OUTDOORS: LeBlanc: Kayaking a great option for water adventures

I have recently noticed a lot of vehicles with kayaks strapped to the top or in the truck beds.

It looks like the business to be in is the kayaks business. I do know that kayaking is one water sport that is growing faster than I can keep up with it, and has been for a number of years.

Thankfully, we have a lot of water in this part of Texas, and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is on top of the need for folks to have new and varied opportunities to exercise their sport.

For those who are not aware, any of our East Texas lakes or reservoirs like Lake Conroe, Lake Livingston, Sam Rayburn and the other lakes, are all available for kayaking, as well as bass boats, pleasure boats and other watercraft. Also, don’t forget the saltwater opportunities for kayaking in coastal waters, bays and even the Gulf of Mexico.

John Botros, TPWD River Access Coordinator, stated recently that Texas has over 40,000 miles of perennial rivers and creeks. With 95 percent of the land held in private ownership, it can be a real challenge finding safe, legal access for paddling and fishing. To help further the sports, the TPWD has three newly leased access areas, which are great locations for bank, wade and kayak fishing and paddling opportunities for the public.

They have leased land along creeks and rivers making more areas available to the public. In these areas, you can kayak, fish along the bank or picnic along the banks of these waterways. Two of the new areas are on the Brazos River and the San Marcos river. The third is on the Llano River.

You can find more information about other river access initiatives, including the Texas Paddling Trails Program, by visiting the TPWD River Fishing page online.

There are three fairly close by paddling trails that I have personally been on: Martin Dies Jr. Paddling Trails, Bevilport Paddling Trail and Village Creek Paddling Trail. They were fantastic, and we fished along the way downstream and enjoyed the East Texas beauty, sandy areas and the forest.

In my experience, I found there are two important items you will need to be sure are in your equipment on one of these trips into East Texas: plenty of water and mosquito spray. The mosquitoes will not be on the water, but it you have to get near or in the woods, they will greet you in swarms.

My first encounter with a kayak was on a fishing trip on Village Creek up north of Beaumont in the Martin Dies Jr. Paddling Trails. I was there with some other outdoor writers to take a nine-mile trip down stream fishing and just enjoying a day of peace and quiet while traversing a nature reserve.

The first time I went on that trip, I had a choice of a canoe or kayak. I had never been in a kayak, and knowing we had nine miles to go, I stuck with what I knew and took a canoe. The next time I went, I was feeling more adventurous and took a kayak.

The rest of the trips, I was sold on the kayak and stuck with that ever since. For what I was doing and the amount of gear I was taking, the kayak was my favorite choice.

Here in our back yard is Lake Conroe. If you pull in at Stow-A-Way Marina or up at the Cagle Recreation Area, you have the Sam Houston National Forest as your background. It is a very good area to enjoy nature and catch fish if you are so inclined.

Since my paddling adventures, I learned the kayak of today is a stable, streamlined craft, suitable for saltwater or freshwater endeavors that take a person into the worlds of fishing, birding or anywhere one would like to venture, especially in shallow water areas.

A kayak is hard to beat for the person who wishes to silently glide through the water with virtually no sound to disturb the water or surrounding. They are one of the best watercraft for what would be considered low impact, non-consumptive nature observations.

A while back, I went birding with Captain Tommy Moore on his 42-foot birding boat, The Skimmer. Some of the people that went out with us were dropped off with kayaks at some islands in the local bay to go fishing while we were birding. Captain Moore went back and picked up the anglers and kayaks later in the day.

As we pulled away from the kayakers I began to wonder if I had made the right choice and maybe should have gone fishing with them. That night at supper time, I decided the next time I would go fishing with the kayakers.

I would recommend before you run out and buy a kayak or a canoe you contact one of the rental companies and give kayaks a try. As in most sports, a kayak is not just the kayak, but there are many styles and models to choose from. Do your homework, and if you decide to purchase one, be sure to get the right craft to accomplish your needs.

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