Have you explored the Flint River by kayak yet?
It’s a beautiful summer day. The air is warm and the river is refreshingly cool, teeming with wildlife – mink, beaver, turtles and a variety of fish. Bald eagles can be spotted in the trees along the banks.
Kayak Flint offers nature enthusiasts an opportunity to view the city from a different perspective while enjoying a peaceful trip down the Flint River, according to Sarah Scheitler who co-manages the project with Jaime Welch. A certified kayak instructor, Welch is one of a handful of instructors in the state who is qualified to teach people with disabilities how to kayak. She also leads guided paddle trips. Scheitler handles the business aspects, marketing and staff.
“Watching people go to the river for the first time and seeing their reactions – it’s been a true joy!”
A project of the Flint River Watershed Coalition (FRWC), Kayak Flint is a 501(c)3 nonprofit created to protect, promote and improve the Flint River and its watershed. Launched in September 2018, it is located on the river behind Tenacity Brewing. The approximately 3.25-mile public paddle trip begins there and ends at Mitson Riverview Landing. This is a portion of the 72-mile Flint River National Water Trail, and Welch leads private guided trips on the entire trail. Kayak Flint also provides a shuttle service for the paddlers.
Assisting the kayakers is a team of 12 Coalition members, four of whom are high school students from the Flint & Genesee Chamber’s Youth Initiative program. Welch provides basic instruction for the novices. “We want to make it a fun experience, as well as safe,” she says.
Public rentals at Kayak Flint are available Friday at noon and at 10am on Saturday and Sunday. There are 15 single kayaks available for rent ($20) and three tandem kayaks ($35). “We do offer a discount for City of Flint residents ($10 single, $20 tandem),” Scheitler adds. All proceeds from rentals support the work of the FRWC.
Scheitler says they are seeing more and more kayakers every year. “It’s a growing population. People are enjoying the beauty of the river. It is a beautiful resource that not enough people know about.”
Both Scheitler and Welch are excited to report that the Flint River Watershed Coalition and Kayak Flint are getting a new home right in the heart of the city. Thanks to a grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the former 1st Source Servall Appliance Parts building at 630 W. Kearsley Street is being renovated and adjacent properties will be redeveloped. The property is bordered by the Flint River, Swartz Creek and Kearsley Street. When the revitalization project is complete, residents will have access to a kayak launch, fishing spots and lookout points. “We will be moving to the new property within the next year!” Scheitler exclaims.
The best thing about Kayak Flint, Welch shares, is the overall experience it provides. “From the river, you might see a Flint City Bucks game being played at Atwood Stadium,” she says. “It’s never just a kayak trip. You get to see the city and you never know what else you’re going to get. It’s amazing! I love it! You get the whole Flint experience.”
Avid kayakers themselves, both Welch and Scheitler love their jobs. “We’ve had a blast during this project,” Scheitler admits. “Watching people go to the river for the first time and seeing their reactions – it’s been a true joy!”
For more information, visit kayakflint.org.
Photos Provided by Kayak Flint