Kayaks Richmond: The Best Paddling Destinations In Virginia

20 Kayaks Richmond Areas Flatwater Paddling

20 Kayaks Richmond Areas Flatwater Paddling

Abigail Scott

Abigail Scott
Mother, Professional Kayaker, and Software Engineer

Updated on 12/6/2022

The Commonwealth of kayaks Richmond offers some of the country's best opportunities for flatwater paddling. Virginia has many bays, coves, and inlets of the Atlantic tidal regions that you can explore in your kayak or canoe, and it also has enticing and scenic reservoirs dotting the countryside. These reservoirs range in size from massive impoundments such as Buggs Island Lake in southern Virginia to smaller lakes such as Flannagan Reservoir, which is nestled deep within the folds of the Appalachian Mountains. You could enjoy the peace and tranquility of a pond more, such as Stumpy Lake, which is located in a protected natural area and is home to a variety of wildlife that roams freely among the cypress trees.

Prepare yourself for a fun and gratifying day paddling in Virginia, whether you bring your canoe or kayak or hire one on the premises. Note that many places only rent canoes and kayaks during specific times of the year; therefore, if you want to borrow a boat to a particular location, you need to research in advance. Now, fasten your life jacket, grab your paddle, and let's immerse ourselves in 20 flatwater paddling places in Virginia. After that, you can find your own experience.

Flannagan Reservoir

FLANNAGAN RESERVOIR

FLANNAGAN RESERVOIR

The closest town is Clintwood.

Canoe/kayak Rental: No

The Flannagan Reservoir in Southwest Virginia is located at an elevation of roughly 1,400 feet and has a lake surface area of 1,143 acres. It is nestled deep within the mountains of this region. The shoreline is managed by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, and it features nothing but hills and hollows that are covered in trees. There are fifty miles of shoreline, and most of it is in the shape of long fingers and embayments, making for more intimate paddling. The Pound and Cranes rivers are the two lake arms located the farthest away from the primary body of water. Both arms provide canoeing and kayaking routes that are narrow, meandering, and packed with spectacular scenery, deep water, and secluded coves. Each lake's arms offer a convenient place to launch boats into the water.

After the Paddle, make your way into Clintwood to dine on some cuisine from south of the border at La Casa Mexicana.

Laurel Lake

LAUREL LAKE

LAUREL LAKE

The Nearest Town is Haysi.

Canoe/kayak Rental: Yes, at Breaks Interstate Park

The Paddle: Laurel Lake is a teeny-tiny body of water that spans just 12 acres and can be found entirely within Breaks Interstate Park. However, what it lacks in size, it makes up for splendor and additional possibilities to enjoy the great outdoors. Canoes, kayaks, and pedal boats are available to rent at the location. You can go on a boat ride along the forested shoreline, which features several little coves, and also explore the dam.

After the Paddle: There is a tonne to do in Breaks, where the Russell Fork River cuts a gorge often referred to as the "Grand Canyon of the South." Take in the sight of Russell Fork churning and crashing 1,600 feet below in a foaming mass of whitewater. Camp out for the night in the campground. You can hike down to Russell Fork itself via the River Trail, or you can hike up the Overlook Trail. Take in the beautiful sights along Nature Drive on your next road trip. The natural and human history programs at Breaks Interstate Park perfectly complement the park's breathtaking beauty.

North Fork Of Pound Lake

NORTH FORK OF POUND LAKE

NORTH FORK OF POUND LAKE


Pound, the Nearest Town

Canoe/kayak Rental: No

The Paddle: This is kayaking on a small, secluded mountain lake at its very best. The 154-acre North Fork of Pound Lake can be tucked away in the heart of the Jefferson National Forest. The lake's natural shoreline is almost forested. Pine Mountain is the most prominent of the mountains seen in the background of the lake, while the other mountains frame the rest of the body of water. Built in 1966 to provide flood control, the slim impoundment features numerous tiny bays that can explore. Mountain rills feed these bays. What can launch canoes and kayaks from a ramp close to the dam, and what can find another ramp closer to the lake's headwaters.

After you've finished paddling, make your way to the nearby town of Wise and stop for a meal at El Castillo, which is located on Main Street. The Guest River Gorge Trail is a rail trail that begins in the vicinity of Coeburn, and you and your family may go hiking or biking on this trail.

Hungry Mother Lake

HUNGRY MOTHER LAKE

HUNGRY MOTHER LAKE

The closest town is Marion.

Canoe and kayak rentals are available, and the park is called Hungry Mother State Park.

The Paddle Hungry Mother State Park was one of the very first state parks in Virginia, and it is also home to one of the most beautiful impoundments in the state. The size of Hungry Mother Lake, which is 108 acres surrounded by hills and a hiking route, is impressive. Using gas-powered motors is strictly prohibited, which helps preserve the tranquility of the surrounding natural setting. The park offers paddleboards, kayaks, canoes, and paddleboats for rent, making it convenient to launch watercraft and explore the little reservoir fed by highland streams flowing down from the surrounding hills.

After your paddle, Hungry Mother State Park has several different cabins available for overnight guests and a campsite for those who enjoy a more rustic experience. The area is crisscrossed by hiking trails, including one in a circle around Hungry Mother Lake. After exploring the park, please make your way into Marion and grab a bite to eat at the Wooden Pickle Food & Spirits, a well-known establishment in the community known for its casual ambiance.

Claytor Lake

THE LAKE OF CLAYTOR

THE LAKE OF CLAYTOR

Dublin is the closest town.

Canoe and kayak rentals are available at Claytor Lake Water Sports in Claytor Lake State Park. Paddleboard rentals are also available at this location.

Claytor Lake was created when a dam was built over the fabulous New River, resulting in the lake's existence. There is plenty of room to paddle on the enormous mountain lake because it runs for almost 20 kilometers and covers 4,500 acres of surface water. You have the option of going up the lake along the state park's shore or heading down the lake toward the dam that creates the impoundment. The paddle is made more enjoyable by the presence of small inlets and distant mountain views.

After you've finished paddling, take a short drive to the nearby town of Dublin and stop at Verona's Pizza for some Stromboli, calzone, salad, or pizza.

Philpoot Lake

lake

lake

Martinsville is the closest town.

Canoe/kayak Rental: No

The Philpott Lake Blueway was established because of the lake's potential as a paddling destination, despite the lake's size of 3,000 acres. This potential has led to the creation of The Paddle. On the blueway, there are notations for nine launch locations and nine lake destinations. Among these are Deer Island, which can only be reached by boat, and Calico Rock, a cliff that is over 200 feet tall. The Bowens Creek boat launch is an excellent place to begin the recommended excursion. Paddle in a southwesterly direction up the Bowens Creek embayment until you reach the Bowens Creek Falls cascade, located at the head of a chilly cove. You also have the option of paddling out into the main lake and going around Turkey Island and Deer Island, which can only be reached by boat.

After you've paddled, continue to Martinsville and stop at the Checkered Pig for authentic barbecue or ribs. Lunch or dinner. They are known for their warm and welcoming southern hospitality. It may be crowded, so dive right into the action. Following what is said above, "Everyone is welcome!"

Smith Mountain Lake

Smith Mountain Lake

Smith Mountain Lake

Rocky Mount is the closest town.

Canoe and kayak rentals are available, among other places, at Smith Mountain Lake State Park.

The Paddle: My favorite lake in the area is Smith Mountain Lake, which is a large impoundment that has more inlets, arms, and twisting coves than a squid has tentacles. The scenery of the highlands contributes to the beauty of the water. Given that the coastline along the preserve has been left in its natural state, the state park serves as an excellent starting place for exploration. Discover the many hidden coves and maybe even an island off the coast. Explore the Smith Mountain Lake Community Park on the opposite side of the lake. You would be exhausted if you paddled your kayak along the entire coastline of the state park and into every cove.

After the Paddle: The state park includes an excellent trail network and camping that comes highly recommended. Explore the different topographic aspects that this park has to offer. After that, make your way to Drifter's Restaurant for a laid-back meal with a view of the lake. Open while the weather is still warm. Offers special menu items for children.

Lake Gaston

Lake Gaston

Lake Gaston

South Hill is the closest town.

Canoe/kayak Rental: Yes, kayak rentals at Poplar Pointe Marine in Bracey

The waters of Lake Gaston, caused by the Roanoke River's damming, extend from Virginia into North Carolina. Lake Gaston is a long and substantial impoundment. Paddlers will find the Virginia section to be delightful. Several different paths are described in detail as a component of the Southern Virginia Wild Blueway. This specific paddle begins at Steele Bridge Landing on US 1, continues down the lake, and then makes a left onto Beechwood Flats, an excellent site to observe waterfowl. 

Paddlers who are up for an adventure will also make their way along the narrow Flat Creek embayment, which leads from Beechwood Flats to Bear Swamp. After leaving Beechwood Flats, you can make a loop back to Steel Bridge Landing. This trip is approximately five miles long, excluding the detour to the Flat Creek embayment.

After you've finished paddling, head into Clarksville and have dinner at the Lamplighter Restaurant & Lounge there.

Buggs Island Lake (Lake Kerr)

BUGGS ISLAND LAKE (LAKE KERR)

BUGGS ISLAND LAKE (LAKE KERR)

Clarksville is the closest town.

Canoe and kayak rentals are available, and they can be found just outside Staunton River State Park at Clarksville Water Sports and River Traders.

The Paddle, This section of the Southern Virginia Wild Blueway also includes this PaddlePaddle. Begin your journey in Staunton River State Park, which may be found in the uppermost part of Buggs Island Lake. This park is where the now-stalled Staunton River meets the dammed Dan River. After launching your boat from the ramp at the state park, paddle up the Staunton River arm and make a loop around Jeffress Island and Harris Island. Make detours up the Cargill's Creek embayment and the Hogan Creek embayment while you return. Makes a 5-6 mile trip. Most of the shoreline is protected as part of a wildlife management area or a state park.

After the PaddlePaddle, you can't seem to agree on where to eat, can you? For refined dishes typical of the South, Cooper's Landing Inn & Travelers Tavern in Clarksville is the place to go.

Lake Moomaw

LAKE MOOMAW

LAKE MOOMAW

Warm Springs is the closest town.

Canoe/kayak Rental: No

The Paddle: Lake Moomaw is considered by many people to be the most beautiful lake in Virginia. It is difficult to argue against this. Deep within the Jefferson National Forest may be found the mountain-ringed impoundment. The impoundment's banks are entirely covered in forest, and mountains can be seen rising from the lake's clear waters like a relief map. In addition, the location is very secluded, which adds an air of mystery and excitement to the experience of paddling here. But it would help if you had high expectations since Lake Moomaw always lives up to them. The upper portion of the large lake is somewhat narrow, but it widens out and contains islands as it gets lower. There are two campgrounds and four boat launches on the lake. Greenwood Point is accessible by trail and boat and is the starting point of a delightful paddle that begins at the Bolar Flat Launch. After paddling around an island-filled inlet, you will arrive at Greenwood Point. From there, it is a 9-mile journey back to Bolar Flat, surrounded by the beauty of the mountains. The lower lake has extra opportunities for canoeing and kayaking.

After the PaddlePaddle, you can stay the night in one of the campgrounds; if you like more rustic surroundings, Greenwood Point is the place for you; otherwise, Bolar Mountain Campground offers hot showers and water spigots.

Stumpy Lake Natural Area

STUMPY LAKE NATURAL AREA

STUMPY LAKE NATURAL AREA


The most nearby city is Virginia Beach.

Canoe and kayak rentals are available, and Chesapeake Outdoors in Virginia Beach is the place to go.

The PaddlePaddle offers a beautiful opportunity for families to float together at Stumpy Lake Natural Area, located close to the most popular attractions in Virginia Beach. Explore the lake, which does not permit the use of motorized boats, by renting a canoe or kayak and entering the water on a dock that has been expressly created for this purpose. Majestic cypress trees surround the lake. You are welcome to take as much time as you like to explore the lake, look for wading birds, or take in the natural beauty of this park, which is open to visitors and Virginia Beach locals alike.

After your paddling session at Stumpy Lake, stop by the Ninja Sushi Bar for a meal that will compliment your efforts in the water by providing you with nutritious and freshly prepared meals. There are also salads, soups, and main courses that are cooked.

Lake Anna

LAKE ANNA

LAKE ANNA

Spotsylvania is the nearest town.

Canoe and kayak rentals are available, and you can find them at R&R Rentals and Lake Anna Outfitters.

Lake Anna is one of the largest reservoirs in Virginia, covering more than 13,000 surface water acres. It serves as a destination for freshwater recreation for people living in and around the greater Washington, DC area. Lake Anna State Park is home to some of the lake's most rugged coastline. After launching your boat from the ramp next to the park's renowned swimming beach, PaddlePaddle to the right and up the cove. Continue along the park shore until you reach the beginning of an unidentified stream. Retrace your steps, then complete the circuit around Jetts Island. The boat launch is the starting point for an approximately three-mile loop. Follow the shoreline of Lake Anna State Park in an easterly direction for an alternative route. It is about 5 miles to go to the top of the Pigeon Run arm of the lake if you are traveling in one direction, making the total distance traveled a round trip of 10 miles.

After the PaddlePaddle: I've had a good time hiking in this state park, so if you feel up to it, you should head out on the trails. You might also round up the gang and head to The Cove in Lake Anna. Take a seat on the deck that overlooks the lake you just conquered with your PaddlePaddle, get a refreshing beverage, and then treat yourself to something delicious from the extensive menu.

Swift Creek Lake

SWIFT CREEK LAKE

SWIFT CREEK LAKE


Richmond is the closest town.

Canoe/kayak Rental: Yes, at Pocahontas State Park

The Paddle: Due to its proximity to Richmond and other major cities, Pocahontas State Park is a viral tourist site. Swift Creek Lake is a charming reservoir that is just the right size for novice paddlers, so the sizeable state preserve surrounding it serves as its focal point. The watery paddling location is 156 acres, making it large enough for exploration but not so large that it is unduly susceptible to the effects of winds and waves. Compared to other lakes in the Piedmont region, this one is unusually skinny and swampy in its higher reaches. Because the forested shoreline creates a more authentic experience, you can't go wrong in this location regardless of where you go or how much paddling you do. Canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards are just a few types of watercraft available for hire at this park. The rule that gas motors are not allowed helps maintain a calm atmosphere.

After the Paddle: The hiking trails here are entertaining, and I've spent many nights in the campground and find it a pleasant place to spend the night. After you've finished paddling, make your way to Riptides Seafood for some delicious, freshly caught seafood. They also have non-seafood options such as salads, soups, and sandwiches.

Belle Isle State Park

BELLE ISLE STATE PARK

BELLE ISLE STATE PARK

Warsaw is the closest city.

Canoe/kayak Rental: Yes, at Belle Isle State Park

The Paddle: Belle Isle State Park is a serene location that puts visitors on "island time" as soon as they step foot inside the park's warm and inviting boundaries. Canoes and kayaks are available at the park, which is situated on the banks of the lower tidal Rappahannock River, and the rates are pretty affordable. Canoeists and kayakers can launch their craft from a secluded area on Mulberry Creek, then make their way to the Rappahannock River. Stop at Brewers Point, which is part of the state park, and you can spend the night camping at either a hike-in or a boat-in site. Paddle along the river's borders, where you'll find wildlife and woodlands and marshes to explore. It is approximately three miles one way to get to the park boat ramp on Deep Creek, making the total distance traveled on the trip six miles if no other inlets, such as Porpoise Creek, are explored.

After your PaddlePaddle, you should consider exploring the campground and trails here on Belle Isle. After the PaddlePaddle, drive to the nearby town of Warsaw and stop at Michelle's Sweet Treats for some delectable bites to eat. Everything they sell, from pies to cookies to cupcakes, is prepared from raw ingredients in-house.

Occoquan Reservoir

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR

The closest town to the OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR is Manassas.

Canoe and kayak rentals are available, and the park's name is Fountainhead Regional Park.

The Paddle: Are you looking for a paddle that the whole family can enjoy close to Washington, DC? Discover a long and peaceful lake, the north bank entirely made up of parkland and carved out with quaint little forested bays. Occoquan Reservoir is a 2,100-acre impoundment designed to supply water to Fairfax County. Today, it also serves as a popular paddling destination close to everything the District of Columbia offers.

Valwix 2 Person Inflatable Kayak for Adults w/ Sun Canopy
Summary
Easy to inflate9.2
Easy to inflate
Maneuverability9.2
Maneuverability
Leg room8.2
Leg room

Your starting point is the expansive Fountainhead Regional Park, where you can hike, picnic, and even rent canoes and boats to use on your journey. The lake is a component of the Occoquan Water Trail, covering a larger area.

After the PaddlePaddle, have a bite to eat at the Secret Garden Café, where you can savor food prepared in an American style on the terrace of a house built in the 1840s. In addition, Manassas Battlefield and the trails that surround it, as well as Mount Vernon, are not far away.

Back Bay

BACK BAY

BACK BAY

Sandbridge is the closest town.

Canoe/kayak Rental: Yes, Adventure Kayak & SUP in Virginia Beach

The Paddle Start in Little Island Park, a Virginia Beach city park astride the Atlantic Ocean on one side and Back Bay on the other. Paddle in a clockwise direction around the park. Back Bay is a tidal estuary littered with islands and canals, and who can explore it after leaving the park and launching into it. There is a potential abundance of wildlife; make sure to carry binoculars. You can go to Long Island, or you can circle Little Island. Canoe or kayak over to the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge's Horn Point canoe/kayak launch, where you may stretch your legs and then explore some of the activities available on land at Back Bay (entrance fee required to land at Back Bay NWR)

After you've finished paddling, go to the Baja Restaurant for some refreshing drinks and delectable seafood. During the summer, there is live music.

Pohick Bay

Pohick Bay

Pohick Bay


Woodbridge is the closest town.

Pohick Bay Regional Park does provide canoe and kayak rentals.

Pohick Bay is an excellent location for family outings on the broader tidal Potomac River, and The Paddle recommends it highly. You can explore the south bank of Pohick Bay by paddling about in rented canoes, kayaks, or standup paddleboards. Take a boat ride along the coast of Pohick Bay Regional Park to the mouth of Pohick Creek, where the creek's channel enters the bay. Before heading back to the park, complete a tour that takes you to the portion of Pohick Bay located further north. The park has its launch for boats that don't have motors. At this park that spans 1,000 acres, you can add additional pursuits to your journeys, such as hiking, picnicking, and studying the local flora and fauna.

You have received a pizza from the Astoria Pizza Restaurant for completing the Paddle. Enjoy it. Consider paying a visit to Prince William Forest Park while in the neighborhood to see the old CCC buildings, hiking trails, and picturesque drive.

Great Dismal Swamp/Lake Drummond

Great Dismal Swamp/Lake Drummond

Great Dismal Swamp/Lake Drummond

Chesapeake is the nearest town.

Canoe/kayak Rental: No

The Paddle entails entering the Great Dismal Swamp for a round-trip distance of eight miles. Begin your journey at the state boat ramp located on US 17, not far from Ballahack Road. Canoeing or kayaking via the Dismal Swamp Canal to the south and then continuing west on a feeder canal will bring you to Lake Drummond, one of only two natural freshwater lakes in Virginia. Lake Drummond is located within the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. Follow the feeder canal to the west to arrive at Lake Drummond, a Virginia landmark that spans more than 3,000 acres and is surrounded by cypress trees.

Driftsun Voyager Inflatable Kayak - 2 Person Tandem Kayak
Summary
Easy to inflate9.2
Easy to inflate
Comfort9
Comfort
Durability8.4
Durability
Value for money8.2
Value for money
Sturdiness7.2
Sturdiness

After your Paddle, stop by the Amber Lantern Restaurant for a meal overlooking the Elizabeth River. They have a dockside patio. This restaurant has a laid-back vibe but serves delicious food and has a view of the water.

Eastern Shore National Wildlife Refuge

Eastern Shore National Wildlife Refuge

Eastern Shore National Wildlife Refuge

Eastern Shore National Wildlife Refugeis a refuge for wildlife.

Cape Charles is the closest town.

Rentals of canoes and kayaks are available here at Southeast Expeditions.

The Paddle If you want to explore the streams of the Eastern Shore National Wildlife Refuge, which is situated on the Eastern Shore of the state, you may either rent your kayak or embark on a tour (the latter of which is highly recommended). Taking a boat ride through the marshes and watching wildlife, particularly birds, may be very enjoyable. Take advantage of the ebb and flow of the tides. Those with less experience kayaking in coastal waters or maneuvering a sea kayak would benefit from participating in the tour offered here. Plus, the guides know the best places to see wild animals!

After completing the Paddle, go to the Shanty for some seafood. The Shanty is located immediately on the port of Cape Charles, which will offer a visual element that will stimulate your palate.

Assateague Island

Assateague Island

Assateague Island

Chincoteague is the most nearby town.

Canoe and kayak rentals are available at the Assateague Explorer.

The Paddle: Head to the Eastern Shore and begin your journey at Chincoteague Island. From there, Paddle throughout the ocean and the bays next to it. Joining a sea kayak tour is an excellent way to get started because both the kayak and the guide are provided, which removes the stress associated with paddling in areas with shifting tides. After departing Chincoteague Island, paddle your way out to Assateague National Seashore and begin your search for the wild ponies that call Assateague their home. You will return to your base on Chincoteague after landing on the beach and taking a stroll along the Atlantic Ocean.

Explorer K2 Kayak, 2-Person Inflatable Kayak Set…
Summary
Easy to inflate8.8
Easy to inflate
Leg room8.4
Leg room
Maneuverability8.4
Maneuverability

After Your Paddle: In addition to kayaking, Chincoteague offers many other activities, such as fishing on a charter boat, taking a scenic cruise, hang gliding, or flying over the Atlantic Ocean. It is possible to enjoy a prolonged vacation here due to the abundance of dining options and lodging options.

You can either bring your canoe or kayaks Richmond or hire one there and get ready for a day filled with excitement and fulfillment when you go paddling. It is important to remember that many locations only rent canoes and kayaks during certain seasons of the year; hence, if you want to borrow a boat to go to a specific spot, you will need to do research in advance.

Frequently Asked Questions