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

The simple answer is find some public land. In the West, we load up the canoe and push off.
Find some ownership maps. YOu may be able to get permission on private land, or find some public land you were not aware of.

Out west you can camp just about anywhere on public land. In the east many of the national forests only allow camping at designated camp sites which aren’t often on the water, or could be only open in hunting season. It is a good idea to check out the public lands where he lives, and see what might turn up.

Not very useful here. 94 percent of Maine is private and other New England states even more so. We have a lot of camping in canoe country in Maine but its because of a long tradition of public use of private lands, RI and CT is not like that.

We do have some public land Acadia does not allow any backcountry camping. The White MT National Forest has no river camping but a ton of wilderness sites.

The Penobscot Paddling Trail north of Bangor is coming to fruition with campsites on the river

I recommend the AMC Quiet Water guides. And a Gazetteer. Not on line. Paper, It will have all campsites on it.

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Different states are different… check out your state regs. Here in Wisconsin its legal to camp below the spring high water mark (grass in the tree branches) and unposted islands. When I was a kid we used to camp on islands that were posted but obviously used only for hunting, sometimes with a duck blind or unmaintained shack. We’d paddle late, leave early, use a cook stove and have no fire, leave no fire scars. Covert camping, but if caught I doubt anyone would serve time, probably the owner wouldn’t even object as long as there’s no obnoxious behavior.

You might want to make day trips on the river or lakes you’re considering for a more extended trip. Take a notebook and note possible covert, overt, perhaps even designated camp sites (if any), how likely they are to be useful at higher water levels, and the paddling time between.
Compile a set of those day trip notes and you’ll have your paddle camping guidebook.

If you can’t find that someone’s done it before you.


Figure out where you want to float, if it is private, stop at a landowners house and as permission, bring pie. If he says no, go to the next guy. If he says yes, bring another pie after you are done. If you are passing through a nat forest, call them. I have never been told I cant camp where I wanted to as long as it wasnt a propagation area or the like. I have been told I cant have a camp fire, which is something I dont care about anyway. Water trail maps have a lot of information on them and are a great source.

A couple pet peeves as a landowner;
Stealth camping… Is the stupidest term that has ever graced people who want to make their illegal activities sound good. Camp late, and pull out early using LNT? That is what you do on a river trip that you want to cover miles on. Nothing special unless non “stealth” requires a case of beer and a white man fire. Trespass and use cool words to be cool is still stealing.

“look for grass in trees” Nope. the ordinary high water mark is where the water NORMALLY is during a normal high flow, not a flood. The separation of wetland vegetation and terrestrial vegetation. As per WI regs …… if it aint wet, you are trespassing.

People making up their own rules is what is getting private land posted and trespassing laws get more teeth. If you lose access to an area, then “stealth” campers, trash throwers, creative public land rule readers, quad buyers who own a half acre and ride all over, and guys who think they can hunt there because in 1789 their kin owned the whole valley are to blame. If you are one of them, then its your fault.

Um, I think something got lost in translation. Stealth camping is a commonly used term in the backpacking world that refers to LNT camping at non-designated sites. In national and state forests where I usually hike, this is a specifically permitted use as long as you’re 200 ft away from the trail, water, etc etc. I’m not asking for a list of places to go trespass. Quite the opposite actually. Just looking at maps or nautical charts, it’s hard to tell in some areas what’s public or private and usually trail guides and such are useful for figuring that out.

Many thanks to everyone for the search tips. This is going to take a bit more legwork than I anticipated but that’s ok.

That Connecticut River Paddlers’ Trail website is really interesting. Didn’t know about that.

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Which is camping in the NT’s. It requires no specific designation. Its not “stealth” anything, its the rule.


“From mid-June to September, visitors may embark on an overnight camping trip to one of the 33 campsites at Bumpkin, Grape, Lovells, or Peddocks Islands [in Boston Harbor].”

Unfortunately, COVID-19 has shut down camping on the harbor islands, though they are still a great day paddle

The AMC owns Beal Island in Maine, but you need to reserve it Beal Island Campground – Appalachian Mountain Club

I also transferred my backpacking habits to boat-packing. It’s positively wonderful! My first trip down the Delaware R. was a delight. I remember stopping at a grocery store for a bag of apples just because I could. Fresh food!!! Just beware of the trap to start carrying too much comfort!

I discovered some river maps mark shoreside campsite. That’s likely on the well traveled/paddled rivers like the Delaware or Ct. If it’s a commonly paddled & camped area the info should be available, especially in guidebooks. Often our river banks and coasts, even on public land just don’t allow camping. I’ve tried to find camping along both shores of the Long Island Sound and there is precious little available. Either private land or not allowed. Contacting local clubs could provide good info. There’s likely to be some members who have knowledge and recommendations.

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