CANOE & KAYAK suggests the best overnight kayak trips for beginners

With kayaking becoming more popular everyday, many new kayakers might be looking for a way to take their day-trip adventures to the next level by embarking on an overnight kayaking trip.

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But that might be pretty intimidating for first-timers.

We asked Dave Shively, managing editor of CANOE & KAYAK, to tell us about the best overnight kayaking trips for beginners. “Camping out of a boat is what paddling is all about; arriving to an empty beach and making your home for a night,” says Shively.

Here’s what he recommends:

The Classic American River Trip: The Mississippi River

Kayaking the Mississippi River
You can experience the same majestic sunrises as Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. Photo: Courtesy Dave Sheffield/Flickr

“One of the most rewarding paddling adventures I’ve had is the most classic American river trip there is — down the Mississippi River. Don’t fear the big river. Head to Clarksdale, Miss., soak in all the blues history at the Crossroads, and then launch an easy overnighter to experience the muddy magic of the Mississippi.

“Launch in Helena, Ark., and paddle up and around Buck Island. From there you can come up with endless itineraries downriver. You can pull up and camp on empty mid-river islands. Then, all you have to do is sink your feet in the sand and watch as barges go by. ”

Escape from Vegas: The Black Canyon of the Colorado River

“This spring I did the Black Canyon of the Colorado River for the first time. It was super mellow, and had insane canyon country camping just 20 minutes from a major international airport.

“In my opinion, it’s the perfect opportunity to get away from Sin City and really see Vegas, making it perfect for an overnight trip.”

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While you can always find somewhere in Nevada to rent a kayak for the day, Shively suggests investing in a foldable Oru Kayak — which can be packed as luggage — for maximum shock factor from fellow passengers at the baggage carousel.

Southern Hospitality: Bayou Teche

Bayou Teche
Bayou Teche offers still water, beautiful vegetation and Cajun culture as far as the eye can see. Photo: Courtesy of remster_9/Flickr

“One thing I think that’s important for the everyman Joe Paddler looking to launch their first multi-day trip is finding a route that’s fairly well-developed with established campgrounds. The Bayou Teche is just that.

“Bayou Teche is the longest bayou in the county and it’s a cool way to give paddlers the chance to link together multiple Cajun communities and listen to some zydeco music. Plus, there’s a couple cool crawfish festivals along the waterway you can connect your trip with.

“And, Bayou Teche just got added to the list of the country’s National Water Trails System.

“Managed by the National Parks System, there’s 21 of them now, and the entire system is devoted to developing resources on the trail so that beginners can come up with a rad, safe, overnight paddling trip.”

Experience the Heartland: Paddle Wisconsin’s Apostle Islands

overnight kayak trip apostle Islands
The Apostle Islands offer a gentle introduction to open-water kayaking for beginners. Photo: Courtesy of Tim Wilson/Flickr Courtesy of Tim Wilson/Flickr

“There are likely plenty of worthy paddling adventures right in your backyard, and even right in middle America, that are totally overlooked.

“Speaking to the Midwest, I did a trip out to the Apostle Islands in Wisconsin, which is a perfect overnight for sea kayakers wanting to try their hand at an open-water crossing.”

As Shively notes, the Apostle Islands make for the perfect opportunity for someone looking to get a little open-water kayaking in without having to get too extreme.

A collection of 21 islands, the islands lie within varying distances of the south shore of Lake Superior in Wisconsin. While some sit as many as 40 miles from the shoreline, perhaps the easiest for beginners to access is Sand Island.

Just 3 miles from the ranger station in the town of Little Sand Bay, Sand Island has a handful of beautiful open-water caves you can paddle through and features an established campground that the National Parks System upkeeps.

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