Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Explore Greenleaf Lake and the Arkansas Waterway to search for wintering waterfowl and eagles. Tours will depart from the Nature Hut at 8am and 1pm. Admission is free!
Greenleaf State Park
Braggs, OK 74423
Event Contact: Steve Evans
Web site: http://www.oklahomaparks.com/
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Since one of my errands took us to nearby Henryetta, Oklahoma, we decided to paddle at Nichols Park.
Nichols Park, a National Historic Site, encompasses more than 300 acres and features a low traffic 10-acre reservoir lake. The lake has rather high banks on the North side and thick forest line on the south side that makes for some nicely wind-sheltered paddling. Fishing is free at Nichols Park.
Manually-powered water crafts are allowed on the lake, however all other vessels are strictly prohibited.
Nichols Park also offers the Living Legends Rodeo Arena and the Henryetta Little League Complex. On Labor Day every year, over 1,500 spectators gather at Nichols Park to watch The Living Legends Rodeo. The park is located about a mile and a half south of Main Street on Lake Road in Henryetta.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Meanwhile, I've been shopping online for 2008 kayaking calendars and other seasonal goodies. I think a new electric generator will be the hit gift of the year here in the Sooner State! Amazon offers an enormous variety of power generators for sale, even if you don't want a generator delivered today you can explore the wide variety of options for home standby power. I'm still struggling to decide between a Portable Generator, RV Generator or Home Standby System.
Once the crisis is over, I can probably hire a local generator expert. I was able to find this lead to a Tulsa company offering home generator installations. Drop us a comment if you know their work or that off other Oklahoma providers!
Clifford Power Systems
9310 East 46th Street North
Tulsa OK 74117
Dianne and I were only without power for two days. Since we bought cellular internet cards, our network was up as long as we could keep our laptop batteries charged. I was pretty worried about my water freezing since our home is all-electric.
We stayed home and kept the house warm using a simple, low cost, propane construction heater. Just clamp one to the top of the propane tank from the BBQ grill and you have a simple heat source.
Of course, you have to be careful using one of these heaters indoors. Bundle up, keep a fresh air source going and only run the burner when you absolutely need it. Poisonous gas build-up has killed far too many Oklahoma folks already.
Stay warm, Oklahoma!
Saturday, December 08, 2007
This time of year, many Oklahoma kayakers start seeking more southern destinations for their paddling adventures. Southern climates tend to be warmer as winter settles in on my part of Oklahoma. Even today's forecast calls for Okmulgee to slog through a misty 50 degree day while Broken Bow, Oklahoma is expecting to enjoy a 73 degree day of warm winter sun.
Oklahoma's new Flatwater Paddlers Group is discussing some cold water paddling trips. So far, the suggested sites include Caddo Lake in Texas and maybe even a three day trip to Lafayette, Louisiana.
Caddo Lake in Texas
Both sound like great trips to me. I have long wanted to visit Lousiana and I have been planning on making a trip to Caddo Lake for awhile now. I even went as far as starting a Texas Kayaking Page listing canoe and kayak rentals, cabins and the Texas paddling spots I long to visit. Caddo Lake sits on the Texas and Louisiana border in North East Texas and North West Louisiana. The Cypress tree thickets and Spanish Moss on Caddo Lake make it very different from the lakes here in Northeastern Oklahoma. It sounds perfect for some Kayak Photography.
Long Lake Resort in Poteau
Another spot that I have been considering is Long Lake Resort in Poteau, Oklahoma. I still need to give them a call and find out what their policies are on allowing kayaking on their two private lakes. The two private lakes, Long Lake and Terrell Lake, are natural lakes stocked with fish. Each lake is approximately 45 to 50 acres in size and the cabins (some with a jacuzzi) are apparently right by the water. It sounds like some nice sheltered water nestled in the beautiful Ouachita Mountains.
If you have paddled these areas or have some other southern paddling destination to suggest...leave us a comment on the blog!
Of course another winter paddlers option is taking some small pleasure from Kayaking Books like this Texas Paddling Guide: Paddling the Wild Neches (Texas A&M Nature Guides) of course paddling books are only cold comfort and can't compare to actually getting out there!
Thursday, December 06, 2007
I mentioned yesterday that the Deep Fork River bridge near Nuyaka Creek Winery is a pretty good place to put-in for some flatwater kayaking that muddy old river. What I forgot to mention was that there is a particularly good opportunity for visiting the winery coming up this month.
Mom & Dad will be hosting a Christmas Open House on Thursday, December 20, 2007 from Noon until 6:00 PM. Free home cooking AND Oklahoma wine tasting for all! You can also see the new underground facility Dad has been working on.
The Deep Fork River is an Oklahoma tributary of the North Canadian River. It flows from Oklahoma City and meets the North Canadian River at Lake Eufaula about 200 miles away. It has taken me quite awhile, but I have begun to see more and more glimpses of the beauty that this river hides so well.
At first, I could see nothing at all to love in the almost monochrome redness of the river. However, in time I started to find the gnarled trees, twisted roots and sinister looking logjams as a secret source of dark beauty. It only exposes its sweetest attributes during the magical few hours just after sunrise and just before dawn.
Many Oklahoma Rivers seem prudish in the very same way.
Dry Suits for Kayakers...keep paddling all winter long without enduring a clammy wetsuit
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
I hope that Oklahoma voters have the sense to recognize that placing a common shill for Big Business in the White House will only lead to a river of crap for Oklahoma.
If you ever happen to be making the trip to visit my parent's winery, you may want to consider taking a kayak with you. The River bridge, just a mile or so down the road from the winery, offers some interesting water for kayaking either upstream or downstream.
From the main river bridge, you can paddle up stream for a couple miles until you reach a low water bridge and then turn around and head back or portage around the bridge.
The biggest drop that I am aware of on this part of Deep Fork is right at the main bridge where you put-in. If you are paddling downstream from the bridge I DO NOT reccomend running the small rapids at the put-in. The rapid used to be another low water bridge so it is loaded with old chunks of cement and rusty sheet metal.
However, just under the Deep Fork River Bridge is a large rocky area that makes it easy to put-in the river and go up or downstream while avoiding the rusty rapid.
Deep Fork River Paddling Tips:
Dress for mud, extreme mud! The Deep Fork River is full of, covered with and surrounded by sticky, slippery, red clay mud. Watch your step because the stuff is very slippery and tends to stain clothing. You may want to bring extra shoes.
Deep Fork River fishing is usually quite good because it is loaded with catfish. However, you may have some trouble keeping your fish. Both turtles and aligator gar are also present, so fish trapped on a stringer are likely to not make it to the take-out. We always considered a wire fish basket to be vital for bringing home dinner from old muddy Deep Fork.
Have you heard about Kindle, Amazon's new replacement for books?
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Nonetheless, I was shocked to see this: a solar powered, trolling motor driven outrigger kayak!
The outrigger attachment, including the frame, motor, waterproofed battery in the flotation pod compartment, and solar cells with a 120-volt charger retails for a pricey $1100. Kayak sold separately.
Friday, November 23, 2007
Last week, while the weather was still warm, I was able to slip out onto the Deep Fork River Bayou area just outside of Okmulgee, Oklahoma for a quick sunset paddle. Yakker even stopped by after work to join in the fun. Yakker usually paddles his Advanced Elements hybrid inflatable kayak, but this time we let him borrow Dianne's Heritage Angler. We were surprised to find a Pulling Unit at work on an oil well about 2 yards from the shore. Now THAT is Oklahoma Kayaking!
I owed Yakker a favor for helpng me score some cool kayaking gear from the good folks at AE. I took some pictures of his kayak that they wanted to use on their website. The Advanced Elements folks spotted the photos on my Flickr photostream...and the rest is free t-shirts!
Speaking of kayaking t-shirts...have you stopped by our Paddlers Supply Store yet? It gathers together loads of great bargains on kayaker t-shirts, paddles, kayaks, GPS gear, kayaking books, canoeing DVD's and more! Definately worth a stop if you are looking for Black Friday bargains online.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
This Saturday Greg and I set out to paddle the upper portion of Salt Creek near Okmulgee, Oklahoma. As you may recall, I've been paddling the lower portion of this creek quite a bit lately. The upper portion of Salt Creek feeds Dripping Springs Lake. The creek comes into Dripping Springs Lake from the southeastern corner. The closest way that I know of to reach it is to paddle southeast from the fishing dock at Clovis Point. You have to cross more of the lake than I would prefer to paddle this little tributary, but once you reach the creek there is some lovely, well-sheltered, flatwater paddling.
The fall color is starting to really dress up the area. Also, the reduced lake traffic of this season has resulted more wildlife visibility. Greg and I saw loads of ducks, cranes and turtles, but the highlight of the trip was seeing two mature Bald Eagles!
These were the first Bald Eagles I have ever seen in Okmulgee County and the first time I have ever seen two interacting with one another. They entertained us for about 15 minutes with their awesome and inspiring airborne antics. It was glorious to behold, but sadly I was too dumbfounded to get any pictures worthy of uploading. I hope Greg had better luck. Thankfully, the 12x Zoom on my Panasonic DMC-FZ8K did allow me to capture shots good enough to show Dianne the Eagles we saw.
Greg had his Advanced Elements kayak loaded for bear with: a fish finder, rod holders, tackle box...the works. He caught a nice little bass at the entrance to Upper Salt Creek. As usual, I was too lazy to even attempt fishing. Now that I have spotted both Ospreys and Eagles on this lake, I am even less likley to do any fishing in the area. I'll be too busy hunting with my Panasonic FZ8!
Paddling to the creek can be a little scary, if you have never paddled Dripping Springs Lake before. The lake is a fairly new one, so it is still full of old drowned tree trunks, stumps and stuff. When paddling this water you WILL definitely paddle over some of these stumps unexpectedly. Be warned, but be calm and most importantly be prepared. Paddling this water without a PFD is just plain stupid, so don't do it. Once you get onto Salt Creek the old stumps clear out and the water is much narrower and shallower, but when you are on the big lake water paddle slowly and remember to brace when you become unsteadied by an obstacle.
Lower Salt Creek is much easier to access and safer to paddle, but I have never seen any Eagles on that trip. Another surprise I got on this trip was meeting another kayak photographer. Greg and i met Kevin paddling his big Dagger kayak down Salt Creek after a morning of taking pictures. He said he has paddled both Upper and Lower Salt Creek quite a few times. We only visited briefly, but it looked like he was rocking a cool SLR camera and zoom lens. I should have invited him to join our new Oklahoma Flatwater Paddlers group, but it slipped my mind and I didn't water to interrupt his adventure with too much uninvited dialogue.
Afterward paddling, Greg and I met up with Dianne and grabbed some Mexican food con cervezas in Okmulgee. He is still plotting out a short trip through the locks on the Arkansas River near Webbers Falls, so be expecting more news on that later.
More Pictures from Okmulgee's Salt Creek on Flickr.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
USA Canoe/Kayak (www.USACK.org) has announced that the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Sprint Canoe/Kayak will take place April 18 – 20, 2008 in Oklahoma City, Okla..
Nearly 100 elite paddlers from across the U.S. are expected to compete in the three-day Trials competition that will determine the ranking of sprint athletes vying for selection to the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team and will select paddlers to represent the U.S. at the 2008 Pan American Championships and Continental Qualification event for the Olympic Games this May in Montreal, Canada.
The 2008 Trials, which are to take place on the recently completed Oklahoma River championship course at the state-of-the-art Chesapeake Boathouse, mark the first time that a major national canoe/kayak event will be held in the state of Oklahoma.
Monday, November 05, 2007
A kayak Venturing Crew open house will be held Saturday, November 10, 11 am to 1pm, at the Chesapeake Boathouse, 725 S. Lincoln Blvd. The open house will give youth the opportunity to learn about Venturing Crew and meet kayakers who will compete in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Parents who are interested in volunteering their time for the kayaking Venture Crew are encouraged to attend. Weather permitting, kayaking will be available to the youth; waivers must be signed by parents of those under the age of 18. The Venturing Crew will be lead by the youth with adult advisors. The crew will have the opportunity to learn about recreational, whitewater, and race kayaking. Annual cost for membership in the kayak Venturing Crew is $10.
For more information, contact Matthew Woodson, coordinator, at (405) 370-9543. There are fliers here: OKC Kayak Venturing (PDF), please distribute them.
Friday, October 26, 2007
However, when you can't find a trip that meets your needs here in our state, try taking a short trip over our eastern border to visit Arkansas. In the last decade, Arkansas has invested a great deal of time, money and effort developing resources for kayakers.
In fact, kayaks, paddles and life jackets can be rented at 10 Arkansas State Parks, and some of those parks offer the occasional guided kayaking experience such as the recent Cossatot River trip.
Kayak rentals are now offered at Bull Shoals-White River, Cane Creek, DeGray Lake Resort, Devil's Den, Lake Charles, Lake Dardanelle, Lake Ouachita, Lake Poinsett, Village Creek and Woolly Hollow state parks. Call 888-287-2757 or see http://arkansasstateparks.com for more information.
This is a great time of year to visit Arkansas because you can combine paddling with some truly primo leaf peeping. There are around 200 species of hardwood trees in Arkansas which is why it offers one of the longest fall foliage seasons in the United States.
Monday, October 15, 2007
October's unusually warm weather this year has extended the paddling season for fair weather kayakers like Dianne and I. In fact, we took a trip this weekend to Broken Bow, Oklahoma to kayak my favorite Oklahoma river…the LMF!
The Lower Mountain Fork River (LMF)
The LMF River offers an exciting four mile downriver trip that begins at the re-regulation dam, proceeds through a shallow rock garden, then some narrow rapids and a finally a couple small ledges with the take-out being the Highway 70 Bridge. The fun is highly concentrated on this river. Each bend in the river seems to offer another rocky obstacle or amazingly lovely scene. The water is crystal clear and cold all year long. Best of all, the electrical needs of the community and the water needs of the trout mean this river almost always has excellent water levels for kayaking.
Our Trip to Broken Bow
Those who know me well, know that I would love to greet the sunrise every weekend on the banks of this fantastic river. This is why we usually spend the night in Broken Bow, even though it is only a couple hours from home. Sadly, this trip did not allow me to greet the dawn on the river bank due to some unpleasantness on the drive from Okmulgee to Broken Bow.
Although the bow of my boat has never been broken on this river, the front-end of our pickup truck suffered mightily this time. Dianne and I were driving to our hotel, the Hochatown Country Lodge, when a deer jumped out in front of us on Highway 3 just outside of Rattan, Oklahoma. We were moving at highway speed and simply could not avoid hitting the deer. The damage to the truck included breaking our transmission cooler and leaving us stuck on the side of the road right by the Little River Park. The damage to the deer was even more severe.
The really nice folks at Steel's towing carried our wounded Chevy the last 30 miles or so into Broken Bow and even delivered both of us and our kayaks to the Hochatown Country Lodge. In the morning Jesse, our tow truck driver, planned to try to repair the truck enough for us to limp back home to Okmulgee. Like everyone in this friendly little town, Jesse delivered for us above and beyond the call of duty.
Oklahoma Flatwater Paddlers Save the Day
On any other trip, the events detailed above would have canceled any dream I had of paddling my favorite river...but this trip was different. We recently started participating in a new Oklahoma Flatwater Paddlers Yahoo! Group that Al Want launched. In fact, we had arranged to meet them at the hotel on Friday night.
Although Dianne and I have met other Oklahoma kayakers through our paddling blog, this was the first time we planned a trip through Al's new group. Al and his wife Donna were on the spot as soon as we reached the hotel. They insisted that canceling our kayaking trip would do nothing to repair our truck. Even though we were unable to do our part in boat shuttling, Al and Donna went FAR out of their way to make sure we could still run the river. They even carried us to Jesse's shop after our adventure to pickup our truck!
Kayaker Networks Mean Safer Paddling Trips
Everyone knows that paddling with companions is MUCH safer than being on the water alone. Groups, like the Oklahoma Flatwater Paddlers, can help you build the relationships that will make your river adventures much more safe and enjoyable. One thing I learned this weekend is that the risk doesn't begin and end on the water. When taking road trips that are even just a few hours from home, a support network of friends can be the difference between major disasters and minor annoyances.
Our LMF River Trip Report
Since Labor Day has passed, many of the Broken Bow area canoe liveries have shut down for the season. However, Ambush Adventures (see picture) was still open for business. Al and Donna had to make two trips from the lodge to get all five kayaks and all six paddlers to the outfitter. However, once we were all assembled the outfitter wasted no time in busing us to the put-in. Kayaking the LMF in the off-season means less crowding on the river, but fewer hilarious boat mishaps to photograph.
The LMF is barely tame enough to be called Flatwater Paddling, in fact Dianne and I break out the spray-skirts for this voyage. Al and Donna had their cockpits covered as well and they also supplied a Sit-On-Top tandem kayak for Heather and Reed to paddle. Everyone in our group made it down the river with dry hair, but several folks in canoes and uncovered kayaks were not so fortunate.
As usual, the river level was good enough to avoid the need to portage. We didn't hit the water until nearly noon, so we didn't see a great deal of fish or wildlife. However, even in the 'too-bright' light of the noonday sun, we managed to take some very nice kayak pictures. I think I may switch back to my plastic bladed paddle on my next trip. My new fiberglass bladed Carlisle paddle, though wonderfully light, did NOT sound too good bouncing off the rocks!
Lodging for the Lower Mountain Fork River Trip
Lodging at the Hochatown Country Lodge was great. Here’s an example: we told them we had hit a deer and would need an extra late check-in time and to stay an extra night. They set up all that AND gave us a discount on both nights purely out of pity. In a nutshell, the service was as excellent as the location.
We got a Jacuzzi room for the first night. The Lodge’s Jacuzzi room was easy to find, clean and well equipped for less than $100. Although we couldn’t find free WiFi at the hotel, there is an Internet cafe just a short walk from the Lodge. Also within easy walking distance of the lodge are: a liquor store, diner, chocolate shop, convenience store, chainsaw sculptor, go-kart racetrack and more. Hochatown, Oklahoma is small, but loaded with fun...just like the Lower Mountain Fork River itself.
Dianne and I really enjoyed paddling with Al, Donna, Heather and Reed. Flatwater Kayaking is an excellent group activity. It offers opportunities to just paddle along slowly in groups and talk or to venture off alone to explore for a while. Thanks for the help Al & Company, we owe you guys some major shuttling!
I think a few others from the Oklahoma Flatwater Paddlers group are planning to head to Broken Bow this coming weekend. If you have never paddled the LMF, I cannot recommend this river highly enough. Get with the group and go…you have nothing to lose but..uh…your wallet, keys, cell phones, paddles, water bottles, beers, glasses, etc.
Friday, October 12, 2007
There will also be over 20 booths filled with fun activities and interesting information ranging from environmental issues to outdoor recreation. Local civic groups and non-profits will be vending a variety of food, and there will be several different events taking place by the river throughout the afternoon.
Click here to visit the 2007 Illinois River Fest webpage!
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
The Illinois River, The Washita River and the Lower Mountain Fork River all appear to have good water levels for paddling. I think Dianne and I might even try to slide down the Lower Mountain Fork River this weekend. It will be nice to paddle with some current again, the lake kayaking is starting to get a little old.
Hope to see you on the water!
Thursday, October 04, 2007
I won a photo contest! Can you believe it?
PaddleDogNation.com is another online community for flatwater paddling enthusiasts. Although not local in scope, I really dig the funky, fun theme of PaddleDogNation. As you can see in the cap image on this post, they have a really cool logo. Stop by PaddlDogNation.com and check out their monthly photo contest. I won a cool wooden canoe paddle... that I just can't wait to use.
I won a Fox Worx Classic Bent Shaft Canoe Paddle from Mountainman Outdoor Supply Company, the September PaddleDogNation Photo Contest sponsor.
Monday, October 01, 2007
The outing is offered to everyone regardless of kayaking experience. The cost of the trip is $20 per person ages 14 and older and $15 per person if you bring a kayak.
The program is weather dependent and the trip will go on unless the river is too high or too low or if the weather is severe.
Participants are encouraged to bring the following items packed in a waterproof bag/container: sunscreen, 2 quarts drinking water, snacks, camera, hat and sunglasses with safety strap.
Dress in layers and wear sturdy shoes that can get wet and are OK for walking on the rugged shoreline. Kayaks, paddles and lifejackets are provided with the program fee.
Space is limited and reservations are required by calling 870-385-2201.
Payment is requested on arrival at the Cossatot River State Park Visitor’s Center classroom on Arkansas Highway 278 between Umpire and Wickes.
Sunday, September 30, 2007
Just two and a half miles from downtown Sapulpa is a large, well equipped recreation area on two small lakes. The larger of the two is Sahoma Lake and it covers about 340 acres.
Sahoma is an excellent kayaker lake for a number of reasons and a bit of a bummer for one reason. Sapulpa doesn't allow any jet ski or ski boats on either lake, so the only wakes you have to deal with are the ones created by our Oklahoma wind. Sahoma offers RV spaces, tent camping, a heated fishing dock, well equipped picnic areas, restrooms and great little bait store with food, drinks, information, permits and more!
Unfortunately, both lakes require boaters to buy local fishing permits (available at the bait shop). I don't like the hassle of local permits, but it is nice to know that they are using the permit money to stock trout, catfish and hybrid panfish in both lakes.
We didn't find time to paddle Sapulpa's other, smaller lake but I bought a Family Permit so I know we will be back. Pretty Water Lake is well named and apparently they mean to keep the water pretty, because the rule is: No Gas Engines on Pretty Water Lake.
Flatwater Paddling AND Trout Fishing Near Tulsa!
The City of Sapulpa stocks Pretty Water Lake twice a month from October through March with Rainbow and Golden Trout. The rest of the year they stock the lake with Channel Catfish and Hybrid Panfish. Naturally, there are good numbers of bass, turtles, cranes, ducks and other wildlife to enjoy at both lakes. Since Pretty Water Lake spills over into Sahoma Lake (see photo above), both lakes get stocked with some great game fish.
Sapulpa has developed two excellent flatwater resources for Oklahoma paddlers and kayak fishing enthusiasts, both within striking distance of Tulsa. Don't be the last to discover these two gems right off Old Highway 75. More Photos of Sahoma Lake & Pretty Water Lake in Sapulpa.
Got any stories of paddling or fishing this area? We would love to hear about it. Just drop us comment on the Oklahoma Road Trips Blog, anytime!
Thursday, September 27, 2007
As the fall colors kick-in, Lower Salt Creek should be excellent for kayak photography (the sport camera-makers love). Also, my Dad says there can be quite a bit of rolling whitewater here, when they are releasing water from Dripping Springs. More on that issue later...if I can find someone who knows!
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
"...a member-run group dedicated to those interested in canoing and kayaking the gentler rivers and other bodies of water NOT categorized as extreme whitewater. The group has no membership fees and the only requirement is that you occasionally leave the comfort of your sofa and join others in the enjoyment of outdoor paddling. It's a great way to grow social contacts and have some outdoor fun at the same time. In addition, the group will serve as a source of shared information to help build skills and coordinate activities. Most importantly of all, this is YOUR group. Join in and help promote RECREATIONAL paddling in our area."
That sounds pretty good to me, so I joined up! If you are interested in joining try the link below:
Click to join flatwaterpaddlersoklahoma
... or search for Flatwater Paddlers Oklahoma on Yahoo Groups.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Salt Creek is a deep and narrow creek that runs between Okmulgee's two lakes. There is a nice parking spot and an excellent kayak launch spot right across the road from the Dripping Springs Lake Dam. I paddled from the put-in down to where Salt Creek merges with Lake Okmulgee and then back. I didn't have a GPS but it felt like about 3 miles total. Naturally, there was plenty more water left for paddling, but I wanted to hurry back to the put-in to catch some pictures of the sunset. I think it was worth it.
In my humble opinion, Salt Creek offers the best flatwater, no-current, paddling in Okmulgee County. Salt Creek offers plenty of shade, still waters on a windy day, herons, osprey and other waterfowl all in a long no-wake zone far from the boat racers and jet ski hazards of Lake Okmulgee. Other advantages include plentiful camping and RV facilities at Dripping Springs Lake and Lake Okmulgee and a well paved road that leads to the put-in. Expect to see plenty of beautiful whitetail deer on the road at twilight.
A great spot to canoe or kayak that is just a few miles from my house. In my book, that is a discovery that rivals Columbus!
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Since Dianne hasn't felt like kayaking much lately... I went solo. I always discourage other folks against solo paddling, but my new digital camera arrived Thursday and i just had to get it out on the water.
The camera worked quite well and allowed me to capture a shot of an Osprey hunting on Dripping Springs Lake as well as the picture on this post. Not bad for low light, handheld from onboard my kayak. It was the first Osprey I have ever seen in Okmulgee county.
Why the New Camera?
The truth is I killed my old one in my last solo paddling misadventure. A couple weeks ago, while Dianne was working on the lawn at our river lot, I decided to take a sunset kayak trip on the North Canadian River.
Since the levels have dropped back to normal, our bit of river frontage once again offers an unpleasantly steep spot for launching a boat or even stepping into the water. The last time I paddled here I had to do a seal launch down the steep bank and i made it fine. However, on the next attempt i got to enjoy a refreshing swim. Dianne had to paddle quite a ways downstream to catch up with my boat and paddle but she eventually returned with them. My cell phone and Panasonic FZ7 digital camera found the swim to be more than they could bear.
Cause of Disaster - Poor Paddling and Judgement
As I slid down the riverbank, I could not help but notice how much deeper the bow sunk in the river. Much more river water flowed into the boat from over the bow than the last time. I sort of spaced out on that as it was happening and when the bow finally popped up... I should knew the boat would shift rapidly and I should have braced hard with the paddle. Instead, I tipped over for a swim before paddling the first stroke!
On the previous attempt, when I successfuly made the launch, I noticed water coming in over the bow and decided I should attach my spray skirt before attempting it again. Unfortunately, I didn't heed my own advice. There were many opportunities for me to screw this up less and I missed most of them. I must honestly confess that the only thing i did right was wear my PFD.
Best Prevention - Good Habits
Everyone knows that bad judgement will get you into trouble everytime. However, too often we convince ourselves that we will be protected by our good judgement. Good judgement comes and goes with your moods and company. Good habits are your best bet
for preventing disaster.
Just last year, I was doing all my paddling with someone watching my back. I packed a dry box with me on every trip and kept my electronics safe in dry containers at launch and landing. Over time I have become increasingly careless and the
river saw fit to send me a reminder. My old Panasonic FZ7 is Dead. Long live the new Panasonic Lumix FZ8! I also lost like a million phone numbers that were on my phone, but this is how we learn, right?
TIP: Wear the PFD and use the dry containers especially at launch, landings and rapids.
Reset and Start Again
For the first hour of my paddling session at Dripping Springs Lake, I was terribly worried about killing my new camera. I expected this and working though it was one of my main intentions behind getting on the water as soon as possible with the new Lumix. After all, the camera holds little value for me, if I can't bring myself to take it on the water. That is why I buy fairly inexpensive digital cameras, I want to be able to fearlessly take the with me kayaking anywhere.
Of course, when I was shopping for a replacement camera I was really excited about trying out a new brand. I had my eye on a Fuji, a Cannon or a Nikon. When I did the math, the Panasonic just offered more bang for the buck. There are not too many camera's under $250 that can shoot in at 12x Zoom in RAW format, but the Panasonic Lumix FZ8 makes it easy and affordable.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
However, this weekend is the Nuyaka Creek Winery Harvest Festival. My folks own Nuyaka Creek Winery and they only do two festivals per year, so I like to be on hand to help out.
Thankfully, it should be an excellent day to get outside and mingle with some other Oklahoma wine lovers and maybe I can slip in for a quick paddling session on Sunday. Dianne and I will both be at the festival, if you want to stop talk about Oklahoma kayaking or Oklahoma wine drop by the festival Saturday. We would love to see you there!
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Event details are here: http://www.arkansascanoeclub.com
This is the largest paddlers rendezvous in the area. Expand your network, test new boats and make new shuttle partners!
Monday, August 20, 2007
Okmulgee Creek is flooded out again, but the roads have mostly cleared. Erin tracked right along i-40, so we took a trip to our river lot in Pierce to make sure our RV hadn't floated away. The North Canadian River is up very high, nearly as high as when it flooded a few months ago...and it is still rising. I didn't paddle it today, but it was running fast and carrying large trees downstream to Lake Eufaula.
Somehow the flooding appears to have dmaged two water mains that kept us dry at our house from 10pm Sunday night to around 6pm this evening. The water pressure is still low at 8:45pm, so I figure they are still working on it.
I hope it raises the water level on the Illinois River a few feet. I'm itching to make a trip down the river, now that the summer peak traffic season is ending.
Fishing Hot Spots - Illinois River
Been paddling somewhere lately? Drop me a comment on the Oklahoma Road Trips blog, i would love to hear about your adventures!
Saturday, August 11, 2007
However, Friday after work I needed a quick bit of excercise to unwind and decided to stop by Okmulgee Lake.
Locally this is known as the "Old Lake" and tends to see quite a bit of fast boating action. In fact, they host boat racing and wakeboarding competitions here. I like to slip my kayak in near the lake's spillway off Highway 75 and paddle around in the golden sunset light. I try to keep close to the shore to avoid collisions with faster craft. Naturally, one must be careful not to paddle OVER the spillway unless your life lacks adventure. My Panasonic DMC-FZ7 loves this kind of light, as long as you don't shoot directly into the sun. I can't resist shooting into the lovely warm light, so I get quite a few lens flares. I wish I had some of those cool Cokin Landscape Filters, it looks like you can have light like this anytime with those!
In the summer time I go Sunset Kayaking around 7pm. This allows me to scout around a bit and get some excercise before the light starts getting interesting. It pays to have a late afternoon snack first as the light doesn't completely fade until around 9pm.
At dinner, expect to eat like you just got a tip on a famine!
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Oklahoma paddlers have recently received notice that the river flow gauges on many of Oklahoma most scenic rivers will be shut down in August due to lack of state funds to keep them operational.
This really hurts Oklahoma canoe and kayak paddlers who need to know the river level before planning a river trip and it is no boon to public safety either. Outfitters like, Tom at K-River Campground will also have trouble giving recommendations for safe canoe trip scheduling. The amount of money the state will save is tiny and it will really damage a lot of small Oklahoma toursim business operators.
If you want to help out just send an email to your state representative. For the Kiamichi River area it is R.C. Pruett, at email@example.com. Our state representatives need to push for state funding for these gauges.
Friday, August 03, 2007
The OSRC holds 3 Illinois River Cleanups each summer, scheduled for the Friday following each of the major holidays - Memorial Day, July 4th, and Labor Day. To participate in a cleanup, volunteers should contact the OSRC by the Wednesday prior to the cleanup, at (918) 456-3251, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The OSRC and canoe livery operators along the River, with help from Save the Illinois River (STIR) and other local agencies, have sponsored canoe-based trash cleanups two or three times a year, on Fridays following major holidays (Memorial, Independence and Labor Days).
Free canoes and trash bags are provided to participants willing to collect trash along an approximately 6-mile stretch of the River. Participants who bring in trash can also register for a drawing for a new canoe, which will be given away during the post-Labor Day cleanup (Sept. 8 this year).
Sunday, July 29, 2007
A Great Place to Try Paddling
Robbers Cave State Park has three small lakes that are all excellent for novice canoe and kayak paddlers to give the sport a try. Lake Carlton is located right by the park office. This tiny lake offers canoe, kayak and pedal-boat rental and a lovely swimming area set against a backdrop of rocky bluffs covered in cedar, pine and assorted hardwood trees. Although, my first visit here was in the summertime, I imagine it must be stunning in the Fall. The lakes are free of fast boats and jet skis which makes them excellent for teaching the basics of paddling to kids.
Also, the small town of Krebs, Oklahoma is right on the way to Robbers Cave State Park from our house. Krebs is a town built by Italian immigrants and the opportunity to catch a meal there is reason enough for an Oklahoma Road Trip! Although most places in this town serve dinner only, you can catch lunch at a couple of place. Find one…it is worth it!
More Fun Stuff for the Kids
In addition to the lakeside swimming area, there is a large pool nearby and adjacent to the gift shop is a Nature Center for learning to recognize the native plants, animals and insects in the area. Now I know why the goldfinch feeder I bought on sale a month ago hasn’t attracted any goldfinches. It turns out that goldfinches are winter birds in Oklahoma!
The Kids Will LOVE the Hike…So Will You!
Hiking up to Robbers Cave is, of course, the main event at Robbers Cave State Park. Do not leave the park without taking this excellent hike. Although you will see folks breaking out rock climbing equipment and rappelling gear, most folks from 10 to 60 should be capable of walking to the top safely (if not quickly). The trailhead info says that the climb is equivalent to climbing eight flights of stairs and takes about one hour. It is, without a doubt, the best little hike I have ever been on and it was great to see how much Dylan enjoyed it!
My favorite part of the hike is The Stone Corral. The outlaws that used to hide out in these caves included folks like Belle Starr, Jesse James, Cole Younger, etc. They used The Stone Corral to conceal their horses. I walked up to The Stone Corral on a hot, windless day in the summer, but I swear that a constant breeze moved through the rock-surrounded area while I was there!
Some Advice for the Hike
Although non-hikers can walk up this hill, you will enjoy yourself more if you follow the following tips. Wear snug fitting shoes with good traction, you don’t want to risk slipping and falling. If your shorts are very long, roll them up. Take some water. take a camera and take your time. It was a hot walk uphill in the summertime, so the best advice I can give you is to leave early. The trail opened up at 8am and it started to get a little crowded with Boy Scouts ands such around 10:30am…right when the temps were rising and we were leaving.
Cabins, Camping or a Wilburton Motel
Wilburton, Oklahoma is not a huge town so the lodging options are somewhat limited when visiting Robbers Cave State Park. On the first night of our trip, we stayed in one of the park’s two bedroom cabins. The cabins are not fancy. but they are comfortable and they tend to be booked up early on weekends. Right by our cabin was the park lodge called the Belle Starr View and the park offers group camps, tent camping and horse camping as well.
To feed the internet addiction of our family we spent the second night of our road trip at Wilburton’s Hiway Suites and Motel. Their king rooms are also not fancy but comfortable and we found a decent WiFi signal right away. After an afternoon swim in the pool and some satellite TV, we awoke refreshed for another day of fun at the park.
Lake Carlton and Lake Wayne Wallace
Although there are several walking trails to explore, on Day Two we decided to paddle Lake Wayne Wallace instead getting lost in the woods. This lake is just a short drive from Lake Carlton, but it is more isolated and scenic. Lake Carlton is scenic, but with the boat rental, a shaved ice stand, pool, waterslides, swimming area and floating docks…it is anything but isolated. Young people play gleefully in all directions at Lake Carlton. Lake Wayne Wallace was much more my speed. Dianne and I paddled it early in the day until lunchtime and we only saw one other person…at a distance.
Both of these park lakes are small and surrounded by beautiful trees, stone formations and high scenic bluffs. If you have been waiting for an excuse to buy a new high capacity memory card for your digital camera…this trip will justify it!
Bonus Road Trip to Heavener, Oklahoma
My son Dylan had heard about the Heavener runestone and expressed an interest in seeing Oklahoma’s most famous Viking artifact. Since the trip would take us even deeper into the Ouachita Mountains, I was definitely up for it.
It would appear that sometime around 600 AD, some Vikings made an Oklahoma Road Trip of their own. Scholars believe they traveled up the Mississippi River and laid claim to land that would one day become Poteau, Oklahoma. The Heavener Runestone is said to be a property claim marker for a Viking named ‘Glome’. I was surprised to learn that other Viking Runestones had been found around Oklahoma including a Shawnee Runestone in nearby Shawnee, Oklahoma.
What About Thrilling Whitewater Excitement?
We made a brief stopover at Lake Wister on our way back to Wilburton and our kayaks were in the back of the truck. Lake Wister is releasing huge volumes of water now. Below the dam release point there was some mighty frothy whitewater and lines of fishermen on each shore. They were pulling 45 pound catfish out of this area with rods. I was surprised when one of them asked me if they would like to pull their lines in so we could run the whitewater in our kayaks.
Thanks…But No Thanks
First of all, neither of our kayaks or our skills are up to snuff for this run. Even if we were paddlers enough to survive, the smell would gag a maggot. Apparently, the lake is ‘turning over’ as it does every summer. The water has a yellow tint and an almost overpowering smell of sulphur (rotten eggs) fills the air around the dam release. I was standing on the bank about ten feet from the water and I could see fish just beneath the surface. I couldn’t help wondering if it had any impact on the flavor of the catfish…it sure put me off my feed for awhile!
Robbers Cave State Park in Wilburton, Oklahoma has a wide assortment of Nature Trails, Mountain Biking Trails, and Equestrian Trails. If you take a notion to do some wandering partner, this place has got trails! Dianne and I took Dylan and Dianne’s Mother Juliene and we all found fun activities to enjoy at this park. I can’t remember when I have enjoyed such cheap fun. Since we had our own kayaks (only two boats to share between four people), we spent nothing on activities. The hiking and boating and Viking History lessons were all free.
For the drive home, we decided to skip the Indian Nation Turnpike and take Highway 69 instead. Highway 69 crosses Lake Eufaula at in several places like Rock Creek, Coal Creek and Crowder. I'll have to get back and paddle that part of Eufaula one of these days.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
If you are interested in learning more about The Red Dirt Paddlers, Oklahoma's own chapter of the ACC, visit the Red Dirt Paddlers page on the ACC website.
Normally, Dianne and I have to take 'up-and-back-again' trips on the river because we only have one vehicle and no shuttle. Needless to say, we were thrilled to get a chance to do a 'one-way', downriver trip and to meet one of our new neighbors.
The float trip is about 6 miles, most of it with a decent downstream current. We started early in the morning to try and beat the heat. This is pretty important for taking this particular trip during the summer. Although the river portion of the trip offers some current and quite a bit of shade, the last leg of the trip is pure Lake Paddling in the blazing sun.
One of the downsides of paddling Oklahoma lakes is that the wide open area offers little shade. Also, the lack of distance cues around you makes it seem like you are paddling at an a very slow speed. The feeling of slowness makes paddling across many Oklahoma lakes feel very monotonous. There is also an element of danger when paddling your kayak across a big expanse of water where ski boats and personal watercraft race around at breakneck speeds.
Despite a couple miles of paddling across the lake at the end, the trip is a good one. Although not as scenic as the Illinois River or the Lower Mountain Fork River, paddling the North Canadian offers solitude, peacefulness and some cool bird watching opportunities.
Meeting Greg was the best part of the trip. He is a really conscientious paddler and all-around nice guy who has developed some very good safety habits. Dianne and I set the bar rather low when it comes to safety procedures. We wear our PFD's when paddling, but that is about the extent of our safety preparations. Greg plotted the whole trip out on a map and brought along some rescue gear in case someone ran into trouble.
His kayak is a cool Advanced Elements boat about ten feet long, some folks call them Folding Kayaks. Advanced Elements makes hybrid kayaks that have the buoyancy of an inflatable kayak with a rigid frame that makes it easier to paddle than most pure inflatable boats. The best feature of the boat is that is can be carried on a roof rack like a regular kayak OR you can take it down and fold it into a bag for traveling!
The trip running from Dogwood Acres to Jack Frisbee Boat Ramp near No Name Creek will be one I am sure we will repeat. The Frisbee Baot Ramp is right of Highway 150 and offers a great parking area that is close to food, lodging, bait...whatever you need.
Greg offered two suggestions on the trip that I ignored and looking back on it...I should have taken his advice. The first was when he offered us all sunscreen at about 9:30am and the second was when he suggested a group picture at the end. Buddy, you were right!
This felt like our first real float trip of the summer because it isn't a real float trip until someone (me) gets a sunburn on their knees, right? Greg, if you are reading this…thanks for a great trip! Dianne and I really enjoyed it meeting a fellow paddler that knows the Eufaula area so well.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
It sounds like an excellent trip, well worth repeating if everything works out. There is an excellent boat ramp and paved parking area at the landing site, plus ice, grub, bait and beverages just a couple miles up the road.
The river level on the North Canadian River is still quite high, but that just improves the river access at our lot. The current is also very high, so we will be watching out for debris coming down river. It will be nice to take a one-way paddle with the current for a change!
The water level on the Illinois River still looks excellent with no flooding at all.
All of the rain Oklahoma has been seeing this summer has swollen most rivers to well beyond their banks. The bright side is that the numbers of frogs and wading birds are much larger this year than I have ever seen before.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Rapids tend to get water on my lens, but other folks demand more excitement in their lives and technology is always there to deliver. Case in point: The Jet Kayak.
Waterfall jumper Shaun Baker and his engineering friend Andy Selway crammed a 45 horse power motor and a Yamaha jet ski impeller into a kayak. The modified impeller forces water through it's body to push the kayak to a maximum 35mph.
See the Jet Kayak video from UK show Top Gear on YouTube to see what a 35mph kayak really looks like.
As I said...something for everyone.
Monday, July 09, 2007
The North Canadian River is still very high, which is great for us because our river access spot normally has a steep bank making landing and launching very difficult. However, at it's current level it is a perfect spot to launch out and catch the sunrise or sunset. Landing is also a breeze due to some sandstone we recently arranged.
Saturday, after the lawn work, I paddled out around 7pm, just in time to catch some fantastic light. The tree photo here is basically right out of the camera. I got some nice pictures of the rocks as well. So many big catfish were rolling to make me wish I had brought a fishing rod.
The recent strange weather has made for some very nice sunsets and it is easy to find water these days. Sunday, I met up with Bill at DFWR White Oak Area where the water is dropping pretty fast.
Bill is a real nice local guy who saw some of our pictures on Flickr and we got to chatting about kayaks, photography and stuff. He took my Perception Swifty out into Thousand Acre Lake for a test paddle. He takes some killer shots with his Nikon D80 . I gotta get me one of those!
The Illinois River is at ideal paddling depth so I am trying to get Dianne to agree on a weekend trip up that way. I am hoping to find some overnight lodging that would allow us to get on the water early enough to catch the good light.
Monday, July 02, 2007
Luckily for us, Okmulgee Creek (Greasy Creek) is flooded. This provided us with the opportunity to paddle both Greasy Creek and the exercise trail at Okmulgee Municipal Park (near the YMCA on 20th Street).
Paddling the Okmulgee Creek is actually quite nice once you get past the odor and the cars honking as they pass. Dianne's Mom even stopped by to take my Perception Swifty kayak out for a quick paddle around the soccer goals.
Paddling Greasy Creek reminded me of one of the key benefits of having a Sit-Inside-Kayak as opposed to a Sit-On-Top kayak. Sometimes, you don't want the water to touch you at all. Flood water is likely to be contaminated, so swimming in it is never advised. Sit-on-Top kayaks tend to get more water on you than one might prefer during the winter or while paddling in nasty water.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
It took longer for the folks at Baker Electric to fill out the paperwork to rent me a heat gun than the entire repair job. The plastic welding material that Becky sent me melted and fused with the boat hull very quickly. I thought it might change color after melting but it did not. The patch matches the boat wonderfully.
I even filled a couple of minor scrapes in the hull because it was so quick and easy. If you don't know where to look, you can hardly even see the patches. Renting the heat gun only cost me $5, a fraction of what I would have paid for the two Heritage caps Becky sent me.
I knew that our kayaks could be repaired, but I can't help being surprised at how easy it was. Honestly, I never repair things...I'm a software guy, but this was as easy as drying your hair.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
I emailed Heritage Kayaks using the address on their website to ask about repair options and they replied the same day. Becky at Heritage Kayaks was kind enough to email repair instructions AND snail-mail the matching plastic to patch the hull. That is rapid, no-hassle customer service that left me feeling like I just spotted a jackalope or some other rare creature!
I got the plastic today via UPS and Becky was kind enough to include Heritage Kayak caps for both of us! That just warmed my heart. We exchanged a number of emails and they responded to every one of them within minutes of me sending them. They are good folks!
Check back on this blog and I will let you know how the repair goes. I found a place called Baker Electric in Henryetta to rent the Heat Gun, so we are all set to give it a try tomorrow.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
I assumed the water would be quite shallow, but it appeared to be well over 5 feet high in most parts. Paddling through these pastures and pecan groves feels real swampy, but I love it. If there is one thing the sport of summer kayaking needs, it is more shade!
Today, we got on the water long past the best morning light and too long before the sunset. However, I needed the excercise and the water was there. Dianne sat this one out as we are waiting for some plastic welding rod to repair a hole in the Heritage Angler kayak.
The White Oak Area of DFWR offers a level gravel parking lot of ample size and even a handy pile of gravel, just above the water, for Slide-Launching kayaks...very fun! I saw several herons and some kind of small bird that was diving in and out of the water. Sadly, I wasn't close enough to get a picture of it.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
When you paddle beneath the bridge, they fly up and flit around excitedly until you paddle away from their community of nests. Dad says they are likely to be Barn Swallows and they just make a great fishing spot even better!
We had to cut the trip short do to discovering a small hole in the molded skeg on the bottom of Dianne's Heritage Angler Kayak.
I emailed the address on the maker's website and they responded in the same day. They have sent me the instructions on making the repair and materials are on the way...FREE! That is customer service that can turn a disaster into a testimony.
Thinking of buying yourself a Recreational Kayak for Fishing and Photography? Dianne still loves her 9.5 foot Heritage Featherlite Angler Kayak and Amazon.com is offering them now if you can't find one at Academy Sports in Tulsa.
Monday, June 18, 2007
Noodling is the sport of fishing by hand rather than rod and reel, and those who are willing to try it will have their chance to compete for over $5,000 in cash and prizes.
The annual Okie Noodling Tournament held in Pauls Valley has become quite a tradition for many Oklahomans. In fact, last year the event drew about 120 participants and 3,200 spectators to the south-central Oklahoma town. Once again, Bob's Pig Shop will host the event, which starts at 5 p.m. The event will feature a fish fry, live music, a noodling queen pageant and plenty of monstrous catfish.
For more information about the tournament or to download an entry form, log on to okienoodling.com. For more information about the event, call the Pauls Valley Chamber of Commerce at (405) 238-6491 or log on to their Web site at paulsvalley.com.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
The Oklahoma Paranormal Research and Investigations is sponsoring the 2007 'Para-Float' this Friday and Saturday at Diamondhead Resort. The event will include lectures by Patrick Burns from Court TV's 'Haunting Evidence' deals with the allegedly haunted Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Kentucky.
According to Christy Selfridge, founder and director of OKPRI, this won't be the first visit the Oklahoma City-based organization has made to the area - just the most publicized.
Who Ya Gonna Call?
Anyone who thinks they might be experiencing paranormal activity is welcome to contact the OKPRI about an investigation.
The weekend'seminar on the river is free, but Diamondhead will be charging the normal rates for camping and floating. A campfire will be built both Friday and Saturday nights, and the two guest speakers will begin around 7 p.m. Saturday.
Thursday, June 07, 2007
Dianne and I decided to try recreational kayaks instead of a canoe when floating down the Illinois River a couple years ago. We loved the fun of solo paddling and we needed to get outside more, so paddling seemed like a perfect fit. A trip to the Lower Mountain Fork River in Broken Bow, Oklahoma convinced us to buy our own boats, but it was Flickr that really got me hooked.
Flickr is an online photo sharing community that is highly populated with talented photographers willing to share their knowledge. Through comments from my Flickr Friends I've learned to take much nicer photos. More importantly, I have learned to see more beauty around me.
I've learned that an area that seems ugly and dull can come alive for a brief window and display a secret beauty only known to the few that are there to see it. I've learned composition tricks and to look for framing elements, patterns and contrast. These lessons, that I owe to help from my Flickr Friends, got me more and more interested in taking pictures.
Taking pictures more often also helped me realize that I was doing all my paddling after Lunchtime and before Dinner. These are the worst hours for photography. By planning my paddling trips with this in mind, I have enjoyed kayaking more than ever before.
For me, Kayaking, Photography and Flickr blend like rich coffee, sweet sugar and creamy milk. Separately, I would have only a small interest in any of the three, but together they are...MAGIC!
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Road Trip Report: The Upper Buffalo River in Arkansas
Pruit put-in to Hasty Landing take-out (71/2 miles)
paddled by Al and Donna Want.
The Ponca area (Upper Buffalo) is an easy 4 1/2 hour drive from OKC straight up I-44 to Tulsa and then onto US412 to Ark 74 at the intersection with Ark.43.
Although we planned to put in at Ponca and paddle the uppermost (and most beautiful) section of the Buffalo, the water levels were to shallow for that section as is normally the case. Using the Buffalo Outdoor Center for shuttles, we put in at Pruit and they drove our car to the Hasty parking area ($40 shuttle fee). BOC also rents canoes and some kayaks. There are several other outfitters in the area (mostly out of Jasper) but we were already renting a lovely luxury cabin ($165/nite) from BOC at Ponca so it was easiest to make arrangements with them. There are also campgrounds at Steel Creek and Kyles landing as well as Pruit and Hasty.
If you rent a cabin, be advised, there's no tv reception and almost none of the area cabins have satellite or cable. Bring plenty of dvds. Also, there is no reliable cell phone service anywhere within 30 miles so leave the outfitter's number with family for emergency contact. There are no restaurants in Ponca and the choices in Jasper (population 498) are a bit limited. There is also no gasoline in Ponca so fill up before you get there and again in Jasper.
Being a holiday weekend, there were lots of kayakers and canoers on the river but it was never too congested and the company was, for the most part, very congenial and welcomed. The water was a cool 65 degrees and relatively clear and the water flow was an easy Class I (probably about 200cfs most of the way. There were paddlers on the river from 10 to 70 years old and everyone seemed to be enjoying the terrific scenery.
The Upper Buffalo is lined, much of the way, with tall stone bluffs (limestone I think) sometimes towering 300-500 feet above the water. They were quite impressive and at some places the water was deep enough to swimmers to jump off feet first to cool off. As with many Arkansas rivers, the river was punctuated every half mile or so with willow strainers around which the river would bend and pick up speed as it dropped off a foot or two in elevation resulting in easy rapids with some sharp turns.
As a general rule on rivers of this sort, always look for the the swiftest water and follow the current. Most strainers have a calm side which looks inviting and a side chute with small rapids. The calm sides almost always dead-end in a pool and you'll either have to portage over to the other side or paddle up-river to get back to the rapids.
We saw several canoers make this mistake but the river was really rather easy to read and paddlers were free to relax and enjoy the vivid greenery and the gentle flow of the current. There were lots of wide gravel bars which easily lend themselves to either a picnic lunch or overnight camping.
Paddlers should remember that NO GLASS IS ALLOWED ON THE RIVER AND ALL ITEMS MUST BE IN FLOATABLE CONTAINERS. The rangers were out on the river making check-point inspections and the fine for one lady with a jar of pickles was $130 plus a mandatory court appearance.
It's easy to see why the Buffalo was the nations first river to be designated a National Scenic Waterway. The view from the water is gorgeous and the river speed allows for a lazy enjoyable float. Be sure to take a camera. There will be lots of photo ops along the way.
The 7 1/2 mile float took us about 3 hours including a short lunch and socializing break on one of the gravel bars. The river could certainly be run faster but you'll really want to take it slow and enjoy every calming stroke of it. We intend to return as soon as possible and try out the middle sections of the Buffalo.
Spring is a great time to run the Upper Buffalo as it's the only time of year when the water levels are sufficient. You may get a little intermittent drizzle but don't let that keep you off the river. Throw a poncho in the kayak but you probably won't need it. It rained mostly at night and the intermittent drizzle on the river wasn't even enough to get my hat wet. The cloud cover kept the temps in the upper 70's and it couldn't have been much more pleasant.
The Buffalo is one river that bears visiting by all paddlers. You'll want to return to it often.