Where to Canoe and Kayak in the Twin Cities


Being that Minnesota is the Land of 10,000 Lakes, it should come as no surprise that there are scads of paddling opportunities right in the Twin Cities 7-county area.

Whether your preferred watercraft is a canoe, a kayak or a stand-up paddle board—or you’ve yet to try one of these—there’s a paddling opportunity close to you.

There are hundreds of lakes in the metro—yes, hundreds! In fact, according to LakePlace.com the county that has the fewest lakes (Ramsey) still has over 100 of them. And the county that has the most lakes (Hennepin) has over 300.

There are 1, 387 lakes in the Twin Cities 7-county metro area!

We also have three major rivers—the Mississippi, Minnesota and St. Croix—and many smaller ones.

Of course paddling is an option on any lake or river that has a public access. We’ll just highlight the waterways that are part of the parks systems, as well as the official water trails.

A note about paddling: PFDs—Personal Flotation Devices—(or life jackets) are the most essential safety item you have. Don’t be a statistic! Be safe when you paddle. See Minnesota’s PFD laws here.

Another note about paddling: Almost all these lakes are also open to motor boat traffic. Keep in mind the bigger boat has the right-of-way. You’ll be able to stop and turn much easier than a speed boat.

So keep your eyes and ears open for them. And wear bright clothing (or paddle a bright boat) so you’re easy to see.

Let’s take a look at where to paddle in the Twin Cities…

Anoka County (North)

Anoka County has 12 paddling destinations in its Regional and County Park system, plus all or part of three official Water Trails.

Click here for Paddling in Anoka County

Carver County (Southwest)

Carver County has three paddling destinations that are part of Regional Parks or Reserves. A State Water Trail also flows through Carver.

Click here for Paddling in Carver County

Dakota County (South-Southeast)

Dakota County’s paddling options include part of a State Water Trail and two regional parks.

Click here for Paddling in Dakota County

Hennepin County (West-central, includes Minneapolis)

Hennepin County has 13 county and regional parks and reserves that offer paddling options. Most are on lakes, but there are a couple river trips, too, most notably the Mississippi.

Click here for Paddling in Hennepin County

Ramsey County (East-Central, includes St. Paul)

Ramsey County has four parks—national, state and regional—that have paddling options on either the Mississippi or Minnesota Rivers, or on lakes.

Click here for Paddling in Ramsey County

Scott County (South-Southwest)

Scott County paddling opportunities are mostly in regional parks on lakes, but also includes the Minnesota River.

Click here for Paddling in Scott County

Washington County (East)

The best of Washington County paddling is on the St. Croix River—which is a National River Trail. There are some lakes to paddle in some of the parks, too.

Click here for Paddling in Washington County

Discover Minnesota’s state water trails that flow through the Twin Cities area

When you’re ready to get outside the Twin Cities for your paddling adventures, head north. Minnesota has some of the best inland paddling on the planet!

Lake Superior, for kayaking, and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW), for canoeing, are world-class paddling destinations.

People come from all over to paddle there. Be sure you do, too—at least once!

Paddling guide cover

Twin Cities Paddling Guide

Published in 2020, our 52-page digital Paddling Guide is the easiest way to find local lakes and river trails in all seven counties of the Twin Cities metro area.

Click here for the details…