Wheeling’s Southpaw Outfitters will get you on the Water this Summer
By: Jeremy Morris
This summer hit the water in Wheeling with Southpaw Outfitters, a full-service kayak and canoe rental shop located in the Elm Grove business district.
Kayaking on Wheeling Creek and the Ohio River has been a growing pastime in recent years among visitors and residents. Once the spring rains hit seeing kayaks strapped atop cars and trucks is common along National Road as they head east to put-in points along Big Wheeling Creek.
Since opening last summer Ray and Lisa McKee have seen steady growth in their business. “People have responded to the rental business and our location. The Covid-19 situation gave us a late start this year,” says McKee, “but as a result, people were itching to be outside, it has kept us busy since we were allowed to reopen.”
At present, Southpaw offers one-hour, one-and-half hour, three-hour, and five-hour trips, though McKee says he can arrange for longer trips if anyone were to desire something a bit longer.
McKee will drop patrons off at various public access points along Big Wheeling Creek, and they float back to the shop or other pick-up points. Southpaw also offers shuttles to the local lakes and the Ohio River for paddling by arrangement.
The McKees have expanded their watercraft offerings this season to include more single-seat kayaks, tandem-kayaks, multi-seat canoes, and innertubes, which leave visitors with plenty of options for enjoying the wilder side of Ohio county.
“Ray is extremely flexible, accommodating, and knowledgeable about our local waterways. If you want to try kayaking for the first time, need a shuttle or an extra kayak for your crew check out Southpaw Outfitters,” says Jesse Mestrovic Parks and Recreation Director for the City of Wheeling.
Mestrovic is a longtime kayaker himself, and as the city’s director of parks and recreation is charged with growing recreational opportunities in the area. He sees tremendous value in a small business start-up like McKee’s.
“It is great to have an outfitter in Wheeling, helping to grow the sport and encouraging stewardship of our natural resources. This business expands the opportunity for residents and visitors to experience Wheeling Creek and the surrounding area by watercraft. Southpaw provides rentals and shuttle service for a nominal fee.”
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the McKees have elevated their sanitizing of all watercraft, paddles, and lifejackets. “We have always sanitized equipment between trips, but we are now giving all the equipment a two-washings with industrial-grade detergents.” McKee also encourages patrons to bring their own masks, hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes, gloves, or whatever else makes them feel comfortable. Southpaw will have disposable masks and gloves on hand at the office for those that may forget.
Rates and updated schedules of trips are found on the website and Facebook.
Hours of Operation: Daily 8am-7pm
(Hours are subject to weather and water conditions. Please call ahead to confirm hours. Walk-ins may not be accommodated depending upon availability of watercraft):
2216 1/2 National Road
Wheeling WV 26003.
Phone: 304-905-BOAT (2628)