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A Guide To: Kayaking


A Guide To: Kayaking

Kelsey Meadows


This piece was originally published in the Summer 2016 issue of Our Jackson Home: The Magazine.

A little over a year ago, I spent the summer exploring as many nearby state parks and national parks as I could squeeze into my schedule and my budget. After shedding more than a few dollars in kayak and canoe rentals, I decided to consider what it would be like to actually purchase a kayak. After some research and shopping around, I plunged into becoming a kayak owner. Even though it seems like a big expense, I figured they would end up paying for themselves over time in all the money I would save on kayak rentals during my travels. I expected the kayaks to accompany me on occasional weekend adventures to new and distant places, but what I didn’t expect was how easy it was for the kayaks to become a part of my weekly routine in Jackson, Tennessee.

Surprisingly, Jackson is a great city for kayaks. There are tons of nearby bodies of water like Lake Graham, Carroll County Lake, Pin Oak, and the Forked Deer River, making it possible to get in evening rows after work. So for those of you who have been talking yourselves out of buying kayaks because they don’t seem practical enough or worth the expense, I’m here to give you several reasons why anyone can own a kayak.

1. Kayaks are versatile.

You don’t have to love whitewater to enjoy kayaks. In fact, kayaks come in all shapes and sizes to suit whatever water adventure you might imagine for yourself. Kayaks can also help facilitate other activities, such as swimming, fishing, and camping. With a kayak you can discover a more isolated swimming hole away from the overcrowded public beach areas, you can ditch the loud trolling motor and sneak up on unsuspecting fish, and you can take camping to the next level with multi-day river trips. So whatever your interests may be, kayaks are very adaptable to fit your lifestyle.

2. Owning a kayak saves you money.

It is true that kayaks aren’t cheap; however, because kayaks are so versatile and last a long time, owning a kayak can save you money over the long haul. Sometimes you need to spend money to save money. Renting kayaks can cost upwards of $50 for a three-hour river trip. When you purchase a recreational kayak between $200 and $400, it will be yours for years and years to come, which makes owning a kayak seems to be the more cost-efficient option. 

Not only does owning a kayak save you from all the rental fees you would otherwise pay for river trips, kayaking also provides a relatively free recreational activity. Instead of spending $20 for lunch and a movie with friends, pack a lunch and spend your Saturday afternoon hanging out on the water. You can also skip the lines at the overpriced theme parks and various tours that typically accompany family vacations, and instead make kayaking a part of your next trip itinerary. Even though kayaks may appear to be budget busters at first glance, I have been surprised at how over time kayaks have made activities and adventures with friends much more affordable. 

3. You can take your kayak wherever you go.

Contrary to what you might think, kayaks are easy to travel with. You don’t have to own a truck to transport a kayak. There are plenty of options for racks and carriers that will suit your vehicle’s needs. For example, I wanted to be able to take both of my kayaks and my bicycle with me on trips and was able to find a carrier that allowed me to do just that. And because kayaks can be easily transported, why not take them with you everywhere you go? Unless you’re planning a trip to the heart of a desert, there will most likely be a body of water near your next travel destination. Kayaks are a great tool for exploring new places and can turn any trip into an adventure.

4. Kayaking leads to a healthier, happier life.  

There are few things more relaxing than spending an afternoon soaking up the sun, listening to the water lap against the sides of your gently rocking kayak. Not only does kayaking melt away stress, it is also a full-body workout. The relaxing effects of water, the element of physical exertion, and the spiritual sensation of being in nature combine in kayaking to bring holistic well-being for your mind, body, and soul. So while kayaking is a fun activity to do on the weekends with your friends, it is also the perfect activity for unwinding after a long, stress-filled week.

All in all kayaks are worth the investment, even for a Jacksonian kayaking novice like me. You don’t have to live in East Tennessee to own a kayak. Jackson has plenty of lakes and rivers nearby to keep you in shape and inspired. You also don’t have to be an expert. Start with an entry-level recreational kayak and open bodies of water or lower-class rivers to ease your way into kayaking. So join the ranks of casual kayak owners and may the versatility, affordability, and promise of adventure bring you peace of mind, body, and soul.

Kelsey Meadows relocated to Jackson in 2009 to attend Union University, where she graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy in 2013. She works at City Fellowship Baptist Church in downtown Jackson. She loves a great book and an even greater adventure.

Illustrations by Courtney Searcy.