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Guided natural history tours of
Paddle through fascinating tufa formations and along
Kayak on scenic Lake Crowley and learn about the geology of the Long Valley Caldera on our guided tours. Enjoy rewarding views of the Sierra Nevada and a variety of bird life.
Lakefront kayak rentals, lessons and sales at the
Fish the Eastern Sierra from stable sit-on-top kayaks and get out on the water where the fish are biting.
Families and children welcome
Late spring reveals snow-capped mountains towering over a glassy Mono Lake-a great time to kayak! Join Caldera Kayaks for a guided expedition along Mono's south shore. This natural history kayak tour will cover a wide variety of topics relating to this unusual Great Basin lake, such as birds, geology, ecology, history, and politics. Expect to see underwater tufa towers, brine shrimp, lake-bottom springs, and a variety of birds.
Stuart Wilkinson is a longtime Mono Lake paddling guide and veteran kayaker. He and his wife Sue own and operate Caldera Kayaks, and have been operating on Mono Lake for nearly 20 years.
Winter got off to a great start in 2016/2017 and we received abundant snowfall over the winter. Spring is also bringing more winter weather so there will be some runoff in the spring and summer. The Mono Lake Committee expects the lake to rise about 4 feet over the course of the summer. The landscape at the South Tufa area has changed dramatically with less water in recent years and more tufas are exposed now. There are still a few shallow tufas to watch out for as collisions damage both boats and the tufa towers..
Lake Crowley is on the rise and will offer some great fresh water kayak tours over the coming summer. Try one of our Lake Crowley kayak tours for a visit to the fascinating pillars on the east shore of the lake.
We will open in late May or early June for the 2017 season. We apologize for any inconvenience if you try to get out on the water before that time. Spring can bring unsettled weather so we usually wait until later in the season for warmer temperatures and more settled weather.go to top of page
Shack Point before the water rose.
Shallow lagoons have formed along the shoreline and new habitat is available for birds. We see quite a few birds in the spring, summer and fall months. In addition to the California gulls, eared grebes and phalaropes we were treated to views of avocet, egrets, Great blue herons, stilts and ruddy ducks.
There are several pairs of Osprey that nest on tufa towers near the big point west of Navy Beach and other pairs nest on other tufa towers in the Navy Beach and South Tufa area. Please do not visit the sensitive nest areas and stay a good 200 yards from the tufa towers with the nests. There are maps available that show where the nests are located so they can be avoided.
Private boaters are required to know the regulations to paddle on Mono Lake. Always pay attention to the weather forecast. The kiosk at Navy Beach has maps and information about boat safety, weather forecasts, sensitive wildlife areas that include the Osprey nests, river delta areas and other areas on the shores of Mono Lake. Beginners are advised to stay close to shore, since strong winds can come up suddenly and create large steep waves. An early start is advisable, especially in the warm summer months, to take advantage of calm morning conditions. NOAA weather forecasts can be heard at Navy Beach with a weather radio so tours can be planned accordingly.
Shack Point as the water rises.
Shack Point at the highest lake level.
Lunch time for the Osprey.
We are completing our summer 2017 schedule now.
Scheduled tours are available on weekends and midweek. Our schedule is dependent on the weather and subject to change. Some alternate tour dates can be arranged. We try to coordinate small groups together so we can be more environmentally friendly with our kayak transportation logistics. If you call and get our voice message we might be on the water, so please leave us a message and we will get back to you as soon as possible. If you email, put something about "kayak tours" in the subject line so we do not miss your message.
We offer guided kayak tours along Mono Lake's shoreline and out to Paoha Island to let you experience one of the oldest living lakes from the unique perspective of a touring kayak. We paddle along Mono Lake's intriguing shoreline during the seasonal closure from April 1 to August 1. Starting in August we lead trips to young volcanic islands when weather conditions permit.
Three or more persons $75.00 per person for a guided tour, includes natural history, boating equipment and instruction. Call for trip itinerary.
Two person private tours are $110.00 per person.
Where to meet and what to bring:
Tours depart from Navy Beach on the south shore of Mono Lake. To reach Navy Beach from Mammoth Lakes go north on highway 395 to about five miles north of the June Lake Junction to route 120 East. To reach Navy Beach from Lee Vining / Tioga Pass Route go south on 395 about five miles to route 120 East. Take route 120 east towards Benton for five miles. Turn
left at the SouthTufa Reserve/Test Station road turnoff. Follow the right fork towards Navy
Beach. Turn left at "T". Follow road to parking area. Reservations are required for the kayak tour.
08:30 Meet guests, get boats ready for tour. Paddle instruction.
9:00 Depart on tour.
9:30 to 10:45 Paddle to destination with short interpretive discussions
along the way.
10:45 to 11:15 Lunch break and Mono Lake natural history discussion.
11:30 to 12:00 Return paddle from destination.
12:30 to done Load up equipment.
Trip length might vary due to weather conditions, group abilities and other
Personal equipment list:
Water shoes: Booties or sandals with ankle straps (Teva or similar) or old
Shorts or bathing suit.
Cotton long pants not recommended.
T shirt. Light synthetic sweater.
Wind breaker or jacket.
Sunhat, sunglasses with retainers, sunscreen
Boating or bike gloves, light garden gloves.
Lunch and water.
Small beach towel.
Quick drying long pants and long sleeve sun/salt shirt.
Camera, binoculars, Dry bag.
Paddler Comfort Packages:
Here are a few goodies that will make your kayak tour more comfortable. They are yours to keep for future adventures on the water.
A dry bag or a pair of gloves. You can keep your camera, lunch and sweater dry in one of these quality Baja bags from Cascade Designs. Gloves protect your hands from the sun and salt.
Small 5 liter $11.00
Medium 10 liter$13.00
Large 20 liter $16.00
Or a pair of good quality pair of gloves. $15.00 to $28.00
A pair of gloves and a dry bag.
Gloves will keep your hands from getting sore spots and they also keep the sun and salt off your hands.
$30.00 to $40.00 for the popular medium size dry bag and a good pair of gloves.
Have you ever wondered what lies around the next point? Intermediate and advanced paddlers will enjoy our longer distance kayak tours. We will keep up a good pace and discuss the natural history of the Mono Basin as we paddle and at locations of interest. Kayakers should have an efficient forward stroke and some experience with winds and waves for the intermediate tours. The warm days of summer and autumn make these extended tours quite enjoyable. Our advanced tours might be of interest to paddlers that would like to rent a kayak but cannot transport the kayak themselves to Mono Lake.
We leave early on the island tours to take advantage of the calm morning and plan our returns before the afternoon winds pick up.
Call for trip itinerary and if you have questions about your ability. People with their own boats are welcome to join one of our scheduled tours. $50.00 with your own boat.
There are lots of freshwater lakes that offer delightful locations to paddle kayaks and canoes. You can paddle your boat to a secluded beach and enjoy a picnic in the sand.
Crowley Lake is a large freshwater lake close to Mammoth Lakes with spectacular vistas of the surrounding Sierra Nevada peaks. The U.S. Olympic Flat Water Kayak Team might train on the waters of Crowley Lake in preparation for the year 2004 Olympics in Athens. We offer lakefront lessons and quality kayak rentals at the Crowley Lake Marina from May through the middle of October. On the water kayak rentals make it convenient and easy to paddle a scenic gem overlooked by many paddlers. Paddle a kayak along the twenty mile shoreline and discover hidden coves and sandy beaches for yourself.
Grant Lake, a reservoir upstream from Mono Lake, has lots of sandy beaches and great vistas of Mt. Wood. Trees line the shoreline and the water is refreshing on a hot day. Autumn colors are especially vibrant on the lakeshore and hills that surround the lake. Grant Lake is part of the watershed that fills Mono Lake so we are happy to see the lake quite full these days.
Please call to arrange tours. $60.00 per person, includes natural history, boating equipment and instruction. Custom tours are available to accommodate paddlers of all ages and abilities.
$60.00 for a two to three hour basic lesson, covers kayaking safety, paddle
strokes, self rescue and on the water practice. If you would like to learn some kayak skills and enjoy some great tours join us for our introductory kayak course. We begin with a lesson on scenic Crowley Lake where we will teach you an efficient paddle stroke, brace strokes, self rescue and some basic navigational skills. We will enjoy dramatic views of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range and learn about the Long Valley Caldera. Your guide might even demonstrate an Eskimo roll. The U.S. Olympic Canoe and Kayak flat water team has trained on the waters of Crowley Lake in preparation for the Olympics. The afternoon is yours to hike, bike, fish or just relax in the nearby mountains.
lesson/tour package: $125.00
If you would like to learn some kayak skills and enjoy some great tours join us for our introductory kayak course. On the two day learn to paddle course we begin with a lesson on scenic Crowley Lake where we will teach you an efficient paddle stroke, brace strokes, self rescue and some basic navigational skills. We will enjoy dramatic views of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range and learn about the Long Valley Caldera. Your guide might even demonstrate an Eskimo roll. The afternoon is yours to hike, bike, fish or just relax in the nearby mountains.
On the second day we put our kayak skills to use on a tour of the inland sea of Mono Lake. While we tour we will discuss the natural history of the Mono Basin, view wildlife and refine our on the water skills. Mono Lake is noted for its unique tufa formations and is especially important for bird rookeries and migratory routes. The shoreline of Mono Lake has changed dramatically in recent years with the 1994 decision to increase the elevation of the lake. Mono Lake from the perspective of a sea kayak is a memorable experience. You might have so much fun you will want to take a kayak home with you.
The combination lesson/tour is suited for beginners or for those that have kayaked before and want to learn some additional skills. The lesson and tour combination is available throughout the summer.
Sometimes your best memories are from your childhood adventures. We offer lessons for children so they can get out on the water at an early age. Two person minimum.
$45.00 for a two hour lesson, includes all equipment.
Call for more information and reservations.
Sit-on-top singles: Half day $30.00, full day $40.00
Sit-on-top doubles: Half day $50.00, full day $60.00
Call for reservations.
As much as we love winter in the Eastern Sierra, we do get tired of cold weather now and then. At times like these we like to go on kayak tours in Costa Rica and Baja California. We have paddled most of Baja's Sea of Cortez shoreline and can give you some good ideas on places to go or we can hook you up with some of the outfitters that lead great trips in Baja.
Costa Rica has to be one of our favorite places for kayak tours. In 1992 we paddled Costa Rica's Pacific Coastline and saw monkeys, tapirs, scarlet macaws and other exotic wildlife from our campsites. Kayaks proved to be a perfect way to explore some of the more remote portions of the shoreline.
Paddlers depend on their equipment. Weather conditions change rapidly in the Eastern Sierra. We use and sell quality boats from Necky Kayaks and Ocean Kayaks and paddles from Northwest Design Works so you know the gear will not let you down. We also sell accessories to keep you warm and dry while paddling.
It is not unusual to encounter variable weather conditions while out on Mono Lake. We use and sell Ex-Officio travel clothing to keep the hot sun and salt off our skin. These clothes are cool in hot weather and dry very quickly when wet. When conditions are not favorable, fleece underlayers with a storm shell or dry top from Kokatat will keep you comfortable and warm. Booties, gloves and wetsuits will keep you warm when out for cold weather paddle tours.
Dry bags from Seattle Sports and Cascade Designs will keep your extra gear dry, whether you are on a day trip or an extended journey. Try a Thermarest'r' Chair Kit at the end of a long day and enjoy a full support chair. Cascade Designs also makes a great touring seat that will fit most kayaks and canoes and reduces fatigue on long trips.
No matter what the activity is, it is important to keep hydrated while you enjoy the great outdoors. We use Camel Bak and Ultimate Directions hydration systems to keep ourselves properly hydrated while paddling, biking, skiing or hiking in the Eastern Sierra.
NOAA has established a repeater that gives up to date weather forecasts for the Eastern Sierra. The Weather One radio will keep you from guessing about the next storm system moving in and get you off the lake or out of the mountains before the weather changes.
Yakima Racks has developed a roof rack for most vehicles. We sell and rent Yakima Racks so you know your equipment will get to your destination safe and securely. We also have canoe and kayak carts that make longer carries much easier.
With a boat purchase receive ten percent off on accessories.
Under Special Use Permit with the Inyo National Forest.
Caldera Kayaks contributes to the Mono Lake Foundation.
Under special use permit with the Inyo National Forest.
In accordance with Federal law and U.S. Department of Agriculture policy, this institution is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.)
To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, Room 326-W, Whitten Building, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (202) 720-5964 (voice and TDD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.
Caldera Kayaks contributes to the Mono Lake Foundation.
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