Where To Paddle In Ohio

Paddle the Cuyahoga

The first question I ask people who stop into Appalachian Outfitters to look at a kayak is, “Where do you plan to paddle your new kayak?”  I frequently get the answer that they are going to be paddling somewhere in Pennsylvania or Michigan.  Less frequently, I get the answer that the kayak is to be used on some private lake or pond.  If I ask about other places that people would like to go, many don’t know that there are a lot of other paddling options in our area. 

Probably my favorite place to paddle in Ohio is the Cuyahoga River through Cuyahoga Valley National Park.  The Cuyahoga has a lot of different levels of difficulty allowing a paddler to pick and choose which section to paddle depending on weather conditions and the abilities of the paddling group.  Below are my favorite sections and what I feel are the difficulties in them.  This is by no means a complete list, just a start.


Cuyahoga River Upstream of the Falls

Headwaters Park

Perfect for beginners and families, a nice little man-made lake at the head of the river.  Check out the link below for more information or to make reservations to camp or rent boats during the summer.

  • https://www.geaugaparkdistrict.org/park/headwaters-park/

Eldon Russell park to Camp Hi or Crooked River Adventures

A fantastic first river experience paddling down the very easy flowing section of river with forested banks on both sides.  It’s so nice, you’ll almost forget you are still in Ohio. Check out the links below for more information on shuttles, rentals and possible food options.

Downtown Kent or Brust park to Waterworks Park

Nice and easy paddle through residential and park areas upstream of the old dams in Cuyahoga Falls.  This is as far downstream as I recommend paddling unless you have some serious whitewater experience or skip to the section through CVNP.  Check out the links below for more information on shuttles, rentals and river conditions.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

The Cuyahoga Valley National Park provides some great spots to build paddling strength and skill.  Whenever paddling the Cuyahoga through the CVNP, I highly recommend checking out the website https://www.nps.gov/cuva/planyourvisit/canoeing.htm  for park updates, as well as https://ny.water.usgs.gov/maps/nowcast/ for updates on the water quality and river levels.

  • Ira to Peninsula (upstream of 303)

This section was my first introduction to paddling the Cuyahoga and it remains my favorite.  While not a technically difficult section of river, it does have many twists and turns frequently producing or moving sandbars, deadfall, logjams and tricky little rapids.

This is the type of section that teaches the meaning of the phrase “You never paddle the same river twice.”  Wherever you put in, be sure to pull out on river right up-stream of the 303 bridge in Peninsula.

  • Lock 29 to Boston

Park at the Lock 29 trailhead in Peninsula and put into the river right next to the parking lot.  The river here is usually fairly forgiving, but can be quite swift and challenging at times, making it a great place to learn and practice whitewater skills.  This section also seems to be a good area to spot birds.   

  • Boston to Station Rd

Another of my favorite sections, this area is great for new paddlers or more experienced paddlers looking for a relaxing float. These last three sections are mostly contained in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Check out their website https://www.nps.gov/cuva/planyourvisit/canoeing.htm for more information on river conditions and water levels.

If you are looking for more or new places to paddle in Ohio the most concise resource I’ve found is the Ohio Department of Natural Resources website: http://paddle.ohiodnr.gov/