A Paddling Guide to the Poconos: What to Know, Where to Go

Make for the Lehigh River for a thrilling paddle session.
Make for the Lehigh River for a thrilling paddle session. Pocono Mountains
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Boasting 150 lakes and 170 river miles, the Pocono Mountains in eastern Pennsylvania is an incredible spot for watersports enthusiasts. From the rapids on the Lehigh River to the flatwater of Lake Wallenpaupack, you’ll find find lots of places to enjoy kayaking, canoeing, rafting, and stand-up paddleboarding. Outfitters and gear rental shops make it easy for paddlers of any ability to get on the water and enjoy the incredibly scenic surroundings. Here’s a quick glimpse of some of the paddling options you’ll find in the region.

Middle Delaware River and Delaware Water Gap

Paddle through the Pocono Mountains’ most famous sight, the Delaware Water Gap, a mile-wide chasm between Mount Minsi and Mount Tammany. Canoeing and kayaking are popular in the 69,000-acre Delaware Gap National Recreation Area, and the Middle Delaware National Scenic and Recreational River offers some of the Northeast’s most accessible and unspoiled water recreation. Expect calm pools and mild rapids that make it a fun jaunt for even beginner paddlers. Take a raft on the playful waters if you bring kids along. You can camp overnight on the river’s islands on a first-come, first-served basis. Bringing your own canoe or kayak? Free shuttle service is provided on summer weekends by Monroe County Transit Authority.

Boat rentals : Authorized liveries rent canoes, kayaks, and rafts. They bring the boat, paddle, and life jacket to you at the put-in and pick it up at the take-out so you never need to worry about transporting a boat.

Lake Wallenpaupack

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On Lake Wallenpaupack there’s enough space to spread out and enjoy kayaking, canoeing, or stand-up paddleboarding. Pocono Mountains

Stretching 13 miles and spanning 5,700 acres, Lake Wallenpaupack is northeast Pennsylvania’s largest lake and the state’s third largest man-made one—making it the perfect place for a long paddle. Located in the town of Hawley, Pennsylvania, the lake was created as a hydroelectric project—and still generates electricity during high demand times. But today, recreation is king. You’ll see plenty of powerboats here, but lucky for paddlers, there’s enough space to spread out and enjoy kayaking, canoeing, or SUPing without feeling crowded.

Boat rentals : Located on the lake’s shore, Wallenpaupack Boat Tours & Rentals offers single and tandem kayaks or stand-up paddleboards. Rentals are available by the hour or day; life jacket and instruction is included. The shop is open May through mid-September.

Lake Harmony

Found in the heart of the Poconos, Lake Harmony is a natural glacial lake surrounded by picturesque summer homes and lush vegetation. It’s a popular spot for kayakers, canoers, and stand-up paddleboarders. Instead of venturing out on your own, explore it on a two-and-a-half hour guided SUP tour with Pocono Paddle Board & Fitness. Get outfitted with a board, paddle, and life jacket then depart from Split Rock Resort or Lake Harmony Estates for a relaxing paddle around the lake. Instruction covers body positioning and paddling to ensure you’re using proper technique.

Promised Land State Park

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Promised Land State Park features two lakes surrounded by the Delaware State Forest. Pocono Mountains

Find 500 acres of flatwater paddling in Promised Land State Park in Greentown, Pennsylvania. Popular with canoers and kayakers, the park’s 422-acre Promised Land Lake and 173-acre Lower Lake are surrounded by the Delaware State Forest and beautiful, peaceful scenery. Launch from five different sites and paddle nine miles of shoreline at Promised Land Lake, or four miles along Lower Lake.

Boat rentals: Rent kayaks, canoes, rowboats and paddle boats by the hour or day at the boat rental concession south of the Day Use Area. Boats are also available at Pickerel Point and Lower Lake. Open Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.

Beltzville Lake

Formed by the damming of Pohopoco Creek, beautiful Beltzville Lake is tucked in the Poconos’ southern foothills—just an hour and a half from Philadelphia. A boat launch site near the 525-foot sandy beach makes it easy to swim and paddle around the 1.5-square-mile lake. Go kayaking or paddle boating, lounge on the beach, repeat. Don’t miss the historic covered bridge that was relocated near the lake’s swimming beach.

Boat rentals : There’s a shop just west of the swimming beach that rents paddle boats and kayaks throughout the summer season. It’s open daily during the summer.

Lehigh River

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Prepare to paddle Class I, II, and a few Class III rapids on the Lehigh River. Pocono Mountains

Looking for a true whitewater experience in the Poconos? Make for the Lehigh River where you’ll paddle Class I, II, and even a few Class III rapids on guided rafting trips that last three to five hours. You’ll travel through state park lands past the Pocono Mountains and alongside canyon walls as birds soar overhead. Up the ante on scheduled dam release days with four to five hour trips through 17 Class II and III rapids. You’re guaranteed to get wet. You’ll also find "family-style" rafting options in the region for those looking for tamer rapids.

Guided tours : Unless you’re a pro, going guided is best on the challenging Lehigh River sections. Licensed guides provide instruction, life jackets, paddles, rafts, and often snacks or a meal—dependent on the trip length.

Mauch Chunk Lake Park

Built originally as a flood-control project, this 345-acre lake near the town of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, has become a recreation hotspot and welcomes 150,000 visitors annually. Designated for non-powered watercraft and electric motors only, it’s a great place to kayak or canoe without worrying about bigger boats.

Boat rentals : The lakeside Mauch Chunk Lake Park Boat Rentals offers canoe, kayak, paddle boat, paddleboard, and rowboat rentals. Located by Boat Launch A, the shop rents every day during the summer season, Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Prompton State Park

This state park features the 290-acre Prompton Lake, which is operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. You’ll find one boat launch on the western shore of the lake, accessible from PA 170. Motorized boats are permitted (with up to a 10 horsepower motor) as long as they display an up-to-date registration. Non-motorized boats have some options when it comes to required permits. Anglers know the lake as home to crappie, yellow perch, and largemouth and smallmouth bass. There are not boat rentals in the park, but you’ll find lots to do around the lake, including 26 miles of hiking trails (on which mountain biking is also permitted), a picnic pavillion, and an 18-hole disc golf course.

Tobyhanna State Park

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A glacier at least a mile think covered the area about 20,000 years ago. Pocono Mountains

The 170-acre Tobyhanna Lake is on the Pocono Plateau, a rugged highland known for its rocky soil and dark evergreen forests. A glacier at least a mile think covered the area about 20,000 years ago, which helped create its unique geography and abundance of bogs in the area. You’ll find it about 25 miles southeast of Scranton, adjacent to the Gouldsboro State Park. Because of logging, the evergreen forests have regrown with a mix of deciduous trees like American birch, oak, and red maple. Black bears are common in the park, and while they normally avoid people, they can be attracted by food. Be sure to store your edible supplies in the trunk of your car or a camper.

Rowboats, kayaks, paddle boats, canoes, and electric-motor boats (the only kind of motors permitted on the lake) are all available for rent in the park from Memorial Day to Labor Day. You’ll also find a sandy beach that’s open for swimming over the same period, with a bathhouse and showers available. Ten miles of hiking and mountain biking trails surround the lake, and those interested in spending the night can take advantage of the 140-site camping area. Brook and brown trout are both stocked in the lake, with bass, pickerel, yellow perch, catfish, and sunfish also in good numbers.

Written by Jenny Willden for RootsRated Media in partnership with Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau.

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