By Nicole Matheson
Summer is in full swing in Lake Havasu City, and that means the lake has become a focal point for water sports and activities. This includes kayaking, a popular pastime that just about anyone can enjoy — with the right instruction. RiverScene spoke with long time kayaker Penny Leistiko, who had much to share about one of her favorite activities.
Leistiko is what Havasuvians would call a Snow Bird, spending six months in Lake Havasu and the other six in Northwest Montana. She has been coming to Havasu for seven winter seasons now, and she loves, “the sheer, natural beauty of the water, shoreline, coves, mountain views, sunsets and sunrise paddling.”
No one has to begin kayaking on their own. Leistiko said, “There are several groups of folks that go out early in the morning pretty much year round. They are all very congenial and helpful.”
Leistiko recommends going to Rotary Park at sunrise, where one is likely to find kayakers unloading their boats.
Do some research before purchasing a kayak, Leistiko recommends. There are different kinds depending on whether the operator would spend a little time close to shore verses long distance kayaking with open water crossings.
“Also, you should decide if you want a sit on top or enclosed kayak.” For additional research or to demo a kayak, Leistiko says to try attending a “Paddlefest, where dealers bring many different kayaks to test on the water. This is the best way to see if it feels good and handles well.”
Lessons, books and instructional videos are all a good idea to get started. When beginning a new activity, it can be difficult to learn the ropes, however, newcomers are likely to find the experience quite rewarding, just like this newcomer to kayaking, Gary Moore. “I have just started really, it was on my list for a long time and I just made the commitment. I like the Bill Williams area the best.”
For those that don’t want to purchase their own kayak, there are plenty of businesses around Lake Havasu to rent one for the day.
Why does Moore prefer Bill Williams?
“Playing on calmer waters doesn’t really need any special training that would involve going on any of the whitewater stuff.” The calm water and solitude appeal to Moore who is also a hot air balloon pilot, “I very seldom fly balloons by myself anymore so the solitude time is really nice on the kayak.”
Patti Matt can affirm the relaxing nature kayaking can bring. “I love to kayak because it’s peaceful on the water and it’s something I can do on my own or with friends. From launching to exploring. My biggest journey was the 13-mile paddle from Topock to Crystal Cliffs by moonlight on my sons 30th birthday and again on my husband’s 60th! Now, my 5 year-old granddaughter has her very own kayak! Looking forward to many adventures with her in the future.” Matt also shares Moore’s favorite spot, Bill Williams Refuge, as her for to location for calm water and solitude.
Another favorite spot for kayakers is Crystal Cliffs, says Rudy Arevalo.
“I like going at all times. My favorite spot is down by the Crystal Cliffs. It’s my happy place. Kayaking is great exercise and very therapeutic. One of the great things about living here is I am always 15 minutes from being on the water!”
Enjoy The View
Whether you are a beginner or advanced, Lake Havasu and the Colorado River offers the perfect location to enjoy kayaking. Along Lake Havasu’s shoreline, there are plenty of launch sites, such as Rotary Park, Windsor, Castle Rock, Mesquite Bay, Bill Williams Bridge, Cattail Cove, and more, each trip on the water will be a beautiful adventure.
There are organized kayak trips, such as a 6 hour journey from Topock Marina to Mesquite Bay called a “Gorge Paddle,” or you can simply set out in the early morning for the tranquil waters and beat the heat for a little while as you take in the natural beauty all around you, including Arizona’s wildlife bustling on the shoreline. You may be able to spot beavers, donkeys, water fowl — even big horn sheep!
Sergeant Kyler Cox of Mohave County Sheriff’s Office, Division of Boating Safety, wants to also remind potential kayakers, “While Lake Havasu and the Colorado River are both equally beautiful, Mother Nature, and especially the water, can be extremely dangerous. Remember to always wear a life jacket, pack plenty of water, and be aware of the weather. Wind can be the enemy to a kayaker. Most importantly, have fun, enjoy the beautiful scenery, and be safe!”