BY NAT WEXLER
During the warmer months, the bodies of water around Walworth County turn into a playground, and one of the most up-close-and- personal ways to explore the area’s lakes, rivers and shorelines is by kayaking. The activity has gained popularity in recent years: it’s an environmentally friendly activity that provides opportunities for both full-body exercise, and a direct appreciation of the nature and wildlife that makes the area such a popular summer destination. As interest has increased, so too have local kayaking options. Today, Walworth County is a treasure trove of kayaking opportunities, with plenty of places to rent or buy a kayak and go for a paddle.
Here’s our At The Lake guide to local kayaking:
WHERE TO BUY AND RENT KAYAKS
There are multiple places in Walworth County to rent and buy kayaks. Prices on rentals generally vary depending on the rental duration and type of kayak. In some cases, whether an individual is a resident of the town where they are renting will have an impactonpriceaswell.Sincekayaking is weather-dependent, rental hours vary based on the weather, so it is important to call first.
Clear Water Outdoor offers two rental piers. The Geneva Lake rental pier is located across the street from the Baker House (327 Wrigley Drive), and the Lake Como rental pier is located at The Ridge Hotel Marina (W4240 State Hwy. 50). Call Clear Water Outdoor at (262) 348-2422 or visit their website at clearwateroutdoor.com/pages/kayak-rentals-paddleboard-rentals to reserve a kayak.
Delavan Paddle Sports offers kayaks for rent on Lake Comus in Delavan. The rental facility is located in the Mill Pond Building (109 Waterworks Drive). In addition to single paddle passes, they also sell a 10-visit pass. To make a reservation, call (262) 728-6397.
The Williams Bay Recreation Department offers kayak rentals at their lakefront office next to the Williams Bay boat launch. Individuals looking to rent kayaks should call the office at (262) 686-8001 or email [email protected] to ensure availability.
Fontana Paddle Company (454 Lake St.,) sells many types of kayaks and kayaking accessories, as well as paddleboards. For more information, call (262) 275-5708 or visit their website at fontanapaddleco.com.
Choosing the right kayak for your interest and ability level is an important part of the process. For personalized kayak guidance, it’s best to consult a store or rental counter salesperson. Some of the options include:
- Inflatable kayaks: Usually made from PVC and require the kayaker to inflate the kayak to use it. There’s a risk of puncture if kayaking in shallow water or in river rapids.
- Hard shell kayaks: Sturdy and usually made of materials such as plastic or fiberglass.
- Sit-on-top kayaks: The kayaker sits on top of the kayak. These are stable and easy to return
- to if you capsize. Also good for those who are looking to swim off of the kayak.
- Sit-inside kayaks: The kayaker sits inside the kayak with their legs entirely covered. These can keep you warmer and drier than a sit-on-top kayak. However, if you were to capsize, a sit-inside kayak can be challenging to get back into.
- Single kayaks: Designed for one person.
- Double kayaks, or tandem kayaks: Designed for two people, one in front of the other.
Taking the necessary safety precautions before embarking on your kayaking adventure is vital to ensure the experience stays fun and safe.
Wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket. Wisconsin law states that all vessels, including canoes, kayaks and paddleboards, must have at least one USCG-approved wearable life jacket for every person on board. If you capsize or get into trouble while kayaking, wearing a life jacket can save your life.
Go with a group. As with many water sports, it’s safest to enjoy the experience with others. Even when going out with a group, tell somebody on land where you are going and how long you plan to be out.
Pack accordingly. In addition to a life jacket, other smart items to bring include: a fully charged phone, sunscreen, sunglasses, bottled water, snacks, a bilge pump and a whistle. Store all of your belongings in a “dry bag,” a waterproof bag designed for water activities. They can be purchased at sporting goods stores.
Ask questions. Individuals who work at kayak rental spots or stores that sell kayaks are often very knowledgeable about kayaking and can answer any questions, from the most basic to the more specialized. Don’t be afraid to ask!
For the more adventurous, a kayak outing can involve portaging, or carrying the kayak and supplies over short land distances to bridge waterways. If you’re planning to kayak in a river system where you might encounter fallen logs, dangerous rapids or other unpassable sections, it’s best to plan ahead and be prepared to portage. Here are a few tips:
- Pack all gear into a single backpack to make sure everything will fit, while leaving your hands free to carry the kayak and paddle.
- Bring a kayak trolley. These small, portable trolleys allow you to place your kayak sideways and wheel it over land on certain terrains. In the right situation, they can save a lot of lifting!
- When portaging, paddle to the water’s edge and exit the kayak, bailing any excess water from the cockpit.
- Carry the kayak over one shoulder using one arm, or on your head using two arms.
- When carrying the kayak, maintain a slow pace and make sure you can see the ground to help maintain solid footing.
- Relaunch the kayak by setting it down on the shore at the waterline. Never drag your kayak, as this can damage the hull and cause it to leak.
WHERE TO GO
There are many locations in the area that will expose kayakers to the area’s beautiful natural environment. Those with their own kayaks can access these spots from public boat launches. Launch fees may apply.
Geneva Lake is a large, 5,401-acre lake with six boat launches around its perimeter. Kayaks can be launched from two launches in Linn, two in Lake Geneva, and one each in Fontana and Williams Bay. Due to high boat traffic and wake on Geneva Lake, it’s best to stick close to shore and kayak early in the day.
Lake Como is a small, 955-acre lake, and it can be accessed at boat landings off Lakeshore Drive or the end of Schofield Road. This lake tends to be calmer and makes for great kayaking.
Delavan Lake is a 1,906-acre lake that can be accessed from four boat launches. High boat traffic levels, particularly on the weekends, make this a more challenging lake for kayaking.
Lake Comus is a tiny, 131-acre lake located in Delavan. One boat launch is located slightly south of Franklin Street and North Terrace Street. This is a good option for beginners.
Lulu Lake is a tiny, 95-acre lake located in northern Walworth County. It can be accessed from the public boat launch on Eagle Springs Lake, located on Wambold Road. A channel from Eagle Springs Lake brings kayakers to Lulu Lake, which is surrounded primarily by a nature preserve, making for great plant and wildlife viewing. The Mukwonago River, which also features fascinating plants and wildlife, can be accessed from Lulu Lake.
Lauderdale Lakes is a chain of three lakes located north of Elkhorn. Together, Green, Middle and Mill Lakes offer 807 total acres. Boats can be launched from four launch points in the chain. These are popular boating and waterskiing lakes, so kayakers should take caution.
Kayaking is safest and most fun when enjoyed with a group. The Big Foot Kayak Club, which operates through the Big Foot Recreation District, offers two-hour-long group paddles from April through October. The group visits lakes, streams and rivers around Walworth County. Afterward, everyone goes out for a bite to eat. It costs $20 to partake in the paddle, and advance registration is required. Kayaks are available to rent for an additional $20. Visit bigfootrecreation.org/Pages/SocialPaddleClub for more information and to sign up for a paddle.