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HIT THE WATER: THE BEST KAYAKING SPOTS IN CLEVELAND

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LAYNE GIBBONS

APR 18, 2019

Paddleboarding, jet skiing, boating, and water skiing are all fine and dandy, but have you ever tried kayaking? Most people assume just because kayakers are sitting down, this watersport is a “leisurely” activity. Psh, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

These kayakers are using all core and upper-body to make their way around our wonderful rivers, canals, and lakes. And though you’re working up a sweat (and an appetite), you’re also having some fun in the sun with some amazing views.

While Cleveland is home to many access points to the water, below are 10 locations that should be top of mind next time you launch your kayak.

When it comes to kayaking in Rocky River, the Yak Shack at 41 North may be your spot. But if you have your own kayak, departing from Rocky River Reservation inside the Cleveland Metroparks is prime. You can start off on the actual Rocky River and admire natural shale cliffs as you paddle along the still river. Or you can make a day of it and head along the river into Lake Erie. With the river and the lake, you have the best of both worlds. Not to mention there’s a restaurant inside the Emerald Necklace Marina that overlooks the river if you work up an appetite.

Considering Put-In-Bay is part of an island off of Cleveland, the world is your oyster in the world of kayaking. Grab that kayak of yours, hop on the ferry, and make a weekend of it. Try heading towards Bayview Ave. for some prime kayaking spots. You’ll find a few notable harbors to paddle around (Refuge and Squaw), and one of the smallest state parks (Oak Point State Park) where you can continue your fun in the sun.

Bay Village may be a solid half-hour away from downtown, but Huntington Beach shouldn’t be ignored. The beach is shadowed with greenery from the Huntington Reservation and is a relaxing spot to cruise along Lake Erie. You’ll find the sand beaches right off Lake Road along with over 100 acres of park life. Bonus: Not only is this area less crowded than beaches like Edgewater, you still get a sick view of Cleveland’s skyline.

How cool is The Flats? Everybody (and their mom) is trying to hang out there. While the streets and restaurants are jam-packed, head to the water instead for some freedom. And try putting in on the less-crowded West Bank of the Flats; it’ll save you a headache. Plus, if you’ve ever dined at spots like Coastal Taco or The Music Box, then you’ve probably noticed the endless amounts of jet skis, kayakers, and paddle boarders from Great Lakes Watersports, where you can also do rentals on the Cuyahoga River.

You don’t need to live downtown to have a good time. In fact, there are plenty of places to get your kayak on without enduring Cleveland’s terrible traffic and parking. Lorain County might as well be a hidden treasure in the kayak world with its 27-mile Vermilion-Lorain Water Trail. That’s right — 27 miles of uninterrupted kayaking action with rental services up and down the route. The trail begins at Vermilion River Reservation and ends in Black River Reservation in Elyria, following through the Vermilion River and emptying into Lake Erie.

Just 23 miles south of Cleveland, Cuyahoga Valley National Park has plenty to do and see. This park is home to Brandywine Falls, trails, and, of course, rivers to kayak. The Cuyahoga River is 100 miles long and welcomes kayakers — but  paddle at your own risk (yes, there are rapids). To make it easier for kayakers and paddle boarders alike, there are three easy access points at Boston Store Visitor Center, Station Road Bridge Trailhead, and Red Lock.

Heading over to Wendy Park and Whiskey Island is always a good idea; there’s food, sand, and easy access to both Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River. Now, it’s not the biggest area to spend your time, but its easy entrance to both bodies of water makes it the ultimate kayaking hub. Note: If you start your kayaking adventure into Lake Erie, just keep an eye out for jet skiers riding the waves!

If you’re ready for an urban adventure, head on down to North Coast Harbor. This downtown green space is right next to FirstEnergy Stadium, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and a dock that was made for watersport enthusiasts. You can set off paddling with the city’s skyscrapers as your background, and if you don’t have a kayak on-hand because, you know, you live in a tiny-ass apartment, you can rent one from Rock and Dock Marina. Tired? Give your arms a rest and chill on the waterfront green space before hitting the lake for one more go ’round.

There’s not much the Cleveland Metroparks don’t have. Basically, if you’re down with the great outdoors, the great outdoors in Cleveland delivers. Inside Hinckley Reservation, there are a few spots to get your kayak-on, but in particular, you’re looking for Hinckley Lake. On the south end of the park, you can visit Hinckley Lake Boathouse for easy access to the lake and to rent a few kayaks or boards for some friends who wanna join the fun.

You’re not here for a history lesson, but it’s hard not to appreciate the Ohio & Erie Canal’s long history dating back to the 1800s. This 110-mile water system links different counties and rivers while surrounded by trails and scenic views, and that means kayaking. But since this canal and park is over 100 miles, it can be a little intimidating to find the best place to jump in the water. Try entering through Virginia Kendall Park for easy access to the water off a dock and just .08 miles from the closest trail. It’s also a National Heritage Area — get a workout and get learned!