Kayaking and Canoeing in State Parks and Forests
Pennsylvania is a paddler’s paradise because it is blessed with an abundance of lakes, rivers, streams, and ponds all across the commonwealth for kayaking and canoeing. Many of these paddling opportunities exist within our state parks and forests.
All kayaks and canoes launched in Pennsylvania state parks and forests must display one of the following:
- Boat registration from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission
- Launching permit from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission
- Launching permit or mooring permit from Pennsylvania state parks -- available at most state park offices
Paddlers must abide by both the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s boating regulations and the regulations of the state park or forest district in which you are boating.
All paddlers on Pennsylvania waters from November 1 through April 30 must wear a life jacket -- it’s the law! It is highly advisable to wear life jackets at all times, especially in dangerous conditions.
Children 12 years of age and younger are required to wear a life jacket in all canoes and kayaks.
Kayaking and Canoeing Opportunities in State Parks
Pennsylvania state parks have many scenic rivers and lakes for float trips. Any Pennsylvania state park that has a lake more than 10 acres in size has opportunities for canoeing and flat-water boating. Visit “Where to Boat State Parks Maps” for a list of parks with lakes.
If you don’t have a kayak or canoe, many state parks rent kayaks and canoes for you to enjoy. The following state parks offer particularly scenic kayaking and canoeing opportunities:
Bendigo State Park
The East Branch of the Clarion River is scenic and appropriate for beginning boaters under normal conditions. A canoe launch is three miles upstream along Kilgus Road. Best water conditions are generally in the spring. Explore Bendigo State Park for more information.
Clear Creek State Park
The Class 1 Clarion River provides excellent canoeing and kayaking, especially during the spring and fall. The average downward flow is four miles per hour. Two popular paddling trips are four and 10 miles in length. Rental canoes are available from businesses outside of the park. There are public boat launches at Cook Forest and Clear Creek state parks. Explore Clear Creek State Park for more information.
Cook Forest State Park
The Class 1 Clarion River provides excellent canoeing and kayaking, especially during the spring and fall. The average downward flow is four miles per hour. Two popular paddling trips are four and 10 miles in length. Rental canoes are available from businesses out-side of the park. There are public boat launches at both Cook Forest and Clear Creek state parks. Explore Cook Forest State Park for more information, including a list of concessionaires.
Swatara State Park
Swatara Creek is a popular destination for canoeing, kayaking, and tubing, especially in the spring. Designated launches in the northern and southern ends of the park provide access to the creek for put-in and take-out of boats. Explore Swatara State Park for more information.
Warriors Path State Park
A boat ramp for canoes, rafts, and small boats is available as a take out or launch site for floating the Raystown Branch of the Juniata River. Boating or rafting can be enjoyed during the spring or late fall. The water level of the river is usually too shallow for summer boating. Explore Warriors Path State Park for more information.
Delaware Canal State Park
Canoeing is popular in the canal, on the Delaware River, and at the Giving Pond Recreation Area. Canoeists can launch from public access areas in Pa. and NJ to enjoy the water trail which includes scenic views of River Islands and Nockamixon Cliffs natural areas. Water trail users will enjoy viewing wildlife along a major migratory route for raptors, waterfowl, and songbirds. Explore Delaware Canal State Park for more information.
Tyler State Park
Neshaminy Creek offers calm, easy boating upstream from the canoe rental. The canoe rental operates daily from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, weather permitting. Explore Tyler State Park for more information.
Ohiopyle State Park
The Middle Yough begins at the Ramcat Put-in near Confluence, and ends near the town of Ohiopyle. This section contains class I and II rapids and is ideal for beginning kayakers or experienced canoers. Only closed-deck canoes can be used on the river. Explore Ohiopyle State Park for more information.
Oil Creek State Park
Oil Creek offers a scenic float and is classed as a beginner’s creek under normal conditions. Water levels can change rapidly and canoeists should call the park office for current water conditions. Generally, the canoeing season is from March to June. Explore Oil Creek State Park for more information.
Kayaking and Canoeing Opportunities in State Forests
There are 5,132 miles of rivers and streams on state forest land. Potentially, many of these waters are navigable and open to kayaking and canoeing. Several state forests have developed water trails on waters that transect state forest that are perfect for paddling. These water trails include:
Clear Creek State Forest
The Clarion River Water Trail -- Upper Section Water Trail Guide (PDF) and Middle Section Water Trail Guide (PDF) -- is considered a Class I river, making it suitable for paddlers of all abilities. Six launches for the Clarion River Trail are found within Clear Creek State Forest.
Tioga and Tiadaghton State Forests
The Pine Creek Water Trail (PDF) is one of Pennsylvania’s most scenic and historic water trails. Pine Creek access areas are maintained at Ansonia, Blackwell, and Rattlesnake Rock in Tioga State Forest. Access points also are included in Tiadaghton State Forest.
Rothrock State Forest
The Juniata River Water Trail (PDF) varies throughout the year in the ability to paddle. Peak water flow occurs between February and May, and possibly a few weeks in December. Rothrock State Forest has a primitive access point for the Little Juniata River off of Mountain Road.
Organized Paddling Opportunities
There are many organized paddling events for you to enjoy Pennsylvania’s waters. Many state parks offer organized paddling events, which can be found at DCNR’s calendar of events.
In addition, you can find organized paddling events not on DCNR’s land at the Get Outdoors PA website.
Pennsylvania River Sojourns
River sojourns are paddling trips that offer both new and experienced paddlers an opportunity connect with our rivers by enjoying outdoor recreation, and learning more about a specific waterway while accompanied by an experienced guide.
The Pennsylvania sojourn season is typically May through September. Sojourns can be one day or multi-day and the cost to participants is roughly $20 to $80 per day. Cost often includes the paddling equipment, lunch, and a variety of educational speakers related to the waterway’s local heritage, economy, wildlife, and other important topics.