One of the unique ways to explore North Dakota is by water. The state not only has a large number of lakes but a number of prominent river systems that make great travel ways. Bring your own float or rent one from our parks, and get out and start paddling North Dakota’s best waterways.
Where to paddle
The Missouri River – From the Garrison Dam to Lake Oahe, the Missouri River is excellent for recreation. Be aware this river can have high currents and can get rough when the winds are high. Cross Ranch State Park has facilities, camping, cabins and rentals available. Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park is also located along this river; however, they do not have access points to the river, and it is not recommended to launch or beach at this park.
Sheyenne River – This tributary of the Red River, is a great place to paddle with family. The gentle current brings users through the scenic river valley. Facilities, camping, cabins, and rentals are available at Fort Ransom State Park.
Lake Sakakawea – This 368,000-acre lake is the third largest man-made reservoir in the nation made from the damming of the Missouri River. Facilities, camping, cabins, and rentals are available at Fort Stevenson State Park, Lake Sakakawea State Park, and Lewis and Clark State Park.
Lake Metigoshe – This motorized lake is excellent for water recreation. Located in the Turtle Mountains, this lake gives paddlers beautiful views of the aspen forest surrounding the lake. User facilities, camping, cabins, and rentals are available at Lake Metigoshe State Park.
School Section Lake – This is a non-motorized lake located within Lake Metigoshe State Park. A canoe/kayak trail starts and ends on School Section Lake, to complete the entire path, some portaging is required. Facilities, camping, cabins, and rentals are available at Lake Metigoshe State Park.
Lake Renwick – This 204-acre reservoir was created by damming the Tongue River. This smaller lake is excellent for families and beginner paddlers. Facilities, camping, cabins, and rentals are available at Icelandic State Park.
The Pembina River – The spring and early summer are the best time to enjoy the Pembina River, as the river is too low to paddle in the late summer to early fall. Facilities and rentals are available at the Pembina Gorge State Recreation Area office.
Devils Lake – This lake has varied significantly in size throughout the years but is currently the largest natural body of water in North Dakota. The lake is ideal for paddlers that are more advanced and paddling anglers. Facilities, camping, and cabins are located at Grahams Island State Park.
Beaver Lake – This 968-acre lake is great for all levels of paddling. Facilities, camping, and cabins are located at Beaver Lake State Park.
Where to Rent
Canoe & Kayak Transport
Three of our destinations provide transportation service for kayaks and canoes for an additional fee. Please call the park to set up a kayak or canoe run to ensure equipment and staff are available.
Cross Ranch: Provides two different run options down the Missouri River. A 9-mile trip from the city of Washburn to the Sanger boat landing or a 2-mile trip from the main campground to the Sanger boat ramp. The amount of time the runs take depends on how fast the user paddles and the speed of the river. The park charges a transportation fee of $30 with an additional $15 if another vehicle is required for transportation.
Fort Ransom: Fort Ransom has a canoe/kayak launch next to the visitor center behind the Bjone house. The run is about 5.2 miles downstream; park staff pick-up riders at the boat ramp located at the Fort Ransom Sportsman Club Park. The park charges a transportation fee of $20 with an additional $15 if another vehicle is required for transportation.
Pembina Gorge: Provides two different run options down the Pembina River. A 3.6 mile trip from Vang Bridge to the Brickmine Bridge, and a 7.5 mile trip from the Brickmine Bridge to the city of Walhalla. The amount of time depends on how high the river is. If transport is needed, there is a $25 fee for transportation to Brickmine Bridge and $30 fee if transporting to Walhalla. *Please check with the staff to make sure the river is high enough to paddle.
- Rentals are available during peak camping season. If you are interested in rentals outside that window, please contact the park.
- Water levels can vary greatly throughout the season, please contact the park to ensure water levels are high enough to paddle.
- Waterways can change as the weather does, please be aware of your surroundings and the weather conditions