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Find Balance on Peaceful Paddling Expedition in the Highland Lakes

Within a few minutes of getting your balance, you can be off on a standup paddleboard excursion. Standup paddleboarding is a great way to spend a day on the lakes or rivers of the Highland Lakes. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

After the standup paddleboard dunked me into the water for the third time — it was obviously its fault, not mine — my wife, Sheri, cruised by on her own board, smirked at me, and made a somewhat disparaging comment about my standing capabilities.

It was enough to make me want to give up. But after regaining possession of the board and paddle, I stood up — tentatively — found my balance and dipped the paddle into Lake Buchanan, setting off to explore the small cove thanks to my newfound skill.

Well, I’m far from a standup paddleboarding pro, or even very good. (I still hit the water with some regularity.) However, I now look forward to the activity every spring and summer.

The Highland Lakes is a wonderful destination for standup paddleboarding as well as kayaking. Both are great ways to spend time outdoors on the water with family and friends. In a kayak or on a paddleboard, you often see things you’d miss in a larger watercraft, especially birds and other wildlife.

You’ll find plenty of spots to put in your kayak or standup paddleboard.

One recommendation is Ink Lakes State Park, where you can enjoy a quiet setting.

The lake is smaller than lakes Buchanan, LBJ, and Travis, so it doesn’t necessarily attract larger boats and traffic. A nice paddle trip is into Devil’s Waterhole and Stumpy Hollow.

“Inks Lake is a small, (run-of-river) lake that makes it much easier to maneuver in a kayak than your larger lakes like Buchanan,” said Lindsay Pannell, the Inks Lake State Park interpretive ranger. “With a kayak, you can easily explore the whole lake without losing sight of a shoreline. This is a great aspect for a novice kayaker, and the small nooks and crannies of the Colorado River offer a peek into our diverse ecosystem.”

Inks Lake State Park rents kayaks and canoes and offers programs such as Kayaking 101, Nature Kayaking, and Night Sky Kayaking.

The Lower Colorado River Authority also rents kayaks, as well as standup paddleboards, at two of its parks: Black Rock Park on Lake Buchanan and Muleshoe Bend Recreation Area on Lake Travis.

When you rent a kayak or paddleboard at an LCRA park, you can even receive instruction on how to use it.

“We try to get them as confident as possible,” said Kari Kuwamura, the LCRA senior park program coordinator. “We’ll show them how to get up on their paddleboard. And with the kayaks, we’ll show them what to do if they do flip over and how to get back into their kayaks. Also, there’s a paddling technique we’ll show them that they can use to keep from tipping over.”

The LCRA folks are also very cautious about not putting people into a situation for which they're not ready. Kuwamura said if the wind is blowing at 10 mph or more, especially on Lake Buchanan, parks typically don't rent kayaks or standup paddleboards.

“Safety first,” she added.

Like Inks Lake State Park, the LCRA offers kayaking programs and events. One that Kuwamura hopes people take advantage of is Kayak Lake Travis. During this excursion, people will launch from Grelle Recreation Area on Lake Travis and head for Muleshoe Bend Recreation Area, located to the east.

“It takes about an hour to an hour and a half,” she said. “But we’ll shuttle people back to their vehicles, so it’s a great way to enjoy a trip on Lake Travis.”

Pannell and Kuwamura agree that while kayaking and standup paddleboarding can look intimidating at first, they’re both fairly easy to learn. Just be patient, accept that you might get wet, and be willing to laugh — at yourself.

Sometimes, a smirking spouse can also serve as motivation.

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