The Great Outdoors: With a Paddle
Kaw Valley Canoe Rental By RYAN BRINKER Photo by ADAM COLE
For some, nothing beats the feel of gliding down a slow-moving current with a paddle in their hand. For a local canoe or kayak adventure, one has to look no further than Kaw Valley Canoe Rental.
William Barker, an attorney by trade, has operated the business independently since 2014. Barker grew up with a love of the outdoors. He spent many summers canoeing down Kansas waterways with his fellow Boy Scouts.
“My parents used to turn me and my friends loose to canoe down the Kaw when were teenagers,” Barker said. “I guess they thought if we were doing that, we wouldn’t be out stealing hubcaps.”
As he has grown older, raised a family and built a successful law career, Barker hasn’t lost his affinity for kayaking and canoeing.
“I’ve always had a canoe or a kayak or a boat of some kind,” Barker said. “I still enjoy being on the water.”
Barker noticed that there wasn’t much of an option for canoe rental in Topeka. Odd, he thought, since there are so many rivers nearby that are ideal for a relaxing float. A little over two years ago, Barker, who owned his own canoe and kayak, decided to purchase a few more and start a rental business here in Topeka.
Through Kaw Valley Canoe Rental, Barker has been able to rent out canoes for school groups, church groups, families, and anyone else who just wants a pleasant day paddling down a lazy river. While Barker will help plan float trips, he does not accompany customers on their adventures. Once they’re on the river, paddlers can camp, fish, swim, float or do whatever they please. Canoes rent for $50 for the first day, $25 per additional day. Barker also offers kayak rentals for those who want a different kind of floating experience.
Starting this little “hobby” business wasn’t about making money. For Barker, it was about helping others find that same love of the outdoors that he has always known.
“I love watching people as they come back from their excursion,” Barker said. “They are smiling and may be a little sunburned and their feet are wet, and they might have accidentally dropped their camera in the river, but they are smiling.”