The east is a wonderful place to paddle. Gear wise ..
helmet, life vest, sunscreen and bug repllent for camping! Carry sythentics for storms, bushwacking.
I had to walk out a couple of times - or had too much sun. A dry top or paddling jacket are useful for early and late season or moonlight runs. You have to dry out your gear after use or it can develop a funky mold. Colorado is great for the getting gear dry but it is more humid there. Tie your glasses on.
The guys are spot on to tell you try out all the boats you can. "which boat is right for you" is a
tough question, it depends upon what you are looking for. Probably the cheapest way to get a boat are some older models like the Hurricane, Dancer or Dancer XS. They would also make easy crusing on lakes and you can carry gear in them. This site has stats on alot of boats,
kayaknews.ca - real information for real paddlers
If you've never done this before at all you might consider finding a club or take courses
through a paddleshop to get acquainted with gear and basic tecnique. You'll meet other river runners this way too. If you have friends who paddle and you trust them not to kill you they might be able to hook you up.
Sometimes there are deals online for whole packages and most kayak shops have bulletin
boards. I've seen "whole deals" for $250 or $300.