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Sedona Adventures by Water
Kayaking is a blast. I’ve missed it since leaving southern California so I was thrilled to meet Richard Lynch, owner of Sedona Adventure Outfitters & Guides, the only kayaking outfitter in Sedona. Wait – kayaking in the desert? Richard’s heard that a lot since he opened his doors last August – it surprises most tourists and locals to learn the Verde River, which meanders through Cottonwood and Camp Verde, has class five rapids and hosts a canoe river run each March.
Sedona Adventure Outfitters offers two river trips – a six-hour, up to 10-mile paddling excursion through Camp Verde with lunch, and a three-hour “Water to Wine” trip that covers about two miles of river near Cottonwood, ending with wine tasting at Alcantara Vineyards (we took this one). Richard says kayaking the Verde River is a four-season sport and once our boats hit the water at the Black Canyon put-in location off Hwy 260 it really wasn’t anywhere near as cold as I’d expected, and winter rainstorms make for bigger water. We traversed at least half-dozen class one and two rapids, more intense than any I’d experienced in California or Hawaii, yet still with a low fear factor.
Part of the Verde’s allure is the potential to see wildlife. We spied two enormous bald eagles sitting along a ledge above the river. The river is home to otters and beavers and provides water to elk and deer. During the spring, wildflowers bloom and in the summer the cottonwoods, willows, and sycamores growing along the banks provide plenty of shade.
Sedona Adventure Outfitters has 30 kayaks, about eight of which are tandem boats, perfect for families with kids under age 12 (children under age 5 aren’t permitted). DIYers can rent kayaks from Richard and arrange for his shuttle to drop you off and pick you up. The company also rents inner tubes and leads hiking, birding, scenic, and vortex tours. Richard employs four full-time guides and four part-timers – one guide per six people – versed in local geology, archaeology, and history. Sedona Adventure Outfitters is ecofriendly. Its lunches are paperless, trip-takers receive reusable polycarbonate Nalgene water bottles, and the guides routinely pick up trash along the river.
Though Richard refers to the kayaking tours as “float trips,” they aren’t just quiet boat rides. The current is strong on the Verde and it will push you into reeds, rocks, and banks. More than one person has flipped their rig, though the Verde is only about six to eight feet at its deepest along the two-mile stretch we paddled. Richard tells people if they flip, simply to stand up. No one has ever been hurt.
“For city people this is wild,” says Richard, who has lived in Sedona off and on since 1992 and worked as a river guide in Idaho, Montana, Alaska, Colorado, Utah and the Grand Canyon. “They see eagles and jumping fish, and they run rapids. It makes for great stories when they get back home.”
Sedona Adventures Outfitters and Guides
Kayaking, hiking, birding and vortex tours as well as kayak and tube rentals
Sedona Adventures by Air
I’m not a huge fan of flying – I didn’t take my first commercial flight until I was 21 – but Sedona’s stunning topography begs for a bird’s-eye view. Perhaps the most nostalgic option is to see the rocks from the front seat of a bright red Waco biplane. Eric Brunner, co-owner of Red Rock Biplane, Red Rock Helicopter and Sky Safari Charter & Air Tours, says the biplanes attract a certain customer. “Harley riders,” he says. “The biplane is a flying Harley-Davidson – it has a very distinct sound.”