With our bountiful rivers, streams, and lakes, the St. Louis region offers plentiful opportunities to explore the outdoors on water. Paddling not only is a peaceful way to pass some time, but it also offers a chance to take in the natural landscapes and wildlife from a whole new vantage point. 

Good news for novice or casual paddlers: Trying out the sport is now easier than ever. Four St. Charles County parks now offer self-serve paddle share rentals that provide an affordable, simple way to get out on the water.

The paddle share program has been available at Broemmelsiek Park in Defiance, Klondike Park in Augusta, and The Park at New Melle Lakes in New Melle since summer 2020. In spring 2022, St. Charles County partnered with the City of St. Peters to offer paddling at a fourth location: the new Dardenne Creek Blueway between 370 Lakeside Park in St. Peters to the Riverside Landing Park in St. Charles.

The paddle share stations at Broemmelsiek Park, Klondike Park, and The Park at New Melle Lakes are outfitted with two tandem kayaks, two paddleboards, and four single kayaks. Only kayaks are available at 370 Lakeside Park. Additionally, each station is equipped with flotation devices and paddles.

How Paddle Share Works
You can either reserve equipment in advance or rent it on the spot at the park. (For busier weekends, it’s probably best to book ahead of time.) To reserve, all you have to do is visit sccmo.org/paddleboard, select your location, date, and desired watercraft. After you fill out a simple online form and pay, you’ll instantly receive a text or email with the code to unlock your paddleboard or kayak. A rental tutorial video is available online, should you require extra assistance. 

For each two-hour session, stand-up paddleboards and kayaks cost $20 and tandem kayaks cost $30. Rentals are two hours minimum and are available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; the last reservation begins at 5 p.m. Paddlers must check out equipment 5 minutes before their reservation begins and return it 5 minutes before it ends to avoid late fees. The rental season currently runs from April 1 through October 31. 

St. Charles Paddle Share

The paddle shares truly couldn’t be easier to use. I visited the station in Klondike Park; it looks like a locker perched next to the beach, is easy to find, and is labeled with clear instructions, including the park ranger’s phone number should you need any help. 

To ensure all the equipment remains in good working order and the stations are properly outfitted, the St. Charles County parks department regularly checks each paddle share location.

Attracting New Paddlers
The program has so far been a success, says Ashley Maue, a St. Charles County park ranger. 

“Our paddle shares have been really popular and are a wonderful way to experience our parks in new ways,” she said. “They allow our guests to try out kayaking or paddleboarding without having to buy our equipment. People have thanked me and told me they didn’t know they would love kayaking until they got to try it out at our parks before buying their own equipment.”

The paddle share locations were selected based on their access to sizable water features. Each chosen park offers something unique. At 25 acres, New Melle Lake is the largest lake in the county and offers views of the Landhaus, the park’s attractive rental space, as well as natural landscapes. The lake at Klondike Park, which sits just off the Katy Trail and offers a fun pedal-and-paddle opportunity, comprises an old silica sand quarry and features white beaches and sandstone bluffs. At Broemmelsiek Park, you’ll find a 14-acre lake with a fountain and gravel beach, home to diverse wildlife such as great blue herons and white egrets. 

The latest addition to the paddle share program serving 370 Lakeside Park and Riverside Landing Park takes paddlers through the newly created Dardenne Creek Blueway, the first of a number of water trails planned for the area. According to Maue, the trail is beautiful, with minimal noise pollution and plentiful wildlife. Paddlers rent kayaks from 370 Lakeside Park and can either return their kayak to the paddle share station at Riverside Landing Park or paddle back upstream.

Paddle Share Station Basics

  • What: Rent kayaks, tandem kayaks, or paddleboards through easy-to-use, self-serve stations. Each rental comes with paddles and flotation devices. 
  • When: Two-hour rentals are available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; the paddling season runs April 1 through October 31
  • Where: Broemmelsiek Park in Defiance, Klondike Park in Augusta, and The Park at New Melle Lakes in New Melle
  • Cost per two-hour session:
    • $20 for stand-up paddleboards (350-pound limit)
    • $20 for kayaks (350-pound limit)
    • $30 for tandem kayaks (600-pound limit)
  • How: Visit sccmo.org

Author: Stephanie Zeilenga is a regular contributor to Terrain Magazine.
Top Image: Paddleboarding at New Melle Lake in St. Charles County.