The Joys of Kayaking in North Carolina
Like any sport, Kayaking isn’t for everyone, but the simple satisfaction of paddling down a meandering stream, across a tranquil lake or along some of North Carolina’s windy Atlantic coastline is a strong draw for many. Whether your goal is peaceful alone time exploring creeks and other waterways for the sheer joy of seeing where they lead, or an invigorating experience maneuvering through mountain rapids or along a particularly rough stretch of ocean coastline, it’s a sport that will no doubt provide exactly what you seek – peace, or adventure, or a combination of the two.
The Best Places to Paddle
Atkinson, North Carolina’s Three Sisters Swamp, along the Black River, lives up to is reputation as the perfect blackwater kayaking destination. The dark color of this remote swamp’s eerie waters comes from tannins in the water, a marshland containing some of the oldest bald cypress trees on earth. The flow of water through this swamp turns and shifts between the majestic cypress, making the 12-mile stretch of water ideal for more serious paddlers.
For kayakers who crave more of a true white-knuckle kayaking experience, the 20-mile long Cheoah River is fun and challenging. You’ll face both Class IV and Class V rapids on this thrilling run, coming up against boulder fields, a 12-foot waterfall, and some extremely heavy currents along the way. For classic whitewater rafting, the Cheoah River is perfect for expert kayakers.
Lake Johnson, just outside of Raleigh, is the ideal destination for those who seek a more relaxing, family-oriented adventure. Kayaks, canoes, pedal boats and sailboats are all allowed on this glassy-surfaced lake where routes along some of the more remote sections of the lake will allow you to explore a variety of terrain, including marshy wetlands and the rambling waters of Walnut Creek. A lack of power boats on this lake will create a true sense of peaceful exploration – perfect for kayakers who are just starting out or simply wish to have a more low-key paddling experience.
Which Kayak is Right for You?
For kayaking on very calm waters – lakes or smooth-flowing rivers, for instance – a sit-on-top kayak might suit your needs.
- Sit-on-top kayaks are easy to board and get out of, which is ideal for children or beginners.
- Although chances of getting wet are greater with this type of kayak, when it’s warm out, this type of non-enclosed seating is ideal.
- Ride-on-top kayaks often have greater storage than a sit-in kayak, although they are heavier to carry and store.
A sit-in kayak, quicker to paddle than a sit-on-top for most people, is the more common of the two varieties.
- Sit-in kayaks are more comfortable to sit inside when the air and water outside are cooler.
- With a sit-in kayak, you’ll need to be able to accomplish a “wet exit” – successfully getting out of a kayak when it capsizes or becomes flooded – which involves a bit more training than some people are willing to go through.
- Some individuals find this type of kayak more fun than a sit-on-top one since there is a greater sense of maneuverability and room inside the kayak for positioning your legs and lower body.
Kayaks are further broken down according to how and where the kayak will be used. Recreational kayaks are usually affordable, easy to maneuver, easy to carry and most suitable for shorter, more recreational trips. Day touring, sit-in kayaks are sleeker, faster, and more costly than simple recreational kayaks, and they’re easier to transport, being shorter than recreational ones. Sit-in sea kayaks are longer and are most efficiently used when paddling over greater distances, such as in coastal kayaking.
Specialty kayaks include folding kayaks, inflatable kayaks, kayaks-for-2 (or “tandem” kayaks), and even foot-pedaled kayaks! A kayak exists for every skill level and for every budget.
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