Updated: Aug 1
Unpopular opinion - I don't like river floats. I don't want to load up into a van with a bunch of people I don't know just to float down a river to the same van waiting for me a couple of hours later. I like renting kayaks at lakes where you can pay by the hour or for the entire day to paddle still, glassy water. If that's your summer vibe too, here's your definitive guide to all the best kayak outfitters at lakes in Indiana.
Chain-O-Lakes State Park near Albion. I have a special tradition of visiting this state park every summer, and I've even completed the 9-Lake Challenge a couple of times. The state park's 9 lakes feature narrow forested channels that are absolutely magical to paddle through. The 9-Lake Challenge is approximately 2.5 miles long one way, so be prepared for a long day if you don't have a second vehicle to pick you up at the other end of the chain.
Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis. Through Wheel Fun Rentals, you can rent kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, paddle boats, and even pontoons to cruise around Eagle Creek's 1400 acres of water.
Lake Monroe Boat Rental near Bloomington. Lake Monroe has some of the clearest water in Indiana, and is one of the biggest lakes with over 10,000 acres of water. This boat rental service also stays open a little later in the year than other outfitters, through October 31st. I would plan a kayaking trip in southern Indiana when the Fall foliage is at its peak!
Hoosier Hills Marina near Terre Haute. This boat rental sits on Patoka Lake in Shakamak State Park. This state park features three smaller lakes that are popular for fishing, kayaking, and paddle boating. This quiet state park is heavily forested, providing a lot of shade during the summer.
Yellowwood Lake in Brown County. Yellowwood State Forest has a handful of kayaks and canoes they rent to visitors; make sure to call ahead and reserve one! Yellowwood State Forest is a hidden gem in Brown County, and you're likely to only run into a few fishing boats during your paddling trip.
Pokagon State Park near Angola. Near the Michigan border, Pokagon State Park offers a ton of activities. They have a hotel, cabins, boat rentals, horseback riding, swimming beaches, miles of trails, tons of activities for kids, and tobogganing in the winter. This state park is the perfect place to take your kids for a long weekend without even leaving Indiana.
Salamonie Lake near Wabash. Pirate's Cove Marina offers kayak rental during the summer at this lake in north-central Indiana. This lake is very popular for boating and water sports, so make sure to start early to enjoy a peaceful reservoir! Check the Marina's website before you go, since this location closes when the water gets low.
Summit Lake State Park near New Castle. This quiet lake is popular for paddling and bird watching. Plan to visit on their annual Paddler's Weekend in August to try out a kayak, canoe, or paddle boat. If you have your own kayak, you can participate in their sunset paddle at 8 PM.
If you're looking for a quiet lake to paddle the day away, I suggest you visit Chain-O-Lakes, Shakamak State Park, Yellowwood Lake, and Summit Lake. If you're looking for a fun-filled adventure with the kids, I suggest booking a long weekend at Pokagon State Park or try out kayaking and then Go Ape Adventure at Eagle Creek!
If you're new to paddling, I would try out different rentals before you commit to buying a watercraft. Some couples love tandem kayaks, but my boyfriend and I prefer racing each other and then lounging next to each other in singles. Canoes are much larger than kayaks, but have a higher weight capacity, and are perfect for paddling with kids and for overnight camping trips.
Of course, owning your own kayak opens up a ton of possibilities for paddling in Indiana. There are hundreds of lakes in Indiana. Owning your own kayak or canoe allows you to start earlier and experience a quieter paddle, and to try all the small, secluded lakes that don't have a boat outfitter. Just be sure to check the DNR website to see what bodies of water require a non-motorized boating permit. If you don't have a car rack or storage space for a boat, you can get an inflatable kayak or inflatable paddleboard that fits in the trunk of your car! I personally use an Aquaglide Deschutes 130 Inflatable Kayak, a 13ft inflatable single kayak that has a 400-pound weight capacity.
If you visit any of these lakes or have more questions about what kind of watercraft you should get, leave a comment and let me know! Visit the Cozy Hobbies page to see a full list of paddling accessories for your next kayaking adventure!