By BOB PALMER
Double-bladed paddles dip into the still water of Cypress Bayou. Silence fills the air, broken only by a nearby Mockingbird and the hiss of water under the kayak’s prow.
“You can clear your mind,” Juanita Chitwood explained. “You don’t have to think about your worries.”
Juanita and her husband Charlie have enjoyed the growing sport for a few years.
“I just enjoy being on the water and enjoying nature’s finest,” Juanita said. “The exercise is real good and you can go at any pace you like.
“Kayaking is a wonderful sport.”
“I go for the peace and quiet,” Charlie said. “It’s a way to get out that is not quite as labor intensive as hiking long distances. When you are on a river you can see things other people cannot see, simply because you are on the water.”
Although the Chitwoods own their own kayaks, visitors to Jefferson and Marion County do not have to bring their own equipment to enjoy the sport.
Made in the Shade in Jefferson and Riverbend provide all you need for a day on the water.
“It is such a beautiful thing,” Angie Hudson with Made in the Shade said. “Cypress Bayou is a whole different experience in a canoe or kayak than in a power boat.”
When you take your time there is so much more to be seen, she explained.
Kristi Thomas with Riverbend agrees.
“I love to show the people who come to our area the beauty,” Thomas said.
Both Hudson and Thomas have canoes and kayaks to rent and provide additional services for visitors.
“We shuttle people from the B&Bs and the downtown hotels to the boat launch area and provide them with free water, cooler and a water-proof pouch for their phone,” Hudson said.
Thomas takes a different route.
“We’re more customized,” Thomas said. “We normally set up a meeting place and bring everything they need to go out on the water. It depends on their comfort level.”
Hudson encourages her patrons to take a right from the boat ramp and paddle upstream to the US 59 bridge. The return trip can be a leisurely float downstream, although there is not much current at the moment.
Thomas lets the customer pick the launch site and the route. She provides maps and gear. She will also deliver canoes and kayaks to cabins on Caddo Lake.
For those haunted by roll-over experiences in a canoe, Wes Jones with Made in the Shade has a flat-bottom canoe, he says is more stable than the one you struggled with in Boy Scout camp.
“You can fish from it,” Jones said.
Both outfitters support and praise each other.
“I send large groups to Riverbend,” Hudson said. “They send me small parties.”
The Chitwoods have had their share of kayak adventures. They once paddled from the Jefferson boat ramp to Big Pines Lodge in Uncertain. It took them more than seven hours, but they arrived with an appetite.
“There is so much I love about it,” Juanita said. “Just being on the water is always therapeutic.”
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