kayaking on lake erie

Kayaking on Lake Erie

41° North let’s you go with the flow where the Rocky River meets our Great Lake.

Exploring Lake Erie by kayak reveals a side of the Cleveland area that few people see on a regular basis. And when the weather is just right, it’s downright magical. Gently bobbing up and down in our Great Lake’s uncharacteristically calm water, I pause from paddling toward the city skyline and glance upward.

Stacked like layer cake, a towering shale cliff stretches along the north shore, looming 60 feet above the water’s surface on the starboard side and eclipsing the late-afternoon sun. In the opposite direction, the expansive lake meets the horizon line and blends seamlessly into a cloudless sky.

“It’s hard to describe, but there’s a strange feeling that goes with being in a small boat in a big body of water,” says Mark Pecot, the founder of 41° North, a paddlesport outfitter based in Lakewood. “It’s a cool sensory experience.”

Kayaking is a relaxing and affordable way to get out on the water. If you don’t have your own boat, 41° North rents both kayaks and stand-up paddleboards from its Yak Shack, situated at the northernmost end of Cleveland Metroparks’ Rocky River Reservation. From the launch point, it’s a mile-long paddle on flat water to reach the lake, which takes roughly 30 minutes.

Approaching the mouth of the river, the waterway widens and gets busy with boat traffic from the Cleveland Yacht Club. While boaters idle past in the no-wake zone, I hug the break wall, surprising a blue heron that flaps its wings and takes off. It swoops in front of me and glides past million-dollar homes lining the riverbank, including one that Eliot Ness once occupied in the Clifton Lagoons. Finally, I round the corner at the green-striped breakwater light and drift into our vast inland sea, pausing to admire the cliff-lined coast. 

41° North’s Yak Shack, located at the Emerald Necklace Marina in the Cleveland Metroparks’ Rocky River Reservation, is open daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day, then weekends through the end of September. For more information, call 866/529-2541 or visit kayak41north.com.