Friday, June 12, 2015

Kayaking on Jordan Lake

Check out this fabulous post from guest-blogger and Durham mom Jocelyn about a great active outing for you and the kiddos!  I can't wait to give this one a try.  

What it is:

For Memorial Day, I took my three children (ages 7, 5, and 3) and headed to Jordan Lake to try out a kayak trip.  It turned out to be a fantastic way to spend a morning on the water with the kids!

Jordan Lake is a favorite recreation destination for Durham, and there are quite a few posts on Stir Crazy Moms that cover the various beaches, a few hiking trails, and even camping at Jordan Lake.  But for this trip, I wanted specifically to do some paddling.

Crosswinds Boating Center, just off Highway 64 and only about 25 minutes from our home in Southwest Durham, rents kayaks by the hour, and had both tandem and single kayaks available.  They don’t take reservations, so all rentals are first-come, first-served.  We arrived around 10 a.m., parked, found the rental shop, and filled out a lot of paperwork.  I decided to rent for two hours.  We also discovered that they only allow a maximum of three people in a tandem kayak, regardless of weight or age.  On our previous kayak outings (while we were on vacation on the west coast), I had put my youngest between my knees and all four of us in one boat, but for this trip, the staff insisted that I get a separate solo kayak for my 7-year-old.  This did not seem like an optimistic start to the trip, but in the end (and with a little rope creativity), it worked out just fine.

They supply life jackets and paddles to go with the boats.  As with all “sit-on-top” or open-design kayaks, there is no place to keep gear dry, and all participants are guaranteed to get wet.  For trips like these, I pack a backpack with water bottles, snacks, sunscreen, and a few treats, and just wear it while paddling.  We also brought a bucket and a few water-squirter toys, which we secured under the bungee cords on the back of the boats (there is a small storage area where such things can be stowed).  Hats and lots of sun screen are obviously a must-have, and I always bring a lightweight rope for tying up kayaks to a tree when beached or other such uses.

I brought life jackets for the kids from home, which worked out well because they were happy to have “their” comfortable and familiar jackets.  I used one from the rental shop; it was in fine condition, and their supply of kids’ jackets looked more than adequate.

We hiked across the boat-ramp parking lot and down a short trail to the kayak beach, where we picked out two boats from the ones sitting there.  My five-year old sat in the front of the tandem kayak, and the three-year old sat in the middle.  The two of them took turns paddling during most of the trip, which kept them entertained and involved.  As it was Memorial Day weekend, the lake was pretty crowded, and wakes from the power boats were a definite presence.  

We paddled under the Farrington Road bridge and around a point in the lake to the Crosswinds Campground beach areas.  It took almost an hour to paddle there, and a short time into the trip my oldest got pretty tired from having to paddle on his own.  I rigged a tow rope from my kayak to his kayak, and that worked great for the rest of the trip.  

We beached the kayaks one of the beautiful sandy areas near the Crosswinds Campground, and swam and played for a while, which the kids absolutely loved.  It was definitely worth the effort to bring a few toys and buckets.  We had snacks and a drink, then headed back.

The full range of water craft sharing the lake was impressive:  speed boats towing various types of water skiers, pontoon boats, sail boats, jet skis, quite a few kayaks, a few folks floating on inflatables, and a surprisingly high number of stand-up paddle boards, which can also be rented at the Crosswinds Boating Center.  

The water was still cool and peaceful, the scenery gorgeous, and most of the other boaters quick to wave and shout friendly greetings.  We didn’t see any wildlife, nor did I really expect to that late in the morning on a holiday weekend.  I didn’t get many pictures as I don’t have a water-proof camera, and the paddling arrangement meant that photography mid-trip was impossible. 

We returned the kayaks to the rental beach, checked back in at the office to conclude our trip, and headed home.  By the time we got off the lake, all the kayaks and paddleboards had been rented, and their boat launch ramp was closed because the parking area was completely full, so on a high-use day such as this, obviously getting there early is important.  

I had been a tad apprehensive about how the trip would work with one adult and three relatively young kids, but they had a great time and it proved entirely doable!  It undoubtedly helped that my kids had been on kayaks before – the youngest two know that they have to sit pretty still and aren’t phased when they get a few drips on them from the paddles, and they all know the basic rules such as that they have to keep their life jackets buckled at all times.  Nonetheless, we’re all relative novices, which shows that it’s a pretty easy trip to execute.  We’re definitely heading back again soon.

What We Liked:

The staff at the boat rental office were friendly, helpful, and quick to offer suggestions about where to paddle on our trip.  They also provided a good map of the lake.  The kayaks were in good condition and are easy to paddle.  And while the no-reservations policy means that one takes a bit of a risk heading down there that the kayaks would all be taken, it actually works out great for moms like me who tend to plan trips at the last minute. 

What We Would Change:

I’ll go back on a quieter day that’s not a holiday weekend and try to get there earlier to enjoy more of the morning on the lake.  Also, I only rented the kayaks for two hours, but next time will do a four-hour block (four hours cost the same as three hours) so we will more time to swim and play mid-trip, and for the kids to experiment and practice paddling.  

The trip would also have been even more fun with another family along, so next time I’ll find some friends to join us.  And since the Crosswinds Campground area is within easy striking distance with the kayaks, for a more elaborate day trip with two or more adults present, one could set up a nice beach area there or elsewhere by car so the paddlers could find a picnic and more fun at their destination.

Website and other important information:

Crosswinds Boating Center:  Rental options include single and tandem kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, fishing boats, and pontoon boats.  The rental office opens at 8 a.m. in the summer.  


1.  Kayaks and paddleboards lined up at the rental beach

2.  Taking a swim-break mid-trip

3.  Our two rental kayaks beached near Crosswinds Campground for a snack break

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