Kayaking on the Mississippi River: A Complete Guide

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The Mississippi River is glorious at sunset…and at every other time!

If you’ve wanted to explore this famous river by kayak, take a look at our guide below.

We’re here to share the best Mississippi kayaking options. Our tips will point you towards exceptional tour companies, routes and areas, helping you make the most of a trip along this famous river.

Basic Facts About the Mississippi River

gorgeous view of Mississippi River and brudge

The mighty Mississippi is the main river of the 2nd-biggest drainage system in North America.

The whole Mississippi River is found within America, although its drainage basin extends to Canada. The Mississippi River’s source is located in northern Minnesota. It flows southward for 2,320 miles, to the Gulf of Mexico’s Mississippi River Delta.

Native Americans, most of whom hunted and gathered in order to survive, used to live along this river, as well as along the river’s myriad tributaries. Some of the Native Americans, including the “mound builders”, created successful agricultural communities.

In the 16th century, the Europeans came and the native lifestyle changed forever.

Union forces captured this river during the American Civil War. The capture of the river was a pivotal moment which turned the tables towards victory against the Confederates.

When the days of riverboats ended and big barges and ships began to cruise the river, locks, dams and levees were built.

As you can see, the Mississippi River has a rich and colorful heritage. So, why not tour it in your hard-shell or inflatable kayak?

Guided Kayak Tours

group of kayaks on the water

If you want to enjoy a guided tour which is led by a qualified kayaking expert who knows the Mississippi River well, you should consider one of the three companies below. They all offer a range of tour options, one of which is likely to suit your needs perfectly.

We’re not affiliated with any of these companies. We are sharing information about them because they are established providers of guided kayak tours in an assortment of American states. As you may already know, the Mississippi River flows through ten USA states, from Minnesota to Louisiana. This river is 3,734 kilometers long!

There are other companies to choose from. This is just a sampling of some of the most popular, highly-rated kayak tour providers.

Broken Paddle Guiding


This Wabasha, Minnesota company offers guided tours of the Mississippi River. Tours from Broken Paddle Guiding are led by professionals who have excellent knowledge of the river and its backwaters. The company has been around since 2012 and its guides have over two decades of experience.

Broken Paddle Guiding tours are accessible, adventurous and well-constructed.

If you sign on for a guided tour, you’ll be able to explore the side channels and backwaters of the upper part of the river. You’ll also be able to learn about the way that animals, birds, fish and plants impact the river.

Current Mississippi guided kayak tour options from this company include a Sunset Beach Tour and a Flooded Forest Tour. The Flooded Forest Tour is the most popular option.

Allen’s Kayaking Adventures


This company is based in Memphis, Tennessee and it offers guided kayak/canoe tours of the Mississippi River. Guides are certified and the tours depart from Memphis.

If you sign up, you’ll be able to paddle along with other group members and check out stunning views south or north of Memphis. You’ll travel towards a range of drop points along the Mississippi river. Some tours are quick and others are long-term excursions. It’s also possible to plan a customized guided kayak tour which is just right for your group. Tours are available seven days a week.

Above the Falls Sports


This company offers guided kayak tours of the Mississippi River. You’ll find Above the Falls Sports in downtown Minneapolis. If you want an adventure while you’re in the Twin Cities area, be sure to go out for a guided paddling trip. This guided kayak tour provider offers a host of tour options.

One is, “Working the Local Channel”, which takes participants past some exciting local landmarks, including the Grain Belt Brewery and Nicollet Island. Another fun Mississippi River tour to consider is the, “Friday Night Sunset Tour”, which will allow you to drink in the beauty of the tranquil river at dusk, as you also enjoy a stunning view of the city skyline.

Now, let’s talk about some sections of the Mississippi River that kayaking enthusiasts recommend. Guided tours are wonderful options. However, plenty of kayaking fans don’t bother with guides. They plan their own trips instead…

The Mississippi: Fun Touring Routes and Kayaking Areas

kayakers exploring a river

If you want to enjoy natural beauty and serenity, you’ll love exploring the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, which is located in Thomson, Illinois.

All told, there are thirty-six national wildlife refuges along this river, through ten states.

This particular one features ninety-six miles of marked trails, which are appropriate for kayaks or canoes. You’ll be able to select a trail which is right for your level of kayaking skill and experience.

If you prefer something a little more urban, consider paddling from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Minnehaha Falls. Start off in the big city and then travel to Minnehaha Creek. On your way, you’ll pass pretty beaches and dramatic limestone cliffs. You’ll also need to steer your vessel through Lower Saint Anthony Lock. This tour will work well for kayaking enthusiasts with intermediate or expert skills. With a guide along for the ride, it’ll be suitable for beginners.

Another option is exploring the part of the Mississippi River that touches Memphis, Tennessee.

If you’re up for kayaking four miles or so, paddle out from the docks at Harbor Town, beneath the A.W. Mills Bridge, and then head towards Beale Street Landing. Once you hit Mud Island, turn around at its tip and then paddle northward, to Hernando DeSoto Bridge. After you see the bridge, turn your kayak around and head back to your starting point. You’ll get plenty of great exercise and you’ll really see the sights.

Now that you know more about kayaking on the Mississippi River, why not plan a guided or self-guided kayak adventure today?


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