Kayak in Virginia [Best Places for Kayaking in Virginia]

If you’re aiming for an ultimate kayaking experience, then Virginia is the perfect place to be. This U.S. state embodies inlets of the Atlantic tidal regions, coves, and bays, not to mention breathtaking views and scenic reservoirs. What are the best places to kayak in Virginia? 

The best places to kayak in Virginia include the following:

  1. Flannagan Reservoir
  2. Laurel Lake
  3. North Fork of Pound Lake
  4. Hungry Mother Lake
  5. Claytor Lake
  6. Philpott Lake
  7. Smith Mountain Lake
  8. Lake Gaston
  9. Bugg’s Island Lake or Kerr Lake
  10. Lake Moomaw
  11. Stumpy Lake Natural Area
  12. Lake Anna
  13. Occoquan Regional Park
  14. Lake Accotink Park

Read on to learn more about the best places to kayak in Virginia, including their beautiful features.

Best Places to Kayak in Virginia [Kayaking Virginia]

There is a long list of the best places to kayak in Virginia. Below are the 14 best places:

1. Flannagan Reservoir

Measuring 1,143 acres of the lake surface, the Flannagan Reservoir forms part of the John W. Flannagan Dam, situated in the Cumberland Mountains of Dickenson County. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers designed the entire dam and even supervised its construction.

Since its launch to the public, management of the entire property has also been assigned to them.

The reservoir embodies paddle routes described by kayakers and canoers as intimate due to its breathtaking views while paddling in such a narrow space.

Scenic views include tree-covered hills, hollows, and secluded coves. As you traverse the reservoir, you will reach the Cranes River and Pound River, which also have their own launch sites.

There are no rental shops around the place, so you have to bring your own canoes and kayaks.

2. Laurel Lake

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Situated inside the Breaks Interstate Park, Laurel Lake only measures 12 acres. It may be smaller than other kayaking locations, but it will make you feel as if you’re part of a movie scene. With lush trees and other astonishing views, it will make you wish to kayak endlessly and tirelessly.

As you cruise, you will not only see the magnificent wooded shoreline. There are small coves too where other guests can amusingly watch all kayakers and canoers.

The Breaks Interstate Park has a canoe and kayak rental shop.

3. North Fork of Pound Lake

The North Fork of Pound Lake is also known as the North Fork Pound Reservoir. Located in Wise County, it was constructed in 1966 following the Flood Control Act of 1960. Currently, it is being managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

North Fork waters flow all the way to the northeast, meeting the South Fork River and forming the Pound River. Then, the Pound River flows all the way into the Flannagan Dam. As you cruise, the lush pine trees and other green trees by the shoreline make kayaking such a thrilling activity.

Kayakers may use the launch site near the dam or the one at the lake’s uppermost part. There are no rental shops, so make sure to bring your own kayaks or canoes.

4. Hungry Mother Lake

The Hungry Mother Lake forms part of the Hungry Mother State Park in Smyth County. It is a 108-acre impoundment that is home to a wide variety of fish species. This includes sunfish, walleye, muskellunge, and carp, among many others.

This lake is free of motor noise as motorboats are not allowed to cruise. Only paddleboards, canoes, and kayaks are allowed, which can all be rented at the park.

Therefore, if you’re looking for a venue to do water activities and, at the same time, maintain a tranquil and restful atmosphere, this is an ideal place to visit.

5. Claytor Lake

Located in Pulaski County, Claytor Lake measures 1,810 hectares or 4,472 acres. This reservoir is 21 miles long, situated on the New River, and was mainly built for a hydroelectric project of the Appalachian Power Company.

The lake was named after former Appalachian Power vice president W. Graham Claytor Sr. He also led the Claytor Dam’s creation that formed the Claytor Lake. The Claytor Lake State Park borders about 3 miles of the lake’s shoreline.

The thousands of acres of surface water make it such an enjoyable kayaking experience. Once you start kayaking, anticipate stunning views that will surely take your breath away.

The Claytor Lake State Park houses the Claytor Lake Water Sports shop, where guests can rent kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards.

6. Philpott Lake

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The Philpott Lake is another reservoir in Virginia and an impoundment under Philpott Dam. It measures 2,900 acres, is 974 feet at an elevation, and has a shoreline length of 160 kilometers or 100 miles.

Managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, this lake extends to three Virginia countries. These include Patrick, Henry, and Franklin counties.

Its paddling potential led to nine launch sites and nine lake destinations, including the Calico Rock cliff and the Deer Island.

As you traverse the waters, you will reach a cool cove as well as the Bowens Creek Falls. While paddling into the main lake, try to locate Turkey Island and Deer Island. Both can only be reached by boat.

Unfortunately, there are no kayak and canoe rental shops here. So, make sure to bring your own when you visit.

7. Smith Mountain Lake

Located in the Roanoke Region of Virginia, the Smith Mountain Lake is a well-known reservoir built by the Smith Mountain Dam in 1963, which impounded the Roanoke River. A major part of the lake’s south shore lies in Franklin County, whereas a small part lies in Pittsylvania County. 

A lake is an ideal place for kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding. As you cruise, you will be amazed at how the shoreline has always been preserved in its natural state.

Continue traversing as you reach awe-inspiring coves and even islands off the shore. Admire the beauty of the Smith Mountain Lake Community Park from afar as you kayak.

The park offers kayak and canoe rentals and other equipment and gear for various water activities. For some of the best kayaking in Virginia, head to Smith Mountain Lake.

8. Lake Gaston

This lake is a hydroelectric reservoir located in the Virginia-North Carolina borders. Part of the lake lies in two Virginia counties, namely, Mecklenburg and Brunswick. At the same time, the other part lies in three North Carolina counties, namely, Warren, Northampton, and Halifax.

It measures more than 20,000 acres, making it such an ideal venue for professional kayakers and other water sport athletes. Paddlers say that the Virginia part of Lake Gaston is more ideal for them.

Be in awe of the ample water surface, the clear waters and blue skies, and the shoreline filled with lush trees. Traverse routes that form part of the Southern Virginia Wild Blueway.

Among the hotspots you will reach via kayak are the Steele Bridge Landing, the Beechwood Flats, and the Bear Swamp, among many others.

The Backyard Birds & Coffee offers a rental service for kayakers, canoers, and paddleboarders.

9. Bugg’s Island Lake or Kerr Lake

The Bugg’s Island Lake, also famously called the Kerr Lake, is officially known as the John H. Kerr Reservoir. Similar to Lake Gaston, this reservoir is along the Virginia-North Carolina borders.

It is an impoundment resulting from the construction of the John H. Kerr Dam aimed at providing flood control and hydroelectricity. Owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, it is the state’s largest reservoir.

Kayakers may start at the Staunton River State Park launch site, located in the uppermost area of Bugg’s Island Lake. As you paddle up the Staunton River arm, traverse Harris Island and Jeffress Island, as well as the Hogan Creek and Cargill’s Creek embayments.

Enjoy the 6-mile trip by observing the state park’s beauty and the wildlife management area from afar.

The River Traders and the Clarksville Water Sports both offer kayak and canoe rental services. They are located right outside the Staunton River State Park.

10. Lake Moomaw

kayaking in virginia beach

Lake Moomaw is a mountain-rimmed impoundment located in the Jefferson National Forest. Locals and tourists say that this is one of the state’s most scenic lakes, if not the most scenic.

The lake features a narrow top. However, as you paddle towards the end, islands and other sections become wider and wider.

What is notable here are the breathtaking mountain views amidst the clear waters of the lake. This place is remote too, which allows paddlers to have that authentic feeling of tranquility and relaxation.

There are four launch sites and two campgrounds here. But you have to bring your own kayak, canoe or paddleboard as there are no rental shops.

11. Stumpy Lake Natural Area

The Stumpy Lake Natural Area is a park located in Virginia Beach. Kayaking in Virginia beach is possible since the place provides a specially designed dock for kayakers and canoers. Motorboats are not allowed here to allow guests to have a genuinely relaxing experience.

Paddle and wander while being surrounded by cypress trees and wading birds. The Wild River Outfitters shop is just around the corner, offering kayak and canoe rental services.

12. Lake Anna

Kayaking in Northern Virginia is a popular water activity, and one of the most popular venues is Lake Anna. With an area of 13,000 acres, Lake Anna has been recognized as one of the state’s largest reservoirs.

The launch site is only a few meters away from the Lake Anna State Park beach. You may circle a stream and Jett’s island for a 3-mile loop. But you have the option to take a 10-mile round trip by kayaking all the way to the Pigeon Run arm.

Kayaks and canoes, including other gear and equipment, might be rented at Lake Anna Outfitters or R & R Rentals.

If you plan on kayaking in Northern Virginia, then Lake Anna is a must. It has beautiful scenery and will be a memorable experience.

13. Occoquan Regional Park

If Lake Anna is not enough for you to go kayaking in Northern Virginia, then head to Occoquan Regional Park for more adventure. Located in Fairfax County, this park is operated and protected by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, also known as NOVA Parks.

This park features Civil Wars arsenals, dense forests, and a tributary creek that flows directly into the Potomac River. Kayakers will definitely enjoy the Occoquan Water Trail, which is 40 miles long.

The park has a rental shop for kayaking needs.

14. Lake Accotink Park

best places to kayak in virginia

Located in Fairfax County, Lake Accotink is the result of the damming of Accotink Creek. The Lake Accotink Park measures 493 acres, and it surrounds the lake measuring 55 acres.

Lake Accotink is definitely a place that you shouldn’t miss when you want to go kayaking in Northern Virginia. The lake and its wooded shoreline are undeniably picture-perfect. Paddling here is not as challenging as the other locations, but it is just as relaxing.

Conclusion – Best Places to Kayak in Virginia [Kayaking Virginia]

There’s a long list of the best places to kayak in Virginia. The 14 best places for kayaking in Virginia are as follows:

  1. Flannagan Reservoir
  2. Laurel Lake
  3. North Fork of Pound Lake
  4. Hungry Mother Lake
  5. Claytor Lake
  6. Philpott Lake
  7. Smith Mountain Lake
  8. Lake Gaston
  9. Bugg’s Island Lake or Kerr Lake
  10. Lake Moomaw
  11. Stumpy Lake Natural Area
  12. Lake Anna
  13. Occoquan Regional Park
  14. Lake Accotink Park

These 14 places are only a small percentage of the entire kayaking locations in Virginia. Whether you are kayaking in West Virginia, East Virginia, Northern or Southern Virginia, you will find beautiful scenery.

Having said that, don’t be surprised when you visit these places and find plenty of tourists. There are times when these places are too crowded, especially during peak season.

Some tourists prefer kayaking during lean season to avoid the crowd. That way, they can get the ultimate relaxation that they are craving to get. You may opt to go kayaking in Virginia during the off-peak season too. However, make sure that the weather is perfect for kayaking.