‘A great paddle’

A kayaker's view of Lacamas Lake

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Don Barron (right), owner of Lacamas Canoe & Kayak, helps lead an excursion on Lacamas Lake on Monday. Barron opened the rental, class and excursion facility at Heritage Park in Camas in June 2009. He also owns RiverTrails in Troutdale, Ore.

When viewed from its shoreline, Lacamas Lake is a beautiful site. But it is only while sitting in the snug confines of a kayak as it glides swiftly across the water that one can truly see this local treasure come to life.

For beginners and those who aren’t lucky enough to own their own watercraft, one of the best ways to experience this is by renting from Lacamas Canoe & Kayak.

Owned by Vancouver resident Don Barron, since last summer the facility at Heritage Park has offered hourly and daily rentals of about two dozen recreational kayaks and canoes.

From about May to early to mid-September, small group classes are offered for beginners that teach the basics including water safety and how to use the equipment. There are also guided tours of Lacamas Lake. Rental prices range from about $8 to $15 per hour, while classes and tours start at about $60.

On this day, the beginners kayaking class is being led by Chase Ferris, who runs the Camas operation for Barron — who is also coming along for the ride.

Although he’s only 20, Ferris has already spent many years kayaking and participating in other outdoor recreation. He grew up and still lives on Blue Lake in Troutdale. As a teenager, he took part in the Natural Resource Academy through Reynolds High School, and now attends Mount Hood Community College where he is working toward a degree in wilderness leadership and experiential education.

Although Ferris has spent much time on the Columbia, Clackamas, Rogue and Sandy rivers, and other waterways around the world, he said he enjoys the serene qualities of Lacamas Lake.

“This place is really pretty,” he said. “There’s a lot of wildlife. I enjoy it.”

On a given day on the lake, kayakers may see osprey, cormorant, ducks, Canada geese, mallards, and blue heron. In addition, boaters are treated to an incredibly serene. lush setting — a true escape from the daily grind.

“This is a great paddle,” Barron said of the experience as he glanced from one side of the lake to the other.

A Vancouver resident, Barron has a lengthy background in outdoor recreation. He began working for RiverTrails in Troutdale, Ore., as a boating guide in 1976. He has been the owner of RiverTrails for the past seven years.

In 2009, Barron struck a deal with Camas that allows him to use space for his operation on city property. In return, the city receives a monthly payment equal to 15 percent of the gross receipts received by the business.

“I’m trying a little bit of everything to see what works,” said Barron, who would like to eventually add paddle boats and bicycle rentals, among other things, to his offerings in Camas. “There’s lots of possibilities for us, for Camas Parks and Recreation and for the community. You have to have a plan and a vision.”

In the meantime, Ferris and Barron enjoy providing an opportunity for local residents and visitors experience Lacamas Lake in a new way.

“I love this part back here,” Ferris said as the group glides through a large group of lily pads toward where the channel narrows drastically and winds through trees, heavy greenery and vibrant plant life. “It’s like something from a storybook.”

Lacamas Canoe & Kayak is located at 241 N.W. Lake Road.

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