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Conquering calm waters


Polk County Conservation (P.C.C.) is offering kayaking classes and events throughout the summer. While it’s true that anyone can rent a kayak and begin to paddle, most people don’t take a lesson to learn the essentials of kayaking.

Polk County Conservation will offer kayaking classes June 25 and July 15 and 16 at Thomas Mitchell Park.

Polk County Conservation will offer kayaking classes June 25 and July 15 and 16 at Thomas Mitchell Park.

“We teach the basics and general safety during the Summer Skills classes out at Thomas Mitchell Park,” said Emily Highnam, P.C.C. Naturalist. “Since we’re on the water for about two hours, we’ll usually play some games once beginners have caught on to the paddling strokes and learned how to respond to rescue situations and get out of tricky situations.”

Kayaking is an intricate, though not discouragingly difficult, dance of strokes, maneuvers and balance between person, boat and paddle. Though a certain degree of arm and core strength are necessary, it’s a sport that almost anyone can master with a bit of practice.

“Thomas Mitchell Park is just a beautiful park, and they actually just did some renovations to it and improved the water quality,” Highnam said. “So it’s just getting better.”

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Part of the fun of learning how to kayak is the process. Kayaking is about the journey and not the destination, so be sure not to rush. Go at your own pace and enjoy every moment of it. And — let’s be honest — learning any new skill is far more fun when learning with a friend. See if you can enlist a buddy into picking up the sport of kayaking with you.

Something many new to kayaking tend to forget is dressing for the water as well as the weather. It’s easy to step outside and note whether a short- or long-sleeve shirt is necessary for comfort, but remember you’ll also likely get a little wet. If your kayak tips over, you’ll learn very quickly how important it is to plan for water temperature.IMG_7288

“We tend to tell people to dress in clothes they are comfortable getting wet in. Swimsuits or even summer clothes are fine,” said Highnam. “We don’t anticipate anyone getting all the way in unless — you know — someone tips. Water bottles are also encouraged.”

Capsizing is unlikely on the calm and warm waters at Thomas Mitchell Park. That said, it’s best to be prepared. Layers of quick-dry clothing are your best bet (think nylon or polyester), and hats, sunglasses and sunscreen are highly recommended. For footwear, wear sturdy, strap-on sandals or water shoes.

For the more experienced river rider, P.C.C. offers one heck of an excursion on the Niobrara River in July.

“Naturalist Joe Boyles of Polk County Conservation and Story County Conservation Naturalist Jess Lancial, will lead this five-day adventure on the Niobrara River. The Niobrara River is a National Wild and Scenic River, which offers spectacular paddling and scenery,” reads the P.C.C. release.

For now, get out and give kayaking a shot on more relaxed waters. Your adventure can be action-packed or as calm as the waters. No matter what, the location is sure to please.

“[Thomas Mitchell Park] is a really picturesque area and kind of secluded with no big roads by it,” Highnam said. “And there is a great trail system nearby so you incorporate even more outdoor activities while you’re out.” CV


Polk County Conservation presents: Summer Skills: Kayaking (Thomas Mitchell Park). June 25; July 15, 16 at 1 p.m. Fee: $10. Additional information and registration can be found at

DON’T MISS Kayak the Niobrara River. July 22 (Registration is open.)


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