What Length Kayak Is Good For The Mississippi River

Kayaking on the Mississippi River is a popular activity for both local and international tourists, due to its scenic views, navigable waters, and wildlife. However, with so many different kayaks available on the market, it can be difficult to decide what length kayak is best suited to the task. That’s why it’s important to have a basic understanding of kayaks and the Mississippi River before making a purchase.

The Mississippi River is the fourth longest river in the United States, spanning over 2400 miles. It runs through 10 states, beginning in Minnesota and ending in Louisiana. The river has an average width of one mile, making it an excellent body of water for kayaking. Its calm waters and abundance of wildlife make it an ideal place to experience wildlife and serene landscapes. In addition, its wide range of navigating options, from narrow tributaries to large lakes, make it an excellent option for all levels of kayaking.

When considering which kayak to buy for the Mississippi River, two of the main factors to consider are length and width. Kayaks vary in length from 8-12 feet but, in general, shorter kayaks are good for maneuvering and speed, while longer kayaks are better for stability and tracking in open water. Width is also important, as a wider kayak is more stable and provides more room for storage.

When it comes to the Mississippi River, an 10-foot kayak with a width of 30-36 inches is the ideal size. This size offers the perfect balance of power and comfort, allowing kayakers to easily maneuver while offering ample storage room. As most sections of the Mississippi River have a steady current, a kayak of this size allows kayakers to navigate against the current without being pushed back. In addition, the higher sides help to keep paddlers from getting exposed to strong waves and eddies, which can occur when the river narrows.

Ultimately, choosing the right length kayak for the Mississippi River depends on the kayaker’s experience level and preferences. Experienced kayakers may prefer shorter kayaks, as they are more maneuverable and require less effort to power through the river’s currents. For those new to kayaking, on the other hand, longer kayaks are generally the recommended choice, as they offer more stability and room to store gear while paddling.

No matter the length of kayak chosen, the important thing is to ensure the kayaker is comfortable. An experienced kayak guide can provide insight into the best size and type of kayak for a particular area and activity.


Kayaking on the Mississippi River is generally considered a safe activity, however, it also carries various risks. For instance, the river current can be stronger than it appears, increasing the possibility of fatigue or injury in kayakers who are not familiar with navigating waters of that size.

To stay safe, all kayakers should wear a life jacket, even if it is not a legal requirement in the area. Additionally, it is important to be aware of the weather conditions, as strong wind and high waves can make navigation difficult. Also, it is prudent to bring a first aid kit, and to be aware of the potential presence of animals, such as snakes and alligators, who inhabit the river.

Permits and Regulations

In addition to considering safety, kayakers should check the local regulations and laws concerning the Mississippi River before setting out. Some states, such as Minnesota and Florida, require a permit for all motorized boats, including kayaks. In some areas, the river is also closed at certain times of the year to give nesting wildlife a safe and quiet place to raise their young.

It is also important to be aware of other rules and regulations, such as the permitted areas of access and overnight camping. Generally, it is permissible to camp along the shoreline of the river, as long as the sites are not occupied or leased by another party.


Before setting out, kayakers should also check and maintain their equipment, as the right gear can make the difference between an enjoyable experience and a dangerous one.

Kayakers should make sure their paddles, rudder, and straps are in good condition and that all necessary items are packed, such as a life vest, a spare paddle, a communication device, and repair supplies. Additionally, it is a good idea to bring plenty of food and water for the duration of the trip, as well as a waterproof map showing the area’s hazards and points of access.

Essential Skills for Kayaking

Kayaking the Mississippi River involves a set of skills and knowledge. Before setting out, paddlers should become familiar with paddling technique, navigation, and basic water safety skills such as self-rescue and navigation.

In addition, it is wise to know the signs of hypothermia, as the river can be deceptively cold, even during the most inviting seasons. Finally, it is a good idea to find a qualified instructor to guide you through your first outing, as they can provide invaluable advice and insight on proper kayaking technique and safety.

Popular Routes

The Mississippi River offers a number of opportunities for exploration and adventure, and some of the most popular routes include the Lower Mississippi, the Upper Mississippi, and the Middle Mississippi. The Lower Mississippi meanders through the south, winding through cities such as Memphis and Vicksburg, while the Upper Mississippi takes kayakers from Iowa to Wisconsin, with some beautiful sights along the way.

The Middle Mississippi offers a unique experience, as it winds through backwaters, wetlands, and rural towns. This route is great for those wanting to experience the old-school charm of traditional river-towns.

No matter what route you choose, make sure to familiarize yourself with the area, the river’s dangers and regulations, and the necessary safety precautions before setting out. With the right planning and preparation, kayaking the Mississippi River can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience.

Raymond Strasser is a passion-driven writer and researcher, dedicated to educating readers on the topic of world rivers. With a background in Geography and Environmental Studies, Raymond provides insightful pieces which explore the impact and importance that rivers have around the world.

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