Ideas- municipal Kayak/Canoe boat ramps

It must be hard living in high population density locations. Traffic jams stealing your time. No place to launch a kayak without some kind of hang up. I just have to drop my kayak off at the side of the boat ramp, drive to the parking lot and walk back down. Nobody bothers my gear and there’s no problem with motorboats getting in my way. I don’t make as much money as city folk, but then I don’t have to spend as much either.

Naw, it’s great!
More wakes to play on, more friendly boaters on water should you ever need help. Like I said higher up, I avoid the ramps and all that.

90% of the time I just drop in a canal that’s right out my front door. Almost my own private launch site.

I would much rather have
20 yards of beach, than any type of ramp. give me sand or grass every day over concrete or wood. easier to maintain and infinitely more useful, you just need to make sure that paddlers can pull their car up within 20-30 yards of the beach. And the beach should not be for swimmers.

NPS publication on different docks
If you are still looking for different dock options, there is a National Park Service publication called “Logical Lasting Launches” and available at

It discusses a lot of different approaches from the simple to the complex to launches for more ecologically sensitive areas

Been at the topic here in WNY
for 5 years…ever sence my first encounter with a steeply angled, algea slick concrete ramp.

Too often the ramp, designed to get the power boat into deep water fast, poses an impossible task for the paddler. Two recently installed (locally) ramps have a less inclined approach and have a gravel/sand type base to the one side

of the two boat launch…Huge difference getting in and out when you don’t want to be scraping the hull and a floating dock isn’t available.

The flip side on a seperate hand launch is somebody is going to have to spend time to clean debris from it…and lock on it won’t be the power boaters…Hand launches are something that-if we paddlers want em-we paddlers will have to maintain em.

Check out the website
for Tempe Town Lake in Arizona.

I paddle there alot during the week as it is the closest place for me to paddle. The only motorized craft allowed have to be electric. Lots of sailboats less than 20’ and lots of paddlers. They have a concrete ramp and also a sandy beach launch. They both are nice. Having a SOT, I can use the concrete ramp without any problem, and it’s closer to parking, by wading out till the water hits my calves and then slide my boat between my legs and sit right down in it. My wife has a sink, and she uses the dock right next to the launch. There’s a lot of construction over by the sandy beach for the new light rail system going in so we probably won’t utilize that until after the construction is finished in 2008.


– Last Updated: Oct-07-05 8:07 AM EST –

even if you're not vying for a launch spot. I'm always careful around these dangerous inclines -slipped, fell, broke my glasses, which sliced a 1" gash in my forehead that bled like a stuck pig (50% of the front of my (formerly) white T-shirt literally turned blood red), scared the living crap out of anyone who saw me. So it's caveat launcher.

On the other hand, once settled on or in your boat, it makes it a lot easier to get a nice glide start :).

We've actually not had wait problems at ramps down here. But then again, when/where we've launched, there was no crowd. I'm not sure I'd want to queue it up with some of those yahoos, anyway -half of them don't know how to boat, half of them don't know how to drive, and the OTHER half of them sure as HAIL don't know how to trailer!

But sometimes it sure is FUN watchin'em...!

We had some local agencies think they were nice when they put in paddlecraft launching facilities at a new section of Oleta State Park up in North Biscayne Bay, and at the Deering Estate County Park in South Biscayne Bay. Turns out these were great canoe docks fit only for good kayakers with a well-developed sense of balance.

As others have noted, just a nice sandy baech would be fine for kayaks AND canoes...

Saw one setup at Shake-A-Leg, local outfit for disabled to learn to sail and/or kayak: had a sloping, half-sunk floating dock with about 1/2 of the platform UW -decent launch/retreive area.

When Sally & I paddled in Portalnd, OR, on the Willamette out of flatpick's old shop (Alder Creek) at it's new Downtown location on the banks of the river south of Downtown, we launched from a long, multisectioned floating dock that was only about 6" above the water.

A little scary at first for a couple of old almost exclusive beach-launchers, but it was fine for calm flatwater conditions.

But as another poster noted, one of the big hang-ups is the distance between where you launch and where you park, and what you worry about after you drop your stuff before you get back to it.

And availablility of non-trailer parking is a Big Deal down here, where boaters proliferate and are catered to. We paddlers must play 3rd fiddle whe it come to taking care of our vehicles at launch sites before we


-Frank in Miami

A HUGE waste of $
As regards the original post:

A canoeist needs no special facility to launch. We carry our boats to the water, wade out a bit, hop in and go. All this talk of special ramps for paddle craft just seems silly and unnecessary. Seems to me that if a person can’t get in and out of their human-powered boat without special ramps/slides/lifts/yuppie devices they are a hazard to themselves and those around them. Some folks have allowed themselves to become WAY too pampered me thinks…

My favorite put-ins are
"throw-ins" which are basically a place just big enough to get your canoe or kayak into the water, but not suitable for power boat put-ins.

You can take your own sweet time on putting your boat in the water and don’t have to worry about P-ss-ing off some bubba with his 5000hp outboard who believes the water and everything else belongs to him.

I am not sure which state we picked it up in, but on one (and it might be right here in NC) it listed the state wide canoe/kayak put-ins for every river, lake and coast line and it even specified weather they were ramps or throw-ins.



Hi ‘arkay’,

I don’t feel pampered, I just paddle at an area that has only a ramp to access the H20, or we have to hike 75’ down a rip-rap covered hill after climbing an Armco barrier. Not real pleasant or safe. Again, Our area suffers a lot of erosion and has been heavily Rip-rapped. Ya… I’d prefer grass, sand, dirt, whatever, but this isn’t the case at this lake, unless I want to drive around 20 miles to the other end, and I’m already traveling over 25 miles from my home, so enough of the ‘elitist’, better than thou attitude, I just need ideas to offer a lake superintendent who is willing to fork over city $$$ to help decongest a ramp, which for the time being is the only area they allow us to put in at. Sorry I’m not as ‘purist’ as you in this case, but for the time being we don’t have much choice. And like I said, not all paddlers are young and as able to carry their gear the distance over rip-rap here, most of the folks I sell boats to are currently 50-65+, and most are not in that good of shape, but hopefully if they can get on the water that will all change?

some amenities would be nice
to have a freshwater rinse area adjacent to the put in for those of us that live in condos and have no yards to rinse our gear at. If I have to pay to use a boat ramp then I would like something in return. I have never had a problem launching at same ramp with powerboaters. I just keep to side of ramp they don’t use and don’t get in their way, they don’t get in mine.

As Scupper Frank said here in South Florida they have tried to put in some launch sites for kayakers/canoers but they really screwed them up and made them more difficult to use. Simplicity is key, a sloping beach and a port a potti or restroom facility with a fresh water rinse station would be awesome.

If I rinsed my PFD…
it would probably fall apart.

I think the crud, mold, sea weed and miscellaneous other foreign matter is what is holding it together.

I did notice the other day that my whistle is still hanging off it.

I blew it to see if it still works and scared the hell out of myself!



PS (I didn’t blow it three times though)

As an alternative to a dedicated kayak launching ramp and a more effective method for kayak launch, I suggest KayaArm mounted onto a fixed or floating dock….go to for info including photos and videos. Note that a feature of KayaArm when it is not needed is that the arm, which is tethered to the mast, can be slid out the top of the mast and then stored on top of the dock or better still left hanging in the water beside the dock thereby freeing up that dock space for other boat types.

this looks like one of the easiest ways to self launch, even for total beginers and first timers.
it seems it wouldn’t be that hard to create your own version either.

When it comes to launching and landing, there is a big difference between plastic boats and FG/composite boats. Owners of plastic boats will be happy with about any landing. Concrete boat ramps are fine for plastic. Those plastic-dock-slider/ramps are fun. Most owners of FG or composite hulls will avoid concrete ramps (by walking the boat into the water before boarding) and the slider ramp things because they damage the hulls

What works for all are sandy beaches and low docks. The low docks will usually be floating docks. Many kayakers don’t like docks, either because they lack flexibility or they just don’t know how easy it is to get in and out of their boats once they learn how. I can’t figure out how kayakers can have such difficulty with low docks. I watch people struggle, but can’t figure out why they can’t do it. Maybe in their heads? Docks and beaches work well for canoes, too.

“You should be able to launch and land a kayak in less than a minute once you get the boat to the ramp.”

“SHOULD” is the operative word.
BUT, when camping, it takes far longer to haul your boat and gear to the water, then load the kayak.
And even on a day-trip, carrying a 60# kayak loaded with safety gear, water and lunch is too much weight so we haul the boat, then go back to haul the gear which takes time.

As a club we promote a small beach next to the boat ramp. A grassy area near by allows for preparation area with movement to the launch just before launch. They can “sand” over some rip rap to create the beach.

The city seems to be hung up on floating docks. Floating docks are usually awkward. The flotation chambers need to be no deeper than 8" for kayaks and canoes. Otherwise you are a little too high for comfortable launches. We have a standard floating dock at the Canoe club but most people launch and recover off the bulkhead in the shallows. (tidal) Floating docks also attract power boats.

The state seems to be hung up on steps. At one popular state park launch they had a submerged platform that was usually ankle/knee deep. You could paddle up and step out without banging the boat on anything then take it out. So they decided that wasn’t ADA friendly enough and put in ramps to steps. (?) They took out the submerged platform. Fortunately they left the shallow water to the stable bottom, mostly rock.

At a river camp the state put stairs down to deep water. So you have to get out of your heavy laden boat and carry it up the stairs to the boat racks. Not good. I must admit though the ramp in the picture makes loading the kayak on carts at the water and wheeling it up to the parking area convenient.

ps…I’m not going to “seal” launch my wood/epoxy saturation, varnished kayak off any surface I don’t have to.

@rowerwet said:
this looks like one of the easiest ways to self launch, even for total beginers and first timers.
it seems it wouldn’t be that hard to create your own version either.

Launching a paddle of 20 kayaks would be impracticable from this launch. Better to develop the skills to dock launch. Kayakers have trouble doing dock launches because its awkward at first and boat damage. Most public docks have parts missing, exposed nails, exposed lumber, pointy metal, etc which is a bad thing for higher end boats. Most awkwardness reduces with time in the boat.

Of course over 50 years of age gravity works harder on you and anything that low gets a little awkward. A boat in knee deep water is easier to get in and out of. We often assist one of our 80 year olds in and out of the boat in knee deep water. Docks …forget it.

Be wary of many of the manufactured kayak launches on the market. Most are designed for short, wide boats, and can damage a hardshell boat. They are also frequently too short - if your boat gets over 14’ you can find your cockpit still free in the water.