Tag Archives: Kayaking

Kayaking Laurel Bed Lake

My son and I spent his birthday on an all-day kayaking trip to Laurel Bed Lake, one of the most remote lakes in Virginia.  Laurel Bed Lake is about 330 acres and is located in the center of the Clinch Mountain Wildlife Management Area, Virginia’s second largest such area.

9.11.15 Kayak
Preparing to Kayak into Perfect Reflections at 3000′

The trip to the Clinch Mountain Wildlife Management Area takes a while to get to from anywhere.  From Abingdon, it’s about 35-40 minutes.

Once at the CMWMA, the drive up to the lake takes about another 35-40 minutes, because you have to drive up Clinch Mountain.  There is a map of the CMWMA available on the VDGIF website (it is located here).

While the gravel roads are maintained, you should have a four wheel drive vehicle (in fact, the road is often closed in winter).  There are several significant switchbacks.  The vertical climb from the entrance to the lake is about 1300′, most of it along Big Tumbling Creek, a boulder-strewn creek with numerous waterfalls.

9.11.15 Isaac
Taking in the view from the weedless shoreline

There are smallmouth bass and brook trout in the lake, although we did not have any luck fishing on this day.  We did, however, spend about three hours kayaking around the lake:  this is a large lake, at least by comparison to the other high mountain lakes in the Southern Appalachians.  For example, this lake is much larger than nearby Hidden Valley Lake or Hungry Mother Lake in Virginia, or Julian Price Lake near Blowing Rock, NC.

9.11.15 Half way

I would estimate that the lake takes about 3-4 hours to circumnavigate.  Other than two boat docks, the lake is surrounded by wilderness.  No camping is allowed near the lake, so the shoreline is undisturbed and pristine.  Paddling on this lake, you can easily imagine yourself somewhere in the remote wilderness of Canada or Maine.

9.11.15 Sun
Afternoon sunlight. This view is looking back toward the boat dock. The sun is over the area where we launched our kayaks.

We stopped in a couple of spots to rest and enjoy the sun.  We saw all manner of wildlife:  jumping fish, hundreds of frogs, ducks, blue herons, a hawk, other birds we could not identify, deer, and a lone bald eagle soaring high in the sky above the lake.  There were also signs of beaver along the shoreline.

Generally speaking, one side of the lake features rhododendron and has a steeper bank, while the other side features more wetland areas.  The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has set up some bird nest areas along the wetland side of the lake.

9.11.15 Mini Sasquatch
Not a Sasquatch

This is a gem of a lake, one we would like to visit again in the fall when the colors are changing.  We were there during a weekday, but the trip to the lake takes so long that I doubt it is ever extremely busy.  At one point there were about four boats on the lake, but by the evening we literally had the lake to ourselves.  It’s pretty amazing in this day and age that you can have a 330 acre lake to yourself on a nice day.

This is, however, a place you really want to have to visit, as it’s very much out-of-the-way compared to many other outdoor spots in Southwest Virginia.  But if you have the time, it’s a worthwhile trip.  I know we’ll be back.

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Kayaking Hungry Mother Lake

On Saturday, August 22, 2012 our whole family went to Hungry Mother State Park to enjoy a day on the lake and to try out our newest toy—a 2012 Dagger Zydeco 9.0 Kayak. 

Kayaking Hungry Mother Lake

Back in April I saw the new edition of the Zydeco at an outdoor store over in Boone, really liked it, and so I ordered one.  I purchased it to be used with my 10-year-old, 12′ Perception Antigua Kayak for group trips or for quick “throw the ‘yak on the roof and go” short trips.  In mid-June we picked it up, and we have been waiting for a several months to test it out. 

So we packed up the Jeep for a picnic, put the two ‘yaks on the roof, and brought along some spinning rods for good measure.  It was a beautiful day in the mid-70s with low humidity.  The sky was mostly sunny, and the lake was really busy. 

Hungry Mother State Park Beach

The beach was open, and my two boys were suddenly more interested in swimming and going off the diving boards than kayaking, so I took the new Zydeco for a solo trip all around the lake. 

Circumnavigating the entire lake takes over an hour, as it’s about a 100 acre lake and there are approximately 3 or so miles of shoreline.  I’ve kayaked from one end to the other and back in under 35 minutes while racing in the Mountain Do Triathlon multiple times, but it had been a while since I had just gotten out and kayaked for fun on a summer day.  Consciously trying to stay close to the shore, in order to truly go around the whole lake, it took about 1 hour, 20 minutes of consistent paddling.

View from Near the Dam

As I have written previously, Hungry Mother State Park also has trails that circle the lake, as well those that climb to the top of Molly’s Knob.  With all that this park has to offer, it is still probably a bit underutilized except for some of the busier summer weekends.  From my own personal use perspective, this suits me (and, I suspect, most of the other park patrons who live around here) just fine.

Clouds reflecting on the lake create shadows on Walker Mountain in the background

So, how did the Zydeco handle?  Overall, pretty well.  It’s very manageable at 36.5 pounds (a lot easier to get on the roof than the 49 pound Perception) and very easy to turn.  The lighter weight suits it well for smaller folks, which is one of the main reasons I got it (for my boys and wife). 

Hungry Mother State Park Kayaking Panorama

The shorter length does make the Zydeco track a bit less well than the Antigua (meaning it doesn’t hold a straight line without correction as well.  Better tracking generally allows for more powerful paddling). 

Boys Kayaking–Zydeco 9.0 on the left, Antigua 11.9 on the right

Both the Antigua and the Zydeco are “Adventure Recreation” kayaks, meaning they’re designed for light touring or class I or II+ whitewater, not for sea kayaking or hardcore whitewater rafting.

Zydeco 9.0 in Action

The Zydeco fits the bill for what we’ll need for the next several years when we go on family, mild whitewater, and fishing trips in the region.  I think the two kayaks will pair up well for our future adventures.

Perception Antigua 11.9 on Hungry Mother Lake