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.