Frisco guide finds business niche with kayak tours
May 30, 2016
There's an old adage commonly known among both Colorado's natives and transplants: come for the winter, but stay for the summer.
For South Carolina native Kyle McKenzie, 30, Colorado's draw was just the opposite. He came for the water. Winters just happen to be one of state's most valuable perks.
A graduate from North Carolina State with a degree in fisheries and wildlife science, McKenzie moved to Colorado with the intent of launching a career in the private sector as a wildlife biologist; and to take advantage of Colorado's famous fly-fishing.
But McKenzie quickly discovered an opportunity to start a unique business.
“We’re right in the middle of the Gore Range, the Tenmile Range and the Williams Fork Range, and Dillon Reservoir is unique because it is the only place where you can get unobstructed views of all three without having to hike to 12,000 feet,” McKenzie said.
Drawing from his college summer experience as a sea kayak guide in Bar Harbor, Maine, four years ago McKenzie founded KayakLakeDillon.com, LLC to provide locals and visitors with a new perspective of Summit County. He describes his business as a "natural history tour of Summit County from a kayak," offering the only unobstructed views of the mountains from "town level."
"We're right in the middle of the Gore Range, the Tenmile Range and the Williams Fork Range, and Dillon Reservoir is unique because it is the only place where you can get unobstructed views of all three without having to hike to 12,000 feet," McKenzie said.
"You can see the whole county from a kayak, including Keystone, Breckenridge and Peaks 1 through 9, as well as (two of Colorado's 54 fourteeners) Grays and Torreys peaks."
Certified as an outdoor recreation leader, McKenzie offers two tours to his clients, including a 2.5-hour tour that departs at 8 a.m. daily and a 1.5-hour sunset tour at 7 p.m. Friday through Sunday, weather permitting. McKenzie can accommodate up to 13 people and the costs are $50 and $30 per person, respectively.
"The sunset tour definitely is weather permitting, but it's the best time to get out on the water," McKenzie said. "The sunsets in this state can be simply amazing."
Although the scenery is enough to entice anyone to take a tour, Kayak Lake Dillon is much more than a guy in a boat leading people around the lake.
Considering his education in wildlife biology, McKenzie jumps at the opportunity to point out all of the wildlife that call Lake Dillon home. Tours routinely include sights of ospreys, great blue heron and American bald eagles, as well as beavers, mule deer and the occasional black bear.
McKenzie also is well versed in Summit County history and often pauses to tell his clients stories about everything from the region's native people and mining history to its colorful characters, like Lord Gore, for whom the range is named, and who also traveled to Colorado with the intent of shooting every animal in sight.
It's an experience that brings people back over and over again.
"Out of all of the things I've done this is what I am most proud of," McKenzie said. "Surprisingly, I get a lot of repeat customers, which I wasn't expecting because I always thought of this as a one-time thing, but people come back and they bring family and friends with them."
For more information about McKenzie and his business, visit http://www.kayaklakedillon.com. Reservations made online receive a 10 percent discount.
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