Eight Water Vacations
For restless rovers drawn to the exciting seas, lakes, and rivers of America
I know people - and so do you - who don't call it a vacation unless they get wet. For that multitude of restless rovers drawn to the awesome seas, lakes, and rivers of America, here are eight brief vacations on, in, or under the H2O at excitingly low prices.
Canoeing the Adirondacks, New York
Paddling New York's Adirondack State Park has always been the best way to savor this vast wilderness. "The Adirondacks, that Venice of the woods, whose highways are rivers, whose paths are streams, and whose carriages are boats," rhapsodized Reverend William H.H. Murray in 1870. The year before, Murray published a book called Adventures in the Wilderness, which praised the therapeutic value of the woods on both mind and body. Guide boats, a little larger than rowboats, were used to escort visitors on the network of waterways that form a vast web of blue throughout the Adirondacks.
Today, these routes are still being used by avid paddlers in search of much needed solace. Starting from the southwest corner of the park, at Old Forge, canoers can go 120 continuous miles, all the way north to the Saranac Lakes. The park's countless rivers, lakes, and ponds are connected by short trails, resulting in a seemingly endless combination of canoeing options. One of the finest is a four-day figure-eight loop in the St. Regis Canoe Area and the Saranac Lakes Wild Forest that includes eight ponds and the Upper and Middle Saranac Lakes. Creeks, inundated with beaver dams and lily pads, connect the placid waters of the ponds. Mountains hovering over 3,300 feet surround the lakes.
St. Regis Canoe Outfitters (518/891-1838, www.canoeoutfitters.com) will help plan an itinerary and provide all the necessary amenities for a canoe trip including canoe, paddles, maps, tents, backpacks, and sleeping bags. The Standard Outfitting Package costs $45 per person per day. A four-day guided camping trip costs $499 per person, including all food.
Rafting the Green River, Colorado and Utah
Roaring 44 miles through northwestern Colorado and northeastern Utah, the Green River is one of the most desolate runs in the U.S. The Class III white-water snakes through rarely seen Dinosaur National Monument, where red walls rise sharply to some 2,500 feet to effectively block out civilization. In its place, you'll find one of the largest concentrations of endangered peregrine falcons in America, bighorn sheep, and mule deer. John Wesley Powell explored the Green in 1869 and was so impressed with the river that he gave the most exciting rapids names like Disaster Falls, Triplet Falls, and Hell's Half Mile. Adrift Adventures (800/824-0150, www.adrift.com) features a four-day run on the Green River. The cost is $669 for adults and $578 for kids ages 6 to 12.
Also ask about its Jurassic Journey and Rock Art and Rafting options, which add an extra day to the trip before heading down the Green. The former takes you to Dinosaur Quarry, where dinosaur bones have been found. The Rock Art package visits several sites near the Ute Indian Reservation to view southwestern Native American rock art.
Scuba Diving the Keys, Key Largo, Florida
Drive down Highway 1 from Miami to Key Largo and you'll quickly be surrounded by tacky gift shops, which soon give way to somewhat less tacky dive shops. You've just entered Diversville, U.S.A. (its real name is the Key Largo National Maritime Sanctuary), where the number of dive sites can accommodate a giant multitude of dive visitors - no one has ever been turned away. Some two-dozen dive areas are found on Key Largo's famed Molasses Reef alone; Molasses oozes with coral heads and every Caribbean fish imaginable. More experienced divers can visit the wrecks of the USCG Bibb and the USCG Duane, two intact warships resting in just over 100 feet of water.
Kelly's on the Bay (800/226-0415, www.kellysonthebay.com) in Key Largo offers year-round package rates of $285 per person (double occupancy) for the four nights from Sunday to Thursday only. This includes three nights of lodging and four dive trips operated by the property's on-premises dive shop, Aqua-Nuts. Kelly's will also help find you a boat for the half-day run to the Florida Bay flats. There, in the cooler waters, you can try your luck fly-fishing for the elusive 10-to-14-pound bonefish.
Sculling Hosmer Pond, Vermont
Sandwiched between the hills of Vermont's remote Northeast Kingdom, Hosmer Pond is the idyllic setting for the Craftsbury Outdoor Center's sculling school (800/729-7751, www.crafts bury.com). Now in its 25th year, the operation is run by Steve Wagner, head crew coach at Rutgers University. His large staff includes a slew of other college coaches and Olympians like Marlene Royle and Carlie Geer. If you ever wanted to learn the sport of sculling - or you already scull and want to perfect your stroke - Craftsbury is arguably the best place in the States to do just that.
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