Kayaking in Mississippi: 14 of the Best Places to Paddle

It probably goes without saying that Mississippi is a state with a lot of water in it and around it. Of course, there’s a vast network of rivers that culminate in the mighty Mississippi. There are also hundreds of lakes and Mississippi’s Secret Coast. Surrounded by wildlife and natural beauty, you’ll be able to kayak at whatever level you desire in the Magnolia State.

In this post, we’ve put together a list of the 14 best places to kayak in Mississippi to inspire you for your next paddling trip.

1. The Pearl River, MS

Pearl River, MS by /\ \/\/ /\ (CC BY-SA 2.0)

For an easily accessible kayak trip near Jackson, look no further than Pearl River. The Pearl River Basin takes up nearly a third of the state from Neshoba Country to the Gulf, going directly through the Jackson Metropolitan area. 

If you are in Jackson, Pearl River is the most accessible place to kayak. There are many options for renting kayaks, portage, and set-off points. If you want a relaxing and easy kayak, you can paddle on the Pearl near or farther from the city. 

2. Gulf Islands National Seashore, MS 

While most people kayak on the rivers and in the lakes of Mississippi, there is a wilder and wetter place to paddle. Mississippi is on the coast, and the Gulf of Mexico offers islands, bayous, estuaries, and seashores to kayak. 

One coast to definitely check out is the Gulf Islands National Seashore which is an enormous swath of protected land in Florida and Mississippi. Its several protected areas include part of the Mississippi coastline and both Petit Bois Island and Horn Island. 

The Gulf of Mexico is a top-rated vacation destination for all kinds of outdoor and water sports. There are several places along the National Seashore that are perfect for kayaking – we recommend Biloxi Bay Kayak Rental.

3. Bear Creek, MS

In the northeastern corner of Mississippi, Bear Creek is a delightful little river. It’s excellent for beginners who want a smooth and straightforward route. It has shallow waters and several sandbars for resting. The stream ends in Tishomingo State Park, making for a beautiful kayak. 

There is only one put-in on Bear Creek, about six miles above the state park. It’s sometimes a little busy (especially at 9 am and 1 pm, when the rangers host a canoe tour), but you will experience solitude and wildlife in the off-season. 

4. Enid Lake, Yalobusha County, MS

Enid Lake is one of the larger lakes on this list, stretching across three counties off the Yocona River Basin. It’s popular amongst anglers, campers, and kayakers for its inlets and length. There are several accessible fishing and kayaking spots off the piers. 

Operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Enid Lake is well cared for and was created to prevent flooding on the Mississippi River. The lake has a large campground near it, which also offers horseback riding and kayak rentals. 

5. Mississippi River, MS

Mississippi River, MS by Andy Montgomery (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Mississippi River at over 2,300 miles, is the longest in America, so it would be remiss not to include it on this list. It begins near the top of Minnesota and flows south to the Gulf of Mexico, acting as a divide between Mississippi and Arkansas as well as Mississippi and Louisiana.

Believe it or not, ambitious kayakers and canoeists have paddled the entire length which takes the average paddler around 3 months.

When it comes to places to kayak on it in Mississippi though you’re spoilt for choice. By the time it reaches the state of Mississippi, it’s a slow-moving Class I river, so you can kayak on it without much effort or skill.

Although the Mississippi is only a Class I river, it’s so crowded with large boats that we don’t recommend kayaking on it unless you are a proficient paddler. Even on the less busy stretches, there’s always traffic, and it can be overwhelming for beginning kayakers. 

6. Grand Bay National Reserve, MS 

Grand Bay National Reserve, MS by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (CC BY 2.0)

The Grand Bay National Reserve straddles the Mississippi and Alabama state lines. The reserve offers kayak tours and areas for recreational kayaking through the bayous and inlets in the nature preserve. 

This reserve is a natural wonderland, especially for birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts. There are several bayous to launch from, including one free one at Bayou Cumbest Road. You’ll have to bring kayaks, however, as the national reserve doesn’t rent them. 

7. Chunky River, MS

Chunky, Mississippi, is a tiny town with a river next to it. Located in the central-eastern part of the state, the Chunky River supports all levels of kayaking. You can find anything from calm, smooth waters to (small) whitewater sections. 

The best place to kayak on the Chunky River is from the Port Wanita Bridge to the Stuckey Bridge. This seven-mile stretch of river has beautiful wildlife, less traffic, and access to two of the area’s kayak rentals. 

8. Okatoma Creek, MS

One of the only places to find whitewater kayaking in Mississippi, Okatoma Creek has spots that reach a Class II so are ideal for whitewater kayaking beginners. The creek is more of a river, with multiple sections of mild rapids alternating with calmer currents. 

Okatoma Creek is located in southern Mississippi and has several places to put in/disembark. All along the river, there are places to rent kayaks, most notably the Okatoma Creek Farm. They offer camping and affordable kayak rentals. 

9. Arkabutla Lake, Memphis, MS

Arkabutla Lake by Fredlyfish4 (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Arkabutla Lake, in the northwest corner of Mississippi near Memphis, is on the Coldwater River. The lake has multiple spots for kayaking and other water sports. You can kayak on the river leading into the lake or enjoy the lake itself. 

Arkabutla Lake also has six different camping spots and multiple beaches for swimming. If you decide to go kayaking at a lake like Arkabutla, you’ll have the best of both camping and kayaking worlds. 

10. Lake Grenada, Grenada, MS

Also in Northern Mississippi, Lake Grenada is a flood control lake. Although it was manufactured, Lake Grenada is famous amongst fishing enthusiasts and kayakers for its location on the Yalobusha River and large area. 

You can kayak on Lake Grenada for hours – there are multiple access points for kayaks. Many locals love the opportunities for kayak fishing on the lake, so if you’re interested in catching fish from your vessel, Lake Grenada might be the reservoir for you! 

11. Ross Barnett Reservoir, Jackson, MS

Ross Barnett Reservoir by Eskimo.the (CC BY 3.0)

Part of the Pearl River Basin, the Ross Barnett Reservoir is directly outside Jackson, Mississippi. It’s over 33,000 acres and supplies water to Jackson. There are trails, campsites, and 22 boat launches available for use around the reservoir. 

There are multiple kayak rental places in the city, or you can bring your own and camp by the side of the reservoir. If your kayaking trip is based in the Jackson area, you can take advantage of Pearl River and the Ross Barnett Reservoir without much hassle. 

12. Little Black Creek Lake, Lumberton, MS

Black Creek is one of the best creeks in Mississippi, and it connects directly into Little Black Creek Lake. The river itself is shallow and smooth, with lots of sandbars and places to rest and picnic while kayaking. It’s great for beginner kayakers. 

Once you’ve mastered the creek, you can kayak out onto the lake. Although it’s still pretty calm, the lake can be a little more complicated to maneuver than Black Creek. This creek and lake area is great for any level of kayakers and is the only National Wild and Scenic River in Mississippi. 

13. Jourdan River, MS

The Jourdan River is on the Bay Saint Louis, in the southwest portion of Mississippi. Leading from the Jourdan River Coastal Preserve into the bay, the Blueway ends in the Gulf of Mexico. This area boasts fantastic wildlife and coastal kayaking routes. 

Although we don’t recommend kayaking on the Bay Saint Louis because of the water traffic, the Jourdan River Blueway Trail offers a great variety of wetlands, coastlines, and rivers to explore. 

14. Deer Island, MS

If you want to kayak from shore to an island and explore, Deer Island is a great option. It’s accessible from the mainland and offers sandy beaches and inlets to explore. It’s a small island and worth exploring while you’re there! 

There are two mainland spots to depart from – Ocean Springs and Biloxi. Biloxi is a shorter kayak to the island and better access to the sandy beaches. Always watch the weather when you kayak on the open sea – if it is extra choppy or windy, it could be too dangerous to complete the trip.

Summing up the Best Places to Kayak in Mississippi

Wherever you find yourself in Mississippi, there are opportunities for kayaking and water sports. Between the lakes, rivers, and bayous in this beautiful state, you will be able to find beautiful waterways and spot spectacular wildlife. 

Enjoy your Mississippi kayaking experience!