Criteria for a public canoe/kayak launch

-- Last Updated: Aug-05-06 2:50 PM EST --

Hi p.netters,

I have an opportunity to give input into the design of a public canoe/kayak launch. It is in the planning stages only, but is proposed to be built on a strip of surplus land the State DOT owns that accesses the Buffalo River at a spot very close to Lake Erie. So it would afford both river and lake access to paddlers.

I need to find out what others have built for hand boat launches that looked good and worked, esp. info about what kind of ramp works best, to give to the designer for him to consider. Basically, he said to me, "What would YOU want to see in a small boat launch for paddlers?"

So I'm asking YOU all the same. The area is not very large, so nothing grandiose. Suggestions from those who have used hand launches, please?


You don’t need anything but a path to the bank, make sure there is plenty of parking, with out the long pull through spaces or they will be hogged by boaters with boat trailers.


– Last Updated: Aug-06-06 9:32 AM EST –

I still get fumed when i have to purchase an annual permit to use ourlocal lakes. They say they are for access, boat ramps, etc. But all I need is a trail, and I can make that myself!

That said I prefer to launch off of a nice sand beach as opposed to rubble (rocks) or mud.

And for me, a dock rates right at the bottom with concrete boat ramps. Too tough getting in, too tough getting out.

Here is our thoughts
I too prefer to launch from small beaches but if they go with a dock here are a couple of our thoughts.

The dock should be made from a material that does not get too hot from the sun. (We launch from a low aluminum dock in Redwood City harbor but it heats up to where it is too hot to touch with your bare hands.)

If it is to be a dock it needs to be low enough for easy ingress to and egress from your kayak.

The launch point should be protected from the wind and waves if possible.

The launch point should be close to the parking area or have a staging area for dropping / picking up your kayak.

Here’s something that didn’t work…

This canoe ramp is much too far from parking area to make it practical. There’s NO FREAKING SHADE anywhere near the parking/staging area. Downstream from the ramp, marked on one of the maps, is a pipe that crosses the creek at bow-tip level, preventing passage to the creek’s mouth and Percy Priest Lake. You can paddle about mile or so upstream from the ramp into the golf course before the water becomes too shallow.

Please do not make your access point a waste of money and a disappointment like the folks in Smyrna did.

We wound up finding a concrete drainage ditch at one shady corner of a ballfield parking lot below the pipeline barrier. Served our purposes really well. Lot was very close to the put-in. Much better.


Some rubber pads

– Last Updated: Aug-05-06 4:03 PM EST –

I've never actually seen this, but it seems like just some rubber pads at the shore line would be perfect for beginner kayakers, to push off from shore without scratching the hull. Maybe chained to stakes on the shore end and some weights on the water end. You would need to be able to move them in or out as the water line rises and falls, or make them sufficiently long.

Lot cheaper than a dock, and easier to launch from. Off course most kayakers will aspire to eventually master the floating leg-butt-leg or butt-leg-leg entry method. In that case they just need a good place to walk into a foot and a half of water.

Canoers probably prefer a floating dock. If going with a floating dock, just don't make the deck too high off the water. Maybe 10".

Just my thoughts. Not an expert.

Paul S.

River ramps
One of the problems I encounter on river ramps is that after heavy rains/high water, the ramps can get covered with foot deep mud. Launching or taking out from these is a bit of a challenge, or at least a mess. I don’t have a solution, but wonder if someone else does.

How about a series of concrete steps that allow for side entry/exit? If you have a series of them about 18-24" risers, you should be able to exit or enter regardless of water level.

Bad for trailer boats, but might be perfect for canoes/kayaks.

The Very Best is A Sandy Beach
I paddled at Topsail Sound today and tried a brand new Kayak and Canoe put-In. The put-in was very simple. There was a short access cut in an existing bulkhead that the town owned. A sand pathway about fifteen feet wide led down to a sandy beach on the sound. Worked great, could not be easier.

On the other hand, my favorite paddle is Bear Island part of Hammocks Beach State Park. They used to have a small beach on a small bay off the ICW. They have “upgraded” this year and have new facilities. They have unfortunately closed the old little beach access with the new facility now available. The new put in is a wooden boardwalk over the marsh leading to a floating dock. Each end of the floating dock had a plastic kayak launch ramp which is about useless. The new stuff is very difficult to use and is not usable at all if your boat is more than about 12 feet long. I use a wildlife ramp outside of the park now. What a shame!

Anyway, there is one new one that is great, and one new one that is unworkable. The one that is unworkable likely cost several times as much to construct.

Happy Paddling,


Scratching the hull?!?!?!? Take two
Prozac, and call me in the morning!

river accesses…
River accesses definitely pose a different set of problems from lake or bay launches. Floods will tear up a lot of structures you may build, which otherwise sound great on paper. Sandy beaches won’t stay sandy unless they are a natural part of the river and not constructed. Indentations in high banks will get covered in mud. Forget about docks. Maybe the best thing you can do is a concrete ramp type structure. Here in MO, the Conservation Department builds them at many of their accesses, and they seem to work well and last a long time as long as they are going into the main channel at a place where the current is normally slow. Problem with them is they encourage jet boat usage. Other problem is, in order to make them unlikely to get washed away in a big flood, they are constructed by first dumping a slope of big rocks, and then pouring the concrete on top, which means that once you get your canoe or kayak off the vehicle, the only place you can load it and launch is from those big rocks or else the ramp itself, both of which are likely to put scratches on your boat. I don’t worry about that but some people would. Sure makes it handy, though, to just back your vehicle down to the water to load and unload.

I second the sandy beach
Hard packed, and shallow sloping.

The rubber mats, and wooden one always seemed to end up either undermined or having a drop off after a few years.

It’s nice to have access so you can get your vehicle as close as possible for unloading.



Agree with the others
Keep it simple. I’ve consulted for local and state agencies here in CT about launch design, and I constantly stress low buck, simple, and adequate parking.

Any paddling access here that costs significant funds fuels calls in the legislature for canoe & kayak registration, and launch fees.

Fortunately, we have a fund in our state that is capitalized by the sale of special license plates for cars that is used for cleaning up and improving access to the shore. An inexpensive paddle launch can easily be funded with a grant from this account. Anything that requires regular state funds hits legislative radar, which is never good.

Paddlers need to stress that we need only the most minimal accomodations. Asking for more can raise the issue of fees, or worse.


Dear g2d
Dear g2d, in response to your “take two Prozac and call me in the morning” post…over the years I’ve wondered why your posts often take on such an ugly tone. It appears that you are trying to pick a fight with people over what you perceive are dumb comments. I’ve also seen many many posts from you that offered tremendous value for outfitting and boat usage ideas. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could use your knowledge to help others rather than belittle them? It would make the board a little more pleasant place to hang out and chat with friends don’t you think?

no scratches is a good thing sometimes
I have a beautiful Loonworks Aria wood and canvas canoe. It hangs in my living room as an art object between trips. To keep from scratching the hull when launching and landing I use a piece of indoor outdoor carpet draped over the bank or boat dock to rest the canoe on.

Disabled access - launch ramps
These are also fun for everyone else to use, and terribly convenient for parents loading small kids into boats. For kayaks and canoes, they ae basically the floating dock made of rubber squares that you tend to see used by a lot of sculling clubs, except that there is a flat channel with pull rpoes between and a slant downward of that channel.

Contact or take a look at the web site for Atlantic Kayak Tours in Peekskill NY for more info - they have them.

This kind of ramp is also showing up at newer NY State boat launches.

Also, if possible an outdoor shower would be great - just to wash mud or dirt off the paddler and/or things like stinky shoes.

How about a Buffalo Police Sub-Station, with armed guards watching our vehicles while we are on the water? The Buffalo River isn’t too well-known for it’s secure parking at the launches there are now.

Ness, thanks for taking an interest in this, maybe we will get a secure CLEAN spot to launch into this scenic waterway.

Where there are internet forums, there are trolls and flamers. It’s a sad fact of life… but a fact nonetheless.

No Concrete
Gravel parking for 15 vehicles.

Shallow angle launch (thus going furthur to defeat use by motorized craft)

Maby a picnic bench and 55gal. drum trash barrel

Staging Area
I’s nice to have some type of staging area close to to the actual put-in.

You pull up to the staging area, unload you boat and gear, drive your car to the parking area, walk back, and then organize and launch.

Some other nice features:

Clean rest rooms.

A shaded map board showing where you are, features of the waterway, with paper maps to pick up, and other interesting local information, including applicable state laws and site rules.

Trash recepticals that get emptied regularly.

Efforts to limit poison ivy growth along access trail.

Yeah, I know, kind of off-topic, but sometimes much needed, and appreciated doubly by the double X chromosome types.