How to Kayak a River with One Car

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Kayaking is an exciting and rewarding activity that allows you to explore rivers and waterways while getting a great workout. If you only have one car, you might be wondering how to go about planning your river adventure. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know, from choosing the right kayak to planning your trip and retrieving your car.

Kayak River

Choosing the Right Kayak

Sit-on-top vs. Sit-inside Kayaks

There are two main types of kayaks: sit-on-top and sit-inside. Sit-on-top kayaks are more beginner-friendly, offering greater stability and ease of entry and exit. Sit-inside kayaks, on the other hand, are better for experienced paddlers looking for greater control and efficiency.

Length and Width

The length and width of your kayak will affect its performance. Longer kayaks are faster and track better, while shorter ones are more maneuverable. Wider kayaks offer greater stability but at the expense of speed.

Essential Kayaking Gear


Choosing the right paddle is essential for an enjoyable kayaking experience. Consider factors such as your height, the width of your kayak, and your paddling style when selecting a paddle.

Personal Floatation Device

A properly fitting personal floatation device (PFD) is a must for any kayaker. Choose one that is comfortable and allows for a full range of motion.


If you’re kayaking in a river with rapids or obstacles, a helmet is essential for safety. Make sure it fits snugly and is designed for whitewater use.

Dry Bag

A dry bag will keep your belongings safe and dry during your river adventure. Choose a size appropriate for your needs, and make sure it seals securely.

Planning Your River Trip

Researching the River

Before you hit the water, take time to research the river you plan to kayak. Look for information on the river’s difficulty, any known hazards, and access points for launching and take-out.

Weather and River Conditions

Check the weather forecast and river conditions before your trip. High water levels or unexpected storms can make kayaking dangerous.

Determining the Take-out Point

Choose a take-out point that is easily accessible by car and within a reasonable distance from your starting point.

The Shuttle System

Finding a Shuttle Buddy

One option for getting back to your car is to find a shuttle buddy. Connect with other kayakers who are planning to paddle the same stretch of river and arrange to leave one car at the take-out point and shuttle back together.

Alternative Shuttle Solutions

If you can’t find a shuttle buddy, consider alternative solutions such as hiring a local shuttle service, using public transportation, or arranging for a friend or family member to pick you up at the take-out point.

Launching Your Kayak

Once you have your gear and shuttle plan in place, it’s time to launch your kayak. Make sure your kayak is properly outfitted, and secure all your belongings in the dry bag. Check your PFD and helmet to ensure they’re correctly fastened, and then carefully enter your kayak, maintaining your balance as you push off from the shore.

Reading the River

As you paddle down the river, pay close attention to the water’s flow and any obstacles that may lie ahead. Learn to read the river’s features, such as eddies, waves, and currents, to help you anticipate your movements and make safe decisions.

Safety Tips

  • Always maintain a safe distance from other kayakers and obstacles.
  • Paddle with a buddy or group for added safety.
  • Be prepared to exit your kayak quickly in case of a capsize.
  • Know your limits and don’t attempt river sections beyond your skill level.

Take-out and Retrieving Your Car

When you reach your take-out point, carefully exit your kayak and secure it on the shore. If you’ve arranged a shuttle with a buddy, wait for them to arrive and then drive back to the starting point to retrieve your car. If you’re using an alternative shuttle solution, make sure you’ve communicated your arrival time and location with the shuttle provider or your designated driver.

Related: How to Kayak the Chicago River

Frequently Asked Questions:

Can I kayak solo if I only have one car?

Yes, you can kayak solo, but it’s always safer to paddle with a buddy or group. Make sure you have a reliable shuttle plan in place to get back to your car.

What should I pack for a day of kayaking?

Bring water, snacks, sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, and any personal items you might need. Secure everything in a dry bag to keep your belongings safe and dry.

How do I choose the best river for kayaking?

Research rivers in your area and look for information on their difficulty, hazards, and access points. Choose a river that matches your skill level and desired experience.

What should I do if I capsize in my kayak?

Stay calm, and try to keep a hold of your paddle. If you’re in a sit-on-top kayak, flip it over and climb back on. If you’re in a sit-inside kayak, practice your wet exit and re-entry techniques.

Can I kayak with my dog?

Yes, many people enjoy kayaking with their pets. Make sure your dog is comfortable around water and has a properly fitting PFD.


Kayaking a river with one car is entirely possible with some planning and preparation. Choose the right kayak and gear, research your river route, and arrange for a shuttle system to get back to your car. By following these steps, you’ll be well on your way to an unforgettable river adventure.

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