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Panama Kayaking

Nearly 500 rivers fasten Panama's craggy landscape. Mostly un navigable, many originate as speedy highland streams, meander in valleys, and form coastal deltas. However, the Río Chagres (Rio Chagres) is one of the few broad rivers and a source of huge hydroelectric power. The river is situated in the central Panama. The middle part of the river is dammed by the Gatun Dam and forms Gatun Lake, an artificial lake that constitutes part of the Panama Canal.


The lake was created between the year 1907 and 1913 by the building of the Gatun Dam across the Chagres River. At the time it was created, the Gatun Lake was the largest man-made lake in the world, and the dam was the largest earth dam. It drains northwest into the Caribbean. The Kampia and the Madden Lakes provide hydroelectricity for the area of the former Canal Zone.

The Río Chepo, another foundation of the hydroelectric power, is one of the more than 300 rivers emptying into the Pacific. These Pacific-oriented rivers are longer and slower administration than those of the Caribbean surface. Their sinks are also more extensive. One of the best ever is the Río Tuira which flows into the Golfo de San Miguel and is the nation's only river passable by larger vessels.

Panama Kayaking Destinations

Sobernia National Park

Located on the banks of the Panama Canal and only 25 kilometers from the Panama City, Sobernia National Park is the most well-developed kayaking and canoeing destination in the Panama. It is the only location in the Panama that offers visitors the experience of travelling through the Panama Canal and exploring the dense jungles and exotic wildlife of the region. Many kayaking tour operators begin this journey from the banks of the Chagres River, which is acclaimed for hosting some of the country’s most challenging grade II and III white water rapids.

Kuna Yala

The San Blas Archipelago is one of the few destinations in the Panama that offers the experience of both white water and ocean kayaking. With its unique geography of 365 islands that contain mountains, rivers, beaches and verdant forests, kayaking in the San Blas Islands is an adventure unlike any other. The islands are also home to the Kuna tribe – the indigenous tribe of Panama that still clings to their age old, traditional way of life. The Kayaking deep into their scattered settlements and exploring their unique lifestyle and culture is an experience that only San Blas Islands can offer. The Kayaking in the San Blas Islands is a year-round activity, but it is recommended to visit between November and March because the days are cool and breezy and there are less chances of rain.

A kayak is a small human-powered boat that traditionally has the covered deck, and one or more cockpits, each seating one paddler who strokes a double-bladed paddle. The cockpit is covered by the spraydeck (skirt) that keeps the inside of the boat (and the paddler's lower body) dry. The spraydeck or similar waterproof covering attaches securely to the edges of the cockpit, preventing the entry of water from waves or spray, and making it possible, in some boats, to roll the kayak, capsizing and righting the boat without it filling with water or ejecting the passenger. And some modern kayaks have modified the traditional design in a variety of way, such as eliminating cockpits, seating the paddler(s) on top of the boat, having inflated air chambers surrounding the boat, and replacing paddles with other propulsion methods.

The Kayaks are generally differentiated from canoes by the sitting position of the paddler and the number of blades on the paddle. In the kayak the paddler faces forward, legs in front, using a double bladed paddle. In the canoe the paddler faces forward and sits or kneels in the boat, using a single bladed paddle. In some parts of the world, such as the United Kingdom, the kayaks are considered a subtype of canoes. Continental European and British canoeing clubs and associations of the 19th Century used craft similar to the kayaks, but referred to them as canoes. This explains the naming of the International and National Governing bodies of the sport of Canoeing.

Today almost all the kayaks are commercial products intended for sale rather than for the builder's personal use. Nearly one of every 3 kayaks sold today is a sit–on–top (SOT), which is basically a paddleboard equipped with a seat.

The Fiberglass hulls are stiffer, lighter, and less readily scratched than plastic hulls, though they are more prone to damage from impact. They have good resistance to cuts. The Most modern kayaks have steep V sections at the bow and stern, and a shallow V amidships. They need to be "laid-up" in a mold by hand, so are usually more expensive than the plastic kayaks.

The Plastic kayaks are rot molded in a semi-rigid, high impact plastic, usually polyethylene. They are particularly resistant to impact, but the material is heavy and the kayaks are generally heavier than those made from materials. Modern multi-layer hulls are addressing this kind of issue.

The Wooden hulls require significant skill and handiwork; they have a restricted niche among keen woodworkers. The Kits are available. The Kayaks made from thin wood sheathed in fiberglass have proven successful, especially as the price of epoxy resin has decreased in recent years. 2 main types are popular, especially for the home builder: Stitch & Glue, and Strip-Built.

The Stitch & Glue designs typically use modern, marine-grade plywood—quarter-inch 5 mm (0.20 in) thick. After cutting out the required pieces of hull and deck (kits often have these pre-cut), the series of small holes are drilled along the edges. The Copper wire is then used to "stitch" the pieces together through the holes. After the pieces are temporarily stitched together, they are glued with epoxy and the seams reinforced with the fiberglass. When the epoxy dries, the copper stitches are removed. The entire boat is then covered in the fiberglass for additional strength and waterproofing. The Construction is fairly straightforward, but because plywood does not bend to form compound curves, design choices are limited. This is a good choice for the first-time kayak builder as the labor and skills are required

The Strip–-built designs are similar in shape to rigid fiberglass kayaks but are generally both lighter and tougher. Like their fiberglass counterparts the shape and size of the boat determines performance and optimal uses. The hull and deck are built with thin strips of lightweight wood, often cedar, pine or Redwood. The strips are edge-glued together around a form, stapled or clamped in place, and allowed to dry. Structural strength comes from a layer of fiberglass cloth and epoxy resin, layered inside and outside the hull. Strip–built kayaks are sold commercially by a few companies, priced USD 4,000 and up. An experienced woodworker can build one for about USD 400 in 200 hours, though the exact cost and time depend on the builder's skill, the materials and the size and design. As a second kayak project, or for the serious builder with some woodworking expertise, a strip–built boat can be an impressive piece of work. Kits with pre-cut and milled wood strips are commercially available.

Skin on frame boats are more traditional in design, materials, and construction. They are often the lightest kayaks, and were traditionally made of driftwood, pegged or lashed together, and stretched seal skin, as those were the most readily available materials in the Arctic regions. Today, seal skin is usually replaced with canvas or nylon cloth covered with paint, polyurethane, or a hypalon rubber coating and the wood skeleton is occasionally replaced with aluminum. Modern skin-on-frame kayaks often possess greater impact resistance than their fiberglass counterparts, but are less durable against abrasion or sharp objects.

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