Accessible Kayak and Canoe Launch Design Guidelines

Whether you are evaluating a manufacturer for an accessible kayak canoe launch or looking to build an adaptive paddling launch yourself, here are some tips provided by the U.S. National Park Service's Rivers, Trails & Conversation Assistance Program

The Basic of Designing an Accessible Kayak and Canoe Launch

It is important to consider a variety of factors when developing an adaptive launch design.

Consider the following goals:
• Accessible
• Best-suited
• Cost-effective and Durable
• Environment-friendly
• Accessible to all paddlers

Paddlers of all abilities want to launch and land smoothly without capsizing or damaging their boats. They need firm surfaces that support their movements and sufficient space to accommodate the length of their boats during put-in and take-out. Paddlers must be able to stabilize their boats during transition to and from the water. Climbing in and out of boats can be especially challenging when there is significant height difference between seat levels and shoreline. Additionally, federal law requires that all boating facilities provide access to paddlers with disabilities whenever possible.

General recommendations for designing an accessible launch:
ADA image

• Height above water: Between 9" and 2' from highest expected water level
• Width: At least 5' wide, preferably 6' to 12'
• Length: At least 25' to allow paddlers "dry" access to entire length of their boats
• Slope: ADA Accessibility Guidelines require that slopes not exceed 8.33% whenever possible; A slope exceeding 15% will make transition from land to water difficult for any paddler
• Support: Handrails or other support structures, including step-down designs or ropes, help paddlers balance their weight during put-in and take-out
• Location: Ideally in areas without heavy flow, erosion, exposure to elements, heavy boat traffic, or fragile riparian habitats


The type of launch chosen should be suitable for a particular access location, meaning that it should be the most sensible choice considering the characteristics of the water body, as well as relevant climatic and ecological factors.


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Resources for Adaptive Kayaking, Canoeing and ADA Accessible Facilities

For those who are new or veterans to adaptive kayaking, canoeing or boating, we have assembled a list of resources to help on a range of topics from designing an adaptive paddling facility or boat launch to staying safe in the water. If you are designing, renovating or constructing a new marina, rowing center, park or water access and you need help in selecting ADA piers, gangways, floating docks and other applications like ADA kayak boat launches, then call the experts at BoardsSafe.

American Canoe Association’s Adaptive Paddlesport Manual

Canoeing & Kayaking For People With Disabilities


Guidelines for Creating Adaptive Outdoor Facilities:

Accessible Boating Facilities (PDF / website)

WaterTrail Design Development (website)

ADA Standards for Accessible Design (website)

USFS Accessibility Guidebook (website)

USFS Accessibility Guidebook for Outfitters & Guides (PDF)

Architectural Barriers Act: Accessibility Guidelines for Outdoor Developed Areas (PDF/ website)

Prepare to Launch - Guidelines for Assessing, Designing & Building Access Sites for Carry-In Watercraft (website)

Universal Design of Launches/Landings for Carry-down Craft (PDF)

Paddling and People with Disabilities (PDF)

The ADA and Outdoor Programs (PDF)

Boathouse Row's Pennsylvania Barge Club Now Features BoardSafe Aluminum Floating Docks

2017-01-04 15.28.35 HDRThe Pennsylvania Barge Club is located at #4 Kelly Drive along the iconic Boathouse Row in Philadelphia. The Barge Club has a rich heritage with roots dating back to 1861.

The rowing center has been used by many rowing clubs over the years. Most recently, in 2009, the Club was reactivated and reinstated as a member of the Schuylkill Navy and continues to be an administrative center for rowing in Philadelphia with the Schuylkill Navy, the Philadelphia Center for Adaptive Sports, the Dad Vail Regatta, the Frostbite Regatta, and LaSalle College High School being its tenants. In 2010, extensive renovations were completed to the building exterior, boat bay, first and second floors.

Within the past year, the Pennsylvania Barge Club also removed its worn wooden rowing docks and replaced them with state-of-the-art aluminum and synthetic lumber floating docks by BoardSafe. BoardSafe is a manufacturer of aluminum floating rowing docks featured around the most prominent rowing centers and facilities across the country.

The new rowing center features a wide 25' long x 30' wide aluminum gangway that accommodates the rowers, boats and spectators as then move from the rear of the boathouse and onto the floating docks. The aluminum floating rowing docks are approximately 40' long x 12' wide also to accommodate the foot traffic of rowers. Aesthetically the new aluminum floating rowing docks are a stark contrast to the dated wooden docks and engineered for performance. BoardSafe specializes in its precision for its flotation requirements and placements to support rowers, boats, point loads and yet offer 5Video" of free board to allow rowers easy access in and out of their boats from the docks. Additionally, docks are designed to handle the fluctuation of water levels as well as the downstream pressure.

2017-01-06 15.42.10BoardSafe removed the old wood docks and installed the new aluminum gangway floating docks. BoardSafe is environmentally conscience about not only the material selection and design of their products but also the intrusion on the natural habitat during construction. They work quickly and efficiently to minimize the time on site and decrease the potential impact of workers and equipment during installation.

Rowing centers that are renovating or replacing their rowing docks should call BoardSafe to learn about the high quality design, functionality and durability offered in BoardSafe's marina and rowing center products. The project is not BoardSafe's first project in the Philadelphia area or on the Schuylkill River. BoardSafe previously installed new aluminum rowing docks and a large observation deck at the Conshohocken Rowing Center and the Camden Rowing Center. 

The discuss your new rowing center or rowing center renovation call our experts at 610-899-0286.

A New Aluminum Fishing Pier and ADA Boat Launch for Lake Friendswood Park

Friendswood, TX is a growing suburban community located between Houston and Galveston. The population is almost 40,000 and with the influx of residents more amenities have been needed.

aluminum-fishing-pier-FriendswoodOne of the popular public destinations in the area is Lake Friendswood Park. Lake Friendswood Park was an abandoned gravel pit that is now a 25-acrea lake with a 2-mile concrete trail, covered pavilion and restrooms. The Lake is the featured attraction at the park and now it is more accessible. The local community wanted to have an ADA accessible park that allowed guests to easily move around the lake as well as have direct access to the lake for fishing and boating.

BoarSafe was contracted to manufacture and install an aluminum fishing pier, aluminum floating docks and ADA accessible kayak launch. Many visitors liked to fish from the shoreline and the new aluminum pier now offers greater access to the water. Additionally, it provided accessibility to adaptive users, fishermen and others who are wheelchair bound to go out onto the pier to cast their lines. The aluminum floating fishing pier extends out 40 feet and is 16 feet wide. A long 30 feet aluminum gangway ramp leads to the pier and it is 4 feet wide to comfortably accommodate foot traffic. 


To provide access to canoes, kayaks and other boats BoardSafe manufactured and installed an ADA accessible kayak boat launch. The kayak launch is a large aluminum floating dock measuring 20 feet wide by 40 feet long. The floating dock was custom made to accommodate many users at once, offer more railing space and benches for sitting. Accessing the dock from the shoreline is a spacious 8-foot wide aluminum gangway that stretches 30 feet from the shore to the floating dock. The 8 foot wide gangway includes a 4 foot kayak launcher to slide the boats down towards the water along the gangway.

Both the fishing pier and the ADA floating dock have ADA features including the handrail, ramps and other proprietary applications developed by BoardSafe for greater accessibility and safety.

BoardSafe installed the aluminum fishing pier and ADA kayak launch in December 2016. City officials were pleased with the project saying that the BoardSafe customer service and quality of the products "exceeded expectations." Not only is the City of Friendswood, TX pleased with the BoardSafe products but now residents can enjoy them too.

If you are interested in learning more about an ADA accessible outdoor park for your community and would like information on ADA accessible fishing piers, ADA accessible floating docks and kayak launchers, then call the manufacturing experts at BoardSafe to discuss your project at 610-899-0286. aluminum-ADA-floating-fishing-pier-Friendswood

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