You, too, Can Be up White Rock Creek, with or without Your Paddle

I have a column in the paper, at least for the first part of this week, about paddling my canoe up White Rock Creek. I know what you're thinking. "So why haven't you been fired?" No, listen. It has a lot of important stuff in it. I hat-cammed it, so there's a video that's even more boring than the column itself.

Here is what occurs to me now. If you do read about how I paddled my canoe up White Rock Creek, I know you will want to do something like that yourself. And you can. I should have told you in the column, but I was too busy talking about myself. A company called White Rock Paddle Company rents canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddle boards right at the mouth of the creek.

Schutze Paddles Up White Rock Creek from Voice Media Group on Vimeo.

You get to the rental agency by exiting off Mockingbird into the park. It's the exit closest to Buckner, east of the exit to the dog park. You can drive there from either the eastbound or westbound lanes of Mockingbird.

You will see them -- they have a van surrounded by a lot of boats -- as soon as you enter the park. They open at 10 a.m. on weekdays, 8 a.m. on weekends and send out their last boat at 7 p.m. From Memorial Day on, they will be open every day of the week. The rental rates quoted to me were $14.99 an hour for single kayaks, $7.50 for each additional half hour, and $19.99 for tandem kayaks and canoes. But check the website.

Most people who are novices think they want to rent canoes rather than kayaks, because the canoes look drier and safer. I think that may be a mistake. The kayaks rented at White Rock are the sit-on-top variety that you almost cannot flip over, and kayak paddling is easier to learn than canoe paddling. Of course, if you want to carry a kid and a picnic and stuff, then a canoe is the better load-carrier.

The rental company offers one hour or three hour lessons at $39,99 to $79.99. I don't want to do them out of any fees, but another good way to learn to paddle a canoe that doesn't cost anything is humility. Yup, a certain willingness to look stupid for about 20 minutes is the secret. Canoes don't paddle the way people think they should. They steer from the back, not the front. If you are a couple, for example, sitting in the back and shouting at the person in the front to turn the boat a certain direction will only steer you into a bridge abutment and maybe even turn you into no-longer-a-couple.

If you want to steer, sit in the back. Let the person in front just paddle. Grip the head of your paddle with one hand and the waist of the paddle with the other. And just flail. It's the only way. Flail. Paddle frontways. Paddle backways. Do not yell at the person in the bow. See what happens. It's not brain surgery, but you do have to be willing to look stupid before you look cool.

You can also do this stuff on the Trinity River, but it's important to know beforehand that the Trinity River can be a big and powerful body of water with seriously dangerous hazards. If you Google "Dallas Trinity River canoe," you will find at least a couple of outfitters that specialize in Trinity River canoe rentals. The one I know best is Charles Allen's Trinity River Expeditions, but that doesn't mean there's anything wrong with the others. The point is, you don't just jump into the Trinity River without some careful consideration.

White Rock Creek is easier. There is almost no current unless you get way upstream almost into Collin County, and if you get tired of it you can paddle out into the lake. There are other creeks in town you can paddle, but most of them involve a lot of serious bushwhacking.

Anyway, I'll see you out there maybe. If you're out on the lake just learning and kind of muddling around, I'll pull up next to your canoe and mock you. Try to catch me. Anger is the best teacher!

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze