By RHEA-FRANCES TETLEY
Lake Gregory Regional Park is one of the best places on the mountain in which to paddle a kayak. The calm lake doesn’t have motor boaters speeding by to make big waves, which can upset a kayak; it has calm waters which make it easy to glide across the water with less effort.
It has beautiful coves to explore and trees along the shoreline for cool shade. There are often other kayakers to greet and share the experience with while out on the water. Kayakers are generally very friendly.
Lake Gregory has several two-person kayaks and some single kayaks to rent and has more on back-order, which should be arriving soon. It is $20 an hour to rent a kayak; enter at the north shore beach gate and tell the gate person your intention to rent a boat or kayak, then walk to the boathouse or the rental area.
Recently, Joan and Miguel, a young married couple from the Lucerne Valley, were enjoying kayaking at Lake Gregory in their two-person kayak. They had decided to camp at the nearby U.S. Forest Service Dogwood Campground, since they only had a couple days to get away. They chose Dogwood because it is near Lake Gregory, where they have kayaked once before.
“In the past, we had gone to Big Bear, but sometimes it is hard to avoid those big boats and the waves they can make because it’s lots of work to paddle very far,” Miguel said, adding, “Besides, I find the water here to be much clearer than there or Silverwood. I don’t fish but like seeing the fish swimming in the water, which I have been able to do here. It was so easy to pay the launch fee on our phone, so we are very happy.”
Those who own their own kayaks can launch them from several locations along the lakeshore. The best places are from just east of the south shore parking lot, where Joan and Miguel launched from, or from the San Moritz shore area. It is extremely easy to pay the $10 daily launch fee on your cell phone at www.Lakegregory.com or, if you are a frequent kayaker or boater, buy the $89-a-year launch fee for an unlimited number of launches all year and pick up the launch sticker at the office.
Longtime mountain resident Shannon and her friend Amy were also kayaking that day. They live in the Blue Jay and the Twin Peaks areas and happily bought their Lake Gregory kayak stickers for the year. Amy said, “We really like kayaking at Lake Gregory and we come at least twice a week. The water is so serene. I also two-person kayak at Lake Arrowhead with another friend of mine, in her kayak, for which she had to pay ALA fees to license, so kayaking isn’t free there either. But Lake Arrowhead has so much motorboat traffic that the kayaking serenity I like just isn’t there except in the early mornings. I can come here anytime of the day alone or with friends and really enjoy it.”
Lake Gregory has some rules for launching a vessel. It must be safe to use, not an air-filled plastic pool raft but a durable personal boat as long as it’s not gas-powered; however, battery-powered boats are permitted. Also, it may be an inflatable kayak, stand-up paddleboard, canoe or other lake staff-approved vessel. Lake Gregory has a rule that those out on the lake need a life vest onboard and accessible for each person on the boat, and that all children must wear their life jackets at all times.
“I like the lake rangers around here,” Shannon said. “They do check to be sure we have paid our fees, but everyone I’ve spoken with has been so nice. I like to launch from over by San Moritz, where I used to play on that field, and I hear they are going to replace the baseball field. It would be cool when I have kids if they could play there, too.”
For those who are considering getting into kayaking, although it is a simple way to get out on the water for paddling or fishing, there are several things to remember. Always have a floatation device or life vest with you and a bilge pump to remove any water that could sink a kayak, plus your paddle. Remember to wear the proper clothing, preferably not heavy cotton, as it absorbs water and can get heavy. Wear a hat and sunglasses, use sunscreen and drink water to rehydrate, plus always have a signaling whistle, in case of problems.
Lake Gregory is an ideal place to learn how to kayak since it is a relatively small, calm body of water with no powerboat traffic. It has several gently sloping, beach-type areas from which to launch, which are not too far from parking lots. Lake Gregory has lots of sunny, not too windy days, especially in the mornings, making paddling easier. When it is windy, start by paddling into the wind, as returning with a tailwind is so much easier when you may be tired. Most kayakers usually only plan a couple-hour excursion, especially at first.
Amy added, “Whenever I have a free morning or afternoon, I like to bring a small picnic lunch with me to kayak on Lake Gregory. Then, after a while, I beach my kayak and enjoy a lunch break, usually under the south shore trees. After some resting, I float in my kayak around the lake while relaxing. Kayaking here at Lake Gregory really relieves the stress I get from work.”
Kayaks have been difficult to buy this year due to the manufacturing shutdown during the pandemic. The Lake Arrowhead Mountain Sunrise Rotary Club is currently holding a sealed bid auction for a variety of 15 previously owned kayaks, canoes and a pedal boat. The vessels can be seen on the club’s Facebook page and on the RIMPaddleSports Facebook page. The auction ends on July 2. All funds raised will go back to support Rotary projects in the mountain communities. Call Rotarian Lyle Barkley at (909) 213-7533 for more information on how to place a bid.