Yes, Utah Lake (and the southwest part of the Provo River, to a lesser extent) have been huge letdowns this summer, with algal bloom warnings limiting a lot of water-based activities for locals and visitors.
The few safe activities remaining involve getting on the water but not into the it, so my husband and I decided to give canoeing a go one August morning. Heading over to CLAS Ropes Course in Provo near the airport, we were excited to take advantage of its canoe rentals and go on a little river adventure.
Checking in was quick and easy — we walked up to the booth, said we wanted to rent a canoe, the worker had us sign a waiver, gave us a brief rundown of rules and instructions, and sent us on our way. We were pleased to discover the rental prices were less than what we had expected: only $15 for a two-man canoe for two hours (though that time limit didn’t seem particularly strict).
We started off on our little adventure heading upstream to the east. Right when we began we commented on how beautiful the scenery was, with a thick line of trees on both sides, reflective water and wildlife. Yes, the water is very, very dark green, making it hard to really see anything below 6 inches of the surface. But we did end up spotting a couple large fish swimming by, along with lots of ducks (some of which cutely followed after us for a little bit), dragonflies and starling birds. Surprisingly, we didn’t notice any mosquitoes or other pesky bugs bothering us.
Along with providing a lovely backdrop, the thick trees also lent a good amount of blessed shade. The temperature was in the 90s during our ride, but we actually didn’t feel too hot thanks to the shade throughout about 80% of the journey.
The part of the Provo River we rode on does not have a very strong current, so paddling upstream wasn’t too hard at all. We finally turned around after we reached a point where it got too shallow for our canoe, and then we headed for Utah Lake.
We were told that the lake itself is off-limits for canoes, so we paddled all the way down to the buoy between the lake and the river and then turned around. That last stretch leading to the lake is very noticeably less shaded, and we started getting a little too hot and sweaty for comfort.
As far as the quality of the rental canoes, I’m not exactly the best person to ask, as my only other canoe experience was girls camp in my teenage years. But they seemed to maneuver pretty easily, though we did bump into a few things, and we felt confidently safe from tipping over. I would definitely recommend having the stronger of the two paddlers sit in the back, as steering is better controlled from there.
The round trip back and forth took us just under two hours, but we weren’t in a rush, so the trip could be shorter if a renter took a less leisurely ride.
Sidenote: It might be very hard to refrain from singing “Just Around the Riverbend” during the entire ride (It was for me. My husband was only slightly annoyed).
CLAS Ropes Course’s standard size canoes fit two people, and on-site rentals are $15 per canoe for two hours and $18 per canoe for three hours (including paddles and life jackets). Other rental options include paddle boards (which I would not recommend unless you’re very confident in your balancing skills … that water would be unpleasant to fall in), and the large Voyager Canoe, which can hold 14 to 18 people. There are 20 two-person canoes available for rental, so walk-in participants have a pretty good chance of getting a canoe, but reservations can also be made.
Renting the canoe was one of our favorite dates; our morning involved fun, teamwork, beauty, exercise, nature and excitement all rolled into two hours. We had an absolute blast and will definitely go back again — maybe this fall when the trees are even more delightful and the temperature is down a bit.