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Treetop Kayaking – A Beginner’s Guide


***One huge caveat to all of this… every day that you wait to do this, your chances for this adventure go down, literally. Starting today, they are releasing water from the dam and the lake will drop roughly half a foot a day for the next couple of weeks. So don’t wait!***

Remember back to those four days earlier this week where it didn’t stop raining? Not once. Not even for a second? Well, all that water had to go somewhere. And it appears that a good chunk of it went into Falls Lake. Check out the graph of the lake height below (Be sure to make a, “Whoop” sound as you follow the line up). So what do you do when the lake is 10 feet higher than normal? Kayak through the tree tops, of course. We did it this morning and it rocked. Here’s what it looked like and what you need to know:

Falls Lake Water Level

Where to go

We went to the Upper Barton Creek Boat Launch and then paddled back under the bridge (It’ll be obvious when you get there). There can be a bit of boat traffic (It is a boat ramp), but because the water is so high, very few, if any, boats can get under the bridge, so you should basically have the place to yourself. The beauty of this trip is that it really works anywhere there is access to the lake. Other great options are Beaverdam, or the Falls Dam (There is a semi-hidden kayak launch here that would be awesome. Standing on the dam, looking at the lake, it is on the left side down the stairs).

The Barton Creek Boat Ramp docks float, but unfortunately, the ramps onto the docks don’t

What to do

Launch your kayak and hug the edges of the lake. Follow all the nooks and crannies of the bank up into the trees. Explore paths that were once walking trails and are now paddling trails. Go slow and look for birds nests, flowering vines, and snakes (They’ve gotta go somewhere). Things that were once 10 feet above your head are now on eye level. Want to raise the elevation even more? Do it on a SUP (more about that below).

What to bring

This is basic flatwater paddling. A hat, sunglasses, and lots of water (it’s gonna be hot). There was a good breeze this morning, but since you’re hugging the banks, its effect is minimal. A camera or binoculars, if you are into that kinda stuff, are good choices too. We saw ospreys, herons, cormorants, and lots of swallows (the high water gets you within a couple of feet of the swallows nests under the bridge).

Boat Choice

Kayak vs canoe vs SUP. Ahhh, the endless debate. Either a kayak or canoe would be great for this trip. Since you’re deciding the distance, speed, and location, you can tailor any of those to your level of experience. We paddled for a couple of hours this morning, but went really slow, so we didn’t cover a huge amount of distance. It was perfect.

We took a kayak, but using a SUP would be super cool. Your vantage point would be even higher than in a kayak and so it is just a different (cooler, in our humble opinion) perspective. The only caution I would give is that there was a good bit of debris in the water (think about everything that was on the forest floor that is now floating), so just be willing to tuck, roll, and splash if your fin hits something and you aren’t quite ready for it <insert ker-splashing noise and laughter from your companions>.

Shameless Plug

We rent kayaks, canoes, and SUP’s – it’s what we do. Take-away rentals come with everything you need to use and transport the boats/boards. Don’t have a truck? No problem, we provide straps to secure it to the roof. No roof rack? No problem, we provide foam blocks to go between the boat and your car. Want to start before we open in the morning? No problem, you can pick it up the night before at no extra charge. Have a motorcycle? That actually might be a problem. Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for you to get out on your own adventure.

Rentals can be booked in advance below or click here for the full info about our Take-Away Rentals. For same-day rentals, give us a call at (919)866-1954.