Kayaking in Denver: Loading, Securing and Transporting Your Vessel

Kayaking adventures in Denver

This Is Kayak Country

The headwaters of nearly 20 rivers begin here, high in the Rocky Mountains, according to Colorado Tourism. These rivers are classified as Class I through Class IV, offering a range of experiences for newbies and hardcore paddlers alike — from meandering, downstream drifts to rock-strewn, whitewater-rapid runs.

You can even paddle within the Mile High City itself. Believe it or not, kayaking in Denver involves shooting the South Platte River rapids where it meets Cherry Creek, right in the heart of downtown. Visit Denver says that running the whitewater chutes at Confluence Park is one of the city’s top urban adventures.

According to Colorado Tourism, the state’s kayaking season officially runs from May to September. Depending on the year’s snowmelt, the best whitewater months tend to be May and June, with July and August proving to be ideal for those seeking more laid-back excursions. Plenty of outfitters stand ready to assist if you don’t have your own equipment or if you need professional guide services.

In our last article, we explored the ins and outs of choosing the right gear for transporting your kayak. The decision-making doesn’t begin with your car and end with the rack system, however. You also need to consider the tie-downs you will use; the security and stability of your boat-topped car; how you will drive your car; and how you will tackle the task of loading and unloading the vessel.

Solo Loading

Many couples and families hit the water together, it’s true. But what if you have your own kayak and want to meet friends at your paddling destination? Kayaker Anna Levesque notes several options for handling a kayak on your own:

  • Two-wheeled kayak carts allow you to move your boat without dragging or picking it up.
  • Kayak saddles with rollers make it easier to slide and position your boat on the car racks.

If you’re able to lift your kayak, Levesque offers technique tips for getting it onto the roof of your car, including the best places to grip the boat and the proper stance to use when lifting. Once you arrive at your destination, see if your paddling companions will help you unload.

Tying Down

Nylon straps with self-locking cam buckles are the best way to secure your kayak, according to the experts at outdoor gear company REI. Most of these will have padding under the buckle so you don’t damage your boat or your car’s roof. Once you’ve cinched each strap, make sure you tie off any extra length, just in case the buckle would release on the road. A few additional tips:

  • Unless you’re an expert with knots, using rope to secure your kayak can be tricky. REI says if rope is the only alternative, it must be nonstretch, nonslick and water-resistant. Also, make sure the rope has been weathered a bit, as new rope can stretch.
  • Although it may be tempting, don’t use bungee cords. Bungee cords can expand under pressure and let go, REI says.
  • Use at least two straps to secure your kayak (these run across your car’s width and the boat’s beam). Additionally, you can tie the bow and stern ends to your front and rear bumpers, being careful not to obstruct your view from through the front or rear windshields.


Next, before you go anywhere, make sure your kayak is secure. Just grab it and shake it; does the boat move, or does the whole car move? If it’s the latter, your boat is ready to hit the road. And, once you’re under way:

  • Drive conservatively, as the boat on its roof may cause your vehicle to handle differently and be more susceptible to wind and weather conditions.
  • Keep an eye out for speed bumps and potholes, and take those turns carefully. Even if you’ve secured your kayak carefully and have plenty of padding up there, you’ll want to minimize the risk of scraping your paint job (or losing your load).

Whether you enjoy whitewater rapids or leisurely paddles with family and friends, Colorado offers kayaking opportunities in the urban landscape as well as in the wilderness. And don’t forget: Colorado also has a vibrant, diverse kayaking community that is always ready to welcome new members!

Recommended by the Editors:

Keep your vehicle’s coverage up-to-date. Contact a Denver-area Allstate Agent to talk discuss your auto insurance policy.

Join the Conversation


Tools & Resources

Tools & Resources

Contact Us

Contact Us