Submitted by the Niagara River Greenway Commission
Bright and early Saturday, July 31, the public once again has an opportunity to come and enjoy the Niagara River, the great beach at Beaver Island and a chance to paddle a kayak.
The 15th annual Paddles Up Niagara is sponsored by the Niagara River Greenway Commission, the State Parks Department, the Town of Grand Island and Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper.
All paddle events are free, and plenty of safety paddlers, emergency watercraft, and life guards will be on standby.
There are three paddling events to choose from:
•Eco-Tour 1 starts at 7 a.m. and is limited to 15 people.
•Eco-Tour 2 starts at 8 a.m. and is also limited to 15 people
•The Fun Paddle starts at 10:30 a.m.
Greenway Community Engagement Manager Michelle Lockett said the COVID-19 pandemic caused cancellation of the 2020 Paddles Up, but the event comes back at a time when many paddling enthusiasts now have a chance to get back on the Niagara River for a safe but thrilling water sport.
Although the two guided ecotours have a restricted number, the Fun Paddle is wide open for registrants.
“We are able to open it up to as many people who want to participate,” Lockett said. She noted the Fun Paddle is ideal for novice kayakers. “We are going to have more safety paddlers, as well as motor boats on the water, making sure that everybody’s safe. That was the one big thing that we’ve always had comments on, is how people felt very safe there. If they run into any issues, there’s always someone close by that can help. If you’re not moving in the direction you want to go, they can give you advice on how to move your paddles around.”
Registration opens Wednesday, July 7. Go to: https://www.niagararivergreenway.com/paddles-up and click on the green button that says “Register Here.” One can also find course maps for the two different tours at that website, as well as places to rent a kayak.
Participants should meet at shelters 2A and 2B and will launch from the far end of the beach.
•The ecotours begin at Beaver Island beach and are designed to be smaller in size, so everyone can hear the guide interpret plants and animal life as they guide the group of 15 through habitats around Beaver Island. Register early to get a spot. The ecotours will be led by Greenway commissioner emeritus and wetland ecologist Paul Leuchner of Grand Island, who created Paddles Up; and Tim DePriest, a habitat ecologist from the state Department of Environmental Conservation who serves on the Greenway’s Ecological Standing Committee.
•The Fun Paddle allows participants to choose how far they paddle from the Beaver Island beach and around Little Beaver Island this year.
Lockett said, “We have an optional extension so, if people want to go a little bit longer, we’re going to do one loop and go past the launch site so the people can get out if they choose to end there; and then we’re going to continue on a little bit longer route that goes to the East River Marsh and back” to the launch site.
Lockett said kayaks aren’t the only means of transportation people can use: “You can bring canoes; people have done it with standup paddle boards – SUPs – anything with a paddle.”
Kayaks can be rented from:
•Blue Water Marina on Grand Island, 716-773-7884; https://www.bluewatermarinagi.com/
•Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper in Buffalo 716-852-7483 https://bnwaterkeeper.salsalabs.org/paddlesuprental-groupfunpaddle
•Niagara Outfitters in Lewiston, 716-246-4778
Organizers said these vendors are willing to bring the kayaks to the Paddles Up event location.
Lockett said the first 200 people to register will receive a commemorative T-shirt, and all participants can get one free beer or hot dog at Bogey’s Bar and Grill, the Beaver Island restaurant next to the clubhouse.
Karen Carr Keefe contributed to this report.
During Paddles Up Niagara on Saturday, July 31, ecotour guides will interpret plants and animal life as they lead a group of 15 through habitats around Beaver Island. This photo of a chimney was taken on Frog Island in 2020. (Photo by Paul Leuchner)