We all want our kayaking trips to be enjoyable. With a little forethought and knowledge you will be doing much better than blindly heading out . If you are new to the sport or thinking about renting some boats for your once a year trip then this post is for you.
I saw this FaceBook post last Saturday and had to chuckle. Many of us have been there, water levels so low that you portage more than you kayak or canoe.
Then two days later I saw this headline.
Both of these rivers run through Lake County Ohio, about 10 miles apart. A severe storm came through Sunday evening drastically raising the river water levels. As seen by the charts below. Two days apart, very similar rivers, two drastically different trips.
I really want to help you have an enjoyable trip. Safety is a completely separate post. Fortunately an enjoyable trip also is a safe trip so much of the points are similar.
Always leave yourself options if your plans are not favorable. Water conditions and weather will greatly affect the enjoyment of your trip. If the river is to low or high look for a lake. If you’re planning on kayaking a lake and it is too rough, is there a nearby river? If neither are an option, how about hike or bike a new trail or try geocaching. The point is you can change your plans. It is better to have an enjoyable trip than to put yourself in danger or to drag a boat for most of the trip.
Know your Limits
Knowing your limits and the limits of others in the party is key to have not only an enjoyable trip but also a safe trip. This obviously comes with experience but start small. My first time out with my kayak was at Lake Metropark’s Grand River Landing in Painesville. Here the Grand River is slow and deep. I was able to get the feel of my equipment, how the kayak turns, and it’s stability. I was able to test and hone my my skills also. Once I was comfortable with my new boat I then graduated to larger bodies and faster moving water.
Know the Water
The problem with the two trips above was the unfamiliarity of the water they kayaked. One trip was just not as enjoyable as it could have been. The other trip could have been deadly, especially since there was a child involved. I post water levels in my trip reports as a guide for myself on future trips and to assist others in trip planning. At this point I do not know what the max water level I feel safe kayaking on the Grand River is or what the minimum water level for an enjoyable trip is. Again, this comes with experience. Over time I will learn.
With river kayaking, water levels not only play a key role in navigating safely, but also landing safely. As the water rises it may flood the typical landings, making them either small or nonexistent. The other key point is that if the river is running from bank to bank then an emergency exit becomes very difficult. You may be pulling out at the steep drop off of a bank or if the river is over the bank then you will be landing in trees or whatever else borders the river.
And it is just not river water levels, if you are kayaking in a lake or ocean you need to know how large of waves you can safely handle. Just like rivers, this comes with experience. Can you navigate the boat through the waves? Can you safely enter and exit the boat? Depending on the size of the waves, you may be getting wet. This comes with knowing your equipment.
How Long Will You be Out
The main point here you would think I would not have to cover but I’ve seen it time and again. Know how long you will be out and bring enough water and possibly a snack or meal. If you are unsure then error on overestimating your time than under, I.E. Bring more than you think you need.
Another factor on determining the distance of a trip is the kayak seat. Many budget kayaks have uncomfortable seats and will greatly influence the hours you plan on being out. You may not be able to spend more than one to three hours in the seat without major butt or back pain. Do not be afraid to take breaks to stretch your legs. You do this when traveling by car, you should do out when kayaking also.
That Sun is Intense
Another obvious thing is to know the weather. From experience, the sun can get intense on the water and the wind can get cold when you’re wet. Hypothermia, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are real issues, deadly issues. Heat issues are a little easier to overcome when kayaking, you can always go for a swim. If it is cold, prepare to get wet, pack warmer clothes in a dry bag. If it is sunny, bring sun screen and a hat. Really the same as any other outdoor adventure you want to enjoy.
The best thing about any adventure is the time you will spend with your friends and family. But make sure they enjoy the outdoors and not grossed out or afraid of bugs, mud, or anything else that may be unavoidable on a trip . Do not drag someone along on a trip that will be perfect in your eyes but completely miserable to them. It will not be fun for either of you.
I’m going to close with this. No trip is ever perfect and those imperfections are what makes a trip memorable. Have realistic expectations. If you take the above points into consideration you should have an enjoyable trip and create memories that last a lifetime.