Friday, May 26, 2006

The Illinois River Flint Rock Music Festival Starts Tonight

Rockin' On the River This Weekend

This Memorial Day weekend there is a new music festival going on in Tahlequah. The Illinois River Flint Rock Music Festival will offer an eclectic mix of Oklahoma's best music talent.

The fest kicks off tonight with Phat Thumb, the Mike McClure Band and headliner Green Lemon. The big names keep coming on Saturday and Sunday with the Red Dirt Rangers and more. Enjoy the festival at Roxie's Roost, camp and float the river to round out the weekend!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Kings River Float Trip Report

The sparkling clear Kings River in Eureka Springs, Arkansas welcomed The sparkling clear Kings River in Eureka Springs, Arkansas welcomed Dianne, Dylan and myself this weekend. Since this was our first visit to the Kings River, we decided to leave our boats at home and try a local paddling outfitter. Also, my little four-cylinder car struggles to climb some of those steep and curvy Ozark roads even without our kayak trailer in tow.

Dylan picked up a summer cold this week, so we opted for a light-paddling trip only about 3 hours in length. In fact, we probably would have cut it shorter had we not been blessed with an overcast morning. Although not as scenic as the Buffalo River (in my opinion), the Kings River offer more solitude and what appeared to us to be a bit stronger current. The riverbed and shores are mostly gravel and we saw many schools of fish from our boats.

Paddle This River Soon!

Like the Illinois River, the main obstacles are fallen trees. However, since it isn't paddled as heavily as the Illinois River and the Buffalo River you are a little less likely to be warned before you run in to one. We did have to portage around one tree that completely blocked the river channel, but that simply provided an opportunity for some swimming and rock skipping fun.

The rivers current was strong enough to allow you to float most of the way effortlessly. The water is so clear that you can see fish swimming several feet below. We paddled past about four men fly-fishing and other than that we had the river to ourselves. Local paddlers said that although the White River is usually considered more scenic, the water temperature is so incredibly cold… that beginners often prefer the Kings River.

Lodging at Riverside Resort

The night before we paddled the Kings River, we spent the night in one of the cabins at Riverside Resort. The owners are real nice and their facility was extremely clean, comfortable and interesting. We recommend it highly. Dylan was disappointed to find out that there was no cable TV in the cabin, but he found an old Monopoly game in the room and it proved to be more fun for us than TV anyway!

Canoes and Kayaks at Riverside Resort

Dylan and I paddled off in a rented ABS plastic Buffalo canoe, that performed superbly. Dianne's rented craft was an Old Town (apparently the favorite kayak brand for all canoe liveries in the Ozarks) Sandpiper Sit-On-Top kayak. Dianne described its less than stellar tracking like this:

It was like paddling a piece of plywood down the river! -- Dianne
Riverside Resort located at the Hwy 62 Bridge on the Kings River does offer some shuttle services, so we will probably return to this beautiful river with our boats in the future. Hopefully, on our next trip we will have time to paddle the White River also. Interestingly enough the Kings River Outfitter we used was called Riverside Resort on Hwy 62 East and the White River outfitter is called Riverview Resort on Hwy 62 West. Try not getting THAT confused!

In late breaking news, the kayak spray skirt we ordered for our Perception Swifty finally arrived. I hope to have a performance report for you soon, however I fear that Memorial Day weekend may be a little too crowded for a paddling trip to Broken Bow.

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Friday, May 19, 2006

Farewell to The Thomas Restaurant in Pryor, Oklahoma

Dianne and I visited The Thomas Restaurant for the first time on our recent Spring River Paddling Trip. We had a great meal there and loved the cool old 50's decor. It was a uniquely beautiful landmark and homage to a gentler time before the clowns took over the cafes.

In addition to the cool neon sign, the outside had this distinctively ornate iron work that looked to me like it was made from re-bar. I would love to hear the story behind that.

I just heard on the news that it burned down. What a sad loss.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Eureka! Weekend Paddling Trip

Eureka Springs, Arkansas has long been a favorite vacation destination for Oklahoma folks. The little Ozark town is close enough for a quick weekend car trip, yet distant enough to provide an interesting change in scenery. Lots of Oklahoma kids first visit Eureka Springs to see the Great Passion Play, others visit to see the live music and variety shows or as a quick stop on the way to Branson, Missouri.

This weekend we are planning to make the short trip to paddle some new water. Eureka Springs appears to have at least two well outfitted paddling rivers: The White River and The Kings River. Since the main focus of the trip is celebrating our son Dylan's birthday, we may not actually get to paddle both rivers. However, one day we hope to explore them both.

The Kings River - Kings River Map

This river begins high in the Boston Mountains of Madison County. From here the stream twists its way northward to the White River and finally flows into southern Missouri's Table Rock Lake. The stream's water quality is usually very good to excellent, flowing clean, clear and very cold. A stage of about 3.0 feet is considered minimum for good boating.

The White River - White River Map

The White's upper reaches are strictly seasonal, with the late October through April/May period traditionally the best time for float trips. Below Bull Shoals Dam, the White River is a year-round float stream, with some of the best fishing reported during the winter months. The 10-mile stretch of White River tailwater below Beaver Dam is famed for its trout fishing. Canoeing and floating are also popular here, and there’s a handicap-accessible fishing area.

As I said, I don't think I will get the chance to paddle both rivers on this trip. If anyone has paddled these rivers, I'd love to know which one offers the more scenic trip. Leave a comment on our blog or send me an email with your tips!

Oklahoma Paddling News
Bill Becquart from The OKC Outdoor Network recently emailed me this exciting news:

Hi Tom,
As of last week there is now an
OKC Chapter of the Arkansas Canoe Club it is called....

Red Dirt Chapter of the ACC

I think it will be great to have a local branch of the ACC in OKC, ASAP. I enjoyed their video (ArKayaKansas) and I definately share their love of Ozark rivers. Thanks for the tip, Bill!

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Our Heritage Angler Kayak Gets an Upgrade

Heritage Angler Spray Skirt
Heritage Angler Spray Skirt,
originally uploaded by FreeWine.

One of the many reasons we were so keen to paddle our own boats this weekend was the arrival of the ultimate in paddler's apparel...a spray skirt. After much searching we found an online source for some fairly inexpensive Kayaking Spray Skirts and Cockpit Covers and ordered one for our Perception Swifty. However, we couldn't figure out which size of spray skirt would fit our fishing kayak. Luckily, we found one that was made for our Heritage kayak on sale at eBay.

Of course, since the spray skirt for the Perception Swifty was from a big corporation, they scheduled a delivery for some time in the future. I will let you know when it arrives. Since the eBay seller of our Heritage Angler Kayak spray skirt was working for himself...his product arrived via U.S. Mail last Friday.

We realize that the Illinois River is not the kind of river that anyone would 'need' a spray skirt. However, we wanted to check the fit and see if it would work on the Swifty. At the end of our day of paddling from Riverside Resort down to War Eagle Landing, I had about half a cup of water from paddle splash in the bottom of my kayak. Dianne's Angler was bone dry inside and although it was a warm and sunny day, the black spray skirt didn't make the boat hot or uncomfortable.

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Monday, May 15, 2006

Take This Boat...and Shuttle It

Canoes on the Illinois River
Canoes on the Illinois River,
originally uploaded by FreeWine.

With so much new rain in our part of the world, we had to think hard to decide where to dip our paddles this weekend. I wanted to rent a cabin. Since it was also Mother's Day, it didn't seem right to make the long-suffering mother of my cherished son sleep in a tent. Finally, we both decided that we would like to take the opportunity to paddle the Illinois River again before the Memorial Day rush.

Shuttle Skuttlebutt

More Illinois River outfitters were open this weekend than were open on our last journey down this river. However, this weekend we insisted on bringing our own kayaks. We had a fun trip as usual. We saw the Eagle again, but didn't manage to capture a good picture like last time.

I spoke to several outfitters on the phone and time after time they told me that they didn't want my business. I have heard that there are insurance problems with hauling non-outfitter owned boats, but that sounds like a lame excuse to me. I wonder if there is any enterprising folks running a taxi service in the area? Ultimately, I just needed a ride back to the put-in where we left the family car and kayak trailer.

Paddling outfitters beware, the growing trend of not shuttling private boats and passengers divides you from some of your most avid supporters and proponents. Tourism is a business that only thrives in the midst of strong support business networks. You don't build a strong network by isolating the largest nodes. The current strategy appears to be based on hoping I'm willing to wait in line to rent their leaky boats. Better cell phone transmition quality, more campsites with Wifi access and respecting the need for and value of services like shuttling private boats would gather much more of my coin than the current strategy.

Green River Floats is an exception to the rule. We called them on my cell phone from our take-out at War Eagle Landing. They arrived quickly and were happy to take us AND our two kayaks to our put-in at Riverside Resort. We gladly payed $20 for the service. Riverside Resort provided us with a decent cabin, but the lack of services for my boats means I really have no reason to choose their campground next time.

Can Your Hear Me Now...Good!

Although everywhere else I tried my cell phone on the Illinois River was a deadspot, I had full signal at War Eagle / Green River Landing. If I find out they have WIFI internet available there, I may have to come back and camp near there.

Speaking of wireless internet camping, I got word from Tom, at K-River Campground on the Kiamichi River, that you can now get Wifi access to compliment the camping at his paddle resort. Stop by for details.

One of the things I really love about the Buffalo River in nearby Gilbert, Arkansas is that my cell phone worked well everywhere I checked both on and off the river. IMHO, this now represents and important safety and commerce infrastructure need for Oklahoma's scenic rivers.

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Thursday, May 11, 2006

New Blog Content - River Levels and Launch Sites

I've added two new lists (both available as RSS Feeds) to the PaddleTales blog. Both are link lists that Dianne and I find helpful in planning our own paddling trips.

In the right hand column of our blog you will now find a list of links to local river level information sites and some links to Google Maps of the Area Kayak Launch sites we use. I hope you find them helpful.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Paddling with a Purpose June 2nd, 2006


The OSRC will hold the first cleanup of the summer on June 2nd, after the busy Memorial Day weekend. Come out and help us with a little spring cleaning! There will be a free lunch and prize drawings after the cleanup for all participants.

To pre-register for the event, call the OSRC at (918) 456-3251, or email Meredith at

Oklahoma Scenic Rivers
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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Oklahoma Wine Festival This Weekend!

This weekend Dianne and I may be too tired to do any paddling.

This Saturday is the Nuyaka Creek Winery Spring WineFest.

We will be out in the country enjoying the weather, but stuck on dry land helping out with the wine festival. Both of us will be pouring wine at the tasting tables all day. Stop by and visit with us and get a taste of authenic Oklahoma wine.

DATE: May 6th, 2006 Noon until 7:30 PM
ADMISSION: Buy one $5.00 souvenir wine glass and taste all of the wines
INFORMATION: Call the Nuyaka Mall at 918-756-8485 or visit

Heck, bring your kayaks, you may want to take a quick paddling trip in our local Deep Fork River. Access to the water has been opened up recently due to the constuction of a new bridge system to replace those two old, crooked, wooden bridges we have been fishing off of for decades. There are no official outfitters or shuttles, but there was a bit of whitewater right at the put-in this weekend. It should still be up on Saturday.

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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Illinois River Float Trip Report April 30, 2006

Memorial Day kicks off the official paddling season on the Illinois River, but so much warm weather has the outfitters opening up on weekends. With this weekend's rain The Illinois River rose to a high, but safe, level with excellent current. When Sunday's forecast called for plenty of sun, we dashed east with little more than our camera and some sunscreen.

Of course, you don't need much more than that to have a great time on Oklahoma's most popular paddling river. Outfitters line the road on scenic Hwy 10 from just outside of Tahlequah to Kansas, Oklahoma. You can rent canoes, kayaks or rafts and take float trips in a wide variety of sizes. No water falls or significant rapids are there to worry the novices, so most Okies paddle this river at some point. In fact, during the heat of the summer vacation the river can be downright crowded.

War Eagle Floats was the first outfitter that we found open for business. Two kayaks and shuttling cost us around $40. Since the amount of paddlers was so small, the shuttle was immediately ready to put us on the water. This was unexpected. We normally sit around waiting for 20 to 30 minutes for an outfitters shuttle bus.

In fact, their speed was such a surprise that I rushed through gathering up my cargo and changing my clothes. When I started to step into my kayak, now miles from our car, I realized that I had forgotten to leave my dry shorts and wallet in the car. Even worse, I had left with one river shoe on and one street shoe on. My shoes didn't match and I am wearing both a swimsuit and shorts! Oh well, I figured that if I kept my butt in the boat, few people should notice.

The two Old Town Otter kayaks we rented were pretty beat up and mine leaked a lot, but it was worth it to be able to get on and off the water quickly with no planning. Since we arrived right after the biggest rain shower of the year, the river was as swift as the shuttle bus. You could literally float down the river, paddling only to steer.

Illinois River WildlifeThe usual cranes, squirrels and turtles were abundant, but we didn't see as much fish action as on our recent trip down the Spring River. I assumed this was due to the high water, but my Dad said that the Mayflies were hatching the day we paddled the Spring River. The one day feast makes the fish go crazy. You can see pictures from both trips on my Flickr Pics page.

This Sunday, we were blessed to have the Illinois River to ourselves. Instead of seeing wild living, we enjoyed wildlife like I have never seen on that river. Dianne and I spent about 20 minutes watching and taking pictures of a Bald Eagle! It was the first one I had gotten to observe in person, and it seemed proud to give us a long look. I think all raptors possess a uniquely fierce beauty, but that Bald Eagle just left me speechless. You could practically hear the National Anthem in the background when he chose to fly away.

As usual, we paddled about 10 miles and got some good sunshine and exercise. About halfway along the trip we had to stop and dump the water out of my kayak and I was reminded why we decided to buy our own boats.

Top Ten Reasons to Buy Your Own Kayak

1. Local outfitter boats tend to be bottom-of-the-line Old Town Otters, and we like better boats.
2. Local outfitter boats tend to be worn out or nearly worn out, even in the off season.
3. Most outfitter supplied kayaks lack features like fishing rod holders, storage and tie downs.
4. You don't have to rent very many kayaks to cover the price of owning one.
5. Many times the outfitters only have canoes to rent and no kayaks, and we both like to drive!
6. Most Oklahoma rivers have no canoe and kayak outfitters.
7. Many kayaks are designed for a weight limit of 225 lbs and some of us Okies are bigger than that!
8. Tulsa Stores like Sun & Ski and Academy Sports offer a variety of kayaks to choose from, outfitter don't.
9. Canoe and kayak rental businesses tend to be closed for at least half the year.
10. Doesn't our Geo Metro look cool with a kayak strapped to the roof?

Of course, there are also many good reasons NOT to buy your own kayak.

Top Ten Reasons to NOT Buy Your Own Kayak

1. Shuttling is not included in the purchase price of your boat, this can mean a lot of paddling upstream.
2. Many outfitters don't like shuttling private boats and others refuse completely.
3. Some outfitters charge nearly as much for shuttling your boat as for renting AND shuttling theirs!
4. You need a way to haul your nearly 10 foot yaks: car top, trailer, roof racks, truck bed, etc.
5. Sunshine can kill your kayak. You will need a place to store your plastic boats OUT of the sun.
6. Maybe you cannot decide what kind of kayak to buy: touring, fishing, recreational or whitewater.
7. Buying a trailer, trailer hitch, chain, lock and about 50 bungees to haul our two yaks was costly.
8. Outfitters offer more services than boat rental, such as river reports, advice and safety tips.
9. After a long, hot and somewhat exhausting paddle trip, leaving your boats at the shore rocks!
10. Maybe you get free rentals from an outfitter for managing their website or something.

When we did the math, it was worth it to buy our own kayaks to serve our new addiction. Had we not chosen to be the last American family to NOT buy an SUV, the hauling might have been cheaper.

If you choose to get yourself some kayaks, make sure to rent a few from time to time. A little reminder of how it feels to have a wet butt for 10 miles, really helps you accept the cost of buying yourself that 9.5 foot Perception Swifty.

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Monday, May 01, 2006

Paddling the River in Early Spring

Oklahoma Eagle
Oklahoma Eagle,
originally uploaded by FreeWine.
After this weekend's much needed rains, we made a Sunday trip to War Eagle Floats on the Illinois River. The main season for these outfitters begins after Memorial Day. Therefore, if you can find a float this time of year, you can enjoy a plethora of wildlife that usually stays hidden.

Look for more details of this trip on my next posting.