Paddling Chesapeake's Waterways
According to Kevin Kaul, water sport enthusiast and head of Outdoor Programs for Chesapeake Parks, Recreation & Tourism, Chesapeake's waterways are among the best in the country. His favorite waterways to explore are Lake Drummond, Northwest River Park and the tidal marshes surrounding the Great Bridge Locks.
He advises that the picturesque Lake Drummond in the middle of the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge is a must-see for locals and visitors alike. One of only two natural lakes in Virginia, Lake Drummond is rich in history and awe-inspiring beauty. The lake was originally charted by George Washington's surveyors in the early 1760's and, according to Kaul, "the vegetation is breathtaking. There are old bald cypresses that look just like bonsai trees."
The Northwest River Park is another must-see for paddlers. "On our first trip last season, we saw six bald eagles playing in the treetops," says Kaul. "Then, not two minutes later, we saw sixteen of them flying in perfect formation right above us. I'm consistently impressed with the different plants and animals I see on these paddling tours."
The tidal marsh surrounding the Great Bridge Locks is another great resource for seeing different kinds of plants and wildlife while paddling. The brackish water (mixture of salt water and fresh water) creates an ecosystem that produces rare and exotic flora and fauna.
Tips from Local Experts
For the first paddling trip of the season, our experts suggest sticking to the Boy Scout motto: Always Be Prepared. Whether you're a first-time paddler or a seasoned pro, there are a few tips every boater should remember.
"I always remind my groups to be prepared for a swim when kayaking," says local paddling guru Chuck Conley. While early spring air temperatures may be pleasant, the water is still cold from the winter months. Conley advises paddlers to wear clothing that would provide thermal protection in the event of a capsize. Furthermore, each paddler should bring along spare clothing in a waterproof bag. And, most importantly, be certain you can rescue yourself in the event of an unplanned swim.
Conley also encourages boaters to include sunscreen and a brimmed hat or sunglasses in their supply lists. "The sunlight reflected off the water can result in a pretty nasty sunburn if paddlers don't take the proper precautions." To stay hydrated, Conley reminds kayakers to bring along lots of fresh drinking water for long excursions.
Kevin Kaul advises boaters that it is best to ease back into favorite recreational activities to prevent injuries. Start back slowly and try to do a variety of activities, instead of focusing on just one. "Many novices paddle using the strength in their arms instead of their core," says Kaul. Rotating your core muscles while paddling helps to conserve energy and reduce the chances of muscle strain.