Looking for a way to relax, reconnect with nature, soak in the sun, and get some exercise, all at the same time? Try kayaking. Northern Westchester, with its beautiful ponds, lakes, and river, offers various kayaking experiences, ranging from easy outings to more challenging adventures.
Where to Go
Kayakers can look no further than Wampus Pond in Armonk for an easy, serene adventure. Wampus Pond, part of the 102-acre Wampus Pond Park, is open to kayakers throughout the summer. The natural water pond was once a reservoir that fed the New York City water supply. The park surrounding the lake is particularly peaceful and filled with history, including early 20th century rock shelters.
For beautiful, endless views of blue, and a chance to experience the more challenging Hudson River waters, head west to Ossining Beach. In 2011, a kayak launch was opened at the Louis Engel Waterfront Park. This launch enables kayakers to launch off the beach rather than off a dock. Head west for a view of the Sing Sing Correctional Facility.
Travel about four miles north to Croton Point Park and kayak on the Croton River, which ardent kayaker Paul Okura calls “a local gem…so clean and beautiful.” The Croton River is crystal clear, peaceful, and scenic, and it offers exquisite views of the Palisades. Croton Point Park is one of the oldest parks in the Westchester County system. According to Mary Kaye Koch, Director of Marketing for the Westchester County Parks Department, “Croton Point is a beautiful spot for bird-watching while you are kayaking down the river. On the clearest of days, you can even see all the way down to New York City.” Visitors can plan to picnic or camp out at the park as well.
Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park, right off of Crompound Road in Yorktown Heights, offers two lakes for kayaking. Bring your own kayak to Crom Pond or Mohansic Lake, the two freshwater ponds in the park. The park itself, known for its spacious picnic areas, pool, hiking trails, basketball courts, and playgrounds, offers a chance to enjoy a range of other activities as well.
George’s Island Park, located off of Dutch Street in Montrose, offers another easy, scenic launch spot in Westchester County. “If you’re looking for a tranquil spot for kayaking, George’s Island is perfect,” according to Koch.” With a boat launch for boats up to 21 feet long, George’s Island gives kayakers an opportunity to connect with nature and observe the diverse wildlife. Boat fees vary by park. Check out parks.westchestergov.com for more information.
Throughout Northern Westchester, kayakers can go at it alone or sign up with a service for a more guided kayaking experience. Between May and October, Hudson River Recreation offers two to three hour expeditions on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays. Tours meet at Croton Point Park or the Echo Canoe and Kayak Launch in Croton on Hudson. Kayak along the Croton River, passing historical sites like Van Cortlandt Manor.
Hudson River Recreation tours are geared towards adults, but if you are looking for a family kayaking experience, try Hudson River Expeditions. Hudson River Expeditions takes you a little farther north to Peekskill and the Bear Mountain area. Kayakers can either navigate their way through the Peekskill Bay and see the city from a new perspective or travel through the Bear Mountain region, visiting the historical site of Fort Montgomery. They offer both family tours with single and tandem kayaks in the Peekskill region and custom tours that can be booked for six or more participants.
John Clark, program director of Hudson River Recreation, suggests that kayakers “expect the unexpected and plan for it.” He suggests that kayakers always wear a US Coast Guard approved life jacket, take lessons, and learn rescue techniques. “You have to know what to do if you fall out!” Clark warns. Paying careful attention to the weather and tide conditions is also extremely important. Dress for the water, not the air. Finally, for a successful trip, Clark says to make sure that someone else knows where you are and where you are going.
Okura has one final suggestion to ensure that everyone on the water enjoys their experience. “People should respect the no noise zone and bring headphones if they want to listen to music.” This way people can serenely connect with their natural surroundings and enjoy the ride.