Paddling a Canadian canoe on Coniston Water copyright Dave Willis
Paddling a Canadian canoe on Coniston Water

Canoeing and kayaking

The Lake District provides fantastic opportunities to take to the water in a canoe or kayak. Beginners can have a go, guided by experts. Once you are more confident, create your own adventure exploring the many islands, beautiful rivers and stunning coastline.

Starting out?

Not sure if canoeing or kayaking is for you? You can hire equipment from outdoor centres around Coniston, Derwentwater, Ullswater and Windermere

Hire and course centres

Here are some providers. All links open in a new window:

Keeping safe

Whilst the water can look tempting on a calm summer's day, the Lake District weather can easily change. You should always be aware of the weather and its impact on the water. Check out the local Weatherline forecast (opens in new window).

Key safety precautions are covered in the following guides:

Canoeing guides

Lake guides - including maps

These help everyone get the best out of their time on the water safely:

The rivers and coastline

These can provide more challenging environments. Every river is subject to an Access Agreement or accepted practice.

The coastline can be accessed from public beaches and slipways. Be aware of the tides, offshore winds and Local Canoe Access Information. Useful websites include:

What’s the difference between a kayak and a canoe?

The term canoe is often used to refer to both canoes and kayaks.

Canadian canoe

Usually an open boat which can accommodate more than one person (either in a sitting or kneeling position) and is propelled by a paddle with a blade only at one end.

Historically canoes were used by the native Canadian Indians to transport people and goods on the lakes and rivers.


This is a covered craft designed for one person which is propelled with a double ended paddle.

A kayak was an Inuit fishing craft used on the sea and paddled with a long harpoon.

Help native wildlife

Invasive non-native species of wildlife can hitchhike on equipment, footwear, clothing and boats. You may inadvertently spread the aliens even if you just go for a paddle! Every time you leave any water such as a river, tarn or lake:

Check - Clean - Dry

Stop the spread of invasive aquatic species logo
  • Check your equipment and clothing for living organisms. Pay particular attention to damp or hard to inspect areas.
  • Clean and wash all equipment, footwear and clothes thoroughly. If you do come across any organisms, leave them at the water body where you found them or on a hard surface to die out.
  • Dry all equipment and clothing. Some species can live for many days in damp conditions.

Find out more at Biosecurity - South Cumbria Rivers Trust (opens in new window)

Or check out Biosecurity for boat and kayak users (opens in new window)