• Quiet Kayaking on Kinnikinick Lake

    Written by Kelly Anne


    Tucked away on the Coconino National Forest near Flagstaff, Kinnikinick Lake is small enough, remote enough, to enjoy a day of nearly solitary water recreation.

    Although the lake is named for a mixture of tobacco, sumac, bark and dried leaves that members of Arizona’s native tribes smoked occasionally and socially, you won’t find any kinnikinick here.

    Instead, you’ll find plenty of shady, wind-blown junipers, picnic tables (the area closed to overnight camping in 2013 and is now day-use only) and 126 acres of calm, cold water.

    One Tuesday morning in early April, the lake reflected a nearly cloudless sky. A few small fishing boats cast their ripples — the lake is stocked with trout — but, in total, there were only three boats on the water.

    And ours was the only kayak.

    Kinnikinick Lake az

    After a recent rain, the shore was caked with mud, and rocks stuck to our shoes, to the dogs. Still, the launch was painless, the orange nose of the kayak gliding into the water with ease. We took turns paddling out — first, my partner Christian with the puppy, then me with the still young, though far more curmudgeonly, terrier mix.

    We hit a solid stroke, reaching the middle of the lake, where an osprey flew overhead in search of its lunch. So we sat there for a while, watching it soar.

    In fact, ospreys aren’t the only birds you’ll find at Kinnikinick. It seems a haven of sorts for jays, ravens, sparrows, cardinals and — in fall and winter — bald eagles. Deer, elk and the occasional pronghorn also make their home in the forest here, and theirs are often the only sounds you’ll hear on this water.Kinnikinick Lake arizona


    As the temperature warmed midday and the sun bounced off the water, we knew it was nearing time to go, although it felt that there was still so much lake to explore.

    So much more quiet and solitude to absorb before our return to the city.

    Directions: From Flagstaff, travel south on Lake Mary Road (Forest Road 3) for 24.5 miles to Forest Road 125. Turn left and travel for 4.7 miles to Forest Road 82. Turn right and proceed another 5.5 miles to the lake. In fair weather, the route is suitable for passenger vehicles. During or immediately following rain, the road will be more passable in a high-clearance or 4-wheel-drive vehicle.

    Information: Flagstaff Ranger District, 928-526-0866


    Kelly Anne is a travel writer and editor whose stories have appeared in dozens of local and national publications. Her work, which focuses on experiential and environmental exploration is rooted in a love for nature, wildlife and conservation. An adjunct professor of journalism at Arizona State University, she is also the co-founder of The Land Remains (@the_land_remains). She lives in Phoenix with her partner, photographer Christian Otjen, her children and two adventure dogs. 

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