Kayaking on Big Bear Lake

Date Visited: August 7, 2010
Check current conditions: Big Bear Discovery Center (909-382-2790) for tours. Captain John’s Fawn Harbor & Marina (909-866-6478) for rentals.
  • Tours: Summer only (call Discovery Center)
  • Rentals: Check Marina website
  • Season: Summer and Fall (possibly Spring)
  • Parking: free (lot)
  • Location: Big Bear Lake
  • Nearest City: Big Bear City, CA
  • Kid-Friendly: Yes
  • Dog-Friendly: No

Kayaking — the fresh water kind (Jaws forever tainted my fondness for ocean sports) — is one of my favorite activities, but one which I don’t get to do very often.   We live close enough to the beach and several lakes (my folks even live on a lake and own a kayak that we can use any time), but, Jeff and I just don’t make much time for it.

Big Bear Lake Kayaking

View from the shores of Captain Jack's marina.

When we took our wedding anniversary trip up to Big Bear last summer, we planned to hike on the day of our arrival and then mountain bike the next day. But, no surprise in August, temperatures were too hot for comfortable mid-day hiking even up in the San Bernardino National Forest.  We had heard that the Big Bear Discovery Center, run by the National Forest Association, along the north side of Big Bear Lake, did guided canoe and kayak tours during the summer months.  So we stopped by and booked a 2-hour group kayak tour for later that afternoon.  I can’t recall what we paid for a 2-person kayak spot (I know it wasn’t expensive), and unfortunately, the Discovery Center has already pulled the rates off their website.

Big Bear Lake Kayaking

Our guide leads the way.

Big Bear Lake Kayaking

This is that cool little calm canal-like area bordered with spectacular water-front homes.

After meeting up with our guide in front of the Discovery Center at our designed time, he gave us directions to caravan over to Captain John’s Fawn Harbor & Marina, located just a few minutes away on Grout Bay. Once the entire tour arrived (there was only one other family of three), our guide started issuing life vests, paddles and kayaks, then gave a brief demonstration on how to kayak.  I say brief, because everyone in our group had kayaked before.

Big Bear Lake Kayaking

The murky waters in the marshy area were still clear enough for us to see schools of fish in the calmer areas of Grout Bay.

Big Bear Lake Kayaking

Paddling along the western edge of Grout Bay.

Big Bear Lake Kayaking

Our guide frequently called us together to point out wildlife, vegetation and scenery. In this shot, Jeff and I paddled behind our guide and the family of three to get a group shot.

Big Bear Lake Kayaking

Looking way back at Captain John's Marina and Grout Bay.

We spent the first hour kayaking along the marshy perimeter of Grout Bay, while our very friendly and knowledgeable college-intern guide pointed out wildlife and vegetation to us.  He also took us back into a beautiful narrow calm canal-like area that was bordered with spectacular lake-front homes while he explained a bit of the history beyond Big Bear lake reservoir and dam.  After this first hour, he  demonstrated how to handle our kayaks out on the more choppy main part of the lake, and then kept an attentive watchful eye on us as our group split into its two families and headed out on to “open water”.  Jeff and I both had a blast kayaking out towards the main lake as the afternoon winds started to pick up.  What a workout! But, what a thrill.  And so peaceful and relaxing.

Big Bear Lake Kayaking

You just can't get this up close to wildlife on a motor boat.

Big Bear Lake Kayaking

Heading towards a sea of water lillies.

Big Bear Lake Kayaking

An up close view of these beautiful buds.

After about two and a half hours, our guide signaled for the group to head back in to the marina.  We turned in the boats and equipment, generously tipped our guide, and then took a long drive around the lake to watch the sun start to set as we made our way to our weekend condo.

Big Bear Lake Kayaking

Venturing off on our own, rounding the western corner of Grout Bay out on to the open lake. No more calm water.

Big Bear Lake Kayaking

But our trusty guide always kept a safe watch on both parties.

Big Bear Lake Kayaking

Jeff and I spent quite a bit of time ogling over these spectacular waterfront homes, and trying to decide which was our favorite.

Big Bear Lake Kayaking

Taking a slow scenic drive around the lake after done kayaking.

I certainly hope Jeff and I have the time to head back up to Big Bear for a weekend this fall.  Even though the Discovery Center has stopped doing boat tours until next summer, the rates at the marina are reasonable enough for us to just rent the boats and gear directly through them, or we can borrow my parents’ 2-person kayak and safety vests.


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Comments

  1. says

    Nice. My family has rented a house on Grout Bay for the past 5 years! Love it there and it is a wonderful spot to relax. We too just kayaked from Capt. John’s. Nice pictures and thanks for sharing!

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