Of Anoka County’s 18 Regional and County Parks, 13 of them offer paddling opportunities.
You’ll need your own canoe or kayak in all but one of them, however—Wargo Nature Center in Rice Creek Chain of Lakes is the County’s only rental facility for paddle sports.
Canoe camping has come to Anoka County! Two of the regional parks offer canoe campsites for a local trip.
You’ll need a daily or annual park pass to enter most of these parks.
Coon Lake County Park (Columbus)
Coon Lake Park has plenty of launch areas for canoes, kayaks and stand-up boards. There are no rentals available here, so you’ll need to bring your own. It’s a very popular lake for motor boats, too, so be careful.
If your family wants to spend the day at the swimming beach and bring along a boat, you can launch from the beach area. Or if you’re heading there just to paddle, there’s a separate boat launch with its own parking lot. Here’s the map.
Coon Lake is huge, so you could easily spend all day on the lake. If you’d like to paddle without all the boat traffic, go on the weekdays when you’ll only meet a few fishermen.
Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park (Coon Rapids)
Coon Rapids Dam is one of Anoka County’s most popular parks, including the boat launch with its own parking lot. You’ll be paddling on the Mighty Mississippi, which, of course, means a current and motor boat traffic. Here’s the map.
For a great half-day paddle, launch here below the Dam (you’ll need to portage) and leave another car down at Riverfront Regional Park (see below). This is one of the Mississippi State River Water Trails in the Twin Cities.
If you launch at the boat launch, you’ll be paddling above the dam.
Kordiak County Park (Columbia Heights)
Lake George Regional Park (Oak Grove)
Like Coon Lake, Lake George is very popular during the summer—both the swimming beach and with boat traffic. You’re free to launch your paddling craft, but be alert and nimble in the water to avoid the motor boats.
It won’t be your most relaxing paddle on the weekends or even weeknights for that reason. Go midweek, though, and you have a large lake to explore. Here’s the Lake George map.
Locke County Park (Fridley)
Manomin County Park (Fridley)
Just over from Locke, is Manomin, which sits on the confluence of Rice Creek and the Mississippi River. It includes little bitty Locke Lake, which has a non-motorized boat launch. (No park pass needed here) Here’s the map.
Martin-Island-Linwood Lake Regional Park (Linwood Township)
Three lakes make up Martin/Linwood Regional Park on the north edge of Anoka County. All three lakes are open to paddling, and they each have their own parking area. Be aware that Linwood Lake gets pretty heavy motor boat use, especially on the weekends. Here’s the map.
Mississippi West Regional Park (Ramsey)
Mississippi West is the newest regional park of Anoka County’s park system. As of winter 2018 there’s nothing there yet except 273 acres of undeveloped park land—and a boat launch!
Canoe campsites have been created on Foster Island and Cloquet Island there. According to Anoka County Park’s Facebook profile, they’re the first formal canoe campsites along the 100-mile stretch of the Mississippi through the Twin Cities metro. Cool!
Here’s the Mississippi West map (the canoe campsites aren’t on there yet).
Rice Creek Chain of Lakes Park Reserve (Centerville/Lino Lakes)
Rice Creek Chain is one of Anoka County’s paddling jewels. It’s also the only Park in the County with rental canoes and kayaks—at Wargo Nature Center.
While you can certainly stay on the lake where you launch, you can easily spend many hours paddling by following Rice Creek between the lakes, and even head down the the Rice Creek Water Trail toward the Mississippi (see below).
Several of the lakes in the Park aren’t open to motor boats, so a quiet paddle experience is very possible. Here’s the Rice Creek map.
Rice Creek Water Trail (Lino Lakes to Fridley)
The Rice Creek Water Trail begins at the (no fee) boat launch on Peltier Lake in Lino Lakes. It travels 23 miles through the Rice Creek Chain of Lakes and continues on Rice Creek until it joins the Mississippi River. Here’s the map.
Kayak and Canoe rentals are available at Wargo Nature Center (Rice Creek Chain of Lakes Regional Park). You’ll need a park pass to leave your car here.
Riverfront Regional Park (Fridley)
Situated on the east bank of the Mississippi River, Riverfront has a boat launch on the very north end of the park. If you launch up at the Coon Rapids Dam (see above), you can leave a vehicle here and paddle downstream for a little over 8 miles. It’s a Mississippi State River Water Trail.
Currents may be strong, especially in the spring, so don’t let younger children paddle alone! In fact, if you go in the spring you’ll want to be a strong paddler yourself. (No park pass needed here) Here’s the Riverfront map.
Rum River North County Park (St. Francis)
80-acre Rum River North can either be the beginning of a paddle further south via the Rum River Corridor or the end of paddling the Rum River State Water Trail. You can even camp overnight at the canoe campsite here if you put in at the canoe launch and paddle upstream a little ways (or portage in from the parking lot). Here’s the Rum River North map.
Rum River Central Regional Park (Ramsey)
It’s possible to both launch and come out within the 434-acre Rum River Central Park if a short paddle is all you’re looking for. Maybe an excursion with small children. If you’d like to be on the water longer, launch up at Rum River North and leave a vehicle here.
There’s a canoe campsite here, too—a great, local way to explore the idea of paddling with gear and camping. Here’s the Rum River Central map.
Rum River South County Park (Anoka)
Right in downtown Anoka, Rum River South can be the end of a day paddle from either of the other Rum River Parks. It includes a short portage around the dam in Anoka. Or head down to the Rum’s confluence with the Mississippi, just a short ways south yet. Here’s the map.