Fireworks From A Kayak?

Hi, my husband and I are interested in seeing 4th of July fireworks from our kayaks. We are located in central Maryland, near Frederick. Is there anywhere good to see the show from the water in MD, southern PA, eastern WV, etc.? Thanks!

I can’t help you on where to go, but have seen fireworks from kayaks, so have some (unasked for) advice.

Any place you can see from kayak is likely to be packed with other people also watching from boat. And it will be dark. Drinking is often involved. So be very careful as you paddle back after the show. Have a light or lights to make sure you are seen. Stay out of busy boating channels/routes. Take advantage of being able to paddle in shallow water where other boats won’t go.

I would agree with above warning… Not to mention the hot ashes that fall on the water (that you do not feel on land)

It sounds like fun, but the risks are there and it may not end up being as enjoyable as we would like to think.

Also, in Michigan at least, human powered boats are generally limited (legally) to operation from Dawn till Dusk. something to look in to, would not want you to get a fat ticket for being on the water after dark.

Do you have a citation?

– Last Updated: Jun-30-16 10:45 AM EST –

Curious, as I've never heard of any law in Michigan that prohibits a kayak or canoe from traveling at night so long as it carries the required navigation lights. Perhaps a downstate county local regulation on an inland lake?

At any rate, the last place I would want to be is in my kayak on the water watching July 4th fireworks. Too dangerous because of impaired/careless boat operators.

If the OPs do, sure hope they are careful and lit up like a Christmas tree.

no falling embers
The areas directly below the fireworks and near the barges used to launch the fireworks are closed, so you shouldn’t be able to be right below the fireworks. As such, falling embers, fireworks remains, and the like shouldn’t be an issue to worry about.

Raft together…
Aside from being in kayak hell looking up can be very disorienting in a kayak.

Thanks everyone!
We definitely do not want to be in a sea of obnoxious drunks. Too old for that stuff. Maybe we should rethink this…

DC fireworks with Canoe Cruisers
The Canoe Cruisers Association organizes a trip every year to watch the fireworks launched from the National Mall, which is one of the more extensive fireworks shows you’ll ever see. They have it worked out pretty well. They launch from Fletchers Boat House, which is upstream from DC, and there really isn’t anyplace for power boats to launch or return to between DC and Fletchers. I’m guessing there will be some boat traffic that is just joy riding up there, but the huge flotilla of power boats that anchors to watch the fireworks mostly heads east and south, i.e., the opposite direction. It really is a mess when all those boats leave at the same time–the chop generated by the wakes is UFB, but you won’t have a problem heading NW. The paddlers raft up in shallows near Roosevelt Island to watch the fireworks, out of the way of the power boats.

So, check out the CCA site at See the event posted on their calendar (hint-look at July 4). They will probably be okay with you tagging along, but you could always spring for the $20 annual membership and you will be welcomed with open arms. And, it’s a great club to belong to since you are nearly local.


Potomac Fireworks
I’ve watched the Washington, D.C. fireworks a couple of times from the water, back when I kept a boat on the racks under Key Bridge. Very cool, and there was no problem with drunk power boaters as far as I could tell. The police boats are out in force.

If you go on your own, I would try to launch from Columbia Marina one mile south of the fireworks. But park early. And bring lights for the boats. You could also launch from Fletcher’s Boathouse upstream, but that will be a longer, darker paddle on the way back.

Be very early at Colombia Marina
I think you would have to park at Colombia Marina by noon. Lots of groups head to the Virgina shore of the Potomac to picnic all day prior to the fireworks. Gravely Point next to the airport is another launch option, but same deal with the parking. And these launches have you paddling with the power boat fleet after the show.

I once was on an 18 ft power boat for the show, and I can’t emphasize enough how choppy it gets when the hundreds of boats depart at once. We felt like a cork next to some of those boats, and because of all the boat traffic, they can’t speed away. So you have these 30- and 40-footers running at low speed, which produces wakes larger than when they are up on plane. The waves collide and combine. It is quite the washing machine. Wear a spray skirt if you mix it up with the fleet.


Without Lights
I should have been more specific- I meant being on the water after dark without proper, coast guard approved navigation lights.

How about Pittsburgh?
Probably farther than you might care to drive, but the barge launched show by the locally based but nationally renowned Zambelli Fireworks at the downtown confluence of the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers is an outstanding show for kayak-based watching that I’ve been paddling down to enjoy nearly every year for over a decade. We put in at the Riverfront Park boat launch about 2 miles upriver on the Monongahela about an hour before sunset. Yes, there is a lot of powerboat traffic and even commercial barges BUT both the Coast Guard and the city river police patrol diligently during events like this, clamping down on drunk pilots and speeding and it is actually one of the safest times to be on the river. The shallow sand bars along both sides of the river create a safe paddling zone for kayaks and canoes.

The river patrols allow kayakers to ramp up along the low concrete seawall that surrounds Point State Park and we really have a front row seat for one of the largest and most innovative Fourth of July displays in the country. The performance usually runs about 45 full minutes and includes displays launched from the roofs of the downtown skyscrapers as well as from the many bridges (like brilliant waterfalls of “flowing” sparks.) From the water the spectacle is doubled by the reflections all around you. The Zambellis are state of the art designers of these shows and there is no chance of spectators being hit with incendiary debris.

One of my favorite aspects of these outings is the paddle back upstream afterwards, with the waters sparkling from the reflected lights from the shoreline and bridges. Pittsburgh along the riverfronts is beautiful at night.

Odd, I was just thinking about this this morning, some of my best fireworks watching ever was from a friend’s sailboat near the mouth of one of the rivers south of Annapolis (South river? West River? I do not recall) where we could see three municipal displays at once. Watching from a kayak might be fun, but I’d really worry about getting PT109’ed by some powerboat loaded with drunks.

How about…
A nice dinner at a waterfront restaurant?

Pittsburgh (again)
Pittsburgh sits in a deep river valley and there are restaurants and viewing platforms atop the steep Mt. Washington hillside opposite downtown from which you can watch the river-launched fireworks explode at eye level and below. You can even ride a cable car up there from river level. Do a Google image search for “Pittsburgh fireworks” and “Pittsburgh view from Mt. Washington” to get a sense of how well-situated we are for these displays.

There are also outdoor restaurants along the river from which you can watch the fireworks. We even have a water-borne “taco truck” that can serve you in your kayak, though I don’t know if it will be out that night.

As mentioned before, the river patrols seriously control boating traffic during these events. But you do need to have effective lighting on the kayaks, keep the paddling group tightly together and stay out of the power boat and shipping lanes.

Keep it local, perhaps?
Might ya get your freak on Carroll Creek,

amidst the madding crowd of Fredneck?

Or float Monotony near turnpike Liberty,

by isle bending back Walmart dreck?

Here in Baltimore you could hug harbor shore,

thinkin", “Hope that tour boat spots us.”

But you take yer chance post-pop Danzi dance,

gone forth to fifths in the drink clapotis.

Me? I’d rather gunkhole in a cove or riparian backwater, watchin’ lightnin’ bugs waltz the shadowed curtain as bullfrogs and peepers serenade. After a certain Leonid show of peak intensity several Novembers hence, observed from an Assateague Atlantic beach far from collected humanities hazed halo (although admittedly I was part of a semi-hazed collection of Duckhead gentlemen), all Zambellied send-ups are just a noisy construct of disco-lighted crowd madness.

However, I am still disappointed I never did get to see from one of those Floridian mosquito lagoons a shuttle launch. Well, we do have Wallops Island lesser candle-power launches here near Chincoteague, on occasion.

Sometimes in the past, I have sat in a folding chair perched in a pickup bed, parked on a knob to the southwest of Baltimore, and observed in more quiet fashion the rainbow of scattering dandelions over a near 300-degree horizon (Baltimore City, Dundalk, Glen Burnie, Arbutus, Columbia & Catonsville). That was ok.

Still, if the local reservoir wasn’t closed to my permitted vessel at dusk, I’d rather be there, enjoying independence in nature, if not governed society.

Well, wherever you might find yourself this fourth, may you find your endowed creation equally peaceful, and perhaps, afloat.

I long for the good old days
My hometown show used to be launched from a hill when I was a kid. The fireworks were almost directly overhead, and while the hill gave falling embers enough distance to burn out, we did get dusted with ashes.

I was also at a show in Northern MI that took place at a marina. You could hear the firework detritus landing on decks throughout the marina.

I had a metroparks guy yell at me once
through a bullhorn. At first he thought I had a boat from their rental fleet, then when I yelled “no” he told me I wasn’t supposed to be out after dark and that they would have my car towed.

I yelled back, "go right ahead. I’d parked outside of the park limits and paddled in.

ended up watching fireflies
It rained most of Monday (with thunderstorms predicted) so I didn’t paddle down to see the Pittsburgh extravaganza but stayed home. But I could hear the echo of the various displays coming from surrounding areas from about 9:15 on. Went out on the second floor back porch to see if I could spot any sparks on the horizon. No luck with that but I was rewarded with a nice display by dozens of fireflies amongst the trees in my back yard and the darkened valley below.

Maybe next year…

Late to reply
Hi Willowleaf, I’m late to reply but… I joined a meetup event and watched the fireworks in the Burgh for the first time from a kayak. Had 16 or 17 boats launched from the end of West Penitentiary on the Ohio (Westhill Road I think?)

Anyways, setting up and waiting to launch it raine the whole time. The rain stopped just as we launched about 7 pm and it took an hour to get up to The Rivers Casino where we sat and listened to Bon Journey (?) playing there. Some folks ventured up to North Shore park and as time got closer to the event, they got kicked out. Some went up to the Allegheny line and I and others came back to the Ohio side.

It was an absolute fantastic view. If you watch the video from WPXI, the first light on the left side just beyond the submarine in the front row was me. The event organizer’s (Michael C Adventurer on of maybe you know or recognize) light was a little dim and you can occasionally see his boat with me on the video. The 3rd light over on the side in the front was a pair of tandem Hobies rafted up that was with us. The rest were out in the middle of the Ohio between the boats and I think you can see a strobe light up in the front line Allegheny side that is one of the group that ventured up that way.

From the Ohio, it was fantastic. Those who moved up to the Allegheny reported they saw the first couple then the smoke lingered and completely obscured all the rest of the show.

The Ohio was pretty sparse for boats anchored in the water. The trip back to the launch was awesome, first time I’d paddled in the dark. There was very little boat traffic heading back downstream in the Ohio while we paddled back.

If you’re curious, there’s almost 300 photos uploaded from various folks that attended (a lot from the organizer and mine are listed as Michael Rodgers.) I don’t know if the link will work but…

This was my 2nd time on the waters of Pittsburgh as on the previous Saturday, I went down and launched from Southside Park to paddle down to The Point since I’d never been on the rivers. Saturday was quite choppy, but on the 4th, it was smooth as glass. I had an absolute blast.