Kayaking the chain

Kayaking a lake near the Whitefish Chain. Photo by Kate Perkins

Kayaking a lake near the Whitefish Chain. Photo by Kate Perkins

It's easy, peaceful, and a whole different perspective on the lake. Kayaking has been around for a long time, but many people don't realize just how easy, convenient and fun it is to kayak the Whitefish Chain area.

Because kayaks have a high clearance, they're able to go just about anywhere on the lake. They're great for going under small bridges or through tiny creeks, where wildlife abounds. It's easy to get close to shore, over sand bars or through loose weeds on a kayak, to get an up-close look at those lily pads, sneak up quietly to a loon, or watch a great blue heron as it hunts for minnows near shore.

While larger, motorized boats cruise over the lake at a more rapid pace, the pace of a kayak makes for an almost meditative activity. Paddling is easy with the double-ended paddle typical of kayaks. Paddle with one side and then the other. If you wish to turn, paddle more than once on the side opposite of where you'd like to turn (if you want to turn left, paddle on the right, and vice versa).

Kayaks are best on windless days, because they're easily affected wind, which can push a boat sometimes as fast as one can paddle. Watch out for big waves on the larger lakes on the chain, which can make your kayak feel a lot less stable. For this reason, kayaks are best near shore, in channels or on the smaller lakes of the chain.

There are numerous types of kayaks, but beginners might want to try a "sit-on-top" kayak, rather than a "sit-inside" kayak. Sit-on-top kayaks are in general more stable, with the rider sitting on the deck of the boat with their legs and body exposed. Sit-inside kayaks have a compartment the paddler sits in with his or her legs down in the hull of the boat. To some beginners, sit-inside kayaks can feel claustrophobic, but both boats work fine for a leisurely paddle around the lake.

Many of the lodging options around the Whitefish Chain have kayaks available for their guests either free or for a small fee- inquire at your lodging.

If they don't, no worries. Crosslake is home to Wind, Water and Wheels and Crow Wing Kayaks, a local company that manufactures their kayaks right in Crosslake, available for rent or purchase. The company makes several varieties of kayaks, many of which are extra-stable for new paddlers or specially designed for fishing.

Fishing with a kayak can give you some unique advantages over the typical motor boat. For one, kayak fishing allows anglers to get to places that other boaters may not be able to reach. Kayaks sit so close to the top of the water that they only need a few inches of depth to glide along. You'll also feel the fight of the fish as you reel it in- in a whole new way.

While Crow Wing Kayaks manufactures and sells kayaks, Wind, Water and Wheels, located on County Road 66 in Crosslake about a half mile south of Moonlite Bay, provides kayak rentals and shuttled trips kayaking down area streams and rivers.

Another option is to join the Crow Wing Paddlers, a free paddling club that welcomes anyone who wishes to join. It's a great opportunity to try kayaking for the first time, as Crow Wing Kayaks offers a discounted rate for rentals at all Crow Wing Paddlers events. Participants can also bring their own kayaks and join in with others who are passionate about the activity.

The Crow Wing Paddlers visit lakes and rivers across the area, including the lakes of the chain and the Pine River, which exits from the chain at the Cross Lake Dam. For a listing of upcoming paddles, join the Crow Wing Paddlers Facebook group.

Kayaking is one way you can be sure to see the chain in a new light. Soak in the flora, fauna, and beautiful scenery of the chain as you paddle the lakes and channels.

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