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Kayaking Lake Pleasant
Lake Pleasant Regional Park
April 13, 2022
by Chuck Parsons
group
Eight Trailblazers gather on the shore of Lake Pleasant. [photo by Kelley]
Ajay, Barbara, Chuck, Mimi, Lynne, Debi, Norma, Kelley

On a beautiful Wednesday morning in mid-April, eight Arizona Trailblazers start gathering at the Castle Creek Boat Ramp for a morning of kayaking. On our January trip to the lake, we estimated the lake level was down at least 25 feet. But today the lake is once again almost full, with the influx of millions of gallons of water, delivered via the Central Arizona Project canal network. The sky is a clear sapphire blue this morning, with a calm breeze and a temperature of about 60 degrees. Perfect weather for kayaking.

We begin to prep our kayaks for launch from the Castle Creek Ramp, a wide five-lane concrete ramp that was almost out of the water back in January. By 8:30 AM we begin to slide our kayaks into the water and climb aboard for a day of exploration on Lake Pleasant. Today’s goal will be to check out Fireman’s Cove, Cottonwood Cove, and Pipeline Cove, all to the south of the Castle Creek area.

hikers
Kayaker glides past a Blue Heron, scanning the waters for breakfast. [photo by Kelley]
bird
An agitated Blue Heron takes flight. [photo by Debi]
hikers
Lynne and Norma take a break from paddling. [photo by Debi]
hikers
Barbara and Chuck, paddling close to shore. [photo by Kelley]

But before we can even clear the launch ramp area, disaster strikes in the form of a broken kayak paddle. Mine.

After just one or two strokes in the water, my kayak paddle breaks cleanly in half near the junction point where the two paddle halves join. I am now out of commission and literally up the creek without a paddle. What to do next? I jokingly ask if anyone in the group has any duct tape handy, and, much to my surprise, Kelley says that she has some. But will duct tape actually stand up to the stress of several hours of serious paddling on the lake? Then Lynne announces that she just happens to have a spare paddle in her truck. She doesn’t normally carry a spare but, luckily for me, has one today. In minutes she’s back with her spare paddle, and we’re on our way once again. You saved the day for me, Lynne. Without your spare paddle, about all I could have done is put someone else in charge of the group, pack up, and drive back home with my busted paddle.

Ajay
Ajay and his new Challenger inflatable. [photo by Debi]
Chuck
Chuck and his new Wilderness Systems Pungo120. [photo by Debi]
hikers
Five Trailblazers blazing a path across Lake Pleasant. [photo by Kelley]
hikers
Is Kelley challenging Chuck to a race? [photo by Debi]

As soon as we begin paddling out into deeper water to clear the boat dock, we’re both surprised and amazed to see how clear the water is today. On our last couple of kayaking trips to Lake Pleasant the water was always a little murky and you couldn’t see more than a few feet deep, typical of most lakes. But today we can clearly see the rocky lake bottom to a depth of 15 feet or more.

view
The crystal clear waters of Lake Pleasant. [photo by Debi]

It’s only when the water depth drops to 25 feet or deeper that the lake bottom literally drops away, out of sight. The last time I saw lake water this crystal clear was on a glass-bottom boat, cruising around Crystal Springs in west-central Florida, east of the Gulf of Mexico.

view
Kayaks need a rest too. [photo by Kelley]
After about twenty minutes of paddling, we round an irregular shaped peninsula in the lake and start entering Fireman’s Cove. From here, we begin paddling around the north end and then the west side of Helm’s Island, as we work our way southeast through a narrow channel separating the island from the lake shore. Eventually, we find ourselves in Cottonwood Cove, at the southeast end of the island, and, after even more paddling, soon exit the cove and reenter the main lake body again.

After taking a short break from paddling, we slowly start working our way around Yavapai Point, a scenic lookout point for hikers on the Yavapai Point Trail, and eventually find ourselves at the mouth of Pipeline Cove.

In the distance, on the far opposite side of the lake, we can see Pleasant Harbor Marina and the tall masts of hundreds of sailboats and other large watercraft docked there. As we paddle deeper into Pipeline Cove and admire all the surrounding scenery, we decide to follow Lynne’s lead and head for an area where we can beach our kayaks on the lake shore and get out for a well deserved rest and snack break. The time is 10:30 AM, and we’re all starting to get a little hungry and tired from two hours of paddling.

hikers
Five kayakers paddle across Lake Pleasant. [photo by Kelley]
hikers
Pulling into shore for a rest break. [photo by Kelley]
hikers
A large ironwood tree provides a shady rest spot. [photo by Ajay]
hikers
Do we really have to leave? [photo by Ajay]
duck
This large Muscovy Duck should probably
go on a diet. [photo by Kelley]
By 11:00 we’re all ready to head back out onto the lake again and slowly work our way northward toward the Castle Creek Boat Ramp. But no sooner do we get back out into the main body of the lake, when the winds begin to pick up speed and create choppy water conditions on the lake, with an endless series of small rolling waves, or combers, sweeping across the lake’s surface and bouncing us around like large corks bobbing on the water.

I even joke with Debi at one point that if this wind gets much stronger we can break out our surfboards and just surf our way back to the boat ramp.

It’s both amazing and a little scary just how quickly conditions can change on the water. When you’re on a large lake like Pleasant, you have to be prepared for almost anything. At least the skies remain clear and cloud-free, so there’s no danger of any storms suddenly sneaking up on us. But we have to paddle even harder in these winds to keep making headway, as we slowly work our way northward past Yavapai Point, Cottonwood Cove, Helm’s Island, and Fireman’s Cove. Eventually the boat ramp finally comes into view and we begin paddling even harder until we’re all back at the ramp once again. By about 12:15 we’re all back, safe and sound and no worse for wear.

view
Beautiful view of Pipeline Cove from our rest stop. [photo by Ajay]
hikers
Trailblazers kayaking back to the launch ramp. [photo by Kelley]
group
Six Trailblazers enjoy lunch on the Scorpion Bay Restaurant’s spacious outside patio. [photo by Kelley]
Lynne, Ajay, Norma, Kelley, Chuck, Mimi
Norma
Norma has a unique method of loading her kayak onto her Subaru’s roof rack. [photo by Debi]

After we secure our kayaks on top of or inside our vehicles, six of us decide to stop at the marina and have lunch at the Scorpion Bay Restaurant on their large outside patio overlooking the lake. One of the best views around for outside patio dining. This has been a perfect day for kayaking and the perfect way to end yet another kayaking adventure on Arizona’s scenic desert lakes.

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updated April 16, 2022