When you think of Kansas City, MO, you might think of barbecue, breweries, and constant gusts of wind. Kansas City is all of those things, and It’s also a fantastic city to explore on a kayak.
Because Kansas City sits right on the border between Kansas and Missouri, you can access national parks in both states if you want to make a day trip from the metropolitan area. However, if you’re going to stay within the city limits, there are many lakes and rivers to enjoy.
Here, we list the best places to kayak in Kansas City and surrounding areas, giving a little background on each location, launch sites, and rentals nearby.
1. Fleming Park, MO
Fleming Park is an enormous 7,800-acre public park around 20 miles outside of Kansas City in Blue Springs, MO. It only takes 15 minutes to get to this beautiful recreational park from downtown Kansas City by car.
Within Fleming Park, there are two large lakes: Lake Jacomo and Blue Springs Lake. Both lakes are great for kayaks, along with plenty of other activities, including paddle boarding, windsurfing, fishing, and swimming.
Lake Jacomo is the biggest of the two lakes, with a 970-acre surface area. There are designated launching sites for kayaks marked by signs, and launching from anywhere else is prohibited. There are rentals in the park for Lake Jacomo, and the staff will instruct you as to where to launch.
Motored boats are not allowed on Lake Jacomo, so you can enjoy a pretty calm paddle in the company of fellow kayakers, fishermen, and paddleboarders. You can kill two birds with one stone and bring your fishing rod out on the kayak.
Blue Springs Lake is smaller, but it offers more beautiful views of the surrounding natural scenery, and since it is less trafficked than Lake Jacomo, you’ll get a smoother water surface for easier paddling. You don’t have to choose one or the other, though. Why not take full advantage and try them both?
2. Lake of the Woods, MO
You can’t visit Kansas City without visiting the famous Swope Park, Kansas City’s huge central park. Swope Park is larger than New York City’s Central Park and is the pride and joy of KC’s parks and recreation system.
Located minutes from downtown, Swope Park attracts a whopping 1.8 million visitors annually. Many people recommend reserving a few days on your itinerary to enjoy everything this park has to offer.
These activities include a zipline adventure park, golf courses, soccer fields, community gardens, the Kansas City Zoo, Starlight Theater, Swope Park Pool, and Lakeside Nature Center to name a few.
Swope Park has wide-open meadows for picnicking and camping, thickly forested areas for hiking, and the lovely Lake of the Woods for kayaking and fishing. Forests and campgrounds surround Lake of the Woods, so you can spend the day fishing on your kayak and end it by grilling up the day’s catch, riverside at your campsite.
3. Longview Lake, MO
Located in Longview Lake Park, Longview Lake is a 930-acre lake surrounded by softball complexes, a community center, swimming beach areas, a horse park, picnic areas, golf courses, campgrounds, trails, and more.
It is right outside of Kansas City, giving you a nice respite from urban activities without having to travel too far out of the city. Kayaking and fishing are the two most popular year-round activities on Longview Lake.
There are two official launch sites for kayaks and canoes on the eastern and western sides of Longview Lake. Longview Lake’s large marina has kayak rentals, concessions, and fishing supplies.
4. Kansas River, MO
Known locally as Kaw River, the Kansas River is a 173-mile-long river system that traverses Northern Kansas through the Kansas City metropolitan area until it connects with the southernmost part of the Missouri River right in the heart of downtown Kansas City.
There are around 20 launch sites along the Kansas River and plenty of places within the city and on the outskirts to rent kayaks. The river is a slow, steady-flowing system with the occasional sandbar for docking and exploring your surroundings.
Great for beginners and families, the Kansas River is a calm and leisurely ride that doesn’t require intense paddling because there isn’t a strong current. That said, Kansas City’s notoriously strong winds may present a challenge depending on the day you decide to set out.
You can always take breaks along the way for picnics and riverside naps for an enjoyable and relaxing day on the water.
5. Lake of the Ozarks, MO
While Lake of the Ozarks is a substantial 2.5-hour drive from Kansas City, it’s a spectacular State Park that serves as a popular getaway spot for KC dwellers. Lake of the Ozarks State Park is a resort town, theme park, and wildlife reserve in one that has something for everyone.
Whether you want a high-class, fine-dining experience for two or a family camping trip, you’ll find it at Lake of the Ozarks. It’s an excellent lake for every aquatic activity under the sun, and kayaking certainly falls on the list.
Lake of the Ozarks has a 10-mile-long demarcated Lake of the Ozarks Aquatic trail that has you follow buoys to stay on track. The route takes you around rock formations, into deep water, and along the shoreline to give you spectacular views of the surrounding forests, animals, and marine life.
If 10 miles sounds a bit too ambitious for you, you can always kayak in the main lake area with paddleboarders, swimmers, and motorboats. We recommend hugging the shoreline, as boat traffic tends to create a lot of wakes.
6. Clinton State Park, KS
Located in Lawrence, Kansas, around a 40-minute drive from downtown Kansas City, Clinton State Park is home to Clinton Lake. The park is an enormous reserve filled with outdoor activities such as archery, disc golf, bike trails, fishing ponds, campgrounds, and cabins, to name a few.
Clinton Lake is a calm lake that offers families and beginner kayakers an excellent opportunity to spend the day on the water.
7. Watkins Mill State Park, MO
A mere 25 minutes outside downtown Kansas City, Watkins Mill State Park lies in Lawson, MO, and holds both natural and historical significance for the state of Missouri.
Inside the Park, you’ll find the perfectly preserved 19th-century woolen mill known as Watkins Mill, surrounded by acres of forests and meadows. You’ll also find campgrounds and a 100-acre lake with an abundance of fish, including Largemouth bass, crappie, and catfish.
The lake may be smaller than most of the sites on our list, but it is tranquil, beginner-friendly, and especially great for fishermen.
8. Missouri River, MO
The Missouri River is an iconic historical system that served as the entry point for Lewis and Clark’s famed western pioneer expedition in 1804.
As mentioned above, the Missouri and Kansas rivers meet in downtown Kansas City at this famous point of disembarkation known today as Kaw Point.
You can launch your kayak right from the city center or from various points throughout the metropolitan area.
The section of the Missouri River that flows through Kansas City towards smaller Missouri townships is called the Blue River, so if you see signs for Blue River or Missouri River, they are the same.
The Missouri River has a consistently calm current that beginners can easily navigate. Plus, it’s a great way to see the entirety of Kansas City, from downtown to commercial centers and all the different surrounding neighborhoods.
9. Smithville Lake, MO
Located 15 minutes north of downtown Kansas City, Smithville Lake is one of the largest lakes on our list at 7,200 acres of surface area and an impressive 175 miles of shoreline. It’s safe to say that there are plenty of aquatic activities as well as camping, hiking, and picnicking areas around its massive perimeter.
There are numerous kayaking launch sites and marinas with kayak rentals. Most launch sites charge a fee, but you can find free access points at the less-developed, more rugged northern and eastern regions of the lakeshore.
10. Shawnee Mission Lake, KS
And finally, Shawnee Mission Park is a lovely state park 30 minutes outside of Kansas City on the Kansas side with a disc golf course, dog park, mountain biking, and hiking trails, not to mention the peaceful 120-acre Shawnee Mission Lake.
The lake has a marina where you can rent kayaks or paddleboards for the day. Sailboats and fishing canoes also frequent the lake without disturbing its calm and enjoyable waters.
Summing up the Best Places to Kayak in Kansas City
That wraps up our article on kayaking near Kansas City. We hope you enjoyed reading it.
Whether you are an avid kayaker or a beginner looking for a leisurely paddle, Kansas City has many urban parks with lakes, as well as river systems flowing through for you to launch and enjoy your day on the water.
Lakes and rivers are full of kayaks, paddleboards, canoes, and swimmers enjoying Kansas City’s spectacular outdoors scene during the summer. Whether you’re a tourist or a resident, there are plenty of great kayaking opportunities for you to check out, as you’ll see below.
You’ll be spoilt for choice! Happy paddling!