Thursday, July 22, 2010

Free kayak tours at Stone Lakes refuge

Here’s an easy, guided kayak outing that’s idea for families and wildlife enthusiasts. Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge near Sacramento conducts free paddling tours on selected weekends through September. This is the program's second season, says Ranger Amy Hoppenstad. Due to its environmental sensitivity, Stone Lakes is open to kayaks and canoes only during these guided tours.

“People seem to really enjoy this because it’s in an area they usually don’t get to paddle, it’s easy to do, and it’s close by,” she told NorCal Yak. With the help of refuge guides, paddlers may spot egrets, herons, hawks, and sometimes beavers or river otters. Wildlife is the prime attraction here, as paddling in a slough means the water is still and murky.

Paddlers provide their own kayaks or canoes, and life jackets are mandatory. There’s no shade, so take sunhats, sunscreen, and plenty of water. (Some folks also might pack mosquito repellent, just in case.) Most tours begin at 9 a.m. on selected Saturdays and last for a couple of hours. No advance reservations are needed (unless it’s for a larger group), but arrive about 30 minutes early, since an entry gate is locked when the tour begins. For directions and all the details, check the excellent online resources at Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. California kayak wildlife tour river paddling