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Best U.S. National Parks for Your Next Canoe Trip

June 26th is National Canoe Day. If you love to get out on the water and you’re in the United States, here is some travel inspiration for your next canoe (or kayak) adventure. Which spot will you choose?

Acadia National Park, Maine

Image by Edwin Remsberg

Known as the crown jewel of the North Atlantic coast, Acadia National Park has 4 million visitors annually and is a stunning, natural beauty. With 60 miles of shoreline, Acadia National Park is a great location to get out onto the water for a canoe trip. 

Getting out on the water In Acadia will allow you to take in more views, faster. You may even get the chance to get up close and personal with a seal, if you  rent a canoe. Pre-planned canoe trips include a sunrise ride out to Eagle Lake to get a view of Cadillac Mountain, the tallest mountain on the U.S.  Atlantic coastline, or paddle around the Cranberry Isles. 

You can also rent a boat for the day. All individuals going out into the water must wear a Coast Guard-approved life vest.

Congaree National Park, South Carolina

Image by Mark C Stevens

Congaree National Park’s rivers transport sediments and nutrients that support an expansive ecosystem, including champion trees. The park is located just 30 minutes outside of Columbia, the state capital.

Take a guided canoe tour through the park, and you can canoe for three hours and take in 4 miles of the park, all from Cedar Creek. You’ll see the Congaree swamp system and visit the Tupelo Basin, while also drifting past the peculiar cypress knees. The Cedar Creek canoe trail is about 15 miles long and offers the chance to take in the wildlife of the park, including (possibly)  alligators. 

Congaree National Park is home to some of the oldest trees in North America. Tours offer the chance to paddle under the branches and take in the stunning sights. Tours have limited capacity, so it is important to register ahead of time

Big Bend National Park, Texas

Image by David Hensley

Located in west Texas, Big Bend National Park has limestone mountains that stick out amidst a vast desert. With river canyons moving through the range, there is a sense of magic here. Texas can be hot, so getting out on the water can be a great way to experience the magic.

Depending on the river’s water levels, you can canoe the Rio Grande via a half-day or multi-day excursion. You might see locals fishing,  great blue herons, or many other sights as you meander the river.

Due to climate change, the water in the Rio Grande is significantly lower than it was in the past. However, this makes for a good beginner’s journey as newbies learn to handle their canoes. There are many opportunities to get out onto the water on your own, in addition to guided tours on one of five river canyons located in the Rio Grande.

Biscayne National Park, Florida

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With evidence of 10,000 years of human life here, Biscayne National Park has long held humans’ imaginations. It’s also a boating wonderland with opportunities for fishing and diving. The park houses remnants of prehistoric tribes, as well as a number of shipwrecks.

The absolute best way to explore Biscayne is by getting out on the water. With opportunities to explore mangroves and shallow coastal waters, a visit to this park should include hours of exploring the lagoons and creeks located within the park. Experts recommend checking the weather and always bringing a paddle buddy to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip out.

Biscayne National Park is also great for birding and seeing egrets, ospreys, and herons, as well as crabs, rays, and maybe even a manatee. Guided canoe tours throughout the park are available for ages three and up. The guided tours are roughly an hour and a half long, and they launch multiple times a day from the Dante Fascell Visitor Center inside the park.

Virgin Islands National Park, U.S. Virgin Islands

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Known for its stunning white, sandy beaches, and its complicated history, the U.S. Virgin Island National Park encompasses former sugar plantations and offers the opportunity to study ancient indigenous petroglyphs.

Though many people go snorkeling when they’re here, another great way to explore is to rent a boat, kayak, or canoe. Be sure to study the rules about boating in national park waters, and know that many traditional sunscreens are outlawed on the Virgin Islands due to the chemicals inside that are harmful to coral reefs.

There are a number of canoe and kayak tours available at this park, including combo tours where you go kayaking and then snorkeling once you are out on the water. These tours are a great way to get into a number of different activities, plus you’ll be able to take in stunning views of the coral reefs.

Will you go out on the water this National Canoe Day?

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