The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment is offering new glass-bottom kayak tours of Spring Lake aimed at tourists who visit during the summer months.
The Meadows Center is a non-profit organization that has been giving glass-bottom boat tours of Spring Lake for the last 60 years, said Assistant Director Deborah Lane. The center now offers glass-bottom kayak tours for up to six people.
The kayaks offer several unique advantages over the traditional boat tours, said Josiah Reese, kayak guide at the center. Many areas of Spring Lake are too shallow for the glass-bottom boats to reach, but kayaks are quiet and non-invasive to the endangered species in the lake, making them ideal for tours.
The kayak tours are more “intimate” than the large boat tours, Lane said.
Guests have more freedom to explore on the glass-bottom kayak tours, but participants are required to remain with their tour guide, Reese said.
“It’s kind of like a mother duck and her ducklings,” Reese said.
The outcome of the tour depends on weather conditions, the time of day and the tour guide’s judgment on the condition of the water and wildlife, Reese said. Each of the varying conditions makes each tour different from the last.
“Just like the philosopher Thales said, ‘You can’t step in the same river twice,’” Reese said.
Some “highlights” of the tour are a wetlands habitat with native fish, turtles and migratory birds, over 200 artesian springs and an underwater archaeological dig, Lane said.
This summer, the center will give a “full moon” tour on June 12, a Fourth of July fireworks tour and bird watching, photography and evening tours, Reese said.
“The whole point is to make it an educational experience, not a recreational one,” Reese said.
Visitors come to learn about the historical and biological background of the area, which dates back to the Ice Age, said Jared Wilken, a tour guide at the center. Hunter-gatherers used the springs as a stop when they were hunting wooly mammoths.
“It really lets people get a glimpse into the past,” Wilken said.
Tours usually require a reservation, but this Memorial Day weekend visitors were welcome to walk-in tours all day, Reese said.
Despite some inclement weather and road closures, Memorial Day operations were not hindered, Lane said. Some visitors were willing to go on the tour despite the possibility of rain.
“Though I was looking forward to a busy Memorial Day, we would rather see it rain than not,” Lane said. “This river wouldn’t be here if it didn’t rain.”
Visitors will get to see a secluded area that is not open to intrusion from the outside world, Wilken said.
“It’s kind of an Eden in the backyard,” Reese said. “A hidden paradise.”