Photograph by Andrew Kornylak, Getty Images

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Paddlers on the Tennessee River head toward the Walnut Street Bridge in Chattanooga.

Photograph by Andrew Kornylak, Getty Images

Six Best Cities to Kayak

From the July/August 2010 issue of National Geographic Traveler

Rivers run through many U.S. metropolitan areas, including the nation’s capital. “I love kayaking on the Potomac under the Key Bridge,” says Chris Farmer, a Washington, D.C., lawyer. “I can see monuments and nesting ospreys all in one afternoon.” Here are six more great paddling cities.

Chattanooga, Tennessee

The Tennessee River Blueway flows beside the city’s revitalized riverfront. Kayakers pass downtown highlights, including waterfront Coolidge Park, Ross’s Landing, and the Tennessee Aquarium. Watch climbers on the rock wall under the restored 19th-century Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge. Outdoor Chattanooga has information on tours.

Ann Arbor, Michigan

Launch kayaks rented from Sun & Snow at Delhi Metropark. A two-and-a-half-hour easy paddle downstream skims past cattails on shore while gliding under an old low railroad bridge and around wide bends with glimpses of the University of Michigan campus. Stop at Barton Pond from which you can access the Barton Nature Area, a park just north of downtown.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Start across the Allegheny River from downtown and paddle three miles round-trip to Washington’s Landing. Drift close to shore, watching for beavers, muskrats, and other wildlife. Kayak Pittsburgh located on the North Shore, next to PNC Park, rents solo and tandem kayaks.

Chicago, Illinois

Wildlife takes a backseat to skyscrapers on the Chicago River. Try the three-hour Architectural History tour offered by Kayak Chicago. Start at Chicago's North Avenue and kayak to the Loop, gliding past buildings designed by some of America’s greatest architects.

Boston, Massachusetts

This frenetic city feels downright friendly when viewed from a kayak on the scenic Charles River. Launch from Boston at Allston/Brighton, or from Cambridge near Kendall Square with Charles River Canoe & Kayak. Drift past Harvard and Boston University campuses, taking a rest stop upstream of the B.U. Bridge at Magazine Beach. From the Lower Basin, enjoy views of the Prudential and Hancock buildings, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and riverside parks.

Austin, Texas

Ducks and egrets provide diversion on Lady Bird Lake in Austin. An extension of the Colorado River, this waterway offers superb skyline views. During the summer, kayakers paddle from Zilker Metropolitan Park for the nightly emergence of some 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats from under Congress Avenue Bridge.