Outdoors

Quiet Kayaking on Kinnikinick Lake

3 minute read
by Kelly Vaughn

Kinnikinick_Lake Featured

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

Join the Territory

Sign up to see what's inspiring us to get outside.

Related posts

Phoenix Sonoran Preserve Featured

Phoenix Sonoran Preserve: A Miniature Desert Wilderness Suspended in Suburbia

The Phoenix Sonoran Preserve is a little slice of wilderness surrounded by city. Nestled in northern reaches of the endless suburban sprawl of the Phoenix metro area, the Sonoran Preserve is often busy with hikers and mountain bikers. Beyond the confines of the park, views look out upon suburb neighborhoods, freeways, and strip malls. However, it is possible to escape the city and pretend you are out in the middle of nowhere.

Outdoors
notes from the crown glacier

Notes from the Crown: Playing Tourist in Glacier National Park

The Crown of the Continent. Naturalist George Bird Grinnell gave this nickname to a rugged swath of Rocky Mountains known as the Lewis Range in 1901. He bestowed the name as the title of an article he wrote for The Century Magazine in which he described the wonder of high mountain peaks, cliff-hanging glaciers, and clear-running streams that form the headwaters of North America’s great rivers.

Outdoors
Featured Arizona Side Trips

Beyond the Interstate: An Interview with the Author of Arizona and New Mexico: 25 Scenic Side Trips

“People who live in Arizona have easy access to some of the most extraordinary landscapes on the entire planet,” says Rick Quinn, “and I’m continually amazed by how few Arizonans take advantage of more than a tiny fraction of their options.” Rick is the author of the new book Arizona and New Mexico: 25 Scenic Side Trips, a guide to road trips that start and end at Interstate highways but take travelers into the heart of what makes the Southwest so captivating.

People
Rattlesnakes Intro

Hubris and the Serpent: The Truth About Rattlesnake Bite Victims

In a grizzled true story detailed in his book Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon, Michael P. Ghiglieri recounts a close-encounter involving a rattlesnake coiled up on a woman’s chest as she slept while camped along the Colorado River while guiding a rafting trip in 1987. The woman's friend noticed the serpent's temporary sleeping arrangement and alerted Ghiglieri to the situation. Thinking on his feet, he used an 18-inch long folding shovel to remove the rattler from the woman’s chest without anyone suffering a snakebite — or even a disturbance of the woman’s sleep.

Living
Vulture Peak Featured

Vulture Peak Trail: A Summit to Die For

Driving westbound on highway 74 near Morristown, Arizona, the ominous hump of Vulture Peak dominates the horizon ahead. Glancing out the driver and passenger windows, many of the neighboring ranges are taller and ore massive, yet there’s something unique about how Vulture’s dome stands out from the surrounding desert. I relived this experience many times over the course of a few years and the mountain climber in me desired to set foot on Vulture’s summit.

Outdoors