Top 10 Places To Go Kayaking Around The Charlotte Region

With dozens of lakes, rivers, and man-made canals, our region is one of the best areas in the south to float on the water.

Whether you’re a kayaker, paddleboarder, or canoer, these are the top 10 spots around Charlotte to go paddling (in no particular order):

#1 Riverwalk – Rock Hill

The calm waters of the Catawba River offer a great adventure for paddlers of all skill levels.

Begin your journey at the Fort Mill Dam and float down to Riverwalk along 3.5 miles of slow-moving water with two small Class I rapids.

For a change of pace, paddles can also put in at Riverwalk and embark on a 2.75-mile trip that gets jumpstarted with the Class I/II rapid just below the launch. The trip continues to a second Class I rapid just before taking out at River Park.

The landing is open to the public year round. Visit the City of Rock Hill for more information.

#2 Mountain Island Lake – Latta Plantation Nature Preserve

Latta Plantation Nature Center serves as the gateway to the 1,460 acres of Latta Plantation Nature Preserve and is the source for educational programs and information on the preserve’s natural communities, flora, and fauna. The preserve, Mecklenburg County’s largest, forms a green peninsula extending into Mountain Island Lake and protects a natural heritage site and several endangered plants.

They have a dedicated kayak dock and launch a a quaint cove of Mountain Island Lake.

#3 U.S. National Whitewater Center

There is no other place in the Southeast quite like the U.S. National Whitewater Center. Located just across the Catawba, Gaston County serves as a convenient home base when exploring this ever expanding outdoor adventure park.

Whether you prefer the comfort of a kayak or the core workout that comes from paddleboarding, the USNWC offers a quick way to get outfitted and hit the river. Watch out for their frequent dinner cruises which pair a paddle, dinner, and either a craft beer or wine tasting.

#4 Kevin B Lofton Park – Belmont, NC

The newly constructed riverfront park in Belmont not only holds one of the coolest playgrounds in the area, it is also home to one of best boat launches. Having a portable kayak will make the kayak launch process smoother as well, considering most will require the use of a trailer.

You’ll be able to spot plenty of cliff swallows and ospreys hunting for food, nesting, and feeding their young.

#5 Anne Springs Close Greenway – Fort Mill

Kayaking and canoeing are popular activities at the Anne Springs Close Greenway.

Bring your own kayaks and canoes to unload by use of boat ramps at Lakes Crandall and Frances and Stumpy Pond. Boats can be walked down to Lake Haigler at the Nature Center Entrance.

Kayak and canoe rentals are available at Lake Haigler beginning the first weekend in May. Rentals are available on weekends from 9:00am – 5:00pm from May through September on a first-come, first-served basis. Paddles and life jackets are provided.

Single Kayak Rental

1 Hour: Non-member $10** per person | Member $5 per person

October Rentals: Saturday 9am-5pm; Sunday 1-5pm
Fee:  $5/half hour

Tandem Kayak/Canoe Rental

1 Hour: Non-member $10** per person | Member $5 per person

October Rentals: Saturday 9am-5pm; Sunday 1-5pm
Fee:  $5/half hour

#6 Rankin Lake Park – Gastonia

For a more relaxed day on the water, the tree-lined, 80-acre lake at Rankin Lake Park is a staple of the Gastonia outdoor community. The park office rents kayaks and jon boats so you don’t have to worry about bringing your own. Just after dawn and before sunset, bass pop up all over the lake, looking to snag an unfortunate insect at the surface. Walkers and joggers frequently use the mile-and-a-half path which surrounds the lake. And tables and shelters offer the perfect place for a post-paddle picnic.

#7 Goat Island – Cramerton

The convenience of renting a kayak or canoe right on the South Fork River is pretty special. But when that kayak rental is adjacent to great coffee and snacks, well, that’s the makings of a great day. Located in downtown Cramerton, Floating Goat boat rentals is owned and operated by the same great folks who proudly pour great java at Floyd and Blackie’s Coffeehouse and Ice Cream Shop.

Paddlers renting from the Floating Goat can take their boat to the put-in at Spender Mountain and complete the full Thread Trail Blue-way or simply launch out back of the coffee shop. From here, boaters can explore Goat Island or paddle the calm waters of the South Fork up and downstream of Cramerton. Of course, Floyd and Blackie’s can supply a pre-paddle coffee and a post-trip sandwich or pastry. Make sure you call ahead to make rental reservations so the friendly staff can have your gear ready for you.

#8 Ramsey Creek Park – Lake Norman

For years Ramsey Creek Park has had one of the most accessible public boat and kayak launches, and just last year they added Mecklenburg County’s first public beach.

Enjoy the waters of Lake Norman and some of the most beautiful homes in the region as you paddle around the Peninsula (and around Donald Trump’s golf course – Trump International).

#9 Colonel Francis Beatty Park – Matthews

#10 Crowders Mountain State Park – King’s Mountain

Crowders Mountain State Park is the place to lay back on canoe and float along the tall grasses of the park’s small lake. Surrounded by trails, mountain peaks, and forests, there are fewer locales more relaxing. The park’s rental canoes and large and sturdy, making this a good place for children to experience their first exploration on the water.

Did we miss any good spots? 

What’s your favorite place to go kayaking in the Charlotte region?



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