Beginner-friendly Chodikee Lake/Black Creek Kayak Tour

Chodikee Lake in Highland (photo by Will Dendis)

What do you mean, you haven’t taken up kayaking yet? What are you waiting for? It’s every bit as much fun as it looks – a great way to explore, get up-close-and-personal with nature and tone your upper body at the same time.

Before you invest in your own human-powered watercraft, it’s wise to try out different kinds of kayaks in different environments, so you know what sort of design to seek out. Whitewater kayaks need to be short for tight turns, sea kayaks long for traversing distances and high-prowed for weathering waves and currents. (If the turbulent Hudson is your target playground, you’re safest with a sea kayak.) Flatwater, like lakes and gentle rivers, tolerates less fancy engineering. A large cockpit looks like it’s easier to get in and out, and is a popular choice for playing around in the surf; but the paddler sacrifices control, being less able to steer the boat via direct contact with hips and thighs. The considerations are many, and the pricetags for a well-designed boat can run high enough to warrant some experiential research.

An excellent way to test the waters, so to speak, is to join a group paddle offering rental kayaks and other essential gear supplied by an outfitter. New Paltz Kayaking Tours, a company that also equips paddlers to cruise the Wallkill River, will be providing boats for a family-friendly beginners’ expedition on Saturday morning, organized by the Town of Lloyd Environmental Conservation Council. Equipment rental only costs $10, so it’s a terrific, affordable opportunity to give this popular recreational activity a try. Outfitter Craig Chapman will offer basic instruction and lead the tour.


Another incentive to join this tour is the glorious destination, among the most enticing local paddling haunts: Chodikee Lake and Black Creek. The lovely 63-acre lake on the outskirts of Highland is a popular fishing destination, and big enough for a group of 20 novice kayakers and canoeists to spend a couple of hours honing their strokes and steering moves without danger of collisions. It is both fed and drained by Black Creek, the stream beloved of famed 19th-century naturalist John Burroughs. Paddlers who are ready to try something a little more challenging than the lake itself can head downstream, exploring a wetland ecosystem that’s home to plenty of wildlife, including turtles, waterfowl and a huge heron rookery. There you’ll likely also learn by necessity how to back out of a tangle of water plants or deadfall, and how to turn your boat around when the channel starts getting too narrow.

Participants will meet at 9:30 a.m. on June 30 at the Chodikee Lake boat launch, where you’ll be fitted for your Personal Flotation Device and get a lesson in the basics of paddling. The tour is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. and should last one to two hours. The group is limited to 20 people, and the outfitter will need to know in advance how many children will be needing kid-sized lifejackets, so don’t wait long to register! Reserve your spot by e-mailing, and call Neil Curri with any questions at (845) 664-2100.