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Kayaking North Dakota waters

COURTESY PHOTO
Paddle On hosts instructor-led yoga and fitness classes on the water with paddle boards at Harmon Lake, Mandan.

by Debi Nelson

Kayak rentals await


As a canoeist, I’ve viewed North Dakota’s spectacular shorelines, sunrises, sunsets and amazing waterfowl from a canoe. Last spring, I started thinking about quieter travel on the lake with a kayak – hearing only the noise of my paddle breaking the water and my breathing and not the noise of another person in the canoe. However, I also knew there was a big drawback to the idea of paddling a kayak. I would be the only one providing the power needed for movement. To be honest, I am not an active paddler in our canoe and am never the “back person” who determines the direction!

Another drawback of a new kayak was the cost. However, after helping a friend by photographing a family reunion, I found a gently used 8-foot kayak and paddle leaning next to our cabin. Now I was out of excuses! I did some research on kayaks by watching many YouTube videos and talking to people who kayak.

For my first time, I chose a day with no wind. With some apprehension and adult supervision, I took the kayak down to the lakeshore. I tied a rope to the front of the kayak and gave my husband the other end, in case I couldn’t make it back on my own. I carefully stepped into the kayak from shore. With a gentle push, I became buoyant! In the kayak, I sat lower in the water than a canoe. I liked this, and the kayak seemed more stable than the canoe. I chose not to bring my camera or phone in case I tipped. However, there was room for those items on the bottom of the kayak or in the small compartment in the back.

My goal for the first adventure was just to maneuver backward and forward and become comfortable as the sole person paddling and maneuvering. It was difficult to look around as I focused on the single, long paddle I held crosswise. I dipped the right blade in the water, then pulled back, keeping my hands and the paddle level. Then I dipped the left blade in the water. It looked a lot more fluid in the videos or when other people kayak! I tended to zigzag instead of moving straight ahead.

Once I became more comfortable, I was OK with having my husband let go of the rope, so I could paddle further into the bay. The geese, loons, ducks and turtles allowed me to get closer. Many times, I stopped paddling and just let the kayak drift. Even with minimal wind, the kayak slowly turned 180 degrees, giving me a panoramic view. Eventually, I was able to relax, look up at the clouds lazily floating by and focus on details of the shoreline. The quiet solitude was exhilarating, except when a little spider crawled onto my hand. It was tricky to shake it loose while hanging onto the paddle and not tip!

Kayaking is another great way to relax and enjoy the beautiful North Dakota lakes and rivers. There are several kayaking groups around the state and I plan to join my friends kayaking this summer and expand my horizons!

Debi Nelson is an author, freelance writer, and a member of North Central Electric Cooperative, Bottineau.