Free or cheap Kayak Camping- East Coast?

Hi. I’m looking for some fresh “quiet water” spots to go kayak camping. I’m in Phila. but long drives are ok. Anywhere from 2-5 day trips, no or very short portages, no motorboats >> AND, the kicker, free or small fee. Designated campsites are great, but not necessary- I leave no trace, just don’t want to get fined (or shot). I’ve been to several fan favorites along the east coast- Saranac area, Green River, Somerset, Flagstaff in Maine was a haul, but great; may end up there again. I’d be keen to find somewhere in New Hampshire - really love the diversity of the wilderness there. Northern Forest Canoe trail looks interesting, but not sure I’m down for shuttles, fast water, rapids ect - and figuring out the logistics is a bit daunting. Any ideas would be truly appreciated.

I’m just upstream in Morrisville…You could pretty easily hit the Upper DE. Some motorboats in the lower portion but not upper. Lots of camping spots along the way.

The DE Bridge Comm has a great set of maps with mileage and hazards for cheap ($25).

Good luck!

Moose River Bow trip

– Last Updated: Jul-07-15 11:03 AM EST –

all free no permits.

There is way more in the Adirondacks that you haven't done like the Essex Chain of Lakes recently opened.
You need the Adirondack Paddlers map. There is so much more to paddle than the Saranac area.

Umbagog in NH is nice but not free. Its actually a State Park.

plenty of large ponds and lakes in ME

– Last Updated: Jul-07-15 8:43 PM EST –

Plenty of water here in Maine, especially from Greenville(on Moosehead) on up north. As you mentioned, it's a haul, but if it gets really'll be a lot more comfortable up above Moosehead. Stay on I-95 till the Medway/Millinocket exit...main woods roads(dirt) are pretty good. Grab DeLorme's state atlas/gazateer.
Plenty of camping areas(official & non-official). Just bring a spray bottle of Cutter's Advanced & headnet...just in case. Check out DeLorme's with NorthMaineWoods' website for any gate = daily fee(s) = PITA.


– Last Updated: Jul-12-15 10:49 AM EST –

It's hard to beat the Adirondacks. The Oswagatchie River from Inlet to High Falls makes a good 2 to 3 day trip. Paddle upstream for two days to High Falls. It can be done in one, but is far more enjoyable taking your time. You are going against the current, but it's a gentle one so isn't hard at all. No carries, but a few beaver dams that you'll need to pull your boat over. You can make it out easily in one day with the current behind you.

The William C Whitney Wilderness/Round Lake Wilderness is a very nice trip. It can be an overniter or multiple days. You can launch at Round Lake, or Little Tupper. I read somewhere that Little Tupper is the largest non motorized lake in the state. There are about a dozen designated campsites around Round Lake. Many more on Little Tupper and if you really want to get away from it all, head over to Rock Pond at the south end of Little Tupper. There is one, very short and easy carry on the way to Rock Pond, but the remoteness is worth it. Another option, but would require a shuttle, would be starting at Round Pond then taking the outlet stream at the north ending at Tupper Lake (the big one, not little Tupper). I'd recommend Day 1 Round Pond, day 2 Little Tupper, day 3 Rock Pond, day 4 Little Tupper again and day 5 out. That would be at a very leisurely pace. You could conceivably do it 2-4 days depending on how much time you want to spend on the water each day and how fast you paddle.

A third nice trip is the Bog River, Hitchens Pond and and Lows Lake. If you want to extend your trip to Lows Lake there is a single, short carry between Lows and Hitchens.

All of the above are free. There are many other great overnight and multi day trips in the Adirondacks. A good resource is the Adirondack Paddlers Map (google it). Use it to plan your own trip.

Much appreciation for all your suggestions. Didn’t check back after a couple days of no response, glad I kept the faith. Have to go through the ideas to see if logistics fit, but am psyched to have new possibilities to explore !!

Delaware question
What area would you recommend to start looking at? Are there long enough stretches that are slow moving enough to go up and back? I’m not partial to being tied to shuttle schedules. Thanks


– Last Updated: Jul-12-15 11:11 AM EST –

Yeah, that seems the go-to for NH, but the fee's pretty steep for a multi-day trip - if you're not splitting it. A caveat of solo excursions.

One of my fave state parks for car camping is Pilsbury. It's small, mostly tents, private sites & great paddling on 3 small lakes. When I've driven around the area there seems to be bodies of water sprinkled all over, but comparatively few "places" to kayak ever seem to be cited.

Limitations maybe
The tricky piece for me in ADK’s is the portage issue. I love the idea of traveling chains of waterways, but my kayak’s inflatable (Advanced Element) which I love & has advantages, but not on land. Has a metal frame but it’s still flexible, & somewhat heavy, so not conducive to carrying or carts. I’ve rigged it folded onto wheels for maybe a 1/4 mile walk, but it wasn’t easy going. Granted I could unpack, deflate, bag it, then inflate & repack on the other end; which seems unenjoyable but the maybe it’s worth it.

I’ve done Lows a few times. Mostly camped at an early site so only had to take my boat & day supplies over the dam & weird sandbar deal. Have a guidebook, and hopefully can find my paddlers map- maybe some legwork will broaden my prospects. :slight_smile:

North Maine Woods
Not to be lazy but do you know any water trail specific links for the area - I did search DeLorne & North Woods but a LOT of info & maps come up- few I’ve looked at don’t breakdown the kind of water along diff. legs.

I remember swimming at Flagstaff, but keep looking at forecasts in the 70’s /50’s at night. Not bad, but not morning hammock balmy. Where’s a heat wave to escape from when I need one.

You have a point

– Last Updated: Jul-12-15 1:20 PM EST –

I can see the constant inflating and deflating being huge issue if there are multiple portages. Probably not so bad for a single, short portage if it can open up an entire new area to paddle.

This is the map I was referring to:

The Bordentown area on the NJ side is pretty nice to paddle upstream and then you can return…but not for camping. “Burlington Island” is in the middle of the DE, across from the Burlington boat launch. Some camp there, but it’s not very scenic and seems creepy, honestly.

I often times put in in Yardley PA and paddle downstream, then back upstream while fishing. Upstream from there would be a ways to nearest campsite.

Virginia Forest launch on PA side is nice to paddle upstream from. The launch is steep, but the area is nice. There are some stealth camping areas near the area. This would be my pick to start.

I always recommend paddling upstream first!

A lot of the rest of the DE is quite shallow and makes upstream progress quite slow. If you have a sleek touring yak and are a strong paddler, you could make some decent upstream progress in places. The shuttle is always the hardest part.

West Branch Penobscot River
and Chesuncook Lake. Total 43 miles. Chesuncook is big… 17 miles from Chesuncook Village to Ripogenus Lake and Allagash Gateway campground.

Its not free however. $8 a night for non residents and $80 for the shuttle. Or go to Moosehead and doodle around As its 40 miles long you can go as far as you like. But start at Lily Bay… Not at Greenville and not at NE carry. That one is free.

Also consider going on the ocean. Launching from Old Quarry in Stonington gives you access to many public islands within pretty sheltered reach. Launch fee is nominal.

Moosehead Danger, Danger?
I saved the big trip until the end of the summmer, and after researching many of the above recommendations am leaning towards Moosehead (from Lily Bay as suggested)

Am a bit concerned about a few write-ups warning the treacherous waves that in bad conditions could “swamp a small boat”.

I seem to recall similar warnings(maybe)for Flagstaff, Lows, & Somerset Reservoir - I’ve dealt fine w/ high wind & whitecaps on all of these, staying along the shoreline (or on shore during actual storms). Is Moosehead potentially more hazardous, or more prone for such conditions to occur - or does it just bear the same risk as other open bodies of water?

Hitting the cold, frewater ponds…from

– Last Updated: Sep-08-15 11:48 AM EST –

the lattitude of Greenville on up is_a/are doable trip(s) off the beaten path, yet easy access to main woods roads= not treacgerous, but main woods road from Kokadjo to the Golden Road(join at Chesuncook L.) DOES have its rough areas...but take slow & your exhaust/muffler/axles will live...if you're those that enjoys preserving your vehicle.
The West Branch Ponds and Big Lyford pond are nice, lots of moose, some deer, a loon or two...
You'll see wildlife in the mornings and evenings. Quite a few un-designated campsites plus au-natural spots close to the ponds. Just need dependable tires with a little clearance. The main roads, from Kokadjo northward, are all dirt woods roads with small rocks/gravel mixed in.
A nice alternative would be to camp along the West Branch somewhere(Rip Dam downstream...I-95 to Medway westward ~20mi to many campsites), Chewonki Campsites = *rates are not posted without calling/emailing but here's link...fwiw. Big Eddy- either side. **I realize this involves $$ but it's a nice week to save for...fwiw.
The West Branch is cold, clean but not a constant rip-roaring current..just in a few spotty chutes/rapids/holes, easily avoided. A nice initiation to wilderness river level, as is the river on the Seboomook Dam section(below Chesuncook L...per kayamedic's entry). In all but the Seboomook Section of the West Branch(Penobscot) you're gate/fee free...
Attaining the most comfort means picking up some wheels for the "other" end of your kayak and easily "wheeling in" to wherever, otherwise most ponds can be pretty close to woods roads with pretty good trail access.

check gauges…search for example: Port Jervis Delaware River stream gauge…or the map.

Erika the storm may bring rain raising levels to tripping flows but now is very late in the season for east coast tripping as the water ran out a month ago.

The West Branch of the Susquehanna, Delaware River, Connecticut, possibly Potomac are camp able.

Be discrete, leave early.

Try the Mississippi ? a few hours away by Interstate.

Weekend paddle trips
I am looking for more 3-day, 2-night paddle trips I can do. I started at the beginning of this summer and I have been almost every weekend so I am running out of new spots to try. I am also a Philadelphia resident and looking for any trips within a 4-hour drive.

Some trips I have done:

Wharton State Forest (southern NJ, in the Pine Barrens) - You need to get permits to camp (ReserveAmerica) but they are pretty cheap.

  • Mullica River is pretty tame further up but becomes tidal in the lower portions. The lower portion also has motorboats, etc. but it is a fairly calm river for many miles that goes through an estuary and marshy areas. Mullica Campground is a paddle/hike-in only site which is my favorite campground in the forest. Water pumps and pit toilets.
  • Wading River is very shallow but a nice, easy paddle.
  • Oswego River is probably the most scenic and beautiful of all since it is not traveled as much. None of the rental places offer trips on it but it does pass some more “commercial” campgrounds like Bodine Field. Start at Oswego Lake, short portage over the damn and if you want a longer trip, another portage past a spillway (you have to portage across a road). Flows into the Wading River and then the Mullica.
  • Batsto River is another fun paddle. Short portage at Batsto Historic Village around the dam.

    Delaware Water Gap (Port Jervis to Smithfield Beach)
  • This trip took two lazy weekends. There are tons of campsites along the river and they are all pretty amazing. Port Jervis to Milford Beach is pretty slow moving but it picks up around Dingman’s Ferry. Camping is free and there are a lot of designated sites with fire rings/grills and some of them even have pit toilets. My friends and I have camped at non-designated spots as well and haven’t had any issues as long as you keep your fire small and leave no trace.

a few others…

– Last Updated: Sep-08-15 11:44 AM EST –

A good area along Moosehead's western shore is Rockwood. North of Rockwood(Northen Rd...~20mi) is the Pittston Farm..near Seboomook(Lake)Dam is Seboomook Wilderness Campground.
Chesuncook(several lodging choices..the Lake House on the western side and on east side(lodging?)..Allagash Trip info and Woodsman Memorial) + open areas("paddle-to" nightly tenting/camping) off from the shoreline, Chamberlain L.
Ponds: ~20mi drive north from Greenville to pitstop of Kokadjo and First Roach Pond(South Inlet camping)..2nd and 3rd are nice...all have camping areas.
Staying on I-95 north of Bangor: Milo/LaGrange exit, thru Milo & Brownville & BJct..JoMary Lakes...campground(sizeable but not that big) is in past the NWM JoMary gate(see website...daily fees..etc), additional ponds westward..Penobscot, Wadleigh, Pollywog, Musquash ponds..all with campsites. One can get deeper into woods if desired, but these are all auto accessible.
...fwiw. Ponds such as Yoke Pond and W.Branch Ponds = camps/lodges with nice clean, coldwater ponds to paddle..not that deep. DeLorme State Atlas(not affiliated with) is the bible for roads and campsites.. *If you have to pass thru a NWM gate, one gate will get you thru a 2nd...(1 instance I know of).

The heat of summer, August particularly,

– Last Updated: Sep-16-15 6:06 PM EST –

warms most non-spring-fed waters up, but Umbagog and Mooselookmeguntic form sort of the edge for warm/coldwater habitats & swimming/boating....the more north you go, the better(cooler) the waters usually are.(Great weather up at Moosehead &northward latitudes...but need rain bad). Flagstaff is a man-made res. but does get water from the upper branches of the Dead R, but is rather deep = gets some wildlife..but is pretty boring to paddle($.01). I am prety sure there are State Info houses in both Greenville and Millinocket = that know what's busy & not.