Discover Your Nature

The Boater’s Guide: Best Places for Water Recreation

Memorial Day weekend is a popular weekend for boaters to take to the waters! If you have never explored Henderson via boat or kayak, check out our guide of best practices on how to navigate Henderson’s waterways.

Best Place for Outboard Boating:

The Water St. Boat Ramps

The Ohio River is the best place for recreational boaters to take a spin. The mighty Ohio River is about half a mile wide on Henderson’s shores, which makes it great for outboard motor boats, jet skis and fishing boats. The Henderson Riverfront (at the corner of Second St. and Water St.) has two spacious boat ramps that are convenient for river launching. The two paved ramps are connected at the river’s shore, so finding a spot to park is easy, even on a busy day. The extra wide and extra long spaces are perfect for parking boat trailers. There is no marina in Henderson, but there is a courtesy dock for easy loading and unloading of boat passengers.

Henderson Municipal Center, 222 First St.

One must obtain a parking permit to park trailers and/or vehicles on the boat ramp during boating season. The permits are $30 and last all season. You can get your boat ramp parking permit at the customer service area on the main floor of Henderson Municipal Center on First St., between the hours of 8 a.m.-5 p.m. on Monday-Friday (for more information, call 270-831-1200). Regular vehicles can take advantage of free downtown parking on weekends and after 5 p.m.

Cabela’s 2016 King Kat Tournament in Henderson

The Water St. boat ramps are near several downtown parks, public restrooms, gas stations, and are within walking distance of local restaurants. For a nearby bite to eat with a river view, we recommend dining at Rockhouse on the River or On Deck Riverside Bar & Grill. Both of these places offer great dinner and drink selections.

Rockhouse on the River

Boaters can also access the Ohio River by the Hays Boat Ramp at 2011 N. Elm St. (permit also required). There is usually less traffic at this boat ramp. Either ramp you choose, you’ll enjoy a scenic boat ride on the Ohio River. If you head north from the Water St. boat ramps, you will boat under the historic railroad bridge. Keep boating north and you will reach Evansville, Indiana (marina open seasonally). If you head south on the river, you will drive by Henderson Island and Deadman’s Island first, and then further down is Diamond Island. Dam 48, a local beach-like shoreline that is frequented by boaters, is in this area as well. Boaters will typically pull right up to the shore, or throw anchor and tie off side by side.

Best Place for Trolling Motor Boating:

Besides the Ohio River, there are a couple great spots in Henderson to boat with an electric, trolling or inboard motor water craft. Both Sandy Lee Watkins Park and John James Audubon State Park are great public places to boat (and fish). You do not need a permit to park your trailer or vehicle at either of these lakes. There are two lakes at Sandy Lee Watkins Park that are stocked annually with fish every spring, one of which has a boat ramp, and one that does not. John James Audubon State Park has two lakes as well. Scenic Lake is the only lake that is accessible via boat ramp. The other lake, Wilderness Lake, is accessed by foot by way of Wilderness Lake Trail. We recommend Scenic Lake as the better spot for fishing. There is also a privately owned lake called Niagara Lake that allows fishing access for $5. See this blog post about visiting this fishing spot.

Kayaking in the Henderson Sloughs

Best Places to Canoe, Kayak, or Paddle:

Both Sandy Lee Watkins Park and John James Audubon State Park are also great spots to paddle. John James Audubon State Park even rents pedal boats and kayaks during summer months for a small fee. This is a great option if you don’t have the amenities to transport or purchase your own kayak.

Kayaking in the Henderson Sloughs

Another gorgeous area to paddle is the Sloughs Wildlife Management Area. This area is great for outdoor enthusiasts. The area is underutilized by paddlers. If you are unfamiliar with the area, it is always best to travel in pairs or groups. But if you know your way around, there are several beautiful cypress sloughs to explore! The reward will be getting up close to nature. Bald eagles are often seen in this area, as well as other bird species and wildlife such as: cranes, deer, beavers, ducks, geese, turtles, fish, snakes, etc. The best times of year to paddle are early spring or fall. During the heat of the summer, much of the area and water is covered in thick lush greenery, making paddling almost impossible. The Sloughs is closed from November to March each year. Check out this Map of the Sloughs and points of interest.

Pedal boating at Audubon State Park

Paddling on the Ohio River can be a great fun for experienced kayakers. During the summer months, the speed of the Ohio River is about .5 mph, but can be faster or slower depending on winds and water level. During the 2017 Battle for the Paddle (12-mile race from Evansville to Henderson), the time it took the “Friendly Floater” non-competitive participants to complete the trek ranged between four and five hours (facing opposing winds). It is recommended that kayakers paddle near the shore to avoid boating traffic, to stay alert for river debris, and to alert friends or family of the expected path route and expected time of arrival.

Kayakers at the Henderson Riverfront

Are you ready to get your boat in gear? Plan your next water expedition in Henderson today! To begin planning your trip visit

*As always, please wear a life jacket while on or near water. Please adhere to all water transportation laws, and be mindful of other boaters when on open water!