Winter Kayaking


Most people think of kayaking as a warm weather activity, but have you ever tried winter kayaking?  Lisa tells us how … and why you’ll want to give it a go!

My friend Linda flew in from Michigan to kayak one weekend last year. We’d planned to do three different rivers in three days. With two rivers down and one to go, I asked Thomas if he would like to join us for Sunday’s paddle. He surprised me and said, “Yes!” I admit, I freaked. It was March in middle Tennessee and it was cold. The temperature had been hovering right about freezing. We’d had snow all for the two previous days. They were the beautiful delicate flakes that melted as soon as they hit the water. But still? He didn’t have the right gear and he had never paddled in the winter.

Linda looked at me and said, “Your son wants to go with us and we’re going to make it happen!” It pays to have risky friends!

We chose a closer river, pieced together the correct gear, arranged an early exit option for Thomas and packed lots of snacks.

In preparation, we told him what to do in case he flipped his kayak. Swim to the nearest shore, don’t worry about your boat, get out of the water and take off all of your wet clothes  (things we didn’t imagine saying when we signed up for motherhood).

We had the best paddle ever!

We practiced our stealth mode. This is useful for floating under low branches.


Thomas elected to do the entire paddle with us. He was a rockstar. There was no drama, no complaining, no tears. Just pure joy and pride. I am so grateful that Linda encouraged me to take Thomas with us.


We all made it safely to our take out spot. I got to spend the day sharing my passion with my son. I got to see him spend time in nature. He got to talk and paddle and be still and float. It was an amazing day.

Please remember that paddling in cold conditions is not only risky, it can be dangerous. Linda and I are experienced cold water paddlers. We dressed appropriately and packed for emergency situations. We both had cell phones in dry bags around our necks at all times. Depending on water and air temperatures, hypothermia can start with as little as fifteen minutes of exposure to the water.  If it’s something you’d like to try, don’t let these things stop you, but please be smart and find an experienced paddler to accompany you the first time.

While you definitely have to take different precautions to kayak in the winter, it’s worth the effort to experience nature in winter’s light.