Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Kayaking the Spring River in NE Oklahoma

This weekend Dianne and I made a quick overnight trip to Twin Bridges State Park & Spring River Canoe Trails near Quapaw in extreme Northeastern Oklahoma.

Getting There is Half the Fun

I say 'extreme' not due to the attitudes of the locals, but to the number of other states we accidentally visited on the way (both Kansas and Missouri). Due to a slight miscalculation on the part of our navigator (me), we ended up driving into both Missouri AND Kansas. Did I mention I hate turnpikes? I think that they should be called turn-less-pikes because there is nowhere to turn off the darn things. That’s not a road; it’s a livestock-loading chute!

I suppose the first thing I should tell you about Spring River Canoe Trails State Park is that it is much harder to find than the other State Parks I have visited. Also, once we arrived at what we think was Spring River Canoe Trails State Park; we found no sign officially marking it as that particular Oklahoma State Park. In fact, the only signs we found marked the spot as merely "Park" and mentioned some history of the Nez Perce Indian tribe. Looking around on the net, I think we may have been at Bicentennial Park.

Oklahoma's Spring River

Spring River near Quapaw, OKEither way, we were definitely on the Spring River near Quapaw, Oklahoma and it was a lovely spot for paddling. The water is very clear and cold with banks surrounded by large limestone bluffs. After only a few miles of Spring River paddling, we saw more fish than in all of the other rivers of Oklahoma that we have been kayaking in. The river is quite low and full of stringy green moss. The flow is plenty low for paddling both downstream and upstream where the water is deep enough.

The water in the Spring River gets deeper as you near Twin Bridges State Park and the Spring River merges with the Neosho River to form Grand River. Twin Bridges State Park has deep, plentiful water even in this oh-so dry rainy season. In fact I've read that Neosho is an Indian word meaning "plentiful, clear water".

Sadly, we arrived to Twin Bridges Park too late to check in with the park office and get any info on the Spring River Canoe Trails. Although they are two separate parks, they share the same park office. I wish we had made it their earlier, we could have used some guidance. Looking around Twin Bridges, it was a lovely park but seemed to be filled to the brim with RV's and Ski boats. The water in the river was wide and the wind had stirred up large waves all over the surface.

We decided that Spring River Canoe Trails with its primitive tent camping spots and canoe launch might be more ‘our speed’. The park we finally found right before dark was indeed primitive tent camping. However, when we arrived they were several small celebrations underway and only a few real campers. It would appear that we had found the favored spot for teen drinking and mating games. Since it was too late to explore other options (there is another park on the Spring River in nearby Baxter Springs, Kansas) we pitched our new, larger, Wal-Mart tent and hoped things would settled down by morning.

A Fun Night in Quapaw

However, once the sun set people went a little crazy. Campers on three different sides of our tent built campfires! As if that were not appalling enough, considering the extremely high winds Saturday night, one of the fires was huge. I would have considered the campfire closest to our tent to be unsafe during a rain shower! One of the other burn ban scofflaws spent most of the evening trying to extract their pickup truck from a gravel bar that they had decided to drive onto. About 11pm a large 4WD truck showed up that was finally able to pull them out.

The next morning they asked to borrow my jack to change a flat on their now unstuck truck. Once they got it changed, they left the park with their campfire still burning brightly around 9:30am. Clearly prudence was not the central theme of the holiday weekend for these campers. Thankfully, we are not haters, so we didn't let the foolishness of those around us spoil our goodtime. Nonetheless, I cannot recommend the park as a place to take your family for an overnight stay unless your family picks up beer cans for a living. We were glad we had not brought Dylan with us on this trip.

After an excellent night's sleep, we woke up early and took down the tent. We have learned that packing up camp before the morning paddling tends to save us about a gallon of sweat and a lot of frustration. The price is: we don't get on the river as early. Actually, that price is pretty high for me. I love the way the morning light looks on the water and taking down this new tent is not a real rapid operation. The decamping operation left us with about four hours to paddle, take pictures and enjoy the river. Heck, we spent that much time on the road getting here! Honestly, it's gotten me shopping around for some kind of tent camper or van for the family.

Despite the short amount of time on the river, I really enjoyed the trip. The Spring River is very scenic canoe and kayak paddling water and we didn’t meet another boater the entire time on the river. In addition to our paddling, we drove around and explored some more of old Route 66 and ate at two cool cafes.

Oklahoma Cuisine

I heartily recommend the Thomas Restaurant in Pryor, Oklahoma and a great country cafe that I didn't catch the name of in Narcissa, Oklahoma. The Thomas Restaurant was established in 1952 and is a really cool kind of art deco looking cafe offering a pan-fried steak w/ mushroom gravy that can't be beat! The cafe in Narcissa rocked our world with their Chuckwagon Steak and Strawberry Shortcake. I would like to apologize to them now for the pungent way I smelled then. They were unlucky enough to catch us on our way home, but they never complained.

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Monday, April 17, 2006

Meme - Four Things About Me

It has never been my custom to post memes on my Oklahoma Wine News blog. However, this blog is more personal is nature and TJ tagged me, so here you are TJ - my first and maybe last meme posting.

4 jobs I have had in my life

I have had many jobs in my life, so I can quickly name a colorful collection of ways to get paid. Of the list, I reccomend the latter.

Tax Assessor
Pig Farmer
IT Manager

4 movies I could watch over and over

Red Dawn
The Patriot
- Available on the Arkansas Canoe Club website

4 Websites I visit regularly

American Whitewater
The OKC Outdoor Network
The Hunger Site
Book Crossing

4 of my favorite foods

I like many Oklahoma cuisine items such as:

Onion Burgers (some say they were invented in El Reno Oklahoma)
Morel Mushrooms
Biscuits & Chocolate Gravy
Scrambled Eggs & Wild Onions

4 places I would rather be right now

The Buffalo River
The Illinois River
The Kiamichi River
The Lower Mt. Fork River

4 Most wonderful places I have been

Mt Scott near Medicine Park, Oklahoma
K-River Campground near Antlers, Oklahoma
Wayside Campground in Noel, Missouri
The woods in Northern California

4 books I could read over and over

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Fifth Discipline
The Cluetrain Manifesto

Zodiac by Neal Stephenson

4 songs I could listen to everyday

I found this one hard to answer. I enjoy a wide variety of musical genres and artists. Also, my music choices tend to be situational. However, here are four tunes I might choose today:

Soulshine by Government Mule
In the Evening by Led Zeppelin
Cheeseburger In Paradise by Jimmy Buffett
War/No More Trouble by Bob Marley & The Wailers

4 reasons I blog

I've got two blogs, first I started one on Oklahoma winery events and later started this one on Oklahoma canoe and camping fun. There were many reasons, here are four:

To get the word out about local events
To get visitors to my Parent's winery
To capture memories for later
To connect with others

4 people to tag

I honestly doubt that four other bloggers read my Oklahoma paddling blog, but I'll do my best to keep the ball rolling by naming names, if I must: Bill, Matt, Babs, and Bob.

Wow! That was pretty difficult. TJ, if you can keep this up then you have more energy for introversion than I can muster! Thanks for tagging me, I hope I did it right.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Thinking of Buying a Kayak? Try Before You Buy.

Kayak And Canoe Demo Day in McKinney, TX This Weekend!

Saturday, April 15 - REI is having their PADDLE DEMO DAY II at Towne Lake Recreation Area in McKinney, Texas.

This is a great opportunity to try out different brands of boats by making a quick drive into Texas. For information on other padding events in the Texas area visit The Dallas Downriver Club website.

Directions to Paddle Demo Day: Take US Hwy. 75 north to El Dorado Pkwy (Exit 39). Follow the service road 1.3 miles, and then turn right on Parkview. Follow Parkview 0.2 miles, and then turn right on Wilson Creek Parkway. Stay on Wilson Creek Parkway past the lake. Park at the softball fields. Look for the REI tents, banners and signs.

The event will be from 10:00 am til 2:00 pm.

The Dallas Downriver Club - If you'd like to make new friends who share your love of paddling, or want to learn a new riversport, then join us.

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Oklahoma Allows Fishing With No License!


This June, make a plan to get the family together, pack a picnic lunch and round up some fishing tackle. On the first full weekend of June, Oklahoma State Fishing Licenses are not required for anyone, anywhere in the state.

It’s a great opportunity to get everyone together and go fishing. -- David Warren, information and education chief for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

According to Warren, the timing for the Free Fishing Days could not be any better. Not only do the days coincide with National Fishing and Boating Week, many of Oklahoma's most sought after fish species, including bass, catfish and bluegill are active in early June.

Although most municipalities, such as Oklahoma City, waive city licenses in celebration of Free Fishing Days, anglers should check with local authorities before fishing in city-managed waters.

Those headed out for a trip will want to pick up a copy of the '2003 Oklahoma Fishing Guide' because all other statewide regulations still apply. Fishing Guides are available at Department installations and hunting and fishing license dealers across the state. The regulations are also available on the Department's Web site which also has information about fishing in Oklahoma and fishing reports from across the state.

To log onto the Wildlife Department's Web site, go to http://www.wildlifedepartment.com/

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Sunday, April 09, 2006

Bargain Basement Portable TV Arrives

My $15 dollar TV arrived on my doorstep yesterday from Amazon.

It was everything it claimed to be arriving ready for usage with an assortment of power sources. We tested it on the Deep Fork River near Nuyaka, Oklahoma and it picked up about 5 different channels using the built-in telescoping antenna and plugged into the Cigarette lighter on my sedan.

The little TV is very light; without batteries it feels about as heavy as a pair of my shoes! My wife has an old 'Rabbit Ears' type of TV antenna and the Coby came with a plug in adapter to hook them up.

The little Coby Portable TV even has input jacks for gaming. In the interest of this blog posting, I hooked it up to Number One Son's XBox and played a few rounds of Mortal Kombat in Black & White. This is a great option for parents that are concerned about the bloodiness of a game like Mortal Kombat, somehow the 5 inch Black & White screen takes the gore out of even the most horrifying fatalities.

Overall, the TV is seems like a bargain for fifteen bucks, too bad it didn't arrive before the Basketball playoffs, but 'better late than never' I suppose!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Trash and Treasure at Tenkiller April 29, 2006

If you like the thrill of winning, but are too smart to play the lottery, Tenkiller State Park is hosting an event you might enjoy.

Tenkiller State Park Clean Up and Trash Hunt April 29

Come out and help us clean up the Tenkiller Park. There will be 10 specially marked pieces of trash, each will be numbered and coded to match a prize. Registration begins at 10:00 am. Tenkiller State Park and Park Partners will be providing the participants with a hot dog lunch, so come out and have some fun.

Tenkiller State Park
Hwy 100
Vian, OK 74962
Toll Free: 800-654-8240
Phone: 918-489-5643

Celebrate the earth, help the staff at Tenkiller State Park spruce up for spring, and maybe even win a prize.
Tenkiller Park Partners hosts a hotdog lunch for all participants.

Remember: those who find the specially marked 'litter' will receive a prize, so be sure to register. Aluminum cans collected will be recycled to benefit the annual Tenkiller Lake Association fireworks display. Book a cabin on line for this special event. RV and tent campsites are also available.

Tenkiller State Park Clean Up and Trash Hunt
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Oklahoma River Opening Day 2006 in OKC April 8

Spring Begins on the Oklahoma River with 'Opening Day 2006!'
Oklahoma City Saturday, April 8, 2006 from 10 am to 5 pm

Chesapeake Boathouse LogoThe Chesapeake Boathouse is an Oklahoma Centennial Project on the newly renamed Oklahoma (North Canadian) River. Opening Day 2006 is a great opportunity to learn about theis great new Oklahoma organization. Here's what they have planned for the event:

Activities Planned for Opening Day 2006

  • Collegiate Racing
  • Boathouse Tours
  • Free Discover Rowing Classes
  • Rowing & Erging Demonstrations
  • Kayaking
  • Dragon Boating

Meet The Chesapeake Boathouse juniors, masters and collegiate crews and learn how you can get on the water at OKC's Chesapeake Boathouse. No reservations required – just plan to dress comfortably and have fun!

OKC's Chesapeake Boathouse

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Monday, April 03, 2006

Sweet Paddling on the Buffalo National River

Arkansas Begins to Bloom

This Monday, both Dianne and myself are tired and sunburned...which usually means we had an excellent weekend. This weekend was no exception. With the water levels so low in Oklahoma, finding a river with fairly deep water and some current can be a real challenge. Thankfully, there are large parts of the Buffalo River that stay at decent levels throughout the year. The Buffalo National River is without a doubt one of my favorite places for scenic flatwater paddling. Although it is a bit of a drive from Oklahoma for a quick road trip, it always proves to be worth it for us.

A Quick Trip to the Arkansas Ozarks

We left the house Friday night at about 8:30pm and drove straight to Springdale, Arkansas. Since the drive was on mostly on fast roads, we arrived in just a few hours. The next morning, after breakfast, we drove the rest of the way to Gilbert, Arkansas. Gilbert is a lovely small town with not very many businesses. Float trip and vacation cabins seem to be the main industries in this sleepy little Ozark town. As has been the trend this season, rising water followed our paddling party with rains giving the area a good soaking on the night before we hit the river. The same phenomenon occurred when we last visited K-River campground.

Since we have our own kayaks, we just needed to arrange for shuttle service at the Gilbert General Store. It is a very nice place offering boat rental, cabins, souvenirs, snacks and of course...float trips.

Baker's Ford to Gilbert Float Trip

We decided to take the ten mile float trip from Baker's Ford down to Gilbert. It was an excellent trip! Even though this was still too early for the trees to be leafed out, the river was beautiful. The air was thick with the rich scent of flowers in bloom and the weather was sunny and warm. Just like on our last trip, we brought a little rain with us. However, while we were on the river it was nothing but blue skies!

Although we weren't alone on the river, it was nice to be there before the peak season. This river is so popular with paddlers lines at the canoe launches and outfitter shortages are not unknown. We met some canoe paddlers making a movie, a church group and one coupe that apparently was just on the river for a shouting match. I'm not sure who won, but they both ended up in the water before the shouting was done!

There are no real obstacles of the route we paddled. The only real risk is from the sun, so naturally we left without any sunscreen. I think this screw-up may be the one that actually teaches us a lesson, because now we have decided to permanently store some sunscreen in our boats. Despite our screw-up, the paddling was excellent and we still made it back to Harrison, Arkansas in time to grab a cheap motel room to watch the NCAA tournament. Sadly, both of our underdog teams failed to create another upset. I guess it is going to be a 'Battle of the Beach Bums' as UCLA faces off against Florida.

Originally, we had planned on paddling some more water in the area on Sunday. Sadly, we woke up feeling a bit sore for more fun in the sun, so we decided to limp back home. By early afternoon on Sunday, we were back at home and looking over the pictures.

Was it worth so many hours of driving and two nights in cheap motel rooms to paddle for a few hours on the Buffalo River? Absolutely. In fact, I would call it a bargain at twice the price!

The Gilbert General Store - Buffalo River Camping and Canoeing