Get outside and enjoy nature with a paddle on the water this summer! Don’t know where to go? We’ve gathered a list of the best places for canoeing and kayaking in Columbus, along with places to rent your boats or stand up paddle boards. Explore the waterways and the banks of the rivers and lakes around the city and Central Ohio with friends or family – or even on a solo trip!
It’s hot, and there aren’t many ways to get relief from the heat this summer with most public pools and indoor attractions closed. Canoeing and kayaking in Columbus is a great way to cool off.
Canoeing and kayaking are great for both relaxation and fitness, and no experience is required! The rental outfitters will make sure you understand the rules and safety details. Some liveries, outfitters, and private launches will allow those who own their own kayaks and canoes to launch for a small fee.
Tips for Canoeing and Kayaking in Columbus
Wear shoes or strap-on sandals. If you end up in the water, flip flops will fall off.
Bring sunscreen and bug spray, and make sure to reapply sunscreen as sunlight reflects off the water.
Wear comfortable clothing that can get wet. While you’re unlikely to end up in the water, you may get water on yourself while paddling. Dress for the temperature of the water, but it always helps to have layers.
Wear the life jacket provided to you. All boat rentals come with paddles and PFD for safety.
Put your keys, wallet, and cellphone in a waterproof bag, just in case – or in a ziploc bag in a zippered pocket at the very least.
Check weather and river conditions. The rental place will help you make a decision for both of these, but if you are inexperienced, you may want to avoid times when rivers are high.
Bring plenty of water and a small snack for longer trips. Even though you are ON water, its easy to get dehydrated in the heat of summer.
Follow ALL rules of the water and boats as provided by the rental company.
Best Places for Canoeing and Kayaking in Columbus
Big Darby Creek
Big Darby Creek is a dedicated National Scenic River, and is one of the most biologically diverse aquatic systems in the Midwestern United States.
7141 London-Groveport Rd, Grove City, Ohio 43123 (614) 877-4321
Trapper John’s Canoe Livery sits on the banks of Big Darby Creek and offers rentals, tours, and more for your paddle adventure. There are trips perfect for beginners to advanced paddlers lasting from 1-6 hours. You can bring your own kayak or canoe, or rental the equipment from them.
Call ahead to book! No walk-in is available due to capacity restrictions for the livery and shuttle. This has been a very busy season for them, so they are often booked up on weekends unless you schedule in advance.
NOTE: Trapper John’s has been closed since August due to low water levels. Check Facebook for status.
Scioto River O’Shaughnessy Reservoir
O’Shaughnessy Reservoir is located about 9 miles northwest of Columbus in Delaware County. The O’Shaughnessy Reservoir was formed by the The O’Shaughnessy Dam on the Scioto River.
6000 Harriott Dr, Powell OH 43065 just north of Shawnee Hills on the west side of the Scioto River.
Get Out and Kayak offers sit-in and sit-on-top kayaks, as well as tandem kayaks. Rental includes paddles and life jackets. Sessions are 3 hours long; you must register in advance. Kayaking instructions are provided if needed, but instructors must coach at a distance for safety. Prices are SUPER reasonable, at just $20 for adults, $15 for kids under 12, and free for veterans. Have your own kayak? You launch your own from the facility for $10.
Located in an inlet off the Scioto River O’Shaughnessy Reservoir with access to abundant wildlife areas of Twin Lakes, Eversole Run, and a cove just off the main body of the reservoir. The paddling area of the reservoir is a no-wake zone, so you won’t have to worry about high speed boats. 100% of the kayak experience fee benefits Adaptive Sports Connection, an organization dedicated to improving the health and well-being for veterans, children, and adults with disabilities. They are looking for volunteers to help with the rest of the Get Out and Kayak season.
Gahanna Parks & Rec offer to options to get out on the water with Paddle Gahanna. Choose your experience with Friendship Park, 150 Oklahoma Ave (kayak only) or Creekside Park, 117 Mill St. (kayak or paddleboat). At just $10 for 30 minutes, it’s a GREAT way to try it out before you go on a longer paddle. Book online in advance; walk up may be available.
They offer tandem, sit-on-top style kayaks and pontoon style paddle boats (paddle boats Creekside only). Kayaks can have up to three riders (third rider must be a child). Kayaks are 2 person kayaks, a 3rd rider age 10 and under can be included, weight capacity is 550lbs
Paddle boats can fit 5 people, weight capacity is 830 lbs. There is no age limitation on riders, all riders 12 and younger must have an adult on boat.
Hoover Reservoir is a 3000+ acre lake is just east of Westerville, Ohio and has a 10hp limit, which makes it safe for kayaks, canoes, and SUP. There are multiple launch areas and boat ramps. Most of the reservoir (besides coves) is in full sun, so bring sunscreen and/or protective clothing.
Don’t have your own kayak or canoe? You can rent and take lessons from Hoover Adventures. They offer kayak and canoe rental hourly, half day, and full day, and every boat comes with life jackets and a whistle. You can also book self-guided tours, lessons, classes and more. Classes include Beginners, Deep Water, Adaptive Kayaking, Kayaking for kids, fitness kayaking, and Kayaking for ages 50+. (614) 423-9234. See launch sites and rental info here.
Offering kayaks, tandem kayaks, and stand up paddle boards, Paddle & Roll will meet you at the boat dock of your choice on the Hoover. They’ll review the equipment with you and help you launch. Not sure which boat or dock to choose? Ask them!
SUP Columbus teaches stand-up paddle board lessons by certified paddle board instructors at Hoover Reservoir in Westerville. They can teach beginners – you don’t have to have any experience – just a willingness to learn! Paddle board rentals are available after completing a 15 minute tutorial (one time only).
Want to try something new? Take an SUP Yoga class! You’ll perform standard yoga poses on your paddle board on the water. If you can do the poses on land, you can do them on the water!
Alum Creek Lake is in Delaware County about 7 miles north of Columbus. Alum Creek Lake was constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers in the early 1970’s, and is about 3,269 acres. There are lots of boats on the lake, but plenty of coves and inlets to enjoy safely.
4000 Hollenback Rd, Lewis Center, OH 43035. (740) 548-6056
In addition to motorized boat rentals, Alum Creek Marina rents 1 and 2 person kayaks, pedal boats (in marina cove only), canoes, and paddleboards.
Hughes Outdoors offer kayak, canoe, and SUP rentals for Alum Creek. They also offer kayak and SUP lessons too! Check the events page to see if there are any upcoming events such as night floats or other special guided trips.
Buckeye Lake is a reservoir in Fairfield, Licking, and Perry counties. The lake was created in the 19th century as part of the Ohio and Erie Canal project. The lake is now used for recreation, with lots of boating and fishing throughout the year. You’ll find islands (including inhabited ones), restaurants with docks, and more. Water levels are lowered in the winter, and once the lake freezes over, you’ll find lots of ice fishing, ice skating, hockey, and even dirt bike and atv riding on the ice! Looking to enjoy the lake in warmer weather? Grab a kayak and explore the lake! The lake gets very busy with boats during summer weekends, so we’d warn against kayaking on the Lake during busy times if you aren’t familiar with the lake and boating precautions.
Offers standard 10’ kayaks, specialized fishing models & 2 person tandems. You can book via Facebook, and private message with questions. Prices start at $10 per hour, with 1.5 hour minimum. Just park and drop in across the street at Fairfield Beach.
I’ve rented from here multiple times. Great service and pricing!
Hocking River in Hocking Hills
The Hocking River is a 102-mile-long river winding through southwestern Ohio and through Hocking Hills. It’s a popular place for canoeing, kayaking, rafting, and tubing. The Hocking is calm class I river with few big rapids or rocks to watch out for. Hocking Hills Adventures and Hocking Hills Canoe Livery offer rentals and trips for all skill levels on the mid and upper sections of the river.
Hocking Hills Adventures offers a full range of fun in Hocking Hills with River Trips (canoe, kayak, tubes, rafts), camping and rustic cabins, and fun center including go-karts, miniature golf course, game room, and more. River Trips range from 2 hours to all day on the 9 miles stretch. Reservations are required for rentals, and some options are restricted depending on water levels.
One of the unique options are the night canoe trips with moonlight and torchlight trips.
Hocking Hills Canoe Livery offers river trips with canoes, kayaks, and rafts, as well as tent camping and cabin rental. Trips are 5-7 miles, and will last 1.5 to 3 hours. You can even rent kayaks and canoes by the hour to try out the sport without committing to a longer trip. This is a great option for beginners or families with younger children. Rafting is dependent on river conditions, and may only be available during Spring. Reservations are required for all trips, as they often sell out during the summer.
Don’t forget to check out the Hocking Hills Canoe Livery night tours, including moonlight and new moon glow tours.
1455 River Road, Urbana, Ohio, 43078. (937) 652-2663
Mad River in Champaign County is a perfect place to explore in a canoe or kayak. The cool and clear water is spring fed and only 2-3 feet deep in most places. Birch Bark Canoe Livery offers 5 miles trips will take 2 hours in a kayak or canoe, or 4-5 hours in a tube. Kids ages 7-8 may be able to maneuver a boat on their own. Younger kids can be in a canoe with parents; ages 3 and up only. You can bring your own boat and pay for shuttle services. They offer primitive camping for just $12/night. Open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday every week
Canoe and Kayak Rentals in Columbus
Olentangy Paddle offers canoe and kayak rental in multiple locations including the Scioto and Olentangy Rivers, and on other routes along Alum Creek, Big Walnut and other waterways in Central Ohio. Rentals include boat, paddles, and life jacket. NOT OPERATING IN 2020 due to early season closures.
Know of other great places to canoe and kayak in Columbus, or where to rent gear? Let us know in the comments!
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