Summer cool-downs usually involve water — cool water. City kids frolic in the spray of a fire hydrant, nature lovers head for a cold dip under a scenic waterfall. Many of us take to the small crafts that let us get close to the water without full immersion. Choose from kayaks, canoes, paddleboats, row boats, paddleboards and rafts. If you have your own, here are some spots to launch. If you don’t, rent one. – Jay Lloyd
Close to home and located on the placid waters of the Schuylkill Canal teeming with ducks, geese and turtles in a tree shaded setting, you’ll find Port Providence Paddle. They rent canoes, kayaks and tubes for scenic trips on the canal and the adjacent Schuylkill River. All-day rentals run $42 for canoes and $37 for a kayak. Maps and directions are provided for a variety of float plans. Shuttles are available for upriver transportation. Tubes, including a shuttle ride, are $15.
In a pristine Chester County setting, Marsh Creek Lake is an ideal, cooling spot to catch some small craft fever. The rental variety is impressive and includes small boats with electric motors to cruise the lake or drop a fishing line. Then there are the sunfish sailboats, canoes, kayaks – even paddleboards. They can be rented at varying rates for a brief half-hour outing or for an eight-hour day. Here’s the list: www.marshcreeklake.com/boat-rental/hours-rates
If you’re visiting the Big Apple this summer and want to get hand-dipping close to the water, kayaking just off the Manhattan shoreline offers a cool breeze and a dramatic view of the New York and New Jersey skylines – and it’s free. The Community Boathouse is a volunteer organization that operates two locations – one at 56th Street and the other at 72nd on the Hudson at Riverside Park. Be warned though, you could be waiting in a long line. But you’ll have bragging rights to the rare achievement of kayaking against the backdrop of the world’s most sought after cityscape.
And while we’re paddling our way around cities, how about nearby Baltimore? No experience is necessary to get on the Inner Harbor in a gussied up paddleboat that looks like a sea serpent rising from the deep. These are colorful and eye-catching and the kids love them. For $18, you’re on the water for 1/2 an hour against the background of historic ships, transient yachts, tour boats and the National Aquarium. For $11, you get a half-hour in a less attention grabbing paddleboat that functions just as well as the “Chessies.”
Canoes, kayaks and tubes are platforms to explore the pristine upper reaches of the Delaware Water Gap Nation Recreation Area. Kittatinny Canoes has outfitted nature seekers since World War II. They operate from a pair of Delaware River base camps – one just outside Milford, the other near Dingman’s Ferry in the National Recreation area. Rates vary, depending on craft and hours. You’ll find them all here: kittatinny.com/river-trips/rates. And keep an eye out for the American Bald Eagle, which is making an amazing comeback along the Delaware.
A few words about paddleboards: They’ve been around for awhile, but have only recently seen a surge in popularity. Riders stand up and paddle. They’re used on calm waters, resemble surfboards and require great balance. Most devotees own their own, but as interest has exploded, so have rentals bringing new riders into the fold. We already mentioned Marsh Creek Lake. At the shore, they can be rented at the Avalon Anchorage Marina. I was offered one just last week during a visit to Mohonk Mountain House overlooking a sparkling lake near New Paltz, New York. Convinced that, for me, it would mean more time in the water than on the board, I declined. But it did look like fun!
A couple of tips: Rental small craft will come with life jackets. Use them. When you’re on river or lake, you don’t want to head for shore every time you think of a needed item. Make a check list and carry bug spray, sun screen, a good hat, plenty of water, any required maps or charts, a cell phone and a small first aid kit.
Stay cool and don’t get stranded “up the creek without a…” Well, you know.