Kayaking on the Grand

It’s A Grand Experience!

Guest Blogger Auglaize County Commissioner Doug Spencer shares his passion for kayaking on Grand Lake St. Marys and offers tips for first time visitors traversing the waters of Ohio’s largest inland lake.

Why kayak?

The benefits of kayaking are numerous.  Obviously, there are physical benefits of using one’s own body to propel the vessel from point A to B.  It will take some upper body strength to continuously paddle…and soreness will be felt it in the back and shoulders after the first couple of outings, but rest assured, it is worth the initial soreness.

Kayaking is a good form of physical exercise, however, the greatest benefit is for the mind.  Kayaking allows one to become quite spiritual with nature.  It is difficult to describe the mental benefits one achieves while kayaking the beautiful Grand Lake St. Marys…one must personally partake in the hobby to experience this epiphany.  The peacefulness of this activity is priceless…it is good medicine for the soul.  Kayaking offers the ability to see things that one may not observe while speeding across the lake on a motorized vessel.  Kayaking offers the ability to see things that one may not observe while standing on the bank of the lake.  There is true inner peace when starting the day with a sunrise or ending the day with a sunset kayaking on Grand Lake St. Marys.  It is an inexpensive lifestyle to strengthen the body and mind.

It’s a big lake, where do I start?

For first timers kayaking on beautiful Grand Lake St. Marys one will be pleased to find the multitude of locations to easily launch from.  Some will allow you to traverse quickly on to lake proper and some will require a little effort to kayak the channel to reach lake proper…that is if kayaking open waters along the shoreline of GLSM is desired.

Here are a few of the most frequent locations I launch from to kayak on the lake.  First, I enjoy launching from the West Bank boat ramp, which is concrete, and heading south on lake proper toward Its It/Kozy Kamp Ground.  There are several very small islands to explore from the kayak while taking in the sights of the vast and magnificent Montezuma Bay and Mercer Wildlife Refuge.

A fantastic sandy-based launch spot on the north side of the lake is the Villa Nova West Beach.  I like to launch from this beach area for a spiritual Sunday outing on the open waters and witness the majestic sunsets on the lake, which are second to none.

For the best of both worlds of kayaking to lake proper and/or kayaking tributaries, which is suitable to the novice or to the seasoned kayaker, I highly recommend launching from Little Chickasaw boat launch on the southeast side of the lake off of Mercer Auglaize County Line Road.  This newest Grand Lake St. Marys boat launch has ample parking and a very kind concrete ramp to launch kayaks.  The Little Chickasaw Creek comes to a ‘Y’ heading to the open waters.

If the east part of the Y is chosen there is lovely kayaking possibilities through the channels of Southshore Acres, Rustic Haven or Southmoor Shores.  Or one can head toward East Bank and kayak along almost two-mile long rocky shore and take in the sites of the Bulkhead and the picturesque bank that is home to three shelter houses, a dog park and a walking path for those who reside on the east side of the GLSM.  If one is after a more serene or tranquil view with and is a beginner kayaker, my recommendation is to take the west part of the Little Chickasaw ‘Y’ and cut across Buzzard’s Bay to pick up the Big Chickasaw Creek to kayak south on this tributary into Hecht’s Landing.

While on Buzzard’s Bay you will find nature at its finest.  I have observed eagles flying overhead, turtles basking in the sun while resting on partially submerged tree limbs, snakes slithering thru the water and a squadron of pelicans taking refuge, along with various other birds, in this natural bird sanctuary.  As the relaxing voyage on the non-choppy waters of the bay and the two aforementioned tributaries continues south, have your eyes gaze upon the western tree-lines for the two dozen-plus, mammoth blue-heron nests.  This rookery is a beautiful sight to see and I often have to pinch myself that this setting I am kayaking in is located where I live as it feels like I have traveled to some remote part of the planet to take in these beautiful sites.

 It was a great way to bond in 2020!

Kayaking was the perfect outlet during the Covid-19 stay “quarantine” period, which the time on the lake became known as social kayaking.  It was an appropriate means for friends and family to gather and distance themselves outdoors while exercising the mind and body.  I remember quite vividly during this unknown time my youngest daughter having the opportunity to see her best friend in person because of social kayaking.  She had obviously been able to see and talk to her friend via FaceTime, but that fashionable form of teenager communication was growing old on my daughter and her friend.  She looked forward to her opportunities to social kayak during the pandemic to have normal social structure with friends.  Family and friends were able to get out of the house and inexpensively recreate on Grand Lake St. Marys and help out lake businesses in the process…because it is difficult to kayak down a channel where a local bar/restaurant is located and not eat or drink.

Making memories.

I have a college friend who states, “Life is about making memories!”  That is exactly what I enjoy most about kayaking with my family…making memories.  I have wonderful memories of spending time with my wife and three kids, exercising our minds and souls, enjoying quality family time and watching them appreciate the beautiful resource they have in their backyard.  It was a joy to show them new locations on the lake and teach them some lake history…all the while avoiding the Hoedag*.  I hope my passion for kayaking transcends to my childrens’ children and so on.  It is relatively inexpensive way to exercise, receive therapy and recreate.  I hope my children truly understand what John Muir, the Father of the National Parks, meant when he stated, “In every walk (in this case substitute walk with kayak) one receives more than he seeks.”

The Greater Grand Lake Region Visitors Center invites you to check out Grand Lake St. Marys and make memories with your loved ones.  Plan your visit at www.GreaterGrandLakeRegion.com

*The Hoedag is a mythological beast that lives in the lake. According to a newspaper report from 1912 The beast is 3/4 the size of an elephant, possesses a serpentine body with a back hump, chicken-like feet, a green eye on the forehead, a red eye on the long tail, and is covered with hair and feathers.