Sitting low, as if balanced precariously on the surface of the water, and gliding through the glimmer-glass face of a lake can soothe what ails you.
The word “kayak” may conjure numerous images, several of which may contain connotations of extreme sports where some quasi-crazy individual explores the thin line between bravery and stupidity by hurling himself or herself off of a cascading waterfall with a scattershot of sharp rocks at the bottom.
While white-water kayaking is a viable and popular sport for outdoor athletes in the Sierra foothills, there remains a plethora of opportunities for those who want to take it a little slower, enjoy the scenery and perhaps cast and reel a fishing lure along the way.
Even with the incursion of stand-up paddleboarding into the summer water recreation portfolio, kayaking remains popular, said Jason Auld, owner of Mountain Recreation in Grass Valley, which sells and rents numerous flat-water kayaks.
“It’s still going strong,” he said. “I always see people driving around with kayaks on top of their vehicles.”
Flat-water kayaking is more approachable for a diverse group because it is less gear-intensive than white-water kayaking, and there is less need to be well versed in technique, Auld said.
Also, compared to its cousin the canoe, kayaks can be more stable and lower to the water, giving the user a unique perspective on a water body.
There are two main types of flat-water kayaks, one called the “sit on top” that doesn’t have a cockpit, which appeals to claustrophobic types and makes righting the ship after an inadvertent tip easier, Auld said.
“You can just roll back on,” he said.
The “sit inside”-style kayaks have advantages, including the ability to store equipment in a sealed bulkhead, which can be crucial for touring.
Often, outdoor recreators will pack a tent and some sleeping bags and seek out a campsite along a body of water accessible only by watercraft to get the seclusion they desire.
“I think you see a movement toward the touring boat,” Auld said.
Lower Scotts Flat
There are several scenic and kayak-worthy water bodies scattered throughout eastern and western Nevada County.
In the higher elevations, Spaulding Lake, Bowman Lake, Blue Lake and others can offer less crowded experiences with sufficient mountain scenery as a compelling backdrop.
Some boaters kayak year-round at the lower-elevation reservoirs such as Englebright, Rollins and Bullards Bar — although those lakes are heavily frequented by motorized boats on the weekends, Auld said.
Mountain Recreation has a rental booth position at the day-use portion of the Scotts Flat Lake area; Auld believes that lake has a lot to offer kayakers and stand-up paddleboarders.
A lesser-known water body is Lower Scotts Flat Lake, which is due east from its bigger brother.
“Lower Scotts Flat Lake is so great and so little known,” said Peggy Davidson, recreation manager for the Nevada Irrigation District, which manages both reservoirs.
“It’s only known by folks who have lived here for ages.”
The lake is ideal for those new to kayaking as its smaller size makes it easily navigable.
“It’s very good for kayaking and great for fishing, too,” Davidson said.
The lake is less busy than other locations because the road to the lake is rough and typically accessible only with four-wheel drive.
“It’s a quiet area — a hidden gem,” Davidson said.
To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-477-4239.