"Best Urban Kayaking Spot...."

Really…? I beg to differ. I much prefer my “urban” launch 20 minutes from my driveway:

Totally subjective but just can’t place a urban river over an urban coastline for a preferred venue in those cities with a choice of the two.


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Only three of them have what might be called a coast. Guessing average responders to a USAToday poll aren’t as likely to be interested in big water, waves and weather. Majority of paddlers just want to get out and enjoy being on the water.

Interesting that Cuyahoga came out on top. That was the river notorious for catching fire. It was cited as an example, along with many other environmental horrors, why we needed regulations and the EPA. And now people get to enjoy it and paddle in it.


Surprised the Chicago River made the list, perhaps it got a cleanup.

It all depends on what you’re looking for.

If you ‘want it all’, I would nominate the Seattle area as best, especially if you want access to ‘all’ types of water.

  • surf - coast
  • squirrley water - Puget Sound
  • ‘rapids’ - Deception Pass
  • placid water - Lake Washington

I lived there for about 12 years; the only negative (for me) was the cold water. I ‘love’ basking in the 80 degree water in the summer (hanging upside down in the yak, listening to the squeaking of the dolphins) (Jacksonville).


I guess these best of pieces have value in raising awareness and giving readers ideas for things to do. However, the methodology isn’t really geared for most folks on this forum.

Experts come up with a list a places, then USAToday readers vote on their favorites to come up with the top ten. Three experts’ CV’s though, do not mention any kayak experience whatsoever. None. Not they they might not have any but, you’d think with a paddling top ten list they’d at least mention that they do paddle.

I didn’t want to put the word expert in quotes because I didn’t want to be rude and presumptuous but…

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I’d add Boston Harbor/Charles River to that list. Years ago, a bunch of us launched on the Charles, went through the locks, and down the shore of Boston and back. Sitting in a lock that’s rising or lowering is pretty cool.

I remember that notorious history. While the Charles River in Boston never caught on fire, it took many millions of (our local tax dollars) for the MA Water Resource Authority (MWRA) to clean that river (and the Mystic River) and the inner Boston Harbor. Today, it is a beautiful interconnected paddling venue, as Wayne pointed out. But, when I am on Charles River, it is usually in my Hornbeck because I am fishing. When it comes to paddling, I preferred to be on the ocean.


I agree Seattle has a lot to offer for the committed paddler. However, it is a bit of a drive to get to the surf breaks (I am not talking about “tanker wake surfing” in Puget Sound…) from inner Seattle. I can get to two open ocean surf breaks between 30-45 minutes (depending on traffic) from my home in the city. These days, I don’t care for longer than necessary drives for both environmental and time considerations.



I wonder how USA Today defines “urban”. It would be nice of them to include a link to the methodology. I’ve never been accused of being a big city person and have enjoyed visiting both Redding (Pop. 100K +/-) and Roanoke (Pop. 200K +/-), but do they really belong in the same bucket as the others? Frankly, I’m not sure their respective tourism offices would even want to be there, but that’s another story.
My big city nomination: Toronto (Toronto Islands)
My small city nomination: Duluth MN (for big water enthusiasts with the skills and the cold water gear)

I remember driving with friends down to the Cuyahoga to watch red-hot steel coming out of the mills at night, circa 1984. “NO SMOKING” was still painted in 30 foot tall letters on the buildings along the riverfront…

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It sells newspapers. Look at the recommendation for best kayaks and best paddles. Some might be “best” in a class, for the money, for certsin features, for for “me”, but there is no generic “best”. The article should say popular spots, paddle friendly locations, challenging, or locations that offer a variety of conditions. The perfect spot should include safe, convenient access, next to a restaraunt with a shaded waterfront deck that has good food and cold “lawnmower” beer on draft.

I’m frequently asked to join outings to local lakes that are between two or three miles long. It takes longer to load and prep than it does to paddle that distance. I paddle two miles before I feel warmed up enough to cut loose. It’s favorable to some because its sheltered and calm without current. That’s best for them, while I seek open water. I’m the aberration, which is fine, because I don’t like mindless chatter or gossip while paddling. I do that around the table at home.

The best location is the one that meets your expectations. My best location is the one that’s 20 minutes away, because it has good parking and launch access, and it lets me enjoy three or four different paddling experiences, depending on which of the four directions I select based on conditions. So far I’ve thoroughly explored map 7 and 8, as well as about 40 miles of map 28, but haven’t made up my mind about exploring the other maps.

I went through about 7 boats before I found the “ones” I like “best”. Ironically, one of the boats I like best isn’t suited for where I paddle. Another boat I like best is too heavy to carry and load. I went through about five paddles before I found the one I like, exclusively, but I would recommend at least three or four cheaper paddles as very good values.

The article needs to change the wording, but if you can think on you’re own, its not hard to figure out that best is different things to different people. Don’t believe the hype, and don’t believe everything you read on the internet! You still need to think and evaluate information. “You get nothing for nothing!”

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Well, I live in Cleveland(20 miles west) and I’m surprised to read that. While there is poor history to the river, that fire started the whole clean-up of waterways for the whole country. It is definitely an industrial river for the first 10 miles or so, it can be a great paddle to do down town. It’s a waterway shared by freighters, paddlers, rowers( there’s a huge presence of high school, college, and sculling club members…even many regional high profile races) and power boaters. Then farther inland are park and play whitewater areas in Akron, Oh and then farther upriver are very scenic areas to paddle through one of the most visited Nat. parks in the country. Cuyahoga Valley Nat. Park…and even farther upriver near the headwaters is scenic too. The caveat is that this is a very boring part of the US as far as magnificent landscapes


Surely every word is true. Everyone can’t live in Hawaii, but its what you have, and its good that you appreciate it for what it is. Maybe the article actually has a hidden agenda to attract paddlers to give them a close and personal view. If all the visitors feel the way you do. Maybe it’ll generate enough momentum to restore the river. Wouldn’t that be something.

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I think they already have that covered.

Wow! WOW! They sure 'nuff do! It actually looks like a tranquil urban environment. I’m suprised by the stand ups. The water is a lighter shade of how I like my coffee. Then people with waterfront property on the Back River tributary locatrd hear Hart-Miller Island swim in the water. The Baltimore sewage treatment plant is located on the banks of the river. I have not paddled that tributary.

Even though the city has separate rain water and sewage management, there is occasional overflow of raw sewage (maybe triggered by half-time and commercial breaks during televised sport events). Bacteria counts can be high enough to create new species.

Your picture reminds me that the river was formerly the site of the Annual Governor’s Cup Speed Boat Races at the end of summer, which stopped for some reason. Since then, there was a massive volunteer cleanup campaign to remove tons of junk. Last year while dining at the Head of the Bay, i witnessed a parade of high speed power boats that continued for over ten minutes. I’ve since learned that it’s the Tiki Lee Shootout on The River. The boats hop at high speed between the Tiki Bar in Port Deposit to the one on Back River (at least a 25 mile trip)

No endorsement or comment, its just a fact. I wonder if the cleanup and a bar on the beach attracted the attention. There’s also a Tiki Bar on Fairlee Creek across the Bay. The water is cleaner, but unfortunately, its never opened when I get there. I guess beauty is relative to home or some other dirty place (no offense intended by that comment), or a bar, even if the body of water smells like disinfectant.

Just another fact…We are on the Lake(Erie) that’s the walleye capitol of the US…and within 50 miles of downtown, we have some of the best steelhead fishing in the country due to fisheries management. 10 minutes from downtown, it very common to catch and release 25-30 inch fish

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Huh, they ignored Pittsburgh? The city has 4 major conjoined rivers (feeders into the eventual Mississippi drainage) each with a slightly different personality and with a great mix of access points, interesting bridges, cool abandoned “urban archaeology” infrastructure along the banks (mostly abandoned barge access ports for the now-gone steel mills), posh marinas, public parks and natural areas and islands.

The once polluted rivers are now clean enough that we have had national bass-fishing tournaments on the Monongahela and you can catch wall eye, perch, stocked golden trout and even 30" muskies. I have seen beaver and their lodges along the Mon banks, not 6 miles from the “Point” downtown where the Mon and Allegheny confluence forms the Ohio. Got eagles, ospreys, peregrine falcons, fox and deer along the banks. The steep valleys along the rivers preclude too much development and the city has the most tree cover therefore of any major US urban area (60% of land surface within the metro area.)

Most Fourths of July I paddle down to the Point (photo below half a mile from the city center) with friends to raft up along the breakwaters after dark and watch the barge-launched 45 minute fireworks extravaganza put on by the nationally famous but local Zambelli Brothers.

Heck, we even have a floating mobile “taco truck” to serve grub on the water to boaters and paddlers and dock mounted bars where you can tie off and climb ashore to eat and drink. And we can surf the wakes from the faux paddle-steamer party liners and big coal barges.

But of course those “Best Of” lists are nothing more than click bait.

Point sunset kayak

Hardly objective…But I can’t blame any self appointed judges of any “Ten Best” list for favoring their locale.

So I’ll be subjective in the urban kayaking department as well by including my hometown: NEW YORK CITY! Hudson and East Rivers surrounding Manhattan island! NY harbor with the Statue of Liberty, World Trade Center, Governor’s Island, the skyline et al.

Sorry, there’s just no comparison.

Not even close.

(Every other city can fight for who’s second.)

… "a floating mobile “taco truck” ?
Well, that settles it as far as I’m concerned. :yum:


I’ve been to both Pittsburg and NYC only once, and I agree with you both. To me, Pittsburg was like San Fransisco with everything on an incline-declines. It was very nice to see all the water. NYC, although I never paddled anything (ok maybe my girlfriend the time) was fabulous. We spent the week of Christmas to New Years… Times Square, Central Park, skating at Rockefeller Plazza,the Statue of Liberty, and the former World Trade Center viewing deck. It was amazing…nothing I thought I would appreciate at the time