Though the members of San Joaquin River Stewardship Program spend much of their time testing the San Joaquin River's water quality, studying its insects, and growing and replanting native vegetation, they also help make their prized waterway fun for visitors. They provide outdoor recreation, such as kayaking trips down calm currents during the day and at night, often teaching participants how to fish for rainbow trout and bass. They also lead nature hikes along the shore, where groups can see wildlife and native plants during bird-watching, animal-tracking, plant-identification, and scavenger-hunt excursions. Their outdoor-school programs reflect their dedication to conservation by teaching hands-on activities, exploration, and critical-thinking exercises for budding stewards. They also provide scholarships in canoe and kayak training, as well as fish crowd-control training, for visitors 10?18 years old. To get visitors of all ages interested in water and habitat conservation, they lead year-round river channel and shoreline cleanup projects on foot or in canoes.
When Brian McInerney reflects on the humble beginnings of Wheel Fun Rentals, Inc., he points to his childhood passion for bikes. "As far back as I can remember, I had a real love affair with bicycles," he recalls. During a trip to Italy in 1987, Brian's affinity for cycling blossomed into a full-fledged obsession when he spotted locals' transporter of choice, the surrey. Inspired, he began importing the Italian four-wheelers to a rental business in the U.S. that eventually expanded into Wheel Fun Rentals, now a nationwide web of shops that also loans out bikes, electric cars and mopeds, and man-powered watercraft. Adventuresome athletes can also compete in activities such as surrey scavenger hunts and blindfold obstacle courses navigated via shouted instructions from a seeing teammate or exceptionally long rounds of trial and error.
In the warmer months, the runoff from the snowmelt on Mount Whitney combines with the flow of Kern River, creating a series of rapids that eventually give way to a placid lake. Kern River Rafting was created to give residents and visitors a chance to capitalize on the river's potential for fun and adventure.
A convenient shuttle service brings you to the river from the company's home base after you've been outfitted with helmets, life vests, and paddles. Tube-mounted excursions set out from the northerly reaches of the river and go barreling through rapids. Then a ferry brings crews back north for another ride or a jaunt in a Zorb globe. These 12-foot blow-up hamster balls allow those inside to run across water, performing amphibious feats that hamsters can only dream about.
Adventures by the Sea is owner Frank Knight’s love letter to Monterey Bay. As an avid cyclist, kayaker, and surfer in his youth, Frank decided to share the gift of the bay by providing land- and sea-activity rentals for tourists. But, what started out as a small bike-rental shop frequented by local hotel guests eventually transformed into a four-location recreational company that now offers kayaking, bicycling, SUP paddling, and surrey-carriage rentals and tours.
Bicycle renters can cruise along 17-Mile Drive and the rocky shorelines of Pacific Grove, while surrey-carriage rentals provide a low-key communal pedaling adventure for up to four riders. Patrons can also enjoy the serene environment of Monterey Peninsula as they glide through the waters of Cannery Row and Stillwater Cove—both part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary—on the company’s kayaks and standup paddleboards (SUP). During tours, knowledgeable guides rattle off facts about the area while pointing out its wildlife, such as harbor seals lounging on the rocks and otters snapping pictures of kayakers.
Along with providing land and water activities, Adventures by the Sea helps guests build stronger relationships with one another through their local group adventures, which include scavenger hunts. When customers are ready to invest in their own trustworthy gear, the company’s pro shop helps them stock up on boogie boards, snorkeling equipment, and paddleboards from brands such as Surftech, Naish Hawaii, and Paddle Surf Hawaii.
Blue Water Ventures owner and naturalist Kim Powell and her trained staff of naturalists lead adventurous groups on tours of trails and waterways from the East Bay of California to Monterey's Elkhorn Slough, exploring caves, forests, and wildlife-rich areas on the way. On protected Elkhorn Slough, groups of up to 22 make their way on stable kayaks as their attentive tour guides give rich history of the area and point out wildlife including seals and sea otters. In Florida's Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, groups snorkel and canoe to observe wild west indian manatees and their notorious poker habits.
The company also does specialty tours for school groups that include tide-pooling adventures and trekking through a redwood forest to see some of the country's oldest trees. Tours for women-only groups include private cruises where ladies can spy whales and a variety of seaborne wildlife, including fish, dolphins, and long-lost swim fins.
The folks at Kayak Connection outfit visitors with sea kayaks and standup paddleboards before leading them on guided tours or sending them out to explore Santa Cruz Harbor and Elkhorn Slough on their own. Tours vary from romantic sunset paddles to trips designed for families and include one tailored to getting glimpses of local birds. Intermediate and advanced paddlers can head out onto open waters to paddle past the Golden Gate Bridge, Point Lobos State Marine Reserve, and Monterey Bay Crossing.