There’s something about paddling a kayak through the water that just feels more peaceful and less hectic than other activities. And what better place to find some peace than in one of the freshwater lakes of gorgeous, stress-free Wisconsin? Luckily for us, the capital city of Madison has plenty to offer when it comes to places to kayak.
If you’re ready to get out on the water and try your hand at kayaking, check out this list of the best places to go kayaking in Madison, WI.
Black Earth Creek, WI
Black Earth Creek is a great place to kayak if you’re looking for a little bit of everything. This creek is located in Dane and Iowa Counties and offers a variety of different kayaking experiences. The upper section of the creek is perfect for beginners as it’s relatively calm. However, the lower section of the creek contains some rapids, so it’s perfect for those looking for a more challenging kayaking experience.
Black Earth Creek is a great place to kayak in the summer as the water is nice and cool. And, because it’s located in Dane County, there are plenty of places to stop for a bite or drink after your kayaking adventure.
Black Earth Creek can be divided into several sections but the most attractive part for kayakers is going to be the section between Olson Road and Walking Iron Park. This section has got everything that a kayaker can expect; be it ledges, riffles or rapids, this section has got it all.
Lake Monona, WI
Located at the heart of Madison, Lake Monona is one of the most popular places to kayak in the city. It’s a popular spot for swimming, fishing, and of course, kayaking. You can launch your kayak from any of the several launch points strategically located around the lake. You can make a stop at Brittingham Bay and from there, you can reach Lake Monona.
You will get to see Monona Terrace, a beautiful convention center that was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, while kayaking in Lake Monona. Monona Terrace was designed in 1997 and still retains its charm. It will take an hour or two to get back to Brittingham Bay after visiting Monona Terrace.
You can also put-in at Olbrich Park Beach as this beach allows you to access Lake Monona. Don’t forget to explore the mystical world of the Starkweather Creek if you launch your kayak from this beach. Southern Yahara River and Northern Yahara River are both close by.
Mirror Lake, WI
Mirror Lake, WI is another excellent place to go kayaking in Madison. As its name suggests, this lake is known for its smooth, glassy surface that often reflects the surrounding trees and sky. It’s a beautiful spot to paddle around, and you can even bring your swimsuit to take a dip on a hot day.
Mirror Lake has got an interesting history. It was actually created in 1860 when a dam was built to generate hydroelectric power. Sandstone cliffs dot the perimeter of the lake and the shorelines is surrounded by long Pine trees making it a beautiful spot to relax and enjoy nature. Some of those sandstone cliff reach 50 feet height which is certainly an interesting sight to behold.
Love bird-watching? Mirror Lake, WI will not disappoint you. Just get into the pickerel slough and you will get to see a great number of birds including sandhill cranes, woodpeckers, geese, and ducks.
Wingra Lake, WI
If you’re looking for a place to kayak that’s a little more off the beaten path, then Wingra Lake is the perfect spot for you. This hidden gem is conveniently located at the heart of the Madison and is a great place to paddle around and take in the scenery. What makes this Lake so much popular among kayakers is the fact that Wingra Lake is motor-free. So, that means, you can kayak in peace and enjoy the tranquility of nature. And, because it’s located in the city, there are plenty of places to stop for a bite or drink after your kayaking adventure.
You will come across University of Wisconsin Arboretum during this detour and also get to experience the scintillating views of the nearby area. You should definitely visit the Big Spring, a local attraction; it should not take more than an hour to explore this place.
If you can manage to eek out 2 hours from your busy itinerary, you should visit Vilas Beach and Zoo. The beach is a great place to relax after all the kayaking and the Zoo has some interesting animals that you can see up close.
All in all, Wingra Lake is a great place to kayak if you’re looking for a peaceful and serene experience. The fact that it’s located in the city is an added bonus as it makes it easy to get to and from.
One of the best places to kayak in Madison is none other than Lake Mendota. This beautiful lake is actually the largest of all the lakes in the Madison area, making it a great place to explore by kayak. Plus, with its scenic views and crystal-clear water, you’re sure to love paddling around Lake Mendota.
Spring Harbor Beach Park is located nearby. It is a gorgeous spot to relax, paddle around, and even go for a swim. From the Marshall Boats, it will take approximately two hours to reach the Pheasant Branch Conservancy.
Imagine having access to 160 acres of beautiful, varied landscapes – all within minutes of downtown! That’s what you’ll find at this Pheasant Branch Conservancy. With hiking and biking trails winding through forests, meadows and wetlands, there’s something for everyone. And the views! Whether you’re looking downtown or out into the country, you’ll be amazed at the vistas.
If you kayak a little bit longer, you will get to see the Governor Nelson State Park. The best thing about this Governor Nelson State Park is that it has got a nice beach. If you love watching bird, this Governor Nelson State Park is a perfect place for you.
Maunesha River, WI
If you’re looking for a more challenging kayaking experience, then you should check out the Maunesha River. This river is located in Jefferson, Dane Counties and is known for its rapids and currents. So, if you’re up for a little bit of a workout, then this is the place for you. The Maunesha River is a great place to kayak in the summer as the water is nice and cool. And, because it’s located in Dane County, there are plenty of places to stop for a bite or drink after your kayaking adventure.
The mouth of the river has got a number of rapids and that means, you should be prepared for a little bit of a workout. If you’re up for the challenge, then you’ll definitely enjoy this part. This particular section of the river contains some boulders so it’s important to be careful when paddling through this area.
Once you get through the rapids, you’ll be rewarded with some beautiful scenery. The river winds through some picturesque countryside and you’ll definitely enjoy taking in the sights.
Yahara River, WI
Want to experience the Class I rapid in Madison? Just head toward Yahara River. Yahara River is 62 miles long and is a part of the Rock River. Running alongside the Yahara River is the Upper Yahara River Trail. You can spend a little time at Veteran’s Memorial Park while taking a break from kayaking and experience its beauty. However, Yahara River is not that wide; it is kinda shallow in some places.
You can spot wide varieties of wild life along Yahara River. Yahara River is home to beavers, otters, turkeys, deer, woodpeckers, and even eagles. Both sides of the river are dotted with trees that make the perfect shelters for these animals. You will have to face numerous twists and turns while kayaking in Yahara River but that is all part of the fun, isn’t it?
Sunfish Pond, a popular destination for kayakers, is a little over five and a half kilometers downstream from Veteran’s Memorial Park.