Out of all fifty US states, Louisiana might just be one of the best for water-sports. The bayou state has access to the ocean, the Mississippi river, and a thousand other places perfect for kayaking and canoeing. There are opportunities for kayakers of every skill level, and a huge variety of experiences on offer. You can fish out of your boat and weave your way through swamps, or float straight through the middle of New Orleans.
Unfortunately, there’s just too much out there to try everything. That’s why we’ve gathered 10 of the best places to kayak in Louisiana.
1. Bayou St. John, LA
This might be one of the only places in the world where you can paddle down a naturally occurring bayou right smack in the center of a city. As you float along the water, you’ll see historic homes and buildings, and get a rare perspective of New Orleans as you go.
Bayou St. John can be quite a popular spot for kayakers and paddle boarders, too, so if you pick the right day to get on the water, you can float with company. If you’re interested in the history of the Bayou, you can sign up for a kayaking tour and learn all about it while you paddle.
2. Whiskey Chitto Creek, LA
Whiskey Chitto Creek, also called Ouiska Chitto, is an ideal kayaking location for a beginner. The slow river follows a meandering path for more than seventy miles, and is home to a whole community of Louisiana wildlife, including deer, raccoons, and turkey, as well as livestock grazing near the shoreline.
There are guided tours available, but the creek is calm enough that even a first time kayaker wouldn’t have any trouble on these waters.
3. Lake Fausse Pointe, LA
This shallow lake is host to some of the most impressive flora in the state, a forest of giant cypress trees with their roots stretching into the water. On calm days, the water of the lake is so still that you can see each tree perfectly reflected in it, creating some truly beautiful scenery.
The only consideration to make is that the lake can sometimes see very high winds, so unless you’re keen to try your skill against some serious weather, aim to visit on a calm day.
4. The Mississippi, LA
Technically the Mississippi river is exactly on the border of Louisiana, but we’d be kicking ourselves if we let that stop us from putting it on the list. There are plenty of places to put in along the river, and because of its length, the variety of scenery on display is unmatched. That said, certain stretches of the river see more traffic from motorized craft.
The Mississippi also provides a unique opportunity to more experienced paddlers. If you plan carefully and pack enough supplies, you could get all the way across Louisiana, from north to south, on a single trip.
5. The Sabine River, LA
Louisiana isn’t exactly known for its whitewater rapids, but just on its western border, you can find something a little more challenging than drifting lazily through a bayou. The Toledo Bend Spillway, on the Sabine River is the only whitewater in Louisiana, featuring a pair of class II rapids, Moccasin Rapid and Roman’s Playground.
As of writing this, the spillway is closed due to extensive damage, but by the time you’re reading it, it may well be open again. So, if you’re craving a bit more adventure than the other entries on this list can offer, consider giving the Toledo Bend Spillway a shot.
6. Lake Charles, LA
Lake Charles is more of a tourist spot than most of the other places on this list, but that comes with the convenience of golf courses and casinos nearby, for those who are interested. More importantly, it doesn’t usually see much kayak traffic, and it’s a wonderful location to fish, with saltwater and freshwater species living in and around the lake.
If you enjoy fishing and kayaking, but haven’t ever combined those passions, Lake Charles is the perfect place to try it out.
7. Lake Pontchartrain, LA
At almost six hundred and thirty square miles, Pontchartrain is the largest lake in Louisiana, and it isn’t exactly beginner-friendly. Getting from one side to the other is an ordeal, and in the autumn and spring, strong winds make the going rough. That said, if you’re looking for a kayaking route that will make you work to get where you’re going, Lake Pontchartrain can make that happen.
You’ll have to be careful of motorized craft, but there are launch points that are only available to kayaks and other person-powered boats, which helps reduce the risk of running into anyone.
8. The Red River of the South, LA
The Red River is another that runs through a few states before it gets all the way down to Louisiana, and like the Mississippi, it’s really better suited for experienced kayakers.
It’s named for the clay-like color that its watershed can take on during high flow, when it pulls red sediment down from up north. Though it might be tempting to ride it when it’s running high, it can be quite dangerous, so only very well experienced kayakers should attempt it.
9. The Chandeleur Islands, LA
The Chandeleur Islands lie just off the coast of Louisiana. They are a chain of small barrier islands that host a diverse range of fish and other wildlife. Unfortunately, they’re quickly disappearing, both being weathered away by storms and suffering from rising sea levels. This is one opportunity that might not last for too much longer.
It is possible to kayak out to them but only very experienced sea kayakers should attempt this as they are far. You’re much better off taking a larger boat out there and then it will be much easier to navigate them by kayak. There’s no better way to appreciate the barrier’s beauty, and to catch a few fish while you’re there.
10. Bayou Bartholomew, LA
And last, by by no means least, we have Bayou Bartholomew which is the longest in the world, and has one of the most diverse ecologies out of any stream in North America. In Louisiana, sections of the bayou are forested, not so densely as to make navigating them difficult, but enough to block out some of the sunlight, making for a pleasant, shady paddle.
Because Bayou Bartholomew has never been dammed or diverted, the wildlife there is especially pristine, at least in unpolluted regions. It’s a solid spot for fishing, but it’s worth visiting even if you don’t want to catch anything.
It’s hard for us to leave this list here, to be honest. There are so many wonderful rivers, lakes, and bayous in Louisiana that didn’t fit on the list, and many more that we’ve never even heard of. You could probably ask any Louisiana paddler, and they’d rattle off their own list with plenty different entries than our own.
Despite that, we hope that you’ve found something on this list that suits your needs. Have fun and enjoy the trip!