Paddling Around Lake Erie’s Islands (Part 2)
Welcome to the second of our two-part blog post on kayaking Ohio’s “North Coast” and a look at navigating the waters near the city of Cleveland. Sit back, relax and enjoy a look at some of the best places to enjoy a Third Coast adventure of your own.
Vermilion-Lorain Water Trail
Vermilion-Lorain Water Trail is a 27-mile water trail connecting the Vermilion and Black Rivers. The water trail takes paddlers along the Vermilion River through downtown Vermilion into Lake Erie. The trail continues along the shoreline to the mouth of the Black River, ending at the Black River Reservation. One of the most scenic sections lies between the Mill Hollow Reservation and Main Street Beach in downtown Vermilion. Vermilion is a classic lakeside town, and its historic harbor district is home to marinas, restaurants, shops and the Inland Seas Maritime Museum. It’s a busy harbor, so be aware of boat traffic.
Paddlers can access the water trail at several points. Kayak, canoe, and bike rentals are available through West River Kayak.
Rocky River and Lakewood Coast
Access to the Rocky River is available in the Cleveland Metroparks Rocky River Reservation, where the river winds through an impressive shale valley before reaching Lake Erie. The river is home to quaint riverfront homes and a half-dozen marinas, including the Cleveland Yachting Club. Despite the activity, wildlife is abundant. Expect to see Great Blue herons, kingfishers, wood ducks and deer. The coastline between the Rocky River and downtown Cleveland consists of cliffs and coves, some with small secluded beaches.
41° North Kayak Adventures offers guided sunset tours, classes and kayak and stand-up paddle board rentals out of their facility in the Cleveland Metroparks.
Whiskey Island and Cleveland Harbor
For a unique urban kayaking experience, paddlers can launch from the beach at Wendy Park at Whiskey Island, giving them easy access to the Cleveland Harbor. Along the way, check out the historic Coast Guard station and paddle in for a closer look at the West and East pierhead lighthouses, both built in 1911. Arriving at the North Coast Harbor brings you face-to-face with the William G. Mather, a retired 618-foot freighter, and unforgettable views of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Great Lakes Science Center, and Cleveland Browns Stadium.
The Harbor is busy with both recreational and commercial traffic, so kayakers should be fully versed on boating rules before taking to the water. Novice boaters or those without their own gear can join a guided excursion of the area lead by 41° North Kayak Adventures.
About 40 minutes east of Cleveland, kayakers can access the Lake Erie coastline at Fairport Harbor Lakefront Park. The wide sandy beach sits behind a breakwall, making this an ideal place for beginners to practice their paddling before venturing out to open waters. Views and attractions in the immediate area include the historic Fairport Harbor Lighthouse and Headlands Beach State Park, which features a mile of sandy beach and a 25-acre nature preserve.
Paddlers should note that boats are not permitted to launch or land on the beach. Kayaks can launch further upriver at Lake Metroparks Grand River Landing. Lake Metroparks offers kayaks and stand-up paddle board rentals at the beach at Fairport Harbor, and offers a variety of kayak and canoe outings throughout the summer season.
Regardless of where you choose to explore, remember to check the weather forecast, leave a float plan with family and friends, and always wear a properly fitted life jacket. Join an American Canoe Association-approved kayak class to improve your skills and safety on the water.
In case you missed it, here’s Part 1 of our Paddling Around Lake Erie’s Islands post.