Best Places To Kayak In Pennsylvania

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Kayaking is a terrific opportunity to experience Pennsylvania’s natural beauty while getting some exercise and relaxing on an unpowered boat. A kayak or canoe’s mobility lets you explore shallower waters and approach regions where motorboats can’t. So, what is kayaking like in Pennsylvania?

For kayaking in Pennsylvania, registration is required in certain areas, as is a permit if you own an engine-powered watercraft. Life jackets are required by law for everyone aboard a kayak, as is lights and sound devices for limited visibility. Alcohol while kayaking is strictly forbidden.

The water mirrors the sun, and the water is warm! It’s time for a day of kayaking or boating at your favorite local lake or river, but before you go, ensure that you’re covered when it comes to the legal kayaking regulations.

Kayaking In Pennsylvania

Although there are numerous breathtaking waters to paddle through in Pennsylvania, it’s vital to protect yourself legally.

Pennsylvania requires that you register your kayak if you plan to kayak in state parks or use a Fish & Boat Commission access point. In addition, you will need a boat lunch permit from the Natural Resources Bureau of State Parks.

Life jackets are an absolute necessity in Pennsylvania; a lifejacket must be accessible to all people in a kayak, and children under twelve must wear a life jacket at all times. All vessels operating in government waters must carry U.S. Coast Guard-certified night VDS equipment.

In Pennsylvania, kayaks without an engine must have a white light for safety measures, such as a flashlight or a lantern. Additionally, vessels above sixty-five feet in length must be equipped with sounding equipment. However, kayakers are exempt since their kayaks are typically between nine and twenty-five feet long.

If you’re new to river kayaking, the Clarion River is a great place to start. The river winds its way past lovely farmlands, verdant woods, and the odd town at a speed of barely four miles per hour. Easy stretches of the river with no rapids or barriers are accessible from launch locations in Clear Creek State Park and Cook Forest State Park.

Lake Arthur, Moraine State Park is one of the largest kayaking areas, boasting over 3,000 acres and two beaches for the ultimate lazy afternoon! After lazing about, you can go biking on one of the many trails.

Bush Recreation Area in New Alexandria is perfect for relaxing beside the water with a picnic. It has many excellent recreational areas that can offer in-between kayaking rests.

Southside Riverfront Parkoffers a beautiful boat launch and the option of exploring vast waters. The scenery at Southside Riverfront Park is remarkably breathtaking. The Lehigh River boasts both calm to mild rapids and is bound to offer countless hours of family fun.

Do You Need Permits To Kayak In Pennsylvania?

Unpowered boats include kayaks, canoes, rowboats, sailboats, rafts, and inflatable boats that do not have engines. However, unpowered boats do not need to be registered unless utilized at a Fish & Boat Commission access point or lake in Pennsylvania state parks and state forests or if the owner requires it.

A Use (Boat Launch) Permit from the Fish & Boat Commission or a Launch or Mooring Permit from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) are also options for unpowered boats (only).

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission established laws for kayaks and canoes that all boaters must follow. A personal floatation device (PFD) must be readily available to everyone in a kayak or canoe. Because accidents may happen without notice, children under twelve are obliged to wear their PFDs at all times.

Everyone who kayaks or canoes from November 1st to April 30th must wear a PFD due to variations in water level. Before dawn or after nightfall, each kayaker or canoer on the water must carry a hand-held light to notify other boaters and avoid accidents.

A whistle or any other sound-producing device is required on every non-powered boat. While paddling a kayak or canoe, alcohol is forbidden in all PA State Parks and PFBC property.

Do You Need Life Jackets (PFD’s) To Kayak In Pennsylvania?

A personal floatation device (PFD) must be readily available to everyone in a kayak or canoe. PFDs must be worn at all times, especially by children under the age of twelve.

A life jacket must not only be on your body, but it must also fit properly to function effectively. A correctly fitted life jacket is not only more comfortable (so you’ll wear it more often), but it also performs better. When you’re in the water, life jackets that are too tiny or huge might ride up or even come off.

It’s simple to see if a traditional life jacket fits properly by putting it on. All zippers, straps, ties, and snaps on the jacket should be securely fastened. Raise your arms like you’re signaling a touchdown in a football game with a partner behind you. Lift the jacket by the shoulders with the help of your partner.

Even when the wind and waves are quiet, people fall overboard. The shock of falling into freezing water can be fatal. Wearing a life jacket might be your only way of surviving. The best way to keep alive is to wear a life jacket and stay with the boat. If a boat capsizes, the golden rule is for everyone to stay on board.

When a person is thrown into the cold water below seventy degrees Fahrenheit, the body’s first reaction is generally an automatic gasp. Without a life jacket, a victim may breathe while submerged and drown, never to be seen again.

Even if a person makes it to the surface, his swimming ability is frequently limited due to a lack of oxygen or hyperventilation.

Do You Need Lights On Your Kayak In Pennsylvania?

Manually powered water vehicles in Pennsylvania are not required to have sound or light-activated signaling. All vessels operating in federally restricted waters must carry U.S. Coast Guard-approved night VDS equipment.

In Pennsylvania, kayaks without an engine must carry a white light for safety, such as a flashlight or a lantern.

Furthermore, in Pennsylvania, vessels over sixty-five feet in length must be equipped with sounding equipment. Kayakers are exempt from this requirement since their kayaks are typically between nine and twenty-five feet long.

Pennsylvania Kayaking: Registration Requirements

The first step to registering your kayak is to fill out a PA Boat Registration/Title Application (REV-336) form. Send the Commission your completed application, together with any necessary supporting papers and payment.

The Commission will provide registration and title and validation decals after the application has been processed. Make sure you don’t mix up registrations and titles.

The second year’s registrations expire on March 31st. By registering your boat, you have access to all other states as well as Canada. A boat must be registered in the state where it is intended to be used. Registration is not a reliable proof of ownership.

The title to a boat is comparable to the title to a car. A boat title legally proves ownership, but registration does not. Lenders frequently want titles to demonstrate that the seller has clear ownership of the yacht. A title may only be purchased once. The Fish & Boat Commission is the sole agency that issues boat titles.

Is Alcohol Permitted When Kayaking in Pennsylvania?

Operating a watercraft (including canoes, kayaks, and personal watercraft such as jet skis) while under the influence of a controlled substance or while inebriated is banned on all waters of the Commonwealth. Boating while consuming alcohol is a dangerous combination for you, your passengers, and other boaters.

Every year, around six hundred and fifty individuals are killed in watercraft accidents. Alcohol consumption is the top known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents, accounting for seventeen percent of deaths when the primary cause was known.

Alcohol has a very immediate effect on a boater. Alcohol affects a person’s balance, response time, eyesight, and judgment long before becoming legally inebriated.

On the sea, factors such as velocity, engine noise, vibration, sun, and wind can amplify the effects of alcohol when boating. When boating while inebriated, it has the same disastrous consequences as drinking and driving.

Furthermore, a person’s sense of balance can be harmed by alcohol. It can cause a boater to tumble overboard when paired with the motion of the boat. Alcohol can also cause a person to get disoriented to the point of being unable to swim to the surface.

Alcohol can impair one’s ability to make sound judgments. A boater who has consumed alcohol may take risks that they would not ordinarily take. It’s hazardous if the intoxicated person has young children with them since they’ll be at a considerably higher risk of severe harm or death.

What Are Good Kayaking Spots In Pennsylvania?

If you’re new to river kayaking, the Clarion River is a great place to start. The river winds its way past lovely farmlands, verdant woods, and the odd town at a speed of barely four miles per hour. Easy stretches of the river with no rapids or barriers are accessible from launch locations in Clear Creek State Park and Cook Forest State Park.

Lake Wilhelm, located in Maurice K. Goddard State Park, provides an exquisite setting for a day on the lake. Put a kayak or canoe on the 1,680-acre lake, which provides breathtaking views of the state park. Go hiking, bicycling, fishing, or picnicking after a day on the water.

Discover the breathtaking grandeur of Lake Arthur, Moraine State Park’s 3,225-acre masterpiece, where you may spend the day relaxing on one of two beaches or paddling around the lake in a kayak or canoe. Hiking and bike paths, windsurfing, fishing, and camping are all available in Moraine State Park.

Travel to Bush Recreation Area in New Alexandria to spend a relaxing day on the waters of Loyalhanna Lake. Picnic and camping areas are also available in the recreation area, making it an excellent place for a quick break.

Slip into the water at Southside Riverfront Park’s boat launch and spend the afternoon exploring the Monongahela River. Take a stroll down the river to Station Square, where you can take in views of Mount Washington as well as the Pittsburgh skyline.

The Lehigh River flows through valleys with Class I, II, and III rapids between the Poconos and the Appalachian Mountains.

These calm to mild rapids are ideal for a family float excursion or putting your paddling abilities to the test on intermediate waters. If you’re looking for something more thrilling, visit the rapids on dam release days, when the currents and water levels are higher.

Safety Tips When Kayaking in Pennsylvania

A low-head dam is the most severe hazard on a river. These dams, which may be found on rivers and streams across Pennsylvania, are actual “drowning machines.”

A back stream or undertow created by water flowing over a dam can drag a boat into the turbulence and capsize it. A person or a watercraft can be trapped and held by this hydraulic. Many dams are not well marked and are difficult to notice from upstream.

Many low-head dams in the Commonwealth are required by state law to be designated with signs and, where possible, buoys upstream and downstream of these dangerous structures. The signs explain the dam’s limits on boating, swimming, and wading, as well as the dangers it poses.

Everyone should do a headcount, check for injuries, and stay with the boat if a small, open boat capsizes. The majority of tiny boats have enough buoyancy to avoid sinking; turn the vessel upright so that the water can be emptied. After that, it may be paddled to the beach. A flooded boat can also be paddled to the beach.

If the boat capsizes or becomes swamped, stick with it and make sure everyone is wearing a life jacket. Maintain your composure. If the boat can be righted, dump out as much water as possible, climb aboard, and paddle to land.

To avoid probable head damage and foot entrapment, go into the self-rescue posture with your feet directed downstream and near the surface if your boat capsizes or you fall overboard in rushing water like a river.

In addition, keep an eye on the crew and double-check that everyone is on board. Wear deck-gripping shoes and stay away from choppy water and inclement weather whenever feasible.

Where Can You Rent A Kayak Pennsylvania?

Presque Isle Canoe and Boat Livery is an excellent alternative for anyone looking for a quick, hassle-free launch into Presque Isle State Park’s water, offering life vests, boats, and paddles, as well as maps, beginner suggestions, and access to all of the park’s rivers. In the park, the livery is the sole boat and paddlesport outfitter.

Susquehanna Kayak & Canoe Rentals has everything you’ll need for a fantastic day on the water! They also provide comprehensive rentals of kayaks, canoes, and other necessary equipment for your expedition.

Some exciting activities are a five-mile full moon kayak cruise with stops at the Bartoli Winery for samples and refreshments and Tunkhannock Riverside Park for paddling, entertainment, food, and environmental education.


Kayaking in Pennsylvania is a great way to escape from the stresses of life and simply relax. Research the states kayaking laws is crucial to ensure that you have a stress-free experience during your trip. Life jackets are required by law, and any alcoholic beverages are strictly prohibited. However, don’t let that stop you from exploring the vast, natural beauty of Pennsylvania.