The state of Indiana is home to charming sights, warm people and plenty of things to keep you busy! One of the unique and endearing things about Indiana is that it boasts the title of the Covered Bridge Capital of the World. With its lush greenery that overhangs the waterways, and lazy, winding rivers, adding the sight of beautiful covered bridges along your river tour makes kayaking in Indiana feel like a fairy tale! The canoe and kayaking season in Indiana generally runs April to October, so you have three seasons to plan your adventure here.
Did you know that a tiny little section of Indiana is on Lake Michigan? Part of the state’s northernmost border includes the gorgeous Indiana Dunes Park. If you’re in this area, make sure you stop by this little gem—it’s well worth a trip to kayak out onto Lake Michigan at sunset and have the whole expanse of the Great Lake to the north of you.
If your timing allows, the fall foliage in Indiana is stunning, especially when it’s viewed from the water. Within an hours’ drive of the state capital, Indianapolis, is Cataract Falls. You can’t paddle through this series of cascades, but they are a stunning sight, particularly in the fall. Take in the falls, and then head to nearby Mill Creek for a day on the river. Float down the calm rivers and streams, take in the surreal colors around you, and experience a moment that feels like you’re living inside a watercolor painting.
Best canoeing and kayaking in Indiana
This is a spot you’ll want to visit and spend some time relaxing! Brookville is a close drive to both Cincinnati and Indianapolis, but feels worlds away from the bustling and lively cities. Paddle out on the Whitewater River, but don’t let the name fool you! There are some gentle rapids in this area and faster moving water, but nothing too intense. Picture an idyllic riverside setting, with plenty of paddling access, and a homey but thriving local resort/campground/outfitter run by a family that’s been in Brookville for 50 years. Take your time in this gem of a spot if you can, and get a true feel for what canoeing in Indiana has to offer.
- Canoes: $31.50 to $37 per canoe per day
- Single kayaks: $25 per day
- Double kayaks: $40 per day
- Canoes: $21.50 per person (for two people in a canoe)
- Kayaks: $23.50 per person
The Blue River is a haven for paddlers, campers and anglers alike. Wind your way through the abundant smallmouth bass habitats as you enjoy the gentle blue-green water rippling by. The Blue is very beginner- and family-friendly, with only class I rapids. If you’re in South-central Indiana, enjoy a half- or full-day float on the Blue River with Cave Country Canoes. This local tour company also runs overnight camping tours if you happen to find yourself in this little spot, tucked away in the Hoosier National Forest.
Indiana Outfitters has a great list of the launch spots for kayaking and canoeing on the Blue River.
- Half-day: $22 to $32
- Full day: $27 to $37
- Two-day: $48 to $62
Cave Country has a calendar on their site with a comprehensive view of the days they run deals, and what the pricing is for the time you’re planning your excursion here.
Make your way to Noblesville to dip your paddle in the west fork of the White River. With winding curves, lush greenery and sloping, gentle banks, this stretch of river is perfect for a family day out, or a more laid-back day on the river. Enjoy the bright-blue Indiana skies as you paddle the White River. With names like Rusty Oar and Wapahani Landing, you know you’re in for a day full of character!
Prices vary based on season and boat type, but there are lots of options to choose from! Visit White River’s website for all the details.
Mongo boasts a bustling population of 105, but this tiny town is full of paddling opportunities! Located on the Pigeon River, Mongo is home to a local outfitter and tour company that runs a variety of trips on the East and West Pigeon. Get ready for some sun and wide open skies as you drift down this picturesque river.
- Single kayaks: $28 to $40
- Tandem kayaks and canoes: $35 to $50
Located on Lake Michigan in Northern Indiana, Indiana Dunes offers a refreshing and unique change of scenery. There is a diversity of kayaking and canoeing options for paddlers to choose from. Take in the dunes and majestic views from Lake Michigan (but be prepared for a bit of a workout as you navigate the current and potential wind), or head upstream on the Kankakee River. Whichever route you choose for your sojourn in Indiana Dunes, you’ll be happy you chose to explore such a beautiful place. Outpost Sports is a monster of an outfitter, in the best way! They have a huge selection of boats and paddling gear to get you out for the day, or on a longer trip in Indiana Dunes.
- Sit-on-top kayaks and paddleboards: $35 per two hours; $250 per week (options in between as well)
Bristol is a truly quaint area for kayaking and canoeing. Spend a day on the St. Joseph River and paddle Long Lake to Bristol, or Mottville to Bristol, among other day trips. Take in diverse sights as you float through the towns and quiet wilderness along more secluded stretches. Located close to the state’s northern border, and just east of Lake Michigan, Bristol is a great spot to kayak or canoe in Indiana.
- Canoes: $42 to $56
- Tandem kayaks: $56 to $62
Can you kayak in the Indianapolis Canal?
Kayaking in Indiana’s capital city of Indianapolis is a unique and dynamic way to see the city. Affectionately referred to as “Indy” by locals, this spot has plenty of options for kayaking and canoeing. If you’re looking for an evening activity in Indy, head out on an LED-lit pedal boat for a sparkling nighttime adventure that’s suitable for everyone!
Kayak and canoe rentals are available so you can tour the canal by boat. At 6 feet deep and 60 feet across, the Indy Canal is a very friendly spot for paddlers of all ages and skill levels.
- Single kayak: $21 per hour
- Double kayak: $27 per hour
- Pedal boats: $38 per hour
Canoe trips Indiana
If you’re visiting with enough time for more than just a single day of canoeing in Indiana, you’re in luck! The state has some great options for multi-day canoe routes that will truly showcase the serene landscape and natural life in Indiana. Water trails in Indiana often have access to campgrounds (mainly for a small fee), and the Department of Natural Resources has a great list of campground options that are accessible by canoe.
Cave kayaking Indiana
You might not expect Indiana to be a hotspot for underground cave kayaking, but you’re in for a pleasant surprise! There are seven caves that can be explored in Indiana: Blue Spring Caverns, Indiana Caverns, Marengo Cave, Sullivan Cave, Squire Boone Caverns, Wyandotte Caverns, and Wolf Cave. Not all of these have enough access for kayaks, but all are worth a look if you’re in the area.
The best place to cave kayak in Indiana is Indiana Caverns. The caverns are part of the Binkley Cave system, and feature Ice Age bones that can be seen while you enjoy the four-hour tour available from Indiana Caverns guiding company. Get ready for some tight squeezes, dark spaces, and a thorough shower after your trip—this one isn’t for the faint of heart!
- Groups of one to three: $120 per person
- Groups of four to five: $110 per person
- Groups of six to nine: $100 per person
This tour is only open to those aged 14+.
Indiana water trails
Indiana’s water trails are well loved for canoeing, kayaking, paddleboarding and fishing. To be classified as a water trail, these stretches must have at least two public access points for non-motorized vessels. Indiana has water trails throughout the state; for a full list check out the Department of Natural Resources site. These are great access points for day use, or overnight camping adventures in the Indiana forests.
Indiana kayak and canoe laws
Rules governing canoeing and kayaking in Indiana are standard—you must have a PFD in your boat for everyone onboard, children under the age of 13 must wear those PFDs at all times, and your boat must show a valid registration number. Follow these basic guidelines, and relax as you take in the unique sights of Indiana from the water.