Can you keep a secret? This secret is one of the best kept in northwest Iowa. Here's the fact: Emmet County has some amazing flat water (lakes and wetlands) for paddling. Not much of a secret, you say? Then why are all of these paddling places nearly empty on the weekends?
Until recently, I was a river paddler. Moving water was my only option and I considered it a challenge. A river is always changing. From one float to another, there are always new obstacles, different snags (fallen trees), new debris, changing water levels, varying current speeds . . . It's always an adventure!
Nevertheless, I thought I'd give flat water (static) paddling a try. One afternoon last summer I started out for a leisurely float on High Lake. I was expecting to skirt the circumference a time or two, lather up the sunscreen and take a nap in the sun, no sweat! Oh boy, was I wrong.
I started out in the afternoon, after the wind had picked up. I could barely get away from the dock below the Nature Center. The wind was buffeting the water. Every paddle stroke forward, the wind and waves pushed me back twice as far. Without intending to, I was well into my cardio workout for the day.
Once my initial surprise passed, I took on the flat water challenge. I recalled a lesson from a canoe class I had attended as an intern. I adjusted the bow and keel of my NuCanoe, changed the draw of my paddle stroke and drew the wind and wave water to my advantage to ferry my way out onto the lake. It wasn't easy, but it was a lot of fun. The ultimate award was exploring the lake!
If you're looking for an opportunity to gain some paddling experience, Emmet County Conservation has six NuCanoes to rent for use on High Lake. At only $10 a person, it's an affordable option for paddlers, campers, recreationists and adventurers. ECCB will also host several paddle clinics and water safety programs to kickoff the summer. ECCB will partner with the Estherville Public Library to host a paddle clinic on High Lake on Thursday, June 12.
It's important to gain some experience in a safe setting before starting out on a solo adventure. High Lake, Ingham Lake, Tuttle Lake, and Iowa Lake offer some fantastic shallow water paddling experiences. Rest assured these areas are relatively underused so you won't get caught up in the undertow of a speedboat- although riding those waves can be entertaining.
In the spring and throughout the summer it's important to keep in mind these water safety tips:
n Wear your lifejacket! (Even the most experienced swimmer is useless if they slip and hit their head.)
n Stay warm! (Everyone is susceptible to hypothermia. Natural water bodies are cooler than your body temperature and the more time you spend in the water the lower your body temperature falls.)
n Stay Hydrated! (It's natural to feel thirsty when you're being active near water; it's your body's way of telling you to hydrate.)
n Sun protection (Wear sunscreen 360 degrees to keep yourself protected from light rays reflecting off the water.)