kayak places in SOUTHEAST

The 6 Incredible Places to Kayak in the Southeast

Plan your adventures with this guide to the best rivers in the Southeast. Grab your kayak and get wet on these scenic stretches of the river.

Most of the southeastern part of the United States is dominated by the humid subtropical climate. Seasonally, summers are generally hot and humid throughout the entire region. So, it’s a good choice to spend more time on the water.


Sipsey River, Alabama

sipsey river


Maybe you’ve heard of the Sipsey River; maybe you haven’t. Whichever the case, stop what you’re doing and make the trip today…or at least soon.

The Sipsey River is a stunningly beautiful body of water with many of years of history and great options for recreational adventures.

I’ve been there twice, It was a beautiful scenic trip, with huge bluffs towering over you from both sides. It was well worth it to stop and take in the huge waterfalls where other streams were feeding the Sipsey.

How to get started?

The Sipsey Recreation area on County Road 60 is the put-in location. A large paved parking lot with picnic tables, restrooms, and a sloping ramp are there for visitor’s use and is considered one of the state’s most convenient river launching sites.

You can drive from the parking lot to the put-in via a bridge or you can just walk your kayak across the bridge. Once across, the put-in is around to the left.

Another option is to put-in at Thompson Creek off Forest Service Road #208. Putting in at Thompson Creek would effectively double your trip (from 9 to 18 miles).

How long it takes?

It really depends, for me the whole trip took about 6-8 hours. There are lots of great scenery to explore, just plan a whole day trip.


The Sipsey River is a great place for beginners. If you are the experienced kayakers, you can relax and enjoy the beauty of the river.

The Sipsey River isn’t so rough. Some places are no more than 1.5 feet deep, but the current is not a force that you can underestimate. Safety precautions must never be ignored. Generally, the river is calm but there is a single exception, the 100-yard dash. The 100-yard dash is located at about the halfway point of this trip and gets its name from the approximately 100 yards of class II rapids. Without a kayak skirt, you will get wet.

It’s a fairly harmless obstacle but doesn’t feel bad if you tip. My suggestion is letting most experienced one go first so they can rescue a lost kayak(if someone tip and loss their grip.)


You will need a change of clothes in a dry bag. You will need an extra set of everything. That includes shoes, socks, gloves, and a hat. I also recommend putting on waterproof pants. Even if you don’t tip, you will likely get soaked unless you have a spray skirt.


Arbuckle Creek, Florida

arbuckle creek


This is absolutely the most scenic creek I ever have seen. Arbuckle Creek is a 23-mile blackwater creek that runs from Lake Arbuckle in Avon south to Lake Istokpoga in Sebring. Arbuckle State Park fishing and campgrounds border parts of the upper river with the U.S Air Force Base(a bomb training range) along the east side of the river, but you probably won’t see it, the range is far from the creek.

Arbuckle Creek barely gets mentioned in kayak and canoe books and guides. We love the Lake Wales Ridge area and read a few trip reports online that convinced us it was worth exploring.

It is completely quiet – no road noise, no buildings, and just one boat passed us within four hours. We heard lots of bird calls and, at one point, loud grunting from two big black feral hogs that quickly melted into the forest.

How to get started?

Actually, there are several launch sites in this route. In my experience, the most beautiful area is the northern part of the route. So, I suggest you launch at the ramp near the Avon Park. It’s 20 minutes east to Avon Park. There is provided adequate parking space and a nice dock with benches.

From there, you paddle upstream for 2.5 miles to Lake Arbuckle and then paddle back with the current.

How long it takes?

It depends on both the water condition and how fast you paddling. In general, this is a 3-4 hours paddle. But it can expend as long as you want, you can paddle to the downstream to the Lake Arbuckle. Some of the kayakers even make this route a multiple kayak camping trips.


I’ll say it is perfect for the beginner.

The river is calm and doesn’t have much current. All you have to do is enjoy the wildlife. Last time I finished the route only passed a few men fishing from the shore. It was extremely quiet, you can hear birds calling each other from the trees all the time. You will see many creatures such as limpkins, kingfishers, cardinals, egrets, heron, hawks and beautiful dragonflies and damselflies hitched rides on your kayaks as you paddled.


Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia

Okefenokee Swamp


The Okefenokee Swamp, named by an indigenous tribe, is said to mean “land of the trembling earth”.

One of the Seven Natural Wonders of Georgia, the Okefenokee, near the border with Florida, is, at over 400,000 acres, the largest blackwater swamp in North America and also one of the oldest and most primitive swamps. It’s really a place of astounding scenery.

I’ve made this swamp kayaking trip on my “to do” list for a long time. When I finally did it, it totally worth it. It was fantastic! A must go for all the kayakers. Fabulous place to experience the true swamp.

The wildlife show is Crazy! You’ll see countless turtles, snakes, and alligators.

First time I been there, within just a few miles of paddling, I saw more gators then when we last swamp kayaked. It’s more and more to come, approximately 15 gators per mile. Don’t be worry about being attacked by them, they seemed pretty gentle actually, though I didn’t bet my luck to come to close to them. But one gator did come off the swamp to swim beside me. That is something memorable for that trip.

How to get started?

Kingfisher Landing, 13 miles north of downtown Folkston on US Route 1/GA Hwy 121.  This entrance offers a boat ramp and restroom facilities for day-use and overnight visitors.  Access to the Red and Green trails.

It will cost 5 dollars park entry fee for the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. There are restrooms at the concession, just east of the boat ramp.

You can also join a tour held by Okefenokee Swamp Park, 5700 Okefenokee Swamp Park Rd, Waycross, GA 31503.


Easy, the water is calm. It’s a swamp, so there are not so many currents, you can enjoy the wildlife without worry your paddling skill.


Wear long sleeve will be a good choice, there will be yellow flies and other bugs all the times. Bug spray is a must. And don’t tease the alligators, you probably won’t do it anyway.


Bear Creek, Mississippi

bear creek


Mississippi is not known as a kayaking friendly state. Maybe because unless you require whitewater thrills when you float a river, the state’s waters are a fantastic place to dip a paddle.

There are a few popular paddling streams – Bogue Chitto River, Okatoma Creek, and Black Creek – where you will likely encounter crowds between Memorial Day and Labor Day, especially on weekends. But there are dozens of other streams that are rarely floated.

One of the creeks I recommended is Bear Creek.

At Tishomingo State Park you’ll find Bear Creek, a scenic stream winding through the bluffs of a park. This section of Bear Creek is maintained by the park and it always is passable. They are fairly quick to remove trees when they fell across the creek.

Tishomingo State Park has a landscape that is unique even to Mississippi, with cypress trees lining the creek banks, moss-covered rock formations, and outcroppings of Hartselle Sandstone. Wildlife abounds, especially in the early morning hours and near dusk. Typical wildlife sightings include deer, raccoons, turtles and a variety of fish.

Also, there are scenic sandstone bluffs, lush greenery, a canopy of mixed hardwoods and pines, shoals, and there are just a few rapids with long pools in between provide an enjoyable and exciting kayaking trip.

How to get started?

At Tishomingo State Park you’ll find Bear Creek. Actually, everything you need is provided by the park: kayaks, paddles, lifejackets, and transportation. The park will offer a 6.25-mile kayak float trip down the rocky-bottomed stream with the takeout being in the park.

You also can bring your own kayak if you want.

How long it takes?

It’s a 6.25-mile kayak trip, so takes about 2.5-3 hours.


It’s perfect for the beginner.


If you plan to go kayaking on your own kayak, I will recommend you avoid putting in at either 9 am or 1 pm at the State Park runs their own kayak trip (for $20) at the same time. The river will be more crowded.


Merchants Millpond State Park, North Carolina

Merchants Millpond State Park


I’ve been there once. It’s a long drive. But it’s absolutely worth it.

Merchants Millpond, one of North Carolina’s rarest ecological coastal swamp environments, virtually unchanged over millions of years. Massive Cypress and Gum trees covered in Spanish Moss form a breathtaking canopy.

Here is the description from Merchants Millpond State Park official website.

Southern swamp and hardwood forest mingle at Merchants Millpond State Park, adorning the landscape with massive bald cypress trees, beech groves, Spanish moss, and exotic wildlife. Canoes can be rented or visitors can bring their own for a unique paddling experience. Three types of camping are available at family and group campgrounds, primitive backpacking sites and three remote canoe-in campgrounds reached by paddling trails. The scenic pond is surrounded by picnic grounds, nine miles of hiking trails and a visitor center offering museum-quality exhibits. Some trail segments are open to biking. Fishing is available from the bank, or small boats (trolling motors only) may be launched at the boat ramp.

It’s a state park, but the best way to experience it is by kayaks.

Kayaks and canoes can be rented from the park office or bring your own and put in at the boat ramp. Orange and yellow buoys mark the paddle trails to the canoe-in campgrounds. Beyond these is Lassiter Swamp, sometimes called the “enchanted forest” on account of the twisted and gnarled bald cypress trees that are draped in Spanish moss, giving the forest a magical feel. Many alligators live in the swamp and you may be lucky enough to spot one sunning himself. There are also a number of turtles, birds, and even beavers that live in the pond. This is truly a beautiful and unique place and one of the best places for flatwater kayaking in North Carolina.

How to get started?

Take US 158 West from the Atlantic Ocean and hang a left at the park. The actual put-in is around the corner. They’ll tell you exactly where it is at the park office.

How long it takes?

It’s only about 10 miles, more or less is possible. It won’t be too long for you to actually paddling, but you can always spend a lot of quality time on the water due to the countless wildlife to explore.


Perfect for the beginner.

Super easy and flat water. When the wind whips up other water you can count on the Millpond being fairly calm.


The earlier you go it tends to be less crowded.

The park didn’t provide kayaks renting, they did rent canoes. The canoes can be rented by the hour ($5) or overnight (for canoe-in campsites) at the visitor center. Canoes, paddles, and life vests are available on a first-come-first-served basis. You must be at least 15 years of age to rent a canoe. A maximum of three people may occupy each vessel.


Laurel River Lake, Kentucky

Laurel River Lake


Laurel River Lake is located on the London Ranger District. The 5,600 acres of deep, clear water and 192 miles of cliff-lined shore make it one of the most scenic lakes in Kentucky.

The Forest Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers work together to manage Laurel River Lake. The Forest Service administers the main body of the lake and most of its shoreline. The Corps of Engineers oversees the operation of Laurel River Dam and recreation facilities at the dam site.

I went to Laurel River Lake last summer.

The water is crystal clear that you can see forever into it. It was so warm in summer, I spent a quality time on the water. And don’t forget to explore the dam, it was spectacular.

Laurel River Lake is a Y shaped reservoir administered by the USACE in southeastern Kentucky. The surrounding landscape is almost entirely USFS owned, so there is no development anywhere on the lake which makes it a quiet and peaceful scenic spot for kayaking. And there are a handful of boat ramps.

How to get start it?

There are eight boat launching ramps on Laurel River Lake. A recreation permit is required at the following boat ramps: Flatwoods, Grove, Holly Bay, Marsh Branch, Laurel Bridge.

I will provide you the two free boat ramp.

Craigs Creek Boat Ramp

From I-75 exit 38, take KY 192 west for 11.9 miles. Turn south on Forest Service Road 62 for 2.4 miles. It has parking space alongside the ramp.

High Top Boat Ramp

From I-75 exit 25, travel west on US 25W for 2.2 miles. Turn right onto Forest Service Road 559 for 3.1 miles to the boat ramp and trailhead parking area.

It’s a huge lake, you will see a totally different scene if you put-in in the different ramp. That’s all depends on you.

How long it takes?

I can’t tell you this. It’s a huge lake that allows you to spend 10-15 days to explore.


It’s a lake, so the water is relatively calm. Another Really Cool Thing is waterfalls. They’re everywhere, especially at the heads of coves after a rainy time. So, you might need to prepare an extra outfit.


The key to getting a quality paddling experience at Laurel is to go during the week and to avoid it during summer weekends. The traffic can be borderline dangerous. During the summer, when a paddler must share the lake with numerous motorized craft, most of the campsites fill up rather quickly.



Actually, Southeast had more than 6 kayaking spots. I probably will write another post to extend the list. I didn’t go to all the spots I write, but I really did the research for all of them. If you find anything in this article wrong or outdated, please leave your comment below, I will edit it as soon as possible.

Thanks for reading.Happy Kayaking.

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