Experience flat water paddling just minutes from Morgantown

Paddlers float with the wind past peaceful and quiet nature. Turtles sun themselves on rocks, and a blue heron perches in its nest in the branches of a tree. The Big Sandy River is dammed at Bruceton Mills, creating three miles of backflow that is the Bruceton Mills Lake—flat water with no current. It’s a kayaker’s heaven.

Laura Drew-Dulaney grew up in New York, where she attended St. Bonaventure University and was in a group that did flat water paddling and racing. “My parents would never let me go white water rafting because it was ‘too dangerous.’” Nevertheless, she went to Ohiopyle, famous for its rapids, and had an epiphany. “I knew that’s where I was supposed to be.” She started spending her college summers there as a guide. Laura now owns and operates Padlz, a place for canoe, kayak, and standup paddleboard rentals on Bruceton Mills Lake.

With the help of her 13-year-old daughter, Mya, good friends, and local high school students, Padlz draws many people to this scenic small-town lake. In a roundabout way, it was Mya that caused the business to come about. “I migrated here because of the white water and, after having Mya, there wasn’t really a place that offered flat water paddling that you could take the kids out on,” Laura says. After a bad experience at an outfitter and no luck finding other locations for flat water paddling, they decided to create their own locale. “We want to grow the love of the sport by providing a positive first experience through boat rentals.”

Padlz opened in 2011 with the help of Laura’s father, who came up from Georgia to help build the shop. He rented a trailer and a U-Haul and brought the boats up from the distributer. A friend of Laura’s helped her build the website, and some locals helped paint the shop and figure out how to get things going. Now Laura has two employees who work when the season gets busy.

This small, family-owned business prides itself on customer service, efficiency, and courtesy, as well as being inexpensive. Personal touches set Padlz apart. “We’re more interested in providing a positive experience and getting people to come back,” Laura says. “We’re also dog-friendly. Our six-pound poodle, Freckles, is very well-known and is the head of the welcoming committee.” At Padlz, two-person kayaks are popular for humans and their furry friends.

Late last fall the company picked up two standup paddleboards to add to its approximately 12-boat fleet. Standup paddleboarding is growing in popularity across the nation, and guests at Padlz wanted them, too. “It’s a perfect body of water to use them on, especially if you’re a beginner. There’s no motorboat traffic, and the water is calm,” Laura says.

Padlz is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day except Tuesday. The two-hour, self-guided trips depart at 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m., and 4 p.m. Canoes, two-person kayaks, and standup paddleboards are $25 per boat, while a single-person kayak is $20 per boat. Cost includes paddles and life jackets. Walk-ins are welcome, subject to boat availability. Reservations are highly recommended.

written by Jordan Carter | photographed by Carla Witt Ford