the victims had worn PFDs. Kayakers can meet the state requirement by wearing Type I, II, III, or V life jackets.

On all vessels sixteen feet in length or more, Ohio boaters must have at least one Type IV PFD ring buoy certified by the U.S. Coast Guard, as well as a wearable PFD for each person on board. Any boat owner who fails to comply with this law will be towed.

A Type I, II, or III wearable personal flotation device (PFD) is needed for any boats smaller than sixteen feet in length, as well as canoes and kayaks of any length. Children under the age of sixteen are not permitted to wear inflatable PFDs.

Onboard a boat smaller than eighteen feet in length, all kayakers and passengers under the age of ten must wear a PFD authorized by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Is Alcohol Permitted When Kayaking in Ohio?

In Ohio, you may acquire a BUI (Boating Under The Influence) while kayaking if you are found to be operating a kayak while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal in Ohio. With 0.08 percent alcohol in your blood in Ohio, you can get an OUI (Operating Under the Influence); they are equivalent to DUIs.

If you operate a vessel, you have agreed to submit to chemical testing to ascertain your drug or alcohol level if you are detained.

A first offense for operating under the influence is a minimum of three days in jail and a penalty of one hundred and fifty dollars, with a maximum of six months in prison and a one thousand dollar fine.

A second offense will incur a minimum of ten days in jail and a one hundred and fifty dollars fine, with a maximum of six months in prison and a fine of one hundred and fifty dollars.

The third alcoholic offense carries thirty days in jail and a fine of one hundred and fifty dollars, with a maximum of a year in prison and a one thousand dollar fine.

Safety Requirements When Kayaking in Ohio

On rivers and other inland bodies of water, kayakers are not required to carry distress signals. However, while paddling on Lake Eerie at night, the Ohio DNR mandates that a U.S. Coast Guard-approved night distress signal be brought onboard. Flares or an electric signaling device as basic as a blinking flashlight can be used to meet this criterion.

Only if kayaking on Lake Eerie, the Muskigim River, or the Ohio River does a device for audibly signaling to other watercraft becomes necessary. A police or lifeguard whistle is an excellent example of anything that meets this condition. They may also be packed in your kayak with your personal belongings.

What Are Good Kayaking Spots For Beginners?

The Vermilion and Black rivers in Lorain County are part of the 27-mile water path connected by Lake Erie. According to the ODNR, this water route is suitable for beginners and novices.

The Rocky River Reservation, which is part of the Cleveland Metroparks, runs through the southwestern suburbs of Cleveland and finishes near the river’s mouth into Lake Erie. The waters of the Rocky River are a favorite destination for recreational kayakers.

Quarry Rock Cafe, Wallace Lake Drive, Berea at Mill Stream Run Reservation is a lovely park along Valley Parkway. Over seventeen-point-five acres of discovery await you on the lake, which you may explore by kayak, paddleboat, or standup paddleboard. When you go, look into renting possibilities since there are single and multiple seat options.

Hinckley Lake at The Hinckley Reservation in Medina County, part of the Cleveland Metroparks system, has this ninety-acre lake. The reservation is popular for hiking and seeing the yearly Return of the Birds, but the lake is also famous for fishing and kayaking.

There are also scheduled boating activities on the lake, such as voyageur canoe paddles three times a day and youth and family kayaking sporting events.

Can You Go Kayaking Year-Round In Ohio?

In Ohio, the paddling season usually lasts from April until October. The fickle character of both spring and fall weather in the state determines the first and last months.

During these months, average temperatures vary from forty-eight to seventy-two degrees Fahrenheit. The summer months of June through August are the busiest tourist months.

Regardless of the season, sunglasses, sunscreen, and a hat are essential gear to bring when kayaking in Ohio. They guarantee that you stay safe and healthy while boating, allowing you to enjoy your time on the water.

Consider wearing athletic-style shorts and a t-shirt (in other words, synthetics). Cotton should be avoided, especially in colder weather, since it does not dry rapidly and increases the risk of hypothermia).

Wear some tennis shoes that you don’t mind getting wet, or water shoes or sandals with buckles if it’s sweltering. Consider wearing thermal underlayers, an insulated cap, and maybe a drysuit or wetsuit in chilly conditions.

What Is The Minimum Age For Ohio Kayaking?

To operate any vessel on Ohio’s waterways without direct supervision by someone 18 years or older, operators must be at least twelve years old. It is illegal for anybody under 16 to operate a personal watercraft unless a qualified adult accompanies them.

Operators of any powered craft with a horsepower rating of ten or more must be at least twelve years old and must be supervised by a qualified person at all times.

Where Can You Rent A Kayak In Ohio?

LoCo Yak Shak is one spot where you may hire a kayak for your Lorain County paddling. The rental firm has a physical location in Lorain at the Bascule Bridge, which provides mobile rentals.

Their website describes them as “a food truck concept, but with kayaking instead.” They meet kayakers at three different sites each week to encourage them to attempt new routes.

The Hinckley Lake Boathouse is the center of the park’s paddle sports, renting out kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, pontoons, and various powered boats in addition to rowboats and small boats. You can also bring your boat because the boathouse includes a public launch pad.

Sit-on-top ocean kayak rentals and private kayaking instruction are available at Fairport Harbor Lakefront Park in Lake County for paddlers of all levels of expertise. The park also hosts public activities, such as a Friday night sunset paddle; however, a previous registration is ordinarily necessary.

From May to October, kayakers may hire kayaks at Sippo Lake and Walborn Reservoir. Kayaking activities are organized by the parks system, such as a six-mile trip down the Tuscarawas River, although kayaks have limited availability.

The Upper Cuyahoga River runs past Camp Hi Canoe & Kayak Livery in Portage County. The family-owned business provides boat rentals as well as guided outings of varying lengths and levels of difficulty. The livery’s location is also a plus; according to its website, it’s only 45 minutes from Cleveland, Akron, or Youngstown.

Paint Creek flows through three counties, Fayette, Ross, and Highland, before ending at Chillicothe, the capital of Ross County. Every day, three planned trips on Paint Creek are offered by Waters Edge Canoe Livery in Chillicothe. The journeys last anything from two to eight hours. The trips must be scheduled ahead of time.


Remember to register your watercraft; licensure is not required if it doesn’t have a motor, and always wear your life jacket!