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Outdoor Recreation
All About Kayaking

The first time I got in a kayak, I was intimidated and sure that I would hate it. I knew that I was locked into sitting in a piece of plastic on a river for the next four hours.

By the time we reached the drop-off point, I was in love.

Kayaking is one of those activities that a lot of people have never done. It seems that, in general, people have only kayaked if they own or know people who own kayaks. I’d like to encourage anybody who has yet to kayak in their life to give it a try.

There are plenty of places to kayak whether you’re in Ames during the summer or not. If you are in the Ames area, you can take advantage of Rec Services to make your trip easy and inexpensive. In addition to having the ability to rent kayaks and equipment via Rec Services, there are also kayaking workshops and day trips available through our Outdoor Recreation Program. Some of the workshops are geared toward beginners so that you can learn the basics in a controlled environment with experts.

You don’t have to go on a raging, whitewater river to enjoy kayaking. Some of the best moments of kayaking trips that I can remember happened while slowly drifting along a long patch of the river. There’s something about being on the river that can be so calming. I also almost always go with friends, which makes the trip even more fun. The trip goes from quiet moments to shouting and laughing – it’s the best of both worlds.

Even if you aren’t in Ames or can’t rent equipment through Rec Services, there are a lot of places that will offer the same service all over the country. If you feel like really diving in, you can get a cheaper kayak for around $200. I would recommend going on rented or borrowed equipment a few times before going all in and buying your own kayak. I’d also recommend considering spending a little more money on a nicer kayak instead of jumping to the cheapest option.

Kayak rentals for a pass holder from Rec Services are only $11 ($19 for non-pass holders). Consider if you are going to use a kayak enough to make it worthwhile to buy vs renting. Rental kayaks from Rec Services also include paddles and a PFD life jacket.

Kayaking can be done on a lake or a river. Lakes let you choose your own adventure – paddle wherever you want to go. Rivers force you to go along with the current whether it’s fast or slow. I personally prefer rivers because I love passing by different scenery on the journey. My group’s ‘normal’ river trip is about 4.5 miles along the Boone River. It has taken us between 2.5 and 5 hours depending on the river speed and whether we were paddling hard or relaxing. In general, I would say plan your first trip to be between 3 and 5 miles. That should be long enough to give you a good taste of kayaking. You can always extend your trips if you enjoy it!

Luckily, Iowa is a great state for river kayaking if you’re interested in getting started. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources claims there are over 18,000 miles of ‘navigable’ streams and rivers within Iowa. They also designate certain stretches of rivers as ‘water trails’ – places that are great choices to kayak!