HEALTHY FAMILY 2020 – Southern Ohio’s hidden gem: Lake Vesuvius has become destination for kayakers

Published 10:11 am Tuesday, June 16, 2020

There is a hidden gem amongst the hills of southern Ohio.

In Wayne National Forest in Pedro, there is Lake Vesuvius, which is becoming a destination for kayakers.

Scott and Jennifer Mootz started Kountry Kayaks at the lake about four years ago. Jennifer had retired from teaching first grade classes at Rock Hill Elementary School.

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They enjoyed boating and thought that opening their own business would be a good job for Jennifer.

They talked with the management at Wayne National Forest and found out that no one had done boat rentals for a couple years. They worked together to open up Kountry Kayaks.

The business has a schedule of being open Friday through Sunday and on holidays.

“Monday through Thursday, there just aren’t a lot of people there,” Scott said. “We went out and bought a fleet of high-quality, commercial rental boats that are designed for this kind of business. The boats are very stable and really easy to use. And we are proud of that.”

And because there was a demand, they also got four-person pedal boats for rent. Scott said those are popular with families and people with disabilities who might not otherwise be able to get onto the water.

Another attraction for kayakers is that Lake Vesuvius                 doesn’t allow gas-powered boats.

“It is one of the few totally electric power lakes, no gasoline engines. It makes for a very serene, quiet experience,” he said. “That’s good for our customers, they don’t have to worry if they are in a wake zone — it’s all a no-wake zone. It’s a smaller lake but it is so quiet and pretty.”

The Mootzs have been canoers for decades. It was on a trip to go canoeing that Jennifer started talking with another couple that had come to the lake to kayak, and while Scott was unloading their canoes, she borrowed a kayak to try it out and loved it.

“It was about a year before she convinced me to try it,” Scott said, adding that she purchased a kayak at a sports store and loved it. Scott, not so much.

“I hated it,” he said, with a laugh. But he talked to a friend who convinced him that what he needed was a better quality kayak.              “We got into it and became avid kayakers. We traveled to a lot of   places to kayak.”

Scott said that he tries to make the kayaking experience top notch, whether it’s making sure the life jackets smell fresh or working with first-time kayakers to make their experience more enjoyable.

“We try to make it a good customer experience, because some of our customers are first-time kayakers,” Scott said, adding that a lot of customers are already experienced kayakers. “They tell me they have their own kayak, they just didn’t feel like messing with putting the car top carrier on the car and tying it down.”

The lake attracts lots of boaters from the surrounding counties, and even drawing some from central Ohio and Indiana.

“We get people from all over,” Scott said.

Kountry Kayaks has an outfitter permit with Wayne National Forest to run the boat rental. They are insured and part of the rental fee goes to the forest.

“Lake Vesuvius is a friendly, family-orientated place,” Scott said. “We’ve got over 140 acres on Lake Vesuvius and some great fishing. There are fish of all types and it’s surprising how many fish are caught right off the dock.”

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