Skip to main content

Adirondack Canoeing & Kayaking Challenges and Adventures

More than 3,000 lakes and ponds, and 30,000 miles of rivers and streams run through the Adirondack Park - making for incredible canoeing and kayaking adventures.

girl in a canoe on Blue Mountain Lake

The Adirondacks are unique among mountain regions in North America for the simple fact that for every mountain peak, there are hundreds of miles of waterways. From the mighty Hudson River to the magnificence of Lake Champlain, the Adirondacks are a paddler's paradise boasting more than 3,000 lakes and ponds, and 30,000 miles of rivers and streams.

To put that in perspective – the circumference of the Earth at the equator, or from pole to pole, is a little less than 25,000 miles. Mind blown? We thought so.

Whether you've never been paddling before, or you're one of the few who make it their life's passion to get out on the water as much as possible, you'll find canoeing and kayaking experiences in the Adirondacks that you won't find anywhere else on Earth.

Paddling Experiences

Canoeing – Family-Friendly & Adventurous

The Adirondacks are home to New York State's only designated canoe wilderness area, the St. Regis Canoe Area, which spans 18,400 acres. Ideal for overnight canoe camping trips, St. Regis offers a network of lakes and ponds with opportunities for portaging and continued exploration, as well as 75 primitive tent sites, and three lean-tos.

Kayaking the Adirondacks – Tandem and Solo Exploration

For extreme whitewater kayakers, the Adirondacks offer routes that few have conquered, including Hanging Spear Falls on the Hudson River. Hanging Spear Falls is located on the Opalescent River and is the steepest mile of whitewater in New York State. The route should only be attempted by whitewater kayaking professionals.

Fortunately, the Adirondacks offer thousands of miles of flatwater paddling for novices. Explore gentle ponds and shorelines home to waterfowl, or try a sea kayaking adventure on Lake Champlain, paddling out to Valcour Island, or rise at dawn to watch the sunrise over the water.

couple kayaking in the Adirondacks

The 90-Miler Adirondack Canoe Classic

The Adirondack Canoe Classic is a paddling race from Old Forge to Saranac Lake, spanning three grueling days of open-water paddling. Held annually in early September, the 90-Miler attracts paddlers from across the county. As the ultimate in distance paddling challenges, the race is open to all abilities, ages, and classes of canoes, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards, and crosses some of the most unique waterways in the Adirondacks, including the Saranac River Locks.

Whether you're training for the 90 Miler, or just going for an early morning paddle, remember: safety first. Carry lifejackets and other personal flotation devices to ensure you and your group's safety. Download our free Adirondack Paddling Guide featuring popular paddling routes and maps, as well as descriptions of routes, amenities, and attractions available nearby.

participants in the 90 miler canoe challenge in the Adirondacks

Canton Canoe Weekend & The Rushton Memorial Races

Canton Canoe Weekend is an annual weekend paddling event on the Grasse River with official events in the sport of marathon canoe racing along with other other pro, amateur and recreational races that draw paddlers from around the country.

Inspired by the historic Rushton Memorial Canoe Race, the weekend races & activities lineup upholds a racing tradition that began in 1962 in honor of the famed local boat builder John Henry Rushton and his renowned boatworks, all based in Canton, New York. Given Canton's boat building history and ideal paddling location tucked in the St. Lawrence Valley, between the St. Lawrence Seaway and the foothills of the Adirondacks, it makes sense that it holds a prominent place in the world of canoe racing. While many racers take this event quite seriously, there is plenty of fun for professional, recreational and casual paddlers alike.

Canton Canoe Race

Necessary Paddling Equipment: No PFD Left Behind

Our last piece of advice: you'll enjoy your Adirondack kayaking or canoeing experience so much more if you have the proper gear, whether you're going out for a few hours or a couple of days. Necessities include:

  • Personal Flotation Device (PFD) – Don't leave shore without one for each member of your group. If a Forest Ranger stops you and you don't have a PFD, you will be fined. Think of it as the safety belt of the sea – buckle up!
  • Drybag – Sometimes, your dry goods can end up tipping over the side and floating away on the current. To avoid soggy snacks, pack your food and other supplies in a drybag. That way, even if it does go overboard, your camera and your food will survive.
  • Map – A good map and basic orienteering skills are recommended, especially when doing overnight trips. Additionally, paddling route maps identify boat launch sites, nearby hiking trails, and the nearest towns and villages.

Adirondack Outfitters

Throughout the Adirondack Region, professional outfitters, including St. Regis Canoe Outfitters in Saranac Lake and Adirondack Coast Paddle Board Co. in Plattsburgh, can provide maps, equipment, and advice on where to go based on your group's ability.