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6 Beautiful Places to Kayak in Minnesota

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Kayaker on Minneapolis Chain of Lakes / Paul Vincent

6 Beautiful Places to Kayak in Minnesota

By Sara Lynch

One of the best parts of living in Minnesota is exploring the many beautiful lakes, and one of the very best ways to enjoy the lakes is by kayaking. From relaxing sunset paddles to exhilarating whitewater adventures, check out these six beautiful places to kayak, including rental options.

  1. Chain of Lakes, Minneapolis
    Sara kayaking near a small bridge

    Kayaking on Lake of the Isles towards Cedar Lake / Sara Lynch

    Chain of Lakes, Minneapolis

    One of the most classic spots to kayak is the Chain of Lakes.  What makes this spot so spectacular is there are three lakes (Bde Maka Ska, Lake of the Isles and Cedar Lake) connected. Along the route are views of downtown Minneapolis, islands, old bridges and a cool canal that connects Cedar Lake to Lake of the Isles. This location is also a great option for beginners and those without kayaks, because you can rent from Wheel Fun Rentals on the Northeast corner of Bde Maka Ska.

  2. St. Croix River, Taylors Falls
    Sara kayaking along the cliffs in Taylors Falls

    Kayaking along the cliffs in Taylors Falls / Sara Lynch

    St. Croix River, Taylors Falls

    Scenic is an understatement for how beautiful the Taylors Falls area is to kayak. The St. Croix River runs between rocky cliffs covered in foliage, which makes it spectacular in both summer and fall. Since it’s easier to kayak in one direction on a river, a great option is to rent your watercraft from Taylors Falls Canoe & Kayak Rental and flow with the river downstream to Osceola Landing (7 miles) or William O’Brien State Park (17 miles), then take their shuttle back to your car. 

  3. St. Louis River, Carlton
    Trip leader and instructor Ryan Zimny on Electric Ledge Rapid on Upper St. Louis River

    Trip leader and instructor Ryan Zimny (red kayak) on Electric Ledge Rapid on the Upper St. Louis River / Swiftwater Adventures

    St. Louis River, Carlton

    For a truly exhilarating kayak experience, try whitewater kayaking on the St. Louis River. If you haven’t gone before, start with an introductory course with Swiftwater Adventures in Carlton – just 15 minutes from Duluth. If water levels are too low (which can result in unsafe whitewater kayaking conditions), Swiftwater Adventures also offers the option of whitewater rafting, which is fun for the whole family.

  4. Blue Earth River, Mankato
    Kayaks on the Blue Earth River

    Kayaks on the Blue Earth River / Bent River Outfitters

    Blue Earth River, Mankato

    In southern Minnesota, a fun kayaking adventure is on the Blue Earth River. Bent River Outfitters offers guided kayak tours that go through a series of small rapids (suitable even for beginners) and near waterfalls.  If you’d rather paddle without a tour, you can also rent kayaks and use their shuttle service. 

  5. Lake Itasca
    Family kayaking on Lake Itasca

    Family kayaking on Lake Itasca / Itasca Sports

    Lake Itasca

    At the headwaters of the Mississippi River is Lake Itasca. This glacial lake is a scenic spot to spend an afternoon kayaking, and rentals are available from Itasca Sports in Itasca State Park. 

  6. Mississippi River, Minneapolis
    Kayaking on the  Mississippi River in Minneapolis

    Kayaking on the Mississippi River in Minneapolis

    Mississippi River, Minneapolis

    Whether you’re looking for a city route or a nature route, the Mississippi River has multiple scenic options. Paddle Share makes it easy to reserve a kayak rental and pick it up from a locker with a provided code for the trip. Just leave a car where you plan to finish, or plan some other way back once the kayaking journey is over.  

For additional kayak ideas around Minnesota’s many state parks, check out rental options here. From June through August, many state parks also offer I Can Paddle! programs, which provide an introduction to kayaking for beginners.

Sara Lynch

Sara Lynch is a Minneapolis based corporate professional and travel content creator. She spends her free time exploring all over Minnesota by biking, paddling, hiking, skiing, attending local events and trying new cideries and restaurants. After traveling the world and living abroad, she knows there’s no place like Minnesota. Read her blog at www.PlanetwithSara.com for more adventure ideas.