The Best Places to Go on Your First Kayaking Adventure
Photo by The Lazy Artist Gallery from Pexels
Kayaking is an experience unlike other forms of boating. It bears a certain relationship to traveling in a canoe, but even a canoe is not as down, close and personal as a kayak. You get to know the water in a way you never will in a motorboat or even a sailboat.
Inches above the water, you can see deep into the blue-green world beneath you. Your quiet passage makes no disturbance and the fish and sea animals swim close by. The shore slips past and you see it from below, not above. Perhaps best of all is the silence. All you hear is the slap of waves against your little boat, the wind, and the cries of waterbirds.
But how can you learn how to kayak safely so that your first kayak trip will be fun, not a disaster.
Kayaking is a great experience, appropriate for everyone over age 8 or 9. Even many disabled people can enjoy this adventure. But you have to learn the rules and gain experience. There are a couple of ways to do that.
- There are kayaking schools just about everywhere you find kayak rentals. Courses vary from one to eight days in length and costs start about $200. A course in kayaking is the best way to start this sport.
- Kayaking tours can be found anywhere there’s a river, lake, or pond in the neighborhood of a city that attracts tourists. These tours start with instructions on how to kayak. The guides are generally well trained and will make you feel comfortable while they tell you about the waterway you’re traversing. For example, Kayak-iti-yat offers tours of the bayou that runs through New Orleans. Taking tours (preferably after a kayaking course) can ready you for your first kayak trip.
Once you’ve gained some experience, you can start planning your own first kayak trip. Here are some rules.
- Do not go alone. Wherever you go, go with friends or family. Kayaking is fun and exciting, but it can also be dangerous, even deadly. Kayaking alone is not wise.
- Look for water that is relatively calm. Unless you took a course, you are not ready for class II rapids, let alone class III or IV. A gentle river or lake is perfect. You’ll have time for the rough water later.
Here are some of the best places to start as a novice.
- The San Juan Islands in Puget Sound, Washington state are protected from the winds and storms of the Pacific Ocean by Vancouver Island, Canada. The waters around the beautiful islands are gentle and the towns offer fun, shopping and great food. There are tours available as well as kayak rentals.
- Lake Tahoe, California and Nevada From the towering boulders of the east shore that provide spectacular scenery with their reflections in the calm water to the sandy beaches of the north shore, Lake Tahoe is a lovely place for a beginner to kayak. You don’t need to bring a kayak. There are several rental companies along the shore. Campsites are available along the way as well.
- Lake Powell, Arizona and Utah This huge reservoir was created by building the Glen Canyon Dam. Now yellow and red and brown sandstone cliffs climb vertically out of the blue water. Long, sinuous canyons lead you into the shadows and eventually to a dead end. Each curve of the lake brings a new and dazzling spectacle. Again kayaks are available for rent on the lake.
- The Sipsey River in Alabama is a wonderful place to start river kayaking. The river is gentle, flowing past high sandstone bluffs, woods, and waterfalls where tributaries enter the river. There is one area about 100 yards long, called the One Hundred Yard Dash with class II rapids. You’re very likely to get wet in the Dash. Take along a waterproof bag with dry clothes. The river is seasonal so you need to plan a trip in either the spring or the fall. Autumn colors are wonderful. Kayak rentals are available.
- Merchant’s Millpond State Park in North Carolina is a cypress swamp. Huge cypress and gum trees interlace their branches overhead. Spanish moss hangs from branches. The cypress trees are twisted and gnarled, making the swamp look like something out of a Disney movie. Turtles and beavers and alligators make their homes there. Many species of birds make the forest ring with song. A unique place, best seen by kayak. And the park has kayak rentals.
- Laurel Lake, in southern Kentucky is another reservoir. The lake encompasses 5600 acres of clear water with over 200 miles of unoccupied shoreline. It sits in the middle of Daniel Boone National Forest. The water is generally calm and perfect for a kayak novice. Islands dot the lake. The fishing is great. Kayak rentals are available.
- Plum Island Massachusetts is a barrier island not far off the Massachusetts coast north of Boston. The ocean side of the island can offer experienced kayakers excitement and adventure. But the inland side is protected by the island. Kayak through the marshes and watch for over 300 species of birds during the migration periods in spring and fall. Peace and beauty will surround you here. And kayaks are available for rental.
There are a myriad of lakes and slow sleepy rivers, coastal bays (think San Francisco Bay) and marshes where the currents are easy and the water is peaceful. You can talk to outfitters in your area or around the country. Those that rent kayaks will be able to tell you the best places nearby for novice kayakers. Find a slow, meandering stream and explore. But above all, be sure your first kayak trip is safe.