Healthy Outdoor Living

Kayaking the New River in North Carolina

More from Outdoor Living Newsletter June Outdoor Living Newsletter
The New River
The New River's natural beauty is dramatic

One of the greatest challenges of taking road trips is keeping physically active and staying fit. And it is little wonder. Taking a road trip requires spending long periods of time sitting idle whilst driving and eating food on the road. It is a routine that Richard Simmons would hardly approve of.

So how then do you go about the road tripping lifestyle and stay in shape at the same time? A great way is to incorporate enjoyable, physically challenging activities into your trip. One great option is kayaking. Not only is it great to get the heart racing, but you get to see beautiful views and catch glimpses of areas that are inaccessible from the road.

For someone who's never been kayaking it can be difficult to get started. "Where do I go? What will I need? How much does it cost?" To help you get started on your kayaking journey we've put together an excellent trip down the New River in North Carolina.

The view from the New River is a sight to behold, as North Carolina Parks describes it:

"Rugged hillsides, pastoral meadows and farmlands surround what is believed to be one of the oldest rivers in North America - the New River. Its waters are slow and placid. Its banks are fertile and covered with wildflowers. Dedicated as a National Scenic River in 1976, this gentle river is the centerpiece of New River State Park."

Fortunately the New River is ideal for first timers and experienced kayakers alike, with gently flowing sections and advanced rapids beckoning the adventurist. Whether you have a whole weekend or just one day to spend, the New River has many exciting opportunities.

One day kayak adventure - Allow between 2 to 6 hours

If you're interested in renting a kayak for a single day, New River Outfitters and RiverCamp USA offer competitive pricing on different lengths of "day trip", which is basically a day rental. Day trips are unguided and can last anywhere from one to six hours depending on your time frame. Once you rent the kayaks and get some advice from the staff you're pretty much on your own. But don't worry; the river is easy to navigate while still having some adventurous sections. Shuttles drop you off upstream and let you paddle back to their shop. You can also start where you rent and get picked up downstream. Discuss your options with the staff prior to hitting the water, as there are many places to start and stop along the way. If you choose one of the longer trips, consider starting above New River State park and stopping there for a hike, or simply to have lunch.

There are several different types of boats you can rent. There are sit-on-top and sit-in kayaks, canoes and tubes. Sit on top kayaks are by far the best option for beginners. Sit-in kayaks are preferred when you want to stay dry in rough waters, which shouldn't be a problem for kayakers on this section of the New. Canoes are another great option. If someone in your group is uncomfortable by themselves or you simply have a lot of gear, consider renting a canoe.

Another interesting option is to rent inner tubes. There's no paddling involved and it's a great way to beat the heat during hot summer days. If you need to slow things down consider spending a relaxing day in a tube. You can spend anywhere from one to five hours floating down stream with friends and family. It's kind of like a giant lazy river. If you decide on one of the longer trips, don't forget to rent an extra tube for your cooler! Having a good lunch or your favorite beverage handy makes the experience that much more enjoyable.

Overnight and Weeklong Kayak Camping Trips


If you're interested in a longer kayak or canoe trip there are plenty of options. You can choose to spend anywhere from one night to one week on the river. New River Outfitters has some of the best prices on multi day rentals - $35 for two days and $17.50 for additional days. However the rental only covers your boat, paddle, and life jacket. So if you're planning to camp bring you own gear. A word of advice, try to bring only what you need unless you don't mind a cluttered kayak or renting a canoe. At a bare minimum you'll need a tent and something to sleep on, a flashlight, a dry change of clothes and something to eat. Waterproof bags are a must. Trash bags are the cheapest option and work pretty well. Other ideas for what to bring when tent camping include a bathing suit, rain gear, and sunscreen.

While planning out your camping location consider the many private campgrounds in the area as well as the three different campgrounds located on the river in the State Park: Wagner, 221, and Allegheny. These campgrounds are roughly a days' kayak away from each other, spanning a total of 26 miles of river. Wagner and 221 are typically busy on the weekends, so we recommend you make reservations in advance. If it's easier for you to drive in and setup camp you can do so at Wagner and 221. However, Allegheny is only accessible from the river. This handy park map shows all three sites and estimated paddling times between them. You can choose to stay at one or all three of these campgrounds depending on the length of your trip. New River State Park offers scenic, secluded camping and is a great destination no matter what type of trip you're on.


For guided or group trips Zaloo's Canoes Kayaks and Tubes has you covered. They're located on the South Fork of the New River and have been running guided overnight trips longer than anyone in the area.

Their overnight trips can be as short as five miles with a sleepover or as long as five days. No matter which option you choose you're sure to have a blast on The New! So come experience nature and a little bit of history on the nation's oldest river!

For RV camping along The New River consider:

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