Blogs > Water Quality > Hudson River kayaking, SUPs and more on the rise

Hudson River kayaking, SUPs and more on the rise


Riverkeeper staff enjoyed paddling in Constitution Marsh with Hudson River Expeditions in September.
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Recreational use of the Hudson River and its tributaries is on the rise, and it’s essential that we continue to make investments to maintain and improve water quality to support people’s use of the water. While difficult to quantify based on existing data, several facts suggest people are paddling, stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), jet-skiing, tubing and water skiing in increasing numbers. During the pandemic, several kayak and paddleboard rental and tour businesses reported being overbooked, as people sought to enjoy the outdoors in record numbers. Riverkeeper’s observations from 20 years of patrol suggest that this was a milestone in a long upward trend, with kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding and jet-skiing, particularly, up significantly since Captain John Lipscomb began routine patrols of the river in 2000.

staff kayak event

Riverkeeper staff enjoyed paddling in Constitution Marsh with Hudson River Expeditions in September.

One measure of this increased usage is the number of on-water events, such as kayak races, dragon boat races and wacky boat races. These events are increasingly being organized to get people out on the Hudson River and its tributaries. At least 20 recurring events take place most years in the Hudson or its tributaries, from the Gerry Blackstone Manhattan Circumnavigation, an annual event organized by Yonkers Paddling & Rowing Club, to the Paddle the Mohawk Valley events this year, which turned out impressive numbers of kayakers. Of 20 annual events that took place in recent years, 80% have been established since 2000, and 50% have been established or re-established since 2010. These newer events joined long-running events like the New Paltz Regatta and the Wappinger Creek Derby that have been ongoing for decades.

Paddling has also been boosted by the establishment of the Hudson River Water Trail in 2001, the NYC Water Trail in 2008 and the Erie-Mohawk Water Trail in 2019, all of which joined the Bronx River Blueway and have added public boat launches and other access sites over time. The Wallkill River Water Trail is now under development, and the Hudson River Eagles Recreation Area promises to add and enhance access sites and restore habitat in the upper part of the Hudson River Estuary in the coming years. Well over 250 access points are part of this regional water trail network, inviting people to enjoy the water. The DEC’s Hudson River Estuary Program identifies many of these and other Hudson River access points.

The Hudson River has a rich rowing tradition. High school, college and community rowing remains popular on the Hudson River, Rondout Creek and Mohawk River. At least 22 clubs use the Hudson River Estuary north of New York City, including the Rondout Creek, for practices, with hubs of activity on the Rondout Creek in Kingston, in the Albany Pool, and at the Poughkeepsie, Yonkers and Newburgh waterfronts. At least another six clubs use the Mohawk River, and nearly two dozen are active in New York City. Annual regattas draw clubs from within and outside the region, each Spring and Fall, for events in Poughkeepsie, Kingston, Albany and elsewhere.

In addition to non-motorized boating, the Hudson River Boat & Yacht Club Association counts 3,000 “boating families” among its 33 member clubs between Yonkers and Poughkeepsie, and the Mohawk-Hudson Council of Yacht Clubs counts 2,000 members among its 20 member clubs. In addition, there are approximately 20 marinas on the estuary. Many boaters also enjoy water-skiing, tubing or swimming — activities that require clean water to be safe.

While swimming activity in the estuary drops off around Labor Day, many continue to enjoy paddling and related activities well into the fall. No one but Riverkeeper and our partners measure water quality at most locations where people are enjoying the river and its tributaries. Find the latest water quality data for the Hudson Estuary, Upper Hudson, New York City, Mohawk River, and many of the Hudson’s tributaries at, as well as reports that describe water quality patterns that help you make informed choices about where and when to get in the water.

This is the latest blog post in our Do People Swim in the Hudson River? series. Follow these links for posts about event swimming, unofficial swimming areas and how water quality and climate change affect the Hudson’s official bathing beaches.