This off-the-grid wilderness lodge in California’s northwest corner is not your typical kayaking school. The family-owned Otter Bar Lodge, based in the town of Forks of Salmon, is a fully immersive whitewater kayaking camp that offers cozy bed-and-breakfast-style cabins, gourmet meals, and outdoor hot tubs for as many as 14 guests. All camps are a week long and run from May through August.
Otter Bar is secluded and far away from civilization, located deep in the Klamath National Forest and between the Trinity Alps and Marble Mountain Wilderness Area. “It’s such an amazing area,” says co-owner Kristy Sturges, who has operated Otter Bar with her husband, Peter, since 1981. “It’s very stunningly beautiful.”
After spending a full day on the scenic river, you can recover with a massage, kick back in the sauna or hot tub, and join the group for a farm-to-table meal, which will include handmade baked goods and produce from the property’s organic garden.
Camp rates include equipment, meals, lodging, and a week of instruction for all levels of kayakers with professional guides (who teach with a low one-to-three instructor-to-student ratio). “When you’re kayaking for seven days with someone who really knows their profession, they can tell from day to day what you’ve learned and what you need to work on,” Sturges says. “There’s a continuity that you don’t normally get at other schools.”
Because of water levels, the start of the season (May) is for advanced paddlers, while the June and July sessions cater to beginner and intermediate guests. (Check the schedule to find the right session for your ability level.) First-timers, have no fear: You’ll learn the ropes—and the Eskimo roll—in a calm pond before venturing out on the white water, and you’ll be paired with kayakers of similar ability level.