From tumbling mountain rivers to the secluded islands of Long Island Sound, Connecticut provides a wide variety of opportunities for kayakers. In a state with such an abundance of options, choosing the best place to go kayaking is a daunting task, but whether you want to test your whitewater skills or spend a quiet afternoon on the water, you can find plenty of places to paddle in Connecticut.
Rolling on the River
The Housatonic River flows southward throughout the entire length of western Connecticut and presents mile after mile of prime kayaking runs. The upper portion, near the town of Canaan, is perfect for a leisurely paddling trip, with broad, deep water and current so mild that in summer that you can paddle upstream with little resistance. The shoreline is mostly undeveloped forest and meadow lands, though the river briefly parallels Route 44 a few miles downstream from Canaan. Farther south, the Housatonic widens between New Milford and Monroe to form Lake Lillinonah, where kakayers can explore the shoreline and cast a line for bass, pike and panfish. A current Connecticut fishing license is required.
Out Among the Islands
Ocean kayakers would have a hard time finding a more scenic spot than the Thimble Islands. Just off the coast of Stony Creek in South Central Connecticut, the area is home to more than 300 islands and stony outcroppings, though some of them are revealed only during low tide. A 10-mile kayak trip beginning at Stony Creek Town Dock and Beach can take you around the rocky shores of several dozen islands. The waters in this part of Long Island Sound are generally calm, but rough weather can crop up. Life jackets and stable sea kayaks are essential, and a navigation chart is useful to make your way through the maze of islands and reefs.
Paddling the Rapids
The Farmington River presents a diverse set of conditions for kayakers, ranging from easily-navigable flatwater to challenging rapids. For whitewater kayakers, many of the more demanding rapids lie in the upper reaches of the river, before it crosses into Connecticut from Massachusetts. Connecticut paddlers can still tackle sections of mild to moderate whitewater in the Class I to Class II range, particularly around Tariffville, a few miles downstream from the Route 185 access area. Most of the Farmington River stays pretty flat, though there is a strong current. The Farmington merges with the Connecticut River near Windsor, and this larger river provides easy paddling all the way to the coast.
Into the Wild
When the Connecticut River meets Long Island Sound, its mouth opens wide to form a vast bay lined with lush wetlands and ecologically diverse salt marshes. At the eastern rim of the river mouth lies a large wetland complex known as Great Island. Here, kayakers can paddle through a maze of marsh grass, sea lavender and seaside goldenrod. Navigation charts are essential if you plan to head deep into this area, but intrepid paddlers are rewarded by total quiet and solitude. The waters around Great Island are shallow enough to keep powerboats and jet skis away, but kayaks can pass through with ease so you're likely to have only sea birds and turtles for company.
- REI: Connecticut Flatwater Paddling & Canoeing
- REI: Connecticut Sea Kayaking
- Rivers Alliance of Connecticut: Water Trails Program
- CTXGuide.com: Connecticut Whitewater and Sea Kayaking, Canoeing, and Paddling Map
- ConnYak: Launch Site Directions
- Paddling Connecticut and Rhode Island; Jim Cole
- Flyfisher's Guide to the Northeast Coast; Phil Shook
- Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images