By Marcia Simmons
Whether you’re a wobbly-armed novice who needs a trained guide or an experienced athlete ready to brave big waves solo, one of the best ways to see America’s majesty is from the hull of a kayak. There are hundreds of waterways ready to host your adventure, but here are five kayak trips that offer something out of the ordinary—from glow-in-the-dark tides to Native American pictographs to a colony of puffins—for explorers of all levels.
Tomales Bay, California
Though it’s home to snowy egrets, herons, otters, bat rays and other wildlife, Tomales Bay’s most amazing creatures are too small to see with the naked eye—unless you’re kayaking on the right night. When the sun is down and the moon is dark, that’s when the bioluminescent organisms that fill the bay really shine. Literally. These little wonders give off flashes of greenish-blue light when touched, so every paddle stroke leaves a glowing trail. Even if you take a break from paddling, schools of fish will agitate the waters to give you a show.
Birch Lake/South Kawishiwi River, Minnesota
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area is a section of the Superior National Forest with 1 million acres of lush wilderness, more than 1,200 miles of canoe routes, 11 hiking trails and about 2,000 campsites. As you canoe through the pristine waters and soak up the serenity, you’ll pass ancient Native American pictographs painted on giant granite cliffs and wildlife like timber wolves, moose, black bears and river otters. Campers may even be treated to a dazzling aurora borealis lighting up the night.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Bayou St. John meanders through the Big Easy past dramatic 18th-century buildings like the Pitot House Creole Plantation, ornate above-ground tombs at St. Louis Cemetery 3, the Museum of Art, the Fair Grounds Racetrack and City Park, and offers some of the best people-watching our country has to offer. Make a brief stop to swim in Lake Pontchartrain and do a little bird watching. Who knows? You might even see an alligator.
Muscongus Bay/Johns Bay, Maine
Puffins look like a cross between a penguin and a toucan compressed into an adorably squat frame. And if you kayak along the Maine coast from April through September when the puffin colonies are active, you’ll see these “clowns of the sea” along with seals, whales, osprey and eagles. If a day trip simply isn’t enough, there’s a guided “Inn to Inn” kayaking tour that goes from one charming New England bed and breakfast to the next, with a good night’s sleep and lobster dinner in between trips.
Glacier Bay, Alaska
Alaska’s breathtaking scenery is nature’s way of making up for the cold. Nowhere is that more obvious than Glacier Bay, which is lined with unspoiled wilderness and massive walls of pure, blue ice. Navigating dark waters littered with chunks of ice is an adventure the whole family can enjoy, as long as everyone bundles up. From beginners on a guided tour to hardcore adventurers taking the advanced route, no one can forget the experience of paddling alongside ancient glaciers as a bald eagle soars overhead.
The following 2013 model year vehicles can be equipped with roof side rails and/or cross rails. On some vehicles, they are standard/optional equipment and on others they are accessories.
Spark (2LT trim only)
For the crossovers and full size utilities, Chevrolet dealers also offer a range of Thule products as accessories that attach to the cross rails, including 2 roof mounted Kayak carriers.
San Francisco Bay Area writer Marcia Simmons’ work has appeared in Geek, Go, Shape, NOTCOT and Serious Eats, among other publications. She is also the co-author of the book DIY Cocktails.