One of the special things about kayaking as a hobby is the fact that it forces you to get out into nature all throughout the year.
Many people think kayaking is just a summer hobby and you may be inclined to pack away the yak and your paddles when the weather starts taking a turn and the temperature plummets. However, autumn is one of the best times to explore your local lakes, rivers, or coastlines from a kayak.
If you’re thinking about packing up your kayaking gear now autumn is underway, give this article a read first. You may just change your mind and continue to paddle as the temperatures drop and the leaves fall from the trees.
In this read, we’ll be looking at why autumn is one of my (and many others) favourite times of the year to put paddle to water.
1. Peace and Quiet
One of my favourite things about autumn kayaking isn’t the beautiful changing colours or crisp misty mornings. The best thing about autumn for me is without a doubt the peace and quiet.
By the time the leaves have turned and the temperatures have dropped, most of the sunseekers that head out into nature to enjoy the sunshine have gone. This means that bar a few passionate people on kayaks and canoes, the waterways are more or less empty.
There’s nothing better than heading out on the river as the sun rises and going for a paddle with no one else around. The peace and quiet is different at this time of year. The lack of people combined with a calm crisp autumn morning does wonders for the soul. A good long paddle during autumn can be an excellent way to relax, unwind, and reset after a busy week in the rat race.
2. Calmer Conditions and Mirror-Like Waters
There’s no doubt that autumn can bring less than favourable weather. However, this season isn’t just filled with torrential rain, mud, and cold weather.
Autumn can bring some of the most beautiful and calm conditions for kayaking in, especially during dawn and dusk. The cooler temperature throughout this season can bring smooth mirror-like waters, crisp air, and clear conditions.
Kayaking at dawn on a still lake in clear conditions is a breathtaking experience. The way the morning sun reflects off the water and the trees full of yellows, reds, and browns mirror off the shallow water in the margins is truly spectacular.
3. No Bugs, No Problems
The lack of nasty biting bugs, specifically, mosquitoes is one of the best things about autumn kayaking. I’ve been kayaking throughout Ireland, Scotland, and many parts of Scandinavia during the summer months and the mozzies and midges have been an absolute nightmare.
By the time the trees have turned and the temperatures have dropped, the majority of the irritating flying bugs have gone. This makes kayaking much more enjoyable and much more comfortable.
4. It’s Less Strenuous
The cooler temperatures throughout the autumn season can make kayaking a lot easier on the body. Transporting your kayak to and from different waterways can be exhausting in the hot summer sun.
By the time you get the kayak on the water in summer, you can often be drenched in sweat and not in the best shape to head out paddling. However, when the weather is fair but the temperatures are cool, loading, unloading, and dragging your kayak to the water’s edge is much less of a hassle.
Cooler temperatures can allow you to go for far longer out on the water without becoming fatigued, dehydrated, and exhausted.
5. Beautiful Colours
Of course, one of the most special things about autumn is the stunning changes in your surroundings. I try to get out on the water at least twice per week throughout the autumn months so I can watch the leaves turn from green to shades of reds and yellows as they slowly drop from the trees leaving the branches bare.
Watching the seasons change from the perspective of the water is a fantastic experience that makes you feel connected with the nature around you. Autumn is without a doubt one of the most beautiful times of the year to get out on the water.
6. The Wildlife is Abundant
Autumn is one of the best times of the year to head out wildlife watching. As the animals start to forage for food to see them through the winter months, their activity along the banks of rivers and lakes increases. Some birds can be seen migrating, deer can be found foraging on late autumn berries, and otters can be found hunting to gain weight for winter.
The lack of foliage as the leaves drop from the trees and shrubs on the banks also makes it easier to spot passing wildlife. Combine these two factors with the silent vantage point of a kayak and you have a recipe for an excellent time out on the water photographing and observing the abundant wildlife that exists across Europe.
The best times to spot wildlife in the autumn are dawn and dusk. While everyone is still in bed sleeping, on the commute to work, or sitting down for dinner in the warm, the fauna across Ireland’s waterways is far from asleep. Heading out on a calm clear morning or evening can be a magical experience if you enjoy watching the natural world through its best lens.
7. It Builds Character
Although we’ve mentioned several of the fantastic benefits of kayaking in the off-season, there’s no doubt that autumn kayaking can be a challenge. The cooler temperatures and unpredictable weather can be less than comfortable. Not every autumn kayaking venture is plain sailing, you can definitely put your body and mind through its paces during the autumn season, but that’s not all bad.
Why is that? Well, it builds character of course!
Unexpected frosts, rainfall, and even the odd snow flurry can be more than challenging for the kayaker, especially when touring and kayak camping. Cold nights and frosty mornings may seem difficult at the time but enduring these harsh conditions will only give you more stories and make you a better camper, kayaker, and outdoorsman.
8. Multi Day Trips Are More Enjoyable
Contrary to the last point, autumn conditions can make multi day trips far more enjoyable compared to other times of the year. The lack of insects, calm conditions, cooler temperatures, and the lack of other water-goers can make multi-day trips more comfortable and enjoyable.
With the cooler temperatures, paddling long distances doesn't make you feel as drained and dirty once you get to camp as it can in the summer. The cooler night temperatures can also provide a better and more restful night’s sleep compared to summertime.
If you hit a tour at the right time when the conditions are cool but calm, you can also cover a large distance in a quicker time. With a lack of chop on the water and no headwinds, kayaking long distances is not only more enjoyable but also far easier.
Due to it being out of the peak season, you’ll also find that bankside campsites are more or less empty and pitches will cost far less than the height of summer.