Kayaks offer a way to enjoy local waters

Kendal Nicholas paddles a rented kayak down the Illinois River with her dog Rue.

In order to fully enjoy the Illinois River and its scenic features, one must know how to navigate its many dips, bends and turns. Learning how to kayak is a very rewarding way to fulfill this enjoyment.

Kayaking is a relatively affordable and easy way to get started on viewing the beautiful aquatic attractions around Cherokee County.

The first step into learning how to kayak is acquiring said kayak. Prices for kayaks can range heavily, anywhere from $150 to several thousands of dollars. For first-time kayakers, a cheaper, beginner-friendly option is recommended. Those who don't want to commit to buying a kayak right away can always go to one of Tahlequah's many riverside resorts and floating launches. At these spots, one can rent a kayak, typically for about $20-30 for a trip down the Illinois River.

Since 2013, kayaks and similar vessels no longer require registration to be used legally, so that is not a concern, either.

When kayaking, wearing a life jacket should be priority number one. In lakes and rivers, it can be difficult to see under the surface of the water, so a life jacket can easily save someone's life if they slip into the water.

Ivee Baker, at Arrowhead Resort, said that while kayaking may seem simple, safety is still very important.

"Always wear a life jacket," said Baker. "Kayaking is very straightforward, but everyone should wear a life jacket for their own safety. Everyone should wear a life jacket even when doing other things, like canoeing."

Once in the water, balance is very important. Do not lean too far to the left or right or the kayak could tip over.

When rowing forward, it is important to keep the strokes from the paddle consistent across both sides of the kayak or else the kayak will begin to turn. Typically, a figure eight motion is recommended in order to keep the kayak as straight as possible.

When turning, the paddle and the rower must both participate. When turning left, for instance, the right side of the paddle needs to row in the water, but the participant needs to turn opposite of it to shift the center of gravity. When slowing down, one just needs to paddle backwards, or opposite, of the way they were paddling to move forward.

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