There is a lot of discussion about what kind of kayaks and paddles to use for each particular types of paddling. Lakes, ocean, whitewater, river, all have boats specifically for that use. If you want to go exploring, just use whatever
you have available. It's not dangerous where we go (using a little common sense). So no reason to miss out because you don't have the
right boat. You just might not get as far. But here is what we recommend for exploring the upper
reaches of rivers and creeks if you have a choice: Get the smallest sit-in kayak you are comfortable in. Some of the places we go have very narrow and twisty stretches. A shorter boat gets through much easier. Sit-in (as opposed to sit on
top) protects you better if you get caught in brush along the banks, and you sit a little lower if you have to duck under obstacles. My 9 1/2 ft Perception Swifty suits me perfectly. Also get a reasonably sturdy boat. Some of the kayaks
sold at the big box stores are kind of flimsy. Even after we clear a river there are a lot of pointy sticks and other objects under water that we hit. If you are buying a kayak, go to your local canoe/kayak rental and buy a used one. You
can get a more solid boat for the same amount of money.
Use the shortest kayak paddle you can get. When you go through a stretch of the river that is barely eight feet wide with brush on either bank using a long paddle is going to be difficult. My favorite paddle for exploring is 6 1/2 feet long. And make sure your paddle is fairly strong and one you don't mind banging up. You will need it for pushing off banks in tight sections and poling yourself when dragging bottom in shallow stretches and over submerged logs and stumps. It's probably a good idea to leave your fancy graphite paddle home.