Of Anoka County’s 18 Regional and County Parks, 13 of them offer kayaking, canoeing and paddle boarding 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.
NOTE: 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 Coon Lake park 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 or early mornings when there are fewer people out. Spring and fall is also a great time to paddle with less traffic.
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.
If you use the designated boat launch, you’ll put into a sheltered bay and proceed out to the river above the dam. You’ll have to paddle against the current at first as you head upriver. But then have an easy time of it going back to the launch. Of course mind the warning buoys and don’t approach the dam!
For a great half-day paddle, launch here below the Dam (you’ll need to portage—there isn’t an official boat launch) and leave another car down at Riverfront Regional Park (see below). This is part of the Mississippi River State Water Trail.
Kordiak County Park (Columbia Heights)
Kordiak surrounds little Highland Lake, which is open to paddling. There’s no boat launch so you won’t be competing for space with motor boats. (No park pass needed here) Here’s the map.
This is a great spot for young paddlers or beginners. It’s not big enough to throw up waves and you’ll likely see some of the local wildlife—like big snapping turtles! When you’re through paddling there’s a playground and picnic area at the park, too.
Lake George Regional Park (Oak Grove)
Lake George is hugely popular during the summer—both the swimming beach and with boat traffic. Launch your kayak, canoe or paddle board at the boat launch, 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’ll have 495 acres of lake to explore. You’ll probably share the lake with some anglers, but it’ll be much quieter. Here’s the Lake George map.
Manomin County Park (Fridley)
Just over from Locke County Park, is Manomin, which sits on the confluence of Rice Creek and the Mississippi River. It includes tiny and shallow Locke Lake, which has a non-motorized boat launch. Here’s the Manomin map. (No park pass needed here)
In case you have plans, you won’t be able to paddle from the lake into the Mississippi River on Rice Creek, as there’s a dam there at the west end of the lake.
Martin-Island-Linwood Lake Regional Park (Linwood Township)
Three lakes make up Martin/Island/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 572-acre Linwood Lake gets pretty heavy motor boat use, especially on late spring and summer 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 fall 2021 there’s not much there yet except 273 acres of undeveloped park land—and a boat launch!
The County has developed canoe campsites 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.
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 reaches Locke Lake, just east of 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 there.
Riverfront Regional Park (Fridley)
Situated on the east bank of the Mississippi River, Riverfront Regional Park has a boat launch on the very north end of the park. If you launch up at Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park, you can leave a vehicle here and paddle downstream for a little over 8 miles. It’s part of the Mississippi River State 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 Central Regional Park (Ramsey)
It’s possible to both launch and come out within the 434-acre Rum River Central Park for a couple-mile paddle. 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 North County Park (St. Francis)
80-acre Rum River North can either be the beginning of a paddle trip heading further south via the Rum River Corridor, or the end of paddling a section of the Rum River State Water Trail. You can even camp overnight at one of the canoe campsites 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 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.
Go to the Anoka County Parks page for more info about each park.
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.