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Kayak New Orleans: 3 Paddling Routes

Clear Path thru Lily Pads and Cypress Trees Mark Canoe Path in Caddo Lake

Despite New Orleans’ undeniable urban charm, nature abounds. Surrounded by waterways like swamps and bayous, New Orleans offers many opportunities to escape the city and feel the seclusion of remote landscapes and diverse ecosystems. Nothing compares to kayaking Lousiana’s swamps, paddling past historic homes, and feeling the thrill of close encounters with wildlife.

With paddling routes right through the city or a short drive away, kayaking near New Orleans is a must. Kayak rentals are plentiful, or you can venture out with an expert on a kayak tour. Get started with these three paddling spots.

1. Kayak Bayou St. John

New Orleans is know (among other things) for its architecture with multiple influences exemplified in this picture

For an easy, urban paddling experience, Bayou St. John is a great place to kayak with young family members or anyone new to the sport. This scenic waterway is known for its calm waters and impressive views of the city, as well as beautiful, historic homes built right on the water. One of the best reasons to kayak Bayou St. John is the lack of motor vessels, which aren’t allowed on the water.

Bayou St. John offers many choices for launching your kayak. The area between Orleans Ave. and I-610 is a beautiful stretch that is somewhat narrow and curved. You can find parking along Wisner Blvd and launch your kayak or canoe right from the side of the road.

North of I-610, the bayou widens and turns into more of a lake setting. Find parking where Moss St. turns into Florida Ave. at the large field near Bayou Paddlesports. In the north portion of the bayou, go for a paddle around Demourelles Island, a small piece of land with great scenery and a secluded feel.

In total, if you start from the south portion of the bayou, you can expect to enjoy a roughly 6-mile out-and-back paddle under several bridges and past historic residential areas and quiet natural scenery. You can turn around at any point, and it’s highly unlikely to get lost on the bayou since it’s just a straight shot through the city.

2. Explore Manchac Swamp

One of Louisiana’s most visited swamps, Manchac Swamp is located just 35 minutes from New Orleans and has acres and acres of wetlands to explore in your kayak or canoe. Common sights include bald cypress trees, freshwater grasses, and wildlife like owls, frogs, and even alligators.

This kayaking spot is so appealing because of its proximity to the city and abundance of waterways. Manchac’s history is still evident today. You’ll see century-old canals dug for oil and timber operations in the early 1900s. Lake Pontchartrain borders Manchac Swamp on the east, and the swamp also connects to Lake Maurepas to the north. The swamp is really a web of waterways, making it easy to choose a different route every time you paddle here.

The best spot to launch your kayak is at the Manchac Boat Ramp. Get driving directions here. From that point, there’s no shortage of places to explore. We recommend bringing a GPS to mark your starting point so you don’t get lost.

If you’d rather enjoy a guided visit, book a kayak tour!

3. Float the Bogue Chitto River

This small tributary of the Pearl River runs through Mississippi and Louisiana, passing through the Bogue Chitto State Park in Washington Parish, LA. Just an hour’s drive from New Orleans, the Bogue Chitto makes for a relaxing downstream kayak adventure. It’s also a popular place for tubing, and you’re sure to see lots of families enjoying themselves on this scenic stretch of water.

The State Park is home to cypress tupelo swamps, mountain bike trails, camping, and other fun activities and amenities. Along the river you’ll find sandy beaches to get out and stretch your legs or enjoy a picnic.

Load up your own kayak or rent one right at the State Park. There are also many outfitters nearby who offer transportation back upstream to the parking lot after your float trip.

Need help planning your New Orleans kayak trip? Find tour information here.