Add a little splash to your getaway with a kayaking adventure in Hershey and Harrisburg. From the calm Susquehanna River to the smooth creeks in Hershey, find the best places to kayak in Harrisburg and Hershey. Explore our outfitter options who can supply you with kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddleboards, and give you a lift to your launch site. Paddle on!
Harrisburg was founded on the banks of the Susquehanna River, a 444-mile long waterway from New York to the Chesapeake Bay. On a warm summer day, you’ll find several fishing boats, kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddleboards enjoying its smooth waters. Allow one of the River’s expert outfitters to get you geared up and prepared for your float.
Blue Mountain Outfitters (BMO) helps kayakers explore the Susquehanna River north of Harrisburg from Duncannon to Marysville and south toward the city. Their trips are 6 to 8 miles in length and can take from 2 to 5 hours, depending on the currents. On the Marysville to West Fairview trip, float below the Rockville Bridge, the longest stone masonry arch railroad bridge in the world and features panoramic views of the Harrisburg riverfront and the Capitol.
While most the Susquehanna is a class 1 waterway, intermediate to experienced kayakers will enjoy the class 2 rapids in the Dauphin Narrows, near the famous mini Statue of Liberty, perched in the middle of the River.
If you own a vessel, BMO has an extensive equipment shop with everything you might need for your kayaking trip. Upgrade your paddles, protect your belongings from splashes, and pick up last-minute essentials like sunscreen and insect repellent.
Kayaking and fishing are a great combo on the Susquehanna River, a hotspot for smallmouth bass and other river catches. Paddlers can reach several sweet fishing spots that larger boats can’t get to like the River’s shallow, rocky areas. Ask your outfitter about the best places to stop and picnic on one of the River’s natural islands, some of which are large enough to accommodate overnight camping! Ask BMO about their overnight trip options which start 15 to 43 miles north of their shop.
There’s a lot of wildlife to see in and out of the water, from bald eagles and ospreys to turtles and beavers. The best spot for birdwatching is Wade Island, known as The Rookery, and home to Pennsylvania’s largest nesting colony of herons and egrets. While kayakers aren’t permitted to land on the island, you can paddle directly under the trees to see the nests and baby birds (Mid-May to early June). While paddling near the Rookery, it’s a good idea to keep your hat on, if you know what we mean!
If the thought of handling a kayak the River is a bit too daunting for you, consider a peaceful float along the smooth creeks of Hershey. The creek is close enough to experience it on your visit to Hershey attractions, but far enough away that you can’t quite hear the coasters while you paddle.
Cocoa Kayak Rentals of Hershey operates along the Swatara Creek with five trip choices for all skill levels. Drift past the mouth of Indian Echo Caverns and the historic Middletown-Hummelstown railroad on the 5-mile Cave Run or be on the lookout for Bald Eagles on the 8-mile, aptly named Bald Eagle Run. Their most popular trip is the Boathouse Run because you’ll see all the Swatara Creek’s natural features in a two-hour trip, less than three minutes from Hersheypark®.
Floats on the 45-mile Swatara Creek are scenic and tranquil. With an average depth of 1-3 feet, it is ideal for families and novice navigators. Most paddlers take the boats out on the creek on their own, but Cocoa Kayak also offers guided trips for five or more kayakers looking for a little more guidance and information about the region. Like the Susquehanna, the Swatara has several quiet fishing holes where you might find carp, muskies, and channel catfish.
Kayaking in our region’s waterways is generally safe under normal conditions with gentle currents and shallow depths. Before putting your kayak in the water, the outfitters will review safety instructions and give you the lay of the land (or water). Coast Guard PFDs (life vests) must be on board for each paddler and must be worn between November 1 and April 30. Each vessel must also have a whistle.
If you’re planning to kayak without the assistance of an outfitter, read through the PA Fish & Boat Commission’s rules and safety regulations for Paddle Sports. Please call ahead to check creek and river conditions which change daily and could impact your trip. The region’s outfitters have intimate knowledge of these waterways and make an invaluable resource for paddlers.
In South Harrisburg, the Dock Street Dam is a perilous spot to avoid for all vessels. It is illegal to come within 200 feet above and 100 feet below the dam. In North Harrisburg, while navigating the Dauphin Narrows, stay to the left of the Statue of Liberty and ride the waves through. If you are hoping to get a good look at the statue (when you pass her she’s facing away from you, toward Harrisburg) navigate the narrows safely, then paddle back up to look at her face.
When you’re surrounded by beautiful scenery, it’s easy to feel relaxed. Kayakers should always remain alert to what is up ahead of them, whether it’s a jutting rock in the Susquehanna or a low branch along a creek.