One of the most straightforward watersports, kayaking is not only a good workout, but it is a practical way to see some cool sights while out on the ocean. California’s Channel Islands National Park is a great place for kayaking enthusiasts to look into as it provides great boating opportunities for all different skill levels.
Whether one is a beginner to kayaking or a seasoned expert, Channel Islands National Park offers stunning views and manageable waters for visitors to explore.
Invented several thousand years ago by the Inuit, kayaking has evolved into a popular pastime for people all over the world. Slightly different than canoeing (in which the rider sits in a kneeling position, versus the legs-forward position in a kayak), and wield a paddle with two blades instead of one. Perhaps the key to kayaking’s success and popularity is its versatility- beginners can learn fairly quickly, and professionals are known to master very rough currents and waves. There is even a spot for kayaking in the Summer Olympics!
Before diving into the different places within California’s Channel Islands, it’s always a good idea to brush up on some basic kayaking skills before going.
Maintain a seated, upright position, with arms resting comfortably on the sides of the boat. Grip the paddle and use rhythm and momentum to propel through the water.
Try not to kayak with the wind when first starting. When kayakers are ready to return, the wind will be pushing against the boat, making it harder to paddle.
It’s as easy as that! Once kayakers get the hang of the basics, mastering tight corners, rougher waters, and even venturing inside caves will soon become second nature.
Here are some of the best places to kayak in Channel Islands National Park.
Sea kayaking enthusiasts love this part of the Channel Islands because Scorpion Beach provides good nearby resources like camping spots and concessionaire boats. It has very clear water and straightforward beach access, while also offering cool cliffs and caves to check out.
While there is no beach on Anacapa Island, the ocean here is quite clear and only moderately choppy. Guests need to drop their kayak down from the dock via rope before then using a ladder to get inside. This spot is best reserved for kayakers with at least a little bit of experience.
Only those who are very comfortable kayaking and those who have much experience with unpredictable waters should visit these areas. Kayakers desiring to travel here also need basic safety equipment to avoid potential danger.
Due to the nature of unpredictable weather, kayaking at the Channel Islands could be dangerous. It’s important to monitor the weather prior to arriving, and it is imperative guests are well-trained and equipped with proper safety knowledge if venturing out on the water alone. Beginner kayakers should always travel with a buddy or practice in safer areas before paddling out to sea.
The National Park Service provides official park guides trained to help and assist kayakers while out in the ocean. Guided trips range from easy, beginner-level courses to moderate courses, and the park also offers trickier trips that cover longer distances and rougher waters.
Concessionaires serviced by Island Packers will transport a visitor and their personal kayak to and from the park. This service is available all year, and visitors can utilize this system for both day visits and camping trips.
Concessionaire ticket prices for each of the islands:
Santa Rosa Island and Santa Barbara Island FaresAdult: $85 for daytime, $120 for camping Child: (3-12): $67 for daytime, $95 for camping Senior: (55+): $77 for daytime, $110 for camping
(All of the ticket prices reflect round-trip fares)
The National Park Service discourages anyone from traveling between the mainland and the islands via the Santa Barbara Channel. There are several hazards and the temperature of the ocean is severe at times, reaching 57 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter and 64 degrees in the summer! Due to these generally unsafe conditions, sea kayakers are encouraged to remain in designated areas within the Channel Islands.
In the channel, weather conditions are highly variable. Without any warning, the ocean can turn dangerous very quickly. A good time to visit to avoid bad weather is during the months of August, September, and October. Kayakers will find the mildest sea and wind conditions during this time.
Kayakers must bring these items while kayaking:Lifejackets Helmets to protect against rocks while in sea caves and under cliffs. Radio Compass Towline A signaling device like a mirror or whistle First aid kit Wetsuits to minimize the chill of consistently cold waters
Kayakers should also abide by the regulations published by the National Park Service.
In the sea caves, do not leave a kayak unattended, and do not shine flashlights or artificial lights inside. This can harm the delicate ecosystem in the caves and could potentially confuse and endanger other visitors.
Do not touch, take, or tamper with the wildlife inside the caves. Not only is it harmful, but it is also illegal.
Do not climb the rocks around the islands like Scorpion Rock on Santa Cruz Island.To protect nesting seabirds, part of the Santa Cruz Island shoreline is closed to kayakers wanting to land on the beach. Other shorelines might be closed as well, depending on the nesting seasons. Check online before you go to plan and prepare for your trip.Fishing is not allowed, as the area is a protected marine reserve.
In conclusion, California’s Channel Islands National Park is a beautiful and exciting place to travel to if one is interested in kayaking. Always remember to prioritize safety and consider bringing a buddy or two! Adventures like these are often meant to be shared, anyway, and what better place for a mini-vacation with friends or family than paddling the gorgeous waters in California?
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