Wild Linda

Colorful kayaks lined up

Best 20 Ohio State Parks for Kayaking

Ohio has so many great state parks, and many of them have lakes or rivers that are great for exploring!  This list of the best 20 Ohio State Parks for kayaking has everything you and your family are looking for.  There’s even a haunted state park on the list!

Paint Creek State Park

Paint Creek State Park in Southwestern Ohio has a large lake that’s great for kayaking.  It has 1,148 acres for kayakers to paddle around.  It’s best to go kayaking early in the morning because by mid-day motorboats pack the lake.  The lake has designated no-wake zones.  One of these no-wake zones is near Paint Creek, where you’ll find the most scenic areas.  

The area is beautiful because the shoreline has limestone cliffs and walls.  Birdwatching is also popular here.  Bald Eagles, Osprey, Scarlet Tanagers, Owls, Kingfishers, and more having been spotted in the area.

Mohican State Park

Three kayaks on a riverbank

Mohican State Park is a beautiful, wooded State Park with a couple of options for paddlers.  The designated Scenic Mohican River runs through the park along with Pleasant Hill Lake.    The Mohican River is great for kayaking.  The water is usually pretty calm and lets the paddler enjoy the scenery along the way.  The shorelines are lush, and the Clear Fork section of the Mohican River will take you through a beautiful gorge.  

There are several options for kayak rentals close to the State Park.  Mohican Adventures has a 7-mile trip down the river with either kayaks, canoes, or rafts.  River Run Canoe Livery is another option for a 7.5-mile trip down the river.  Because of all the canoe liveries along the Mohican River this area is the Canoe Capital of Ohio.

Pleasant Hill Lake is another option for kayakers visiting Mohican State Park.  This is an unlimited horsepower lake with designated no-wake zones.  The nearby Pleasant Hill Lake Park offers a 5-mile self-guided water trail around the lake that showcases the history of the lake.  There is a marina with kayak rentals if needed.

Cowan Lake State Park

Cowan Lake State Park is located in Southwestern Ohio and has 1775 acres to enjoy.  It’s a peaceful lake lots of great inlets for exploring.  Kayaking is just one of many activities popular here.  The shoreline is wooded and incredibly beautiful.  The lake is 700 acres and has a 10-horsepower limit.  The Camp Store has kayaks available for rental.  Another option for kayak rentals is the South Shore Marina where you can rent kayaks by the hour.  

Shawnee State Park

Found in the 63,000-acre Shawnee State Forest, Shawnee State Park offers plenty of activities, including kayaking the two lakes within its border.  Roosevelt and Turkey Creek Lakes offer a total of 68 acres for paddling.  Both lakes are pretty peaceful and great for kayaking.  The Camp Store has kayaks, canoes, stand-up paddleboards, and more for rent. 

Nicknamed “Ohio’s Little Smokies,” this picturesque area is known for its rugged beauty.  A quiet morning in a kayak here sounds like a great way to start the day!

Dillon State Park

Dillon State Park is in a very beautiful area of east-central Ohio. Here you’ll find hills and valleys perfect for exploring, and you know that one of the best ways to explore an area is in a kayak!  There are kayaks and canoes available for rent at the camp store in the park.  There’s also a swimming beach, tennis, pickleball, volleyball, basketball, and hiking trails to keep you busy during your visit here.

Dillon State Park is also on my list of Best 12 Ohio State Parks with Mountain Bike Trails! 

Lake Hope State Park

Lake surrounded by gentle rolling forested hills
Courtesy: Analogue Kid at English Wikipedia (CC by 3.0)

Lake Hope State Park has 2,983 acres in the Zaleski State Forest.  This area is very wooded with steep gorges and narrow ridges.  Nature enthusiasts highly recommend checking out this park.  

Lake Hope is 128 acres. Only hand-powered and electric motor-only boats are allowed.  Kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddleboards are available for rent at the boathouse.  This is a great lake for a relaxing paddle and picturesque views.

 Check out Lake Hope Lodge when you’re done paddling for the day!  Best known for its BBQ, you’ll also find they serve delicious burgers and pizza.  They locally source ingredients, if possible, and everything is made from scratch.  And they serve alcohol!  You can enjoy your food and drinks on their outdoor patio while enjoying the scenic views of Lake Hope.

Portage Lakes State Park

At Portage Lakes State Park, you’ll find plenty of options for kayaking.  Eight options to be exact!  There are 8 lakes that you can kayak here.  All the lakes have horsepower limits and one of the lakes only allows electric motors.  Most of the area is no-wake.  You’ll have tons of fun exploring all the channels here!

If you’re looking to rent kayaks on the Portage Lakes, then check out Killinit Kayaks.  They have kayaks and paddleboards for rent by the hour.  You can choose which lake you want to kayak, and they’ll help you out with anything you need.  

Beaver Creek State Park

Beaver Creek State Park in Northeast Ohio offers some fun river kayaking!  This is one of the best rivers to kayak in Ohio.  The current is pretty swift, and the scenery is beautiful with all the ridges and high cliffs along the river.  It was the first river in Ohio to be designated a Wild and Scenic River.  Birds and wildlife are plentiful here, along with beautiful wildflowers.  

Beaver Creek Kayak Company can help you out with your kayak rentals and any question you might have about kayaking Beaver Creek.

John Bryan State Park

John Bryan State Park offers visitors access to the Little Miami River.  Little Miami is another of Ohio’s designated Scenic Rivers.  Paddlers going in at the park will enjoy scenic views of cliffs and wooded shorelines with towering trees.  This part of the river has very little development and very few obstacles making it great for beginners.  Just sit back and enjoy the wildlife and scenic views!

Alum Creek State Park

Alum Creek State Park Lake View
Yinan Chen, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

North of Columbus is Alum Creek State Park, a state park that holds the largest inland beach in the state.  Alum Creek Lake has over 3,000 acres of shoreline.  This large body of water is hugely popular, and there’s an area of the lake that is perfect for kayakers.  The northern section of the lake is no-wake and a lot quieter.  Lined with trees and cliffs, the lake also has inlets begging to be explored.  Alum Creek Marina has kayaks and canoes for rent by the hour or day.

Barkcamp State Park

Barkcamp State Park in Southeastern Ohio offers visitors scenic views of hills and valleys.  There’s also a quiet lake perfect for kayakers.  Belmont Lake has 117 acres where only hand-powered and electric motors are allowed.  Paddlers get a great view to see what Ohio’s forests may have looked like before the area was settled.  The park does have kayaks available for rent.

Catawba Island State Park

There can’t be an article about best 20 Ohio State Parks for kayaking and not include a state park with access to Lake Erie!  Catawba Island is one of 24 islands in Lake Erie, although technically, Catawba Island is a peninsula and not an actual island.  The island is very popular because the shoreline is protected and very peaceful.  This small 10-acre park is day-use only, and kayaks may launch from the cobblestone beach.  

East Harbor State Park

East Harbor State Park is another State Park on Lake Erie.  It’s on a peninsula in the Great Lake and it’s on the edge of Ohio’s prairie marsh zone.  The north side of the harbor is less developed and better for kayakers.  The wooded shoreline is great for viewing wildlife and birdwatching.  Look in the water and you’ll see a wide variety of fish like bass, crappie, and pike.  Kayaks are available for rent on the nearby islands.

Geneva State Park

Geneva State Park shoreline at sunset.
Courtesy: Mark K on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Geneva State Park is on the eastern shoreline of Lake Erie.  It’s a smaller state park at only 698 acres, but there is plenty of fun to be had here!  There are a couple of options for renting kayaks in the area.  Best Coast Water Sports gives you the option of kayaking Lake Erie or Cowles Creek.  Cowles Creek is a tributary of Lake Erie, and it flows right through Geneva State Park.  

Lake Erie Canopy Tours is another option for kayak rentals.  They also offer ziplining through the park. The zipline goes right over Cowles Creek, so you can have fun watching zipliners glide right over you as you relax in your kayak.

Harrison Lake State Park

Harrison Lake is a 105-acre lake located in Northwestern Ohio.  The lake is no-wake and very popular with paddlers.  There’s a lot of wildlife here, including birds like Great Blue Herons and tons of songbirds.  The swampy area here also attracts lots of turtles and frogs.  Other popular activities at the park include fishing, hiking, swimming, and even disc golf.

Independence Dam State Park

Maumee State Scenic River flows through Independence Dam State Park.  This river is great for paddling!  There is a dam in the park, and below the dam are where kayaks and canoes can put in.  Above the dam, boats have no limit on horsepower.  Large trees like Sycamores and Black Locusts line the riverbank along with beautiful wildflowers making this area a great home for all sorts of wildlife and songbirds.  J/T Kayak Rentals can help you out with kayak rentals during the weekend.  They also offer pontoon cruises!

Kiser Lake State Park

Kiser Lake is a 396-acre lake that is pretty popular with paddlers!  The lake doesn’t allow motorboats. Kayakers have 5.3 miles of shoreline to explore. The lake has pretty clear water.  Kayakers can enjoy views of the gentle, rolling hills of the area and diverse wetlands.  There is also an island in the middle of the lake.  The park’s marina has kayaks and canoes for rent.

Little Miami State Park

The Little Miami State and National Scenic River has 86 miles that can be paddled.  Kayakers won’t be disappointed with one of the most scenic areas in Ohio!  Steep gorges, cliffs, rolling farm fields, and forests await anyone who explores the river.  There is great water quality and plentiful wildlife.  

Little Miami State Park is a linear park that is 50 miles long and on average is only 66 feet in width.  The park contains the river and the shoreline.  There is a hiking/biking trail called the Little Miami Scenic Bikeway Trail that follows the river, but the park does not have any camping sites.  

West Branch State Park

lake view with wooded shoreline
Courtesy: Roseohioresident on Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 4.0) 

West Branch State Park in Northeastern Ohio is a large State Park with over 5,000 acres of land and over 2,500 acres of water.  There’s a lot to do here!  Some of the more popular activities here include fishing, swimming, hiking, disc golf, and of course, kayaking!  The Michael J. Kirwan Reservoir allows unlimited horsepower on most of the lake.  There is a no-wake zone surrounding the entire shoreline and the entire area west of the causeway.  

The West Branch Marina in the park has single and double kayaks for rent by the hour or by the day.  Paddlers will enjoy exploring all the coves and forks in the lake with a backdrop of a beech-maple forest surrounding the lake.  

Punderson State Park

Punderson State Park in Northeastern Ohio is only 741 acres, but there is so much to do here!  It has one of the best disc golf courses in the state.  It also has a highly rated golf course, and there is an archery range, swimming beach, hiking trails, and a lake that is popular with kayakers.  

Punderson Lake is 150 acres and is the largest and deepest natural kettle lake in Ohio.  The lake and surrounding woods are home to a variety of wildlife from great blue herons and wood ducks to beavers and owls and deer.  There are kayak rentals available in the park.

There is an English Tudor manor home in the park that contains guest rooms, a conference room, and a restaurant.  It is rumored to be haunted.  Some of the stories include pencils flying across the room, wastebaskets moving around, a woman laughing, cold spots, and much, much more.  There is an article by Geauga News from 2012 that goes in depth on the hauntings in the manor.  It’s pretty interesting!

Conclusion

I hope you put Ohio on your list of camping or kayaking destinations!  It is such a beautiful state.  It has some of the best state parks and prettiest lakes and rivers.  With this list of the best 20 Ohio state parks for kayaking, there are so many options to check out.

Kayaking is one of the best ways to get out in nature!  Getting out on a peaceful and calm lake in the morning when there’s no one around is one of the best ways to start your day.  And if you’re looking for more of a challenge, then kayaking an Ohio river offers you the chance to test your skills.  All of that can be found in Ohio’s state parks!