Top U.S. kayaking schools

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Week of August 15-21, 1996
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Top U.S. kayaking schools
Question: Where’s the best place in the United States to learn how to kayak?

Chris Streuli
Elmhurst, IL

Adventure Adviser: Bottom line? The best of the best are Otter Bar Lodge on the Forks of the Salmon in northern California’s Klamath Mountains and the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC), practically a stone’s throw from five world-class
rivers in southwestern North Carolina. Both are full-service sports resorts with a hard-core passion for whitewater, a talented staff of kayaking guides, and plenty of off-the-water activities like mountain biking for a little variety. And these schools don’t sacrifice top-notch instruction for cushy, resort-like comforts. The beauty is, you get both.

Two and a half hours from anywhere, Otter Bar plays host to a maximum of 13 guests at a time, so the emphasis is on one-on-one skill building. If you’re new to whitewater, plan on signing up for their weeklong June paddling package, when the high water eases a bit. You’ll start out on Otter Bar Pond, in the lodge’s side yard, before graduating to the Presidio run on the
Class III rapid called Kissing Rock. The unpretentious, antique-filled, four-bedroom main lodge is surrounded by vegetable and flower gardens, two adjacent guest cabins, and a communal deck with a hot tub and sauna. A week of kayaking, including all buffet-style meals, instruction, and a double room, will run you $1,290 per person. For more details, call 916-462-4772.

The much-touted, Bryson City-based NOC is the eastern seaboard’s paddling nexus and a hotbed of cutting-edge river sports, like whitewater rodeo and “steep creeking.” And although it recently served as a training ground for Olympic paddlers, NOC is very much the place for novice kayakers who want to learn the basic skills necessary for a lifetime of paddling. Their July and
August courses last from three to seven days, with a five-day course costing $725, all-inclusive. Accommodations are in three- or four-bedroom cabins with balconies overlooking Nantahala Gorge and the Appalachian Trail, and chow comes by way of Relia’s Garden Restaurant. Call them at 800-232-7238 for more info, or check out our rave reviews of both in “One-Stop Sporting Resorts” in the Destinations section of our June 1995 issue.

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