Posts Tagged ‘Mark Twain Lake’

It’s going to be hot this week. Very hot. I don’t know about you, but as soon as that thermometer tops 90 degrees, I’m looking for fun ways to cool off.  Sure, you could go to a crowded pool this weekend, but if you’re really wanting to do something different, I suggest going over and checking out Mark Twain Lake’s Spalding Recreation Area.

The Spalding public beach at Mark Twain Lake is a short 40-minute drive from Quincy, and it’s a great summer destination for the whole family. The area features a swimming beach, a nice shady grassy area with picnic tables and charcoal grills, a sand volleyball net, and a bathroom and shower facility so that everyone can clean up and not drag sand into the car for the ride home.

The bottom of the lake at the swimming area is sand, which is nice for people who would rather not step in lake muck. Though there are no lifeguards on duty, the area is fairly safe for even small children because the increase in depth is very gradual and the swimming area is roped off from all boating traffic. As long as you’re keeping a close eye on the kids and having them use the right flotation devices, you should be good to go. Heads up: If you’re bringing water toys, there’s no air pump at the beach, so inflate those rafts before you get there or bring a hand pump. It’ll save you from getting blue in the face! There are a limited number of lifejackets available at the shelter house that can be borrowed, but you should probably bring your own if your kids need them. 

Launching kayaks from the beach.

For boaters, there is a launch at Spalding Recreation Area, and also sandy areas to pull up your boat and enjoy the beach. We launched kayaks from this area a few weeks ago, and it was the perfect point for setting off to explore.

Perhaps the best part about this close-to-home adventure is that it’s so affordable. For the cost of one ticket to the pool, the whole family can swim at Mark Twain Lake. Swimming costs $1 per person, up to a maximum of $4 per carload of people. The pay station is self-service as you drive in, so be sure to have exact change in cash. Bring along a picnic lunch and/or charcoal to barbecue with, and you’ve got all-day fun for everyone. No alcohol or glass containers are allowed at the recreation area, so plan your picnic accordingly. And don’t forget sunscreen!

Directions from Quincy: Take 172 across the bridge at Hannibal, continue on 24/36 and then turn right on Route J by the Spalding Recreation Area sign. If you reach the Cannon Dam, you’ve gone too far.

Original Post July 18, 2011

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Instructor Kevin Dempsey (white kayak) looks on as Kirstin Smith, Ryan Craven , Laura Sievert, Adam Duesterhaus, Jim, and Ryan Welch pose for a picture after their group lesson in Quincy Bay.

Do you ever have one of those days where everything you do reminds you of a song?  Well, I went kayaking both this weekend and last, and it’s one adventure that definitely keeps popping song lyrics in my head.

“Row, row, row your boat…”

Kayaking on Mark Twain Lake

I think the reason I’d never tried kayaking up to now was that I assumed you’d need to have really great upper body strength to row. As it turns out, that’s not really the case! I was delighted to find out that a good rower uses not only her arms, but lots of torso and leg to power her rowing. Once I had the hang of the technique, I was right in the front of the pack, and even passed up some of the “tough guy” rowers. It’s a sport where finesse is just as important as strength, and you’ll be surprised at what you’re capable of doing.

“You know a dream is like a River, ever changin’ as it flows…”

Yeah, that’s a Garth Brooks lyric. It’s true though! A dream is like a river and a river is like a dream. I’ve been out on the Mississippi and Mark Twain Lake lots of times, but nothing is quite like experiencing these bodies of water via kayak. You can approach wildlife and shorelines quietly; you can hear the birds singing and the lapping of the water at the banks; and you can really appreciate the way the water moves and sculpts the landscape around you.

“I will go down with this ship, I won’t put my hands up and surrender…”

Maybe you’ve always wanted to try kayaking but were afraid of flipping over. I’m here to tell you that in calm water, flipping isn’t all that likely. And more importantly, getting back in your boat if you do flip isn’t hard at all. On my first experience out on the water, I didn’t get wet at all, so on my second, I volunteered to flip on purpose to demonstrate how to get back in the boat. With a little rocking, I flipped the boat, slipped easily out of the hatch, righted the boat all on my own, and was soon back in the cockpit. With the guidance of our instructor, I actually learned three different methods of getting back in the boat. My point is, there’s no reason to be afraid of flipping your kayak, especially if you’re wearing a lifejacket. Actually, on a hot day, I’d recommend flipping every once in a while just to cool off!

“We all live in the ocean, we all start in the stream, and we’re carried along, by the river of dreams…”

Ryan demonstrates how to get back in his kayak on the water.

Billy Joel was certainly on to something with the lyrics of “River of Dreams.” Learning to kayak in the calm backwaters of the Mississippi or along the sheltered shores of Mark Twain Lake has been a wonderful opportunity.  I’ve now practiced the basics of rowing, turning, stopping, flipping, and getting back into a kayak.  The next step is to head out of the streams and steadily work my way to bigger water. There are great places to kayak locally, but eventually, I’d like to try Lake Michigan and then the ocean.  I remember seeing people out in Puget Sound (Seattle, WA) kayaking alongside killer whales. I really, really, reallllllly want to try that. And there are thousands of other great places in this wide world just waiting to be explored. I guess I better get a list started.

“Teach the children well….”

So what should you do if you’d like to try kayaking for the first time? Find a great teacher. Kevin Dempsey of Kayak Quincy led the groups I was in. He’s a very knowledgeable and practical instructor who will help you learn the basics and develop your skills out on the water.  He’s also happy to help you learn what to look for if you were selecting a boat of your own to purchase, or can help you find interesting places to kayak.  The Kayak Quincy schedule, rental fees and more can be found at www.seequincy.com/KayakQuincy.html or by calling the Quincy Convention and Visitor’s Bureau at (800) 978-4748.
Original Post June 21, 2011

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