The Top Ten Parks for Wind Sports - Page 2

Gorp.com
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Acadia National Park
Mount Desert Island Lakes, Somes Sound, and Frenchman Bay
With a maritime heritage that stretches back more than 400 years, Maine is a cornerstone of American sailing and Acadia one of the few national parks that offers both lake and ocean boating. Small nonmotorized craft can take to the waters of 24 lakes and ponds in the park's Mount Desert Island portion. These range from relatively large bodies of water like Long Pond to the cozy confines of The Tarn near the park's Nature Center. Saltwater sailors also have plenty of scope, from the calm waters of the Somes Sound fjord and Frenchman Bay to the blustery open Atlantic between Mount Desert and Isle au Haut. A number of Acadia's smaller islands are closed during the eagle and seabird nesting seasons; boats can anchor at or circumnavigate the islands then, but stepping ashore is not permitted. The town of Bar Harbor on the park's eastern flank is a huge sailing center, with numerous marinas and sailing outfitters. Downeast Sailing Adventures (www.downeastsail.com) specializes in family oriented cruises of Somes Sound and the Cranberry Islands on the two-masted schooner Rachel B. Jackson. Mansell Boat Rental Company (www.mansellboatrentals.com) in Manset village on the south shore of Mount Desert Island offers sailing lessons, personalized sailing tours around Acadia, and 19-foot sailboat rentals.

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
Lake Superior Archipelago
A labyrinth of sea caves, hiking trails, empty beaches, and pristine wildlife habitats, Lake Superior's Apostle archipelago offers a rare glimpse of the long-ago Great Lakes. Boating is the only way to explore the islands of this Wisconsin park, especially the smaller and more far-fl ung landfalls. Thirteen of the islands boast docks where boaters can tie up for the day or overnight, and 13 offer campgrounds for those who want to sleep ashore (some campgrounds are on islands without docks). Sailors can launch their craft from the National Park Service ramp at Little Sand Bay or more than half a dozen locations just outside the park boundaries, including the towns of Bayfield, Ashland, and Red Cliff. Overnight docking fees on the islands vary from $10 to $20 depending on the length of boat; alternatively, boats can be anchored offshore for free. While sunny days predominate during the boating season, Lake Superior is famous for dramatic shifts in weather including thick fog and violent squalls. For those who don't have their own vessel, Dreamcatcher Sailing (www.dreamcatcher-sailing.com/apostleislands.htm) in Bayfield offers day trips and overnight live-aboard cruises.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Salvo and Haulover on Hatteras Island
"Radical" is the word that veteran windsurfers use to describe the conditions at Cape Hatteras, known for its big waves and big breeze even when its not hurricane season. Newbies (and anyone with any sense) should stick to the calm Pamlico Sound along the western edge of the barrier islands. Those who want to ratchet up their heart rates and adrenalin flow should head for the open ocean side. Maybe even more than for the Wright brothers, the North Carolina seashore is renowned for its capricious weather. One day it's board shorts and sunscreen, the next day dry suit and hood are de rigueur. Even during summer windsurfers should pack for extreme weather shifts. Salvo and Haulover on Hatteras Island are two of the more popular spots to put in, especially when there's good wind blowing from the northeast. Booties are recommended to safeguard feet from sharp, broken shells on the shallow seafloor.

Curecanti National Recreation Area
Bay of Chickens and Iola Basin
Don't be fooled by the fowl name: The Bay of Chickens is Colorado's coolest place to windsurf and just one of several where you can "bump and jump" in Curecanti. Strung out along 40 miles of the Gunnison River on the western flank of the Rockies, the recreation area comprises three remote reservoirs. Blue Mesa is the largest of these, home to both the Bay of Chickens and another popular windsurfing spot called the Iola Basin. The former is on the north shore between Dry Gulch Campground and the park's Elk Creek Visitor Center. Iola Basin is farther east, a broad stretch of water that is best accessed from the boat ramp at Stevens Creek Campground. Breezes barreling down through the park's steep, narrow semidesert canyons can present quite a challenge, even for experienced windsurfers. Water temperatures in July and August can reach comfortable levels, but the rest of the year a wet or dry suit is highly recommended.

Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone Lake: Volcanic Crater
America's oldest national park may not seem the most obvious place to set sail, but with its steady breeze, wide-open waters, and dazzling scenery, the park's Yellowstone Lake offers an ideal venue for wind sports. In fact, the first European-style craft to grace the lake was a sail-fitted rowboat called Annie, part of the 1871 Hayden Survey of the region. Perched at more than 7,000 feet, this is the nation's largest high-altitude lake—as much as 20 miles from north to south and 14 miles from east to west. Bridge Bay Marina on the north shore is the best place to launch sailboats, but all craft should have collapsible masts in order to clear the highway bridge across the harbor mouth. Windsurfers are best launched from Grant Village Marina on the west side, where floating docks and a cement slip provide quick access to the lake. Sailors and surfers must obtain a boating permit ($5 for seven days) from a ranger station before going onto the water. Secluded "boat party" campsites are located along South Arm and Southeast Arm along the lake's roadless southern shore.

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