It’s too hot to be outdoors?
Not if you’re near water. Or better yet, on it.
Sure, you might think. If you have a boat.
The good news, when it comes to paddling a kayak or canoe: you needn’t own your own boat to paddle one. There are plenty of places where you can rent, often for just a few dollars an hour.
Rent a boat
During the height of the pandemic, for 15 months or so, it was near impossible to rent a boat. That’s starting to change. Local parks are starting to rent more by the week. Even at those locations not renting today, they might be tomorrow or next week. That said…
Eleven N.C. State Parks rent canoes and/or kayaks. Some even rent stand-up paddleboards.
For example, Merchants Millpond rents canoes ($7 per hour) on its 760-acre millpond. However, rentals are currently restricted to campers staying overnight at the canoe-in campground. Again, more facilities and services continue to reopen, so check frequently to see if a park’s boat-rental status has changed.
Many municipal and county park systems that have lake-based parks also rent boats.
Atin Greensboro, you can rent a canoe for $25 or a single kayak for $15. They also rent stand-up paddleboards for $15 an hour. Lake Brandt is an 816-acre reservoir, one of three built on the north side of town.
Likewise,in Cary offers a variety of boat rentals. Take out a single kayak or canoe for $8 an hour, or even a pedal boat for $8 per half hour.
The advantage to renting at a state, county or municipal park? The rentals tend to be on lakes, which offer the easiest, most beginner-friendly paddling. The water is flat with no current. You needn’t worry about your craft being swept in a direction not of your choosing.
A boat with instruction (for free!)
One disadvantage to the rentals above: they come with the briefest of tutorials on how to paddle. By and large, you’re on your own. If you feel you’d like a little direction your first time on the water, a good option is a park-sponsored nature paddle.
near Fayetteville, for instance, offers a “Canoe Hike” periodically (the next one is June 26). Says the course description: “We will be learning the basics of canoeing and then trying out our new skills … by maneuvering through the Cypress swamp. This is a slow and calm canoeing experience and great for beginners or if you want to get a closer look at the Cypress trees.”
Interested in something a little more ambitious? Mayo River State Park hosts. The 4- to 5-hour trip is on a stretch of the Mayo River — moving water — and includes gear and instruction from a park ranger.
There’s typically no charge for these trips — or for most State Park guided paddle trips — but registration is limited, typically to around 10 people. You can find out about these trips.
More cost, more adventure
Those are the more low-cost ways to become acquainted with paddling. With North Carolina being a water-friendly state — from swamp and sound paddling at the coast, to the streams and lakes of the Piedmont, to the whitewater of the mountains — there are plenty of outfitters who offer a variety of paddling opportunities. They typically come in three varieties:
You rent a boat from the outfitter, they take you and your boat to a point upstream, they pick you up downstream. The trips are typically identified on an outfitter’s website by duration and by difficulty. Difficulty typically has to do with the river’s class rating: Class I (a fun riffle now and then) to Class VI (from paddling.com: “These runs exemplify the boundaries of difficulty, unpredictability and danger, and have almost never been attempted.”)
Self-guided trips generally start around $35 per person.
Often there’s a theme to a guided trip (full moon, sunset, etc.), but as the name suggests, a knowledgeable paddler is with you at all times.
A good option if you rent for an hour, love it, decide you want to up your game.
Buy a boat
You can also dive into the deep end and just buy a boat, but be advised that you’ll have to be patient, at least for the next few months. Canoe and kayak sales skyrocketed during the pandemic, depleting the stock of available boats. Supply is slowly catching up with demand.