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JAUNTS: In and around the Valley

Testing the Waters

Kayaks make their debut on region's waterways.


For all you kayak and canoe lovers, the waters around Ventura County are getting more paddle-friendly.

Lake Casitas, long off-limits to paddlers, gave a cautious nod to kayaks less than two years ago. But rules--like sweltering in a wetsuit despite 100-degree temperatures--made it a cumbersome adventure.

Now the wetsuits are off, the rules have been relaxed, and the lake's boat-rental concession even added kayaks to its fleet earlier this month.

Ditto at Channel Islands Harbor. Hopper Boat Rentals picked up a dozen kayaks and began renting them by the hour last April. Ventura Harbor has had them for four years.

Although Lake Piru doesn't rent them, the lake lifted the ban on kayaks about two years ago, allowing them at the north end of the lake.

If you're thinking about giving the sport a whirl, here's what you can expect at Lake Casitas. The one-passenger sit-on-top sea kayaks rent for $10 an hour, and the two-passenger, $15 an hour. (You can also rent a canoe for $15 an hour.)

For now, kayaking and canoeing is permitted only along the lake's north shore, about one-third of the shoreline, and no farther than 150 feet from the shore. That means you can't explore the big island in the middle of the lake or paddle by the undeveloped portions of the lake's shoreline.

There is still a lot to see--just ask Becky Donahue of Oak View, who hoists her kayak on top of her Honda and heads for the lake most Friday mornings.

"I've seen deer swimming to the island and back the other way," she said. "I saw a bobcat--he came right down to the water--and a bear in the bushes."

At Channel Islands Harbor, the kayaks are also the sit-on-top variety, the kind that water splashes into and usually leaves you with a wet bottom. So bring a change of clothes. These kayaks are all equipped with backrests that make paddling easier.

The boat concession, located at Fisherman's Wharf, charges an hourly rate of $10 for a one-seater, $20 for a two-seater. Or you can rent one all day for $40. They're available from sunup to sundown.

Happy Tallia, the boat concession manager and an avid kayaker who lives nearby on a boat, gives quick lessons to beginners. She can cover the basics in about five minutes.

"Kayaking is up and coming," she said. "Everyone's getting into it. It's good for the soul."


Kayaking information, call:

* Casitas Boat Rentals: 649-2043.

* Harbor Hopper Boat Rentals (Channel Islands Harbor): 985-4677.

* Bayqueen Harbor Cruises (Ventura Harbor): 642-7753.

* Trip Canoes and Kayaks: 643-8856.

* Lake Piru: 521-1500.

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