How do you find places to camp that you can paddle to?

I have several thousand miles of backpacking experience but I’m new to kayaking. I would love to pack my gear in my boat and set off to a campsite that can only be accessed from the water. How should I go about looking for spots? I’ve tried some usual suspects (sea kayaking guidebook, gazetteer, etc) but it’s not turning up much. I’m especially interested in something local to me (SE Massachusetts) that I could go to over a weekend. I also know about MITA and have big dreams, but for now, the Maine Island trail is beyond my skill level and frankly, too far for a weekend trip. Anything in MA, RI, or southern VT or NH would be accessible to me. So, where should I look?

NB: I’m comfortable with stealth camping but I’m not sure if the approach via water is different from hiking.

I would like to go here:

Umbagog Lake State Park

But a bit far for me. Search the forums for it, some people have reported about it.

Also you might be interested in the awesome report by @dcoimbra on his trip down the Saco River.

Paddling the Saco River

It is also included in the Go Paddle app.

It’s a very long drive for you, but Utah and western Colorado have amazing places to paddle camp.
Amazing places to backpack too.

Thanks for the recs but perhaps I should clarify. I’m more looking for reference or guidebooks than specific information. For instance, in the backpacking world AMC publishes trail guides that include information about remote backcountry campsites. I haven’t found any obvious equivalent resources for paddling but I thought there might be some niche publishers or information out there that I haven’t been able to find yet. Definitely putting those other spots on my list though.

The Northern Forest Canoe Trail ( has some of the resources you’re looking for, but slightly out of your preferred area.

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Nope - no central source for information on paddle-in campsites - at least in southern New England.

In RI there is a campsite on the Pawcatuck River at Burlingame.

Connecticut River has lots of paddle in sites in VT, NH and lesser so in MA

Not much more than that - unfortunately you need to travel.

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No, don’t go there, it’s horrible, just leave the campsite vacant for us… :- )

Seriously, it is a great place. We haven’t yet paddled to camp, we like our stuff, but someday…


There is paddle-in camping at Burlingame State Park in Rhode Island. You launch on the Pawcatuck River in Bradford, RI and paddle upstream about 3 miles and you’ll see a sign for the place on your right. It is primitive and you may share it with Boy Scouts on a weekend.

You can also launch on the CT River at the Haddam Ferry and paddle south about a mile to Selden Island. Campsites there need to be reserved through the CT DEP. They have tables and outhouses.


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In Florida we would google “Florida paddle trails” …or look at the state parks web site…we have free river camps run by state park system.

Of course your state isn’t Florida.

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Lol, def not florida up here. There are a few paddle trails in my area but they’re not long (just a day trip) and there’s no designated camping.

Thanks to everyone for all the other suggestions, I’ll do some more research. Too bad about not having a centralized resource but I suppose that makes the spots we find all the more special.

Maybe check out state park web sites in nearby states.

For inland waters try using the “DeLorme Atlas and Gazetteer” in combination with the AMC "Quiet Water " guides.

Best of luck with the search.


Southern New England isn’t very camping-friendly (as I’m sure you know.) The lack of resources probably just reflects the lack of (legal) camping spots near places to paddle.

You might try asking at some kayak shops. Sometimes those places organize paddle camping trips and might know of something that the general public doesn’t.

Also there are websites (like Hipcamp) where you can find privately owned land where you can camp (it’s kind of like AirBnB for camping.)

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Some places are set for canoe or kayak camping enroute and some places aren’t. I don’t know of one general resource that has what you are looking for. If you want to stay in Mass. you might have to go stealth. The Northern Forest Canoe Trail is a good suggestion. What you are looking for is a water trail. So I would start googling water trails in different states where you want to paddle. Maine has a lot of what you are looking for- Allagash, Moose Bow Trip and West Branch of the Penobscot are very popular options but there are a ton of other options as well. You’ll be driving a bit to get there. The Adirondacks area is also popular for paddle camping.

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Are there any State or national forests on rivers there.? How about paddle clubs. Best place for local knowledge is with a bunch of locals.

Here in SC you can camp on many of the small islands in the reservoirs. There are several paddle trails with camping sites, and at the coast a few islands you can camp with a permit from DNR.

This is a useful resource for my state
Paddle SC | Canoe - Kayak - SUP (

Bull Island doesn’t allow camping but is one of my favorite places to paddle. Check out the short video
Discover Sea Kayaking in Cape Romain

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The general route for reference is to look for :“water trails” or “canoe trails”. These often have guide information.

Waterways often occur in areas that are built up (as early settlers used waterways as transportation), so perhaps not as open for this as we would like. To get around this on areas where the aren’t dedicated water trails, see if you can get info from others who have done a particular area.


Suggest you keep CT in the mix. Connecticut River Paddlers Trail

Southern VT can be tough, but here are some options. 10 Great Paddling Trips from Easy to Epic - Vermont Sports Magazine


I was born in Boston, but have never paddled there. Have you considered Boston Harbor, where there are a few islands that have campsites? I keep thinking I should visit, but keep getting distracted by more exotic destinations in Maine or the Adirondacks.

Here is a resource that identifies some campable islands, but you have to comb through it.

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