Friday, December 05, 2008

Off Season Mountain Fork River Paddling

Paddling The Chute
Originally uploaded by FreeWine
This Fall, Dianne and I were asked to help the folks from the Chevy Outdoors Sporting Journal do an article on kayaking the Lower Mountain Fork River in Broken Bow, Oklahoma.

Those of you who know me, also know that the LMF River is my favorite spot for Oklahoma kayaking. I was eager for a trip to Broken Bow, so when they offered to 'pay the freight', it was a deal that was too good to refuse.

They sent a writer up from Texas and a pair of photographers down from Detroit and we all spent an exhausting five hours on the four-mile whitewater section of the Mt. Fork River. The photographers piloted a canoe down the river without incident, but the writer got an unexpected opportunity to practice self-rescue. He fell off of his rented SOT kayak passing through the Rock Garden. Considering the huge amount of high-end camera gear in the photographer's canoe, I am glad it was the writer who got to swim!

Kayaking in Broken Bow, Oklahoma is awesome just about anytime of year, but I prefer it in the so-called off-season. We enjoyed an excellent water level and encountered no crowds. The air was cool enough for us to stay out all day, but warm enough for them to spend a lot of time in the water trying to get the perfect picture. I hope they had as much fun on this Southeastern Oklahoma road trip as Dianne and I did. Next time, I'll bet that writer gets a kayak with a spray skirt for this river!

You can see an excerpt from the article and a few pictures on the Chevy Outdoors Sporting Journal website.

Monday, November 03, 2008

OKC Holiday River Parade Nov 28, 2008

The fifth Annual Devon Energy Holiday River Parade is scheduled for Friday, November 28, 2008 at 6 p.m. The day after Thanksgiving, the Oklahoma River will come to life and illuminate the night with decorated boats of every shape and size and FIREWORKS!

Admission and parking are free. The event will feature afternoon entertainment at Wiley Post Park and Regatta Park as well as a nighttime holiday parade concluding with a spectacular fireworks show. Last year the Devon Energy River Parade attracted more than 40,000 people to the shoreline of the Oklahoma River. This event is perfect for the entire family and the ideal way to kick-start the holiday season. Next, to OKC snow tubing, this may be the most fun event in OKC!

Net proceeds from the Devon Energy Holiday River Parade will benefit the Oklahoma River Foundation. The foundation was established in 2004 and is managed by the Oklahoma City Community Foundation. In just four short years, the river parade has contributed approximately $400,000 to the Oklahoma River Foundation for future improvements to the Oklahoma River and the 14-mile trail system.

Anyone can enter and compete in the boat parade. There is no entry fee for the parade; however, participants are asked to make a contribution to the Oklahoma River Foundation.

Boat entry forms are at the Parade Registration link, metro-area boat dealers or Oklahoma City Events located at 100 Park Avenue, Suite 700 in downtown Oklahoma City. Corporate and individual sponsorships for the Devon Energy River Parade are available. For sponsorship or event information, contact the event chairman Mike McAuliffe at (405) 602-1531.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

River Paddling is Best at Sunrise and Sunset

Autumn is here and we are finally seeing some more rain here in Northeastern, Oklahoma!

This is my favorite season for river kayaking and lake paddling. Fall often ends quickly in Oklahoma, so now is the time to hit the rivers. The Illinois River around Tahlequah, Oklahoma and the Kiamichi River near Antlers, Oklahoma are both lovely in the Fall. They also require a bit of recent rainfall for the best float trips. Summer is the big paddling season, but you can bet on seeing much more wildlife and much fewer boats on any of Oklahoma's scenic rivers in the Fall, once the rains have begun.

Over in North Arkansas, The Ouachita River is flowing and there a many parts of The Buffalo National River at the optimal level for river kayaking or canoe trips.

In Southern Arkansas, I see the Caddo River above Degray Lake is up to around 6 feet deep. You can head to Glenwood, Arkansas, not too far from Hot Springs, and visit Caddo River Camping & Canoe Rental.

Starting November 1st they will be having their Big Annual Canoe & Kayak Sale. They sell off their fleet each year in the Fall, in order to provide new boats for floaters next season. The best level to float the Caddo River is from five and half to six and half foot deep, so check the Caddo River water level before planning a trip. Caddo River kayak outfitters and lodging providers.

My kayaks are starting to show their age, so I have been looking at some new kayak prices lately. The idea of being a used model sounds good, but I rarely see an outfitter using a model I like.

The Oklahoma Flatwater Paddlers have another Broken Bow trip planned. If you haven't paddled the Lower Mt. Fork River yet, this is a great chance to kayak down the funest four miles in Oklahoma.

See you on the water!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Bowling and Paddling in Oklahoma

Riverlanes in Tulsa
Originally uploaded by FreeWine
Surf and Turf - Style

Dianne and I have been spending a lot more time bowling lately. Bowling is a great lifelong sport that really compliments our particular brand of recreational river and lake kayaking. Like kayaking, bowling can be enjoyed alone, with friends or with the whole family. High tech and personalized bowling gear is easy to find and fairly affordable online or at Pro Shops everywhere. Bowling centers can be found in every area we travel to and they make a great side trip or alternative when the weather doesn't favor paddling trips. When paddling the LMF River we can bowl in Idabel and when paddling the Illinois River we can bowl in Tahlequah.

Our favorite bowling centers in Oklahoma are RiverLanes Bowling in Tulsa and Henryetta Lanes in Henryetta, Oklahoma. River Lanes is a large, full featured bowling center with all of the frills. Henryetta Lanes is about thirty minutes closer to our house and MUCH more affordable. Sadly, they have no automated score keeping system, which forces me to do math on the weekend. The Henryetta bowling center is small, but friendly...currently open weekends only.

Sahoma Lanes in Sapulpa is another local favorite. Like RiverLanes, they are a large bowling center with a big arcade, bar, glo-bowling, automatic score-keeping, etc. and a good Pro Shop. Bowling at big centers like these is fun early in the afternoon until late into the evening. It is a rewarding sport for couples as long as you can compete with each other in a friendly way.

Tips for new bowlers:

  • Buy yourself some bowling shoes quickly. They are cheap, so it won't take you many trips to the bowling alley to save the money you spent on them.

  • Bowling is more fun if you buy your own bowling ball. It also hurts less. Dianne and I bought a couple of Ebonite Tornado bowling balls. That model is for novice bowlers hoping to learn more advanced bowling techniques.

  • Bowling games take awhile, so plan accordingly. Dianne and I find that we can bowl about three games per hour. Of course, with more players each game takes longer. When we bowl with our Son and Dianne's Mother, the games take twice as long. No matter how fast you throw them, it takes awhile for the pins to reset and the ball to return. If you want to speed things up...throw more strikes.

  • Try to find off-prime days and times to bowl. Bowling Centers usually offer reduced pricing on weekdays or late at night. Planning your weekly bowling night on a Thursday might save you a bundle.

  • Watch some of the old PBA Bowling Tournaments they show on ESPN Classic on weekday mornings. They offer loads of tips on becoming a better bowler. Also, it is amazing to see the wide range of body shapes that make up Pro Bowling. Whatever you look like, there is likely to be a Pro Bowler who looks like you...but bowls the occasional Perfect Game.

  • Search the web for nearby bowling centers before heading out on any road trips. Bowling makes a great addition to any paddling trip.
    ...More info on bowling centers in Oklahoma.

Friday, September 05, 2008

The End of The Illinois River User Fee Wristband

This summer will be the last year that the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission will charge floaters a user fee! Since 1984, floaters have been required to pay user fees to float the river and its tributaries. Personally, I didn't mind paying the buck, but wearing the wristband was an annoyance I will happily do without.

The change came about when Senator Jim Wilson of Tahlequah, successfully sought passage of Senate Bill 1381. Provisions of Senate Bill 1381 terminate the $1.00 User Fee charged to floaters, effective on January 1, 2009. Kudos to Senator Wilson!

Another great bit of info I picked up from the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission website is this:

Wearing life jackets saves lives. The common factor among all the drownings this year was that none of the victims were wearing life jackets. - RIVER CURRENTS (Volume 5 Issue 2), 8/2/2008 PDF

I always wear a Kayaking PFD every time that I paddle in the Illinois River or any of the other streams and lakes in Oklahoma.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Lake Bixhoma by Kayak

Lake Bixhoma by Kayak
Originally uploaded by FreeWine
Bixhoma Lake is just off Highway 64 near the small village of Leonard, Oklahoma. It is a small, fairly clear, no-wake lake with no camping or facilities to speak of. Offering a mere 3 miles of shoreline and 110 surface acres, the lake is strictly for quiet boats.

Quiet little Bixhoma Lake is only a short drive from South Tulsa. If you are a Tulsa kayaker looking to get your new boat wet someplace safe, Bixhoma is a pretty good choice. Lake hours are Monday through Saturday from 6am-10pm. It is also quite near Haskell, Oklahoma which happens to be the home of two Oklahoma wineries: Stone Bluff Cellars & Lavendar Hill Farm & Winery.

Paddling Lake Bixhoma today was lovely. The water was still as glass when we first launched and a breeze developed just as the temps started to get hot. The ridge line that surrounds the lake was vivid green with a mixture of hardwood trees. The park only has a couple picnic tables and an outhouse. We saw a family of three fishing from a tiny Bass Scamp and a lone man float fishing in a tube on our visit other than that we had the lake to ourselves on this cool summer morning.

The late summer water level was too low to paddle very far up the feeder creek for Lake Bixhoma. However, as we drove down Highway 64 toward Leonard, I could not help but notice Snake Creek.

Snake Creek looked fairly wide and deep enough for paddling when we drove across the Highway 64 bridge, but I did not see any place to park and launch the kayaks.

Any folks out there who know where you can launch a boat onto Snake Creek outside of Bixby, Oklahoma?

More details on our Lake Bixhoma webpage.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Planning a Labor Day Canoe Trip?

Labor Day marks the traditional end of the Summer season. Some canoe outfitters will shut down after the holiday weekend and the kids are returning to school. I'm starting to look forward to cooler temps, more water, less river traffic and the Autumn color changes.

River levels are still pretty low around most of Oklahoma, but the LMF River has enough flow to paddle.

The Caddo River in Arkansas has caught some water recently as well as parts of the Buffalo River. Speaking of Arkansas rivers, the Oklahoma Flatwater Paddlers are making a trip to the White River for the holiday. It sounds like a great trip. The White River is about 5 hours drive for us, but well worth it for the misty paddling on waters that feel positively air-conditioned!

I am planning on trying to get our little kayaks on Lake Bixhoma, a tiny no-wake lake just outside of Bixby, Oklahoma. However, there are some municipal permit issue to resolve first (sigh). I don't mind spending the money, but as usual the city does nothing to make this process easy or painless. Personally, I like the lake permit vending machine that Arbuckle Lake offers at the Guy Sandy Boat Ramp. Bixby demands a visit to City Hall or the local police station. I'm told the lake is quite scenic and it is always nice to find a no-wake zone for canoe and kayak paddling.

Got any tips for paddling at Lake Bixhoma?

Saturday, August 09, 2008

How We Roll In the Dry Season

Kayaks Rule
Originally uploaded by FreeWine
The water is starting to get real scarce around these parts, so I was glad to see some rain this weekend. I was hoping to get chance to try my paddling on The Mulberry River this Spring, but I missed the window.

Dianne and I have been doing more bowling than paddling lately. We enjoyed the lanes in Henryetta, Sapulpa and Checotah this week. After a couple years of chasing water flows and sunsets, I really find bowling refereshingly non-weather dependent! However, I gotta get some time on the water! I hope I can get out onto Salt Creek early in the morning... if the rain has cleared.

Some Paddling News

Canoe & Kayak Magazine has launched a cool new site to introduce beginners to paddling sports. The site can be found at where you'll find some great resources designed for the beginner kayakers.

That Branson gang has another trip planned that sounds pretty fun.
Table Rock Lake Night Paddle August 16 at 9pm.

Happy Paddling!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Kayaking the White River Mists in Summer

Mist and Bluffs of The White River
The White River, located in northern Arkansas is an excellent Ozark river that originates in the Boston Mountains of the Ozarks. You can find good canoe launches on White River at Bull Shoals dam, at the Concrete Arch Bridge in Cotter, Arkansas and at boat ramps at Rim Shoals and Buffalo City, Arkansas. There are also a number of put-ins after the North Fork confluence at Norfork, Calico Rock, Sylamore and Guion, Arkansas. Since our riverside lodging was just south of Mountain Home, Arkansas, we had to drive for about five hours on this Oklahoma Road Trip.

The water in the White River is so cold that it creates a white mist as it mixes with the hotter surrounding air. This is why they call it The White River...and here I thought there was going to be real whitewater rapids.

Dianne and I began our first-ever, White River float trip at 7:30am on Saturday. We had my Perception Swifty and the Malibu X-Factor Kayak that Dianne had rented from Riley's Station Outfitters & Hide-away. The put-in at Rim Shoals was about 15 minutes from our cabin by road and just less than two hours by water. I assumed that we would catch some good kayak photography light by launching early, but the mists fooled me! Next time, I think I will sleep in a bit more!

At the Rim Shoals launch, we could only see about 6 feet in front of our boats due to the thick mist that rose over our heads. However, we could hear the steady whine of boat motors on the river. Smarter paddlers might have waited for the mists to clear, but we paddled right out into it with nervous giggle.

The feeling of paddling blindly through these chilly mists in our kayaks, knowing the water below is too deep and too cold to stand, was thrilling. Although the temps were well into the mid-eightees already, at water level it felt like 71 degrees in full sun! The water was deep for the entire trip and the current never slacked up. It was a real 'float trip' with no slow pools to slog through.

Dianne's huge Malibu X-Factor Fishing Kayak came loaded with great features. We have rented SOT kayaks from other outfitters before but we have never gotten such high-end gear. At nearly 14 feet long, this was a much larger craft than either of us have ever paddled. This made it a bit cumbersome to turn quickly, but we never really needed to make any quick turns on the White River.

The Riley's supplied the X-Factor with a top-notch high-back seat and a very nice paddle from Crack of Dawn. You ride very high and dry in this kayak, even in waves and boat wake. A true anglers kayak, the X-Factor is stable enough to climb all over and can carry about 600 lbs! The lodging they supplied was quite good as well. You can't beat their front row seats at the Buffalo River / White River confluence!

Stop by our White River Kayaking page for information on how you can plan a trip to paddle these magical water yourself. Riley's Station makes an excellent base of operations for exploring the White River, the Buffalo River, Crooked Creek and the other amazing outdoor resources in the area, but our page lists a number of other choices as well.

In any case, I would suggest you break out the serious cold water paddling gear ANYTIME you paddle this river. Whether you prefer wet suits, dry suits or quick drying synthetic shirts and shorts... you will certainly want to leave the cotton clothing at home for this float trip.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Mountain Home Arkansas Road Trip Planning

Our next Oklahoma Road Trip will be to the scenic Arkansas Ozarks town of Mountain Home. They call this part of Arkansas the Twin Lakes region. We have a cabin booked near the confluence of the Buffalo River & The White River. Due to a strange weather phenomenon, rain seems to follow us to every river we visit this year. I see it is already entering the Arkansas forecast for this weekend.

Dianne and I love taking float trips on the Buffalo River, but this will be our first trip on the White River. My son is a bit concerned about the surviving for two days without a TV, but it looks like the area is loaded with fun to me. With attractions like the ones listed below, why stay in the cabin?

The North Fork of the White River

The North Fork of the White River begins in the Mark Twain National Forest and flows to the south for around 78 miles before it empties into Norfork Lake. It is loaded with exciting class II rapids. An abundance of springs keeps the water level almost constant year-round and the water quality excellent. Relatively swift current moves paddlers downstream at about 4 MPH over moderate drops. The White River State Park marina/store offers: kayak and canoe rentals, supplies, equipment, boat / motor rentals and gifts for sale.

Bull Shoals Lake

45,400 acre lakes with clear water, rocky shorelines and cliffs, gravel points, numerous tributary creeks and numerous coves.

White River Canoe Race July 23-26, 2008

The 42nd Annual National Invitational White River Canoe Race is an adventure of over a hundred miles from the heart of the Ozark Mountains near Bull Shoals Lake to the foothills of Batesville, Arkansas. Visit the White River Canoe Race website for full details!

Family Fun at The Zone

The Zone in Mountain Home, AR offers: 18 hole Mini Golf course, Go Kart race track with both single and double Karts, batting cages, video arcade...the Works!

The Zone
4818 Hwy 62 West
Mountain Home, AR
870-425-GOLF (4653)

The Dripstone Trail at Blanchard Springs Caverns

Blanchard Springs Caverns, part of the Ozark National Forest, is located 55 miles South of Mountain Home, AR off Arkansas 14.

As you can see, we are unlikely to require much time for watching TV! The few hours I spend awake indoors will most likely be devoted to deciding which BBQ restaurant in Mountain Home to choose: Beuford's, The Black Wolf, The Blue Pig, Couch's, KT's, Fireside or Brent's Barbeque.

Got any local dining tips for me and Dianne?

Barbecue 101 Field Research

Dianne and I have been trying to do more 'field research' on smoked meats and styles of barbecue lately because we bought ourselves and electric smoker! We chose the Masterbuilt Electric Smokehouse because it was on sale and looked easy to use.

It is a pretty cool device that uses electricity for heat, like the oven in our house, but it uses wood chips for the smoke. In our past attempts at BBQ, we had problems maintaining consistent heat around 200 degrees and getting the right level of smoke AT THE SAME TIME. An Electric Smoker offers a thermostat to keep the heat right and an easy way to monitor/control the smoke levels.

I like using the wood chips because it is easy to find a wide variety of inexpensive choices of woods to smoke with. I love keeping the heat and smoke outdoors, especially during the hot summertime. Cooking at such low heat levels takes a really long time, so we also grabbed a Wireless BBQ Thermometer. It literally yells at your when the meat starts to get ready!

Naturally the successful deployment of the new BBQ technology forced us to go out looking for great new dry rub and sauce formulations. If you know which spot in Mt. Home Arkansas creates the best Q, then please leave a comment on our blog... soon!

Happy paddling!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Win An Old Town Expedition Tandem Canoe

Trinity River Challenge the 13th is coming up on Saturday, October 11, 2008, and the Dallas Downriver Club will be raffling off a brand new 16-foot Old Town Expedition tandem canoe.

This model was made specifically for Bass Pro Shops, and is not one of the regularly available line of Old Town canoes. The boat has roto-molded end caps, blow-molded black seats, ash thwarts and yoke, and can accommodate a load of over 1,100 pounds. Tickets will be on sale soon, so watch the TRC section of for additional details.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

July is Sunset Paddling Season

Finding Peace
Originally uploaded by FreeWine
Summer time is here and paddling out into the dawn has gotten pretty tough. I rolled out 6:30am this morning and got on the water within about 30 minutes. Unfortunately, the morning mists had burned off by the time I reached Okmulgee Lake.

On the bright side, sunset paddling is more available than ever. Even on weekdays, there is still time to get the kayaks out on the water for a couple hours of paddling after work. I like to leave the house around 5:30 - 6pm and paddle until just about dark.

Kayaking across the lake gets sweeter as the cool of the summer evening descends. My kayak slides through a liquid rainbow of sunset reflections, boat motors quiet and the chorus is taken up by crickets, frogs and locust. Reflections of trees are mirrored vivid green one moment and stretching out like dark grasping hands the next minute. In one direction the view is a beautiful kaleidoscope of vibrant color and in another the twilight shadows turn surreal just before disappearing.

Of course, you have to be careful of the other boats whenever you are on the lake. I try to paddle as if none of the other boats on the water can see me. I paddle quickly across open water and dawdle when I am near trees and rocky outcroppings or anywhere there is shade. Often, I paddle along the shallow shorelines and up the narrow spider web clogged feeder creeks.

I even saw another kayak out on Dripping Springs Lake this morning. Maybe this paddling thing is starting to catch on!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

2008 Elk River Float Trip

Typhoon Paddler
Originally uploaded by FreeWine
This Saturday Dianne, Dylan and myself drove up the Pineville, Missouri for an 8-mile float trip on the Elk River. I decided that the clear, cool Class I water of that ozark river would be perfect for Dylan's first kayak paddling trip in current.

To save a little money we decided to wake up early for the drive, paddle the river and head straight home. This is a bit of a shame since there are loads of great paddling resources in the area. We rented an Old Town Typhoon Sit-On-Top Kayak for Dylan to paddle. He enjoyed paddling it, once his mother traded the extremely heavy outfitters kayak paddle for her lighter Carlisle Kayak Paddle. Outfitter paddling gear tends toward ruggedness more than comfort or features.

Our outfitter was Big Elk Camp and Canoe. Their store is at the put-in for the 8-mile trip down to Shady Beach Campground in Noel Missouri. Big Elk is open all year long renting canoes, rafts and SOT kayaks. They are pretty easy to find right off Highway 71 and they had a wide selection of kayaking t-shirts and other paddler goodies. We grabbed a cool shirt with an Elk River map on the back (pictures on our Elk River page). You can find contact info for Big Elk Camp & Canoe plus other Elk River outfitters in both Pineville and Noel on our Elk River Float Trips page.

Although we scraped the gravel in a couple places, the water level and flow was enough to ensure an easy trip with no dragging. We even enjoyed temps well below 90, a great gift at the end of June. Sadly, the weather turned to rain about halfway through our voyage. We all arrived absolutely soaked to the bone, but laughing all the way. Dylan paddled quite well. He never flipped the kayak or fell off, but still found enough riffles and obstacles to make it an exciting run.

This part of the Elk River offers clear water, a few scenic bluffs and numerous gravel bars. There are riffles and pools on this float trip, but no dangerous rapids. The water is more cool than cold much like the nearby Illinois River and Spring River.. Another thing that makes Missouri's Elk River similar to Oklahoma's Illinois River is the large amount of weekend paddler traffic. Dodging beer barges presented the main obstacle of the day. We launched around 9am and we shared the waters with hundreds of people. Although we often cringed at the saucy language and consumption patterns of this wild morning crowd... we saw no nudity or violence. Still, we advise trying to visit this river on a weekday during the prime summer months if you want a float trip with more solitude.

In addition to having a large number of canoe liveries the Elk River is a fairly short drive from some other great spots for paddlers in Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma. In fact, our outfitter offered three other tempting float trips on nearby Big Sugar Creek. I really enjoyed paddling this great little river in Southwestern, Missouri and my family liked it, too! We will definately be back soon.

The Best Of Fishing, Hunting, Camping, And Boating In Missouri: Tips From An Outdoor Enthusiast

Monday, June 16, 2008

A Road Trip to Southern Oklahoma

I hope everyone had a happy Father's Day weekend. Dianne and I took a couple vacation days to make a road trip down to Southern Oklahoma. We had hoped to get out and paddle both the Washita River and Arbuckle Lake in addition to visiting Turner Falls. Due to a number of unforeseen circumstances, we never made it onto Arbuckle Lake or the Washita River.

Moonlight Bay Chalet

We rented a cabin on a small private lake for our two days in Davis, Oklahoma. The Moonlight Bay Chalet sits right by the waters of a tiny lake surrounded by cabins. The cabin offered 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and a hot tub on the back deck. Also, a canoe and kayak come with the cabin. You can launch and land at a small wooden dock. It sounded perfect for our family.

The cabin was clean and the beds were comfortable. Sadly, the hot tub never really got hot and the cabin never really got cool. Although I enjoyed paddling my kayak around their tiny lake briefly, there really is not much to see.

Checking out of the cabin took longer than expected. When we arrived we were greeted with several signs stating that we were expected to clean the cabin and launder the towels and linens before departing. Although we often wash the towels and stuff before we leave a cabin, this was the first time we arrived to find a task list. The same postings warned that large sums of money would by charged to our credit card for any rule violations.

Despite the rather non-luxury policies at Moonlight Bay Chalet, there is much to enjoy. The cabin is just about two miles from Guy Sandy Creek Boat Ramp on Lake Arbuckle. It is also a short drive to Turner Falls or the historically stinky springs and travertine stairs of Sulphur, Oklahoma.

Turner Falls - Gem of the Arbuckles

If you have never visited Turner Falls Park near Davis, Oklahoma you should make plans to visit soon. The crystal clear waters of Honey Creek cascade down a 70 foot waterfall and form two sparkling blue swimming holes. The waterfall has a beautiful, zen-garden look to it that draws in visual artists from all over the area to capture it in photographs and paintings.

In addition to the two great swimming holes, Turner Falls Park offers a number of scenic hikes, tent camping, teepee rentals and ice cream shop and some light toobing on Honey Creek. To my knowledge, no boating is allowed.

Turner Falls Park is also popular with fun-loving kids and beer-loving adults, so my advice is to try and make a trip during the week. On the weekend, Turner Falls becomes extremely crowded. Also, don't come to this park if you are broke. It cost Dianne, Dylan and myself over $30 just to enter the park.

The Washita River

We drove over the Washita River in a number of places not too far from our cabin. I was expecting the Washita to be clear like Honey Creek or one of the other spring-fed streams in the area. I was surprised to learn that the Washita is as red and muddy as the Deep Fork River that flows through my part of Oklahoma.

The brochure at our cabin stated that the canoe trips down the Washita would cost $30 per person. Since our cash flow was running low and the weather was looking unpredictable, we didn't make the Washita River trip. Hopefully, we will be able to make another trip to this area to float the Washita River and the local lakes.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Branson Area Fun Paddle June 12, 2008

Ozark Mountain Rowing & Kayaking Club’s Fun Paddle

Date: Thursday, June 12, 2008 @ 6:00 p.m.

Who: All interested paddlers, regardless of club member status. Visitors are welcome!

Where: Lake Taneycomo

Put-in: Next to Scotty’s Boat Dock at the south end of the Branson City Campground – boats will be launched from the “new” sandy beach next to the Dock.

Meet Time: 6:00 p.m.

Info: Paddlers or those interested in paddling can join this fun-loving group of kayakers for a refreshing paddle on beautiful Lake Taneycomo. This is an easy paddle for all skill levels, including beginners. This will be a leisurely 1 ½ to 2 hour paddle. We will launch the boats and travel to the east shore for a sight-seeing quiet paddle up Turkey Creek and then return to Lake Taneycomo to cross over to take in the water and fire show at Branson Landing before returning back to the launch site. All paddlers must wear a PFD while on the water. Please plan to be at the put-in so the kayaks will be in the water at 6:00 p.m.

Directions: From the Business Highway 65/Branson Landing Boulevard roundabout, head south over the bridge over Roark Creek. Continue south past the Bass Pro parking lot until the city campground appears on the left. Turn left into the campground parking lot before the overhead railroad trestle bridge. The spring flooding has washed away the gravel and left a good helping of soft sand which is natural for a kayak put-in just 25 foot north of the ramp onto Scotty’s Boat Dock.

Contact: For additional information, contact Eric Farris by email at:
More info at:

Sunday, June 08, 2008

How Clean Are Oklahoma's Lakes and Rivers?

According to a draft report released last week by state environmental officials, the vast majority of lakes, streams and rivers in Oklahoma do not meet federal water quality standards for pollution. (Source: The News on Six)

94% of Oklahoma's lake acres do not meet water quality standards and this represents an improvement from previous years!

I think that this is a great reason to get our young folks out on the water paddling. In order for people to truly value our outdoor resources, they have to be present and aware of the delicate and beautiful ecosystems that surround them.

An Environmental History of the Illinois River: Agriculture, Urban Development, and Recreation in Northwest Arkansas and Northeastern Oklahoma, 1818-2005

Monday, June 02, 2008

Spring River Float Trip from Kansas to Oklahoma

Spring River Bluffs
Originally uploaded by FreeWine
Kayaking on the Spring River from Kansas to Oklahoma was the big event for Dianne and myself on June1st, 2008. We haven't been on this river for a couple years, but it is still a beautiful spot to paddle. The Spring River NE Oklahoma is one of the two rivers that merge to form Grand River and then it dumps into the Grand Lake of the Cherokees.

Camping is available at lots of spots along the river: near the dam in Baxter Springs Kansas, Blue Hole Canoe Floats, Devil's Promenade, the Highway 10 Bridge East of Miami, OK or at the Twin Bridges State Park. There are good kayak put-ins at all of those locations and you can camp at most of them, too! (See more of our Spring River Pictures on Flickr.)

This year we used an outfitter, which may not be there after the end of this summer season. Chet, the founder of Blue Hole Canoe Floats in Quapaw, Oklahoma has decided to sell his canoe livery and lodging business. I hope another outfitter takes over the business as this is a great bit of river for paddling and kayak fishing. BTW, Blue Hole only rents canoes currently, no kayaks for rent. However, they do shuttle private kayaks, so visit Quapaw, Oklahoma soon and paddle this easy paddling river. Blue Hole Canoe is right next to a public river access and tent camping spot called Bicentennial Park - a great spot for fishing.

Sadly, Blue Hole Canoe Floats continues the tradition of Oklahoma paddling outfitters in offering excuses rather than t-shirts for sale. So, we didn't come home with new paddling shirts, we did have a fun trip on the river.

Blue Hole Canoe Floats, the only Spring River paddling outfitter, offers a number of float trips ranging from 4 miles to 29 miles long. We took a short two hour trip from Baxter Springs, Kansas to the Blue Hole Canoe Floats campground, but they also offer trips all the way down to Twin Bridges State Park. The part of the Spring River we paddled on Sunday was wide and fairly deep, it was easy paddling with no real rapids or obstacles. The river level was somewhat high, so we did encounter some small whirlpools and riffles, but nothing that might make us portage or get us wet...except the rain.

It rained almost the entire time we were on the water. Thankfully, we had decided to wear our spray skirts just in case of surprises, so the rain was kept out of our boats and off our butts. Luckily for us, it didn't get stormy, it just rained straight down. When we thought it was just a passing shower, we decided to take shelter under some trees. We watched it rain around us for about twenty minutes before concluding that it was not slacking up anytime soon. When we paddled on through to the take-out, and upon arrival got the news that Tulsa had been hit by a pretty heavy storm. We were blessed to have escaped with nothing more than soggy torsos.

Surprisingly, Dianne and I actually enjoyed the rain quite a bit. We were expecting ninety degree heat and scorching sunshine. I mentioned this to Dianne as I applied a liberal dose of sunscreen at the launch, optimistically ignoring the distant thunder. "The last forecast called for a twenty percent chance of rain". Well, it 'twenty percented' all over the both of us. Although it was a nicely cooling rain, it prevented me from taking any decent pictures. I'm sure glad I had a good bag to put my camera in during the downpour!

The last time we paddled this river, we paddled upstream from the nearby Bicentennial Park. Wearing a spray skirt would have been a huge hassle on that trip, as we had to get out of our kayaks every few miles and portage over low spots. This river depends on recent rains to provide deep water, but has a number of natural springs feeding it all year. I much prefer paddling downstream from Baxter Springs, but I didn't know where the Spring River Park put-in was back in 2006. Also, Baxter Springs is a pretty cool little Kansas town to visit and only a few miles from Blue Hole. Dianne and I had two excellent meals at a place called The Cafe on the Route. This little jewel offers an amazingly diverse menu of extremely well-prepared food.

Despite Sunday morning's unusual conditions, the Spring River makes a nice trip for kayak photography. There are rocky limestone bluffs and clear feeder streams that remind me of the Buffalo River. The little spring-fed creeks offer shallow, clear, and cold water teaming with fish. This river has big gravel bars and is a favorite with the whole spectrum of fishermen from Fly Fishing Disciples to Okie Noodlers. The outfitter said they even have a couple bald eagles nesting on the river!

Overall, this a great river for folks looking for some fairly safe current to kayak in and plenty of camping spots along the way. Being just an hour and a half outside of Tulsa, the Spring River is a trip in striking distance of many Oklahoma paddlers and well worth the tank full.

Trails Books Guide Paddling Kansas (Trails Books Guides)

Monday, May 26, 2008

Paddling Salt Creek on Memorial Day

Salt Creek Paddling Group
Originally uploaded by FreeWine
The only thing better than spending a holiday kayaking, is getting to do that kayaking with a large group of friends. I would like to thank all of you for turning out for the Oklahoma Flatwater Paddlers trip down Salt Creek to the Hickory Point Area on Okmulgee Lake.

We got a late start, but we were blessed with a few hours of unusually cool temperatures. Also, the wind was mild enough and no one took an unexpected swim...except maybe the dog. As usual, the water in the channel was much less wavy than the wider lake water. The trees are brilliantly green, even on an overcast day like today.

It was great fun meeting so many other paddlers and seeing their colorful array of canoes, kayaks and roof-racking techniques.

After about two hours of fairly light paddling and fairly heavy talking, we headed to the Boomerang Diner for burgers and then out to Nuyaka Creek Winery to meet the family and taste the wine.

Thanks for a fun summer trip, I hope to see you all on the water again soon!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Spring River Kayaking Trip in May

It looks like Dianne and I will be heading to Quapaw, Oklahoma to paddle the Spring River on the last weekend in May. We have reservations at Blue Hole Canoe Floats.

We have paddled the Spring River before in 2006, but this will be our first time trying the lodging and working with an outfitter on that river. On our last trip we stayed at Spring River Canoe Trails State Park.

If you are a big thinker that cannot be satisfied with merely paddling the Spring River, considering buying in! Blue Hole Canoe Floats is For Sale! For the paltry sum of $475,000 you can own your own canoe resort in Northeastern, Oklahoma with 40 acres of the most desirable Spring River frontage in the Ozarks.

Directions: I-44 Exit at Miami, 5 miles E on Hwy 10, then 5 miles N on Hwy 137; in Quapaw on Hwy 66, turn E on 1st St, go 3 miles.

Blue Hole Canoe Floats Inc
63800 E 40th Rd
Quapaw, OK 74363
Phone: 918-533-4653

Hope to see you on the water!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Kayaking Through The Summer Holidays

Red Oak Area
Originally uploaded by FreeWine
This Memorial Day holiday Dianne and I plan to do some kayaking around Okmulgee State Park with some members of the Oklahoma Flatwater Paddlers Group. Join their group and join up with us if you plan to be in the area this weekend.

Sadly, I was forced to miss out on the Kayak Demo in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma this weekend, but they are having another demo on May 24th, 2008.

Just before the Father's Day holiday in June, Dianne and I are planning to make a trip to the Turner Falls area. We are 'grabbin a cabin' in Sulphur, Oklahoma and hoping for a chance to paddle the Washita River and the local lakes.

We had hoped to paddle the Elk River last weekend, it is at a real good level for kayaking, but we just could not make it happen. The Elk River offers an excellent downriver trip for novice paddlers. I've never let my son Dylan paddle in real current, so I am hoping to get him in a kayak on the Elk River this summer.

Got any special paddling plans for the Summer holidays, yet?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Canoe and Kayak Demo in Broken Arrow

Fun Events for Oklahoma Paddlers This Weekend

I just got an ad from Bass Pro Shops and it looks like they have Canoe and Kayak Demos planned for May 17 and 24 from 10am to 3pm. Also, they are having a life jacket trade-in sale, making this the perfect time to replace your old PFD's with new feature rich PFD models.

May 17 is the date I would try to attend as they are having a fish fry concurrent with the canoe and kayak demo. It is all happening at Uncle Buck's Pond at the Broken Arrow Bass Pro Shop.

Looking for a great side trip to add to Bass Pro Shops visit? Stop by the Nuyaka Creek Winery Spring Winefest from Noon until 7pm on May 17, 2008. Check out the nearby Deep Fork River Bridges for an easy river access spot for kayaking.

More urban activity lovers might prefer MayFest or the Blue Dome Festival going on in Tulsa the same weekend.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Fireworks Over Tenkiller July 2008

Tenkiller Lake Fireworks Extravaganza
July 4, 2008 8pm to 9pm

Sponsored by the Greater Tenkiller Area Assocaition and donors.
South end of the lake about dark. No charge for watching. Call 918 457-4403.

Want to be a sponsor? Contact Shannon Smith at 918-489-5888.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Kayak Demo Day Moved to May 21, 2008

Developing rain/thunderstorms & high winds on Wednesday evening have forced a change of plans.

The OKC Outdoor Network Kayak Demo for May 7, 2008 has been postponed!

The NEW DATE is Wednesday, May 21, 2008 from 6:00 - 9:00 pm at Lake Hefner's Hobie Point.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Paddling by Elephant Rock on the Illinois River

Paddling by Elephant Rock
Originally uploaded by FreeWine
This weekend Oklahoma enjoyed some fantastic Spring weather, I hope everyone was able to get out and make the most of it. After working through Saturday on household honey-do's, Dianne consented to making a Sunday road trip to Tahlequah's scenic Highway 10. We knew a few outfitters must be open, because we had read about the death of a young paddler on the river last week. He wasn't wearing his paddling PFD and the river surprised him.

The Illinois River was running at a level of about 5.5 feet and pretty fast on Saturday. This is a good safe level for paddling, but I was feeling a bit unlucky. I always paddle with a PFD on, but when I feel unlucky I pull on my spray skirt for added safety. Since summer vacation hasn't started yet, we had the river nearly all to ourselves. Some of the outfitters are now open for the season. We called several and found Falcon Floats was willing to shuttle our boats to the public canoe launch at No Head Hollow.

Of course, we had to get the speech about how outfitters don't like to shuttle private boats. If you plan on owning your own kayak and buying shuttling services, expect to hear this speech on most trips. Canoe livery operators would much rather rent you a kayak for $40, than to shuttle your boat for $10. Most claim to lose money on the service due to the high cost of fuel, insurance difficulties and Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission usage fees. Dianne and I feel their pain, but we are unwilling to drive across Oklahoma for two and half hours and HOPE the outfitters have two decent kayaks available. We try to do our part through purchasing food and paddling t-shirts as well as the occasional cabin rental.

Aside from the usual speech, the folks at Falcon Floats were very friendly and provided excellent service for our trip. Since we were nearly alone on the river, the wildlife was out in force. We saw trout, bass and catfish, several Osprey, some deer and tons of turtles and herons. The flow in the river was excellent making the 12-mile trip a very easy bit of paddling.

We did hit a bit of trouble near the take-out. Just upstream from the Falcon Floats take-out, the river splits forcing you to choose the right or left lane. The path to the left looks much wider and easier, but the outfitter warned us that there were trees down that completely blocked that path. The outfitter had placed a sign instructing all floaters to follow the path to the right.

Following the path to the right took us around a corner where the river narrows to a swift, shady channel. Suddenly, we were surprised to see fallen trees across this path as well, but the water was moving too fast to backtrack! Dianne's boat was pushed sideways fast and hit one downed tree. The impact, combined with the swifter current, rocked her kayak onto its side and she quickly began taking on water. This ain't Dianne's first rodeo, so despite not having her spray skirt on her kayak, she did a quick brace and hip-snapped the kayak. This allowed her to paddle her kayak to the shore with a wet butt, but without taking a swim. About five feet in front of where we landed the kayaks, two young men were in a john-boat using a chainsaw to clear away a logjam. After we dumped the water out of Dianne's boat, she decided that deploying her own spray skirt might be prudent. The young men with the chainsaw suggested a path through the logjam, but it looked much simpler to walk about ten steps around it.

Although we paddled past many downed trees and some fun ripples, that logjam was the last exciting obstacle on the trip. I don't have a lot of great pictures from the trip. We paddled from about Noon until 4pm, so the light was just getting good as we reached the take-out. Despite the poor light, I enjoyed taking pictures of Elephant Rock. My Osprey shots are barely better than a blur.

Hopefully, we will return to the Illinois River soon for an overnight stay so i can capture the dawn and/or the sunset on this lovely river. Once summer officially arrives you will need an early morning launch on this river if you want to see more wildlife and less wild-living!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Kayaking on Southern Lake Eufaula

Kayaking at Hickory Point
Originally uploaded by FreeWine
Dianne and I headed south this weekend for some Eufaula Lake kayaking. If you read our blog much you may know that all of our previous paddling on Lake Eufaula has been on the northern portion of the lake. Eufaula is an enormous lake, so traveling from the northern end to the southern end provides quite a bit of terrain changes.

The water in the northern portion of the lake is much redder, due to the Deep Fork River water that enters the lake there. As you drive south along Highway 69, the water becomes less red and more of the sandy brown color of the Canadian River. Also, the numbers of evergreen trees along the shore increases as you drive farther to the south and east. Ever since our trip to Robber's Cave last year, I have wanted to return and explore southern Eufaula Lake. That was our goal for this Saturday.

Using our new Oklahoma Water Atlas, we located a boat ramp and campground called Hickory Point and decided it would be our destination for sunset paddling on Saturday. Since Highway 69 goes by several boat ramps on Eufaula, we decided to visit several of them and have a look.

We first stopped at Oak Ridge campground which sits right off Hwy 69. Naturally, Eufaula is a bit flooded these days. Every campground we stopped at had some picnic tables and BBQ grills under water.

This suited me fine because I like paddling around in flood water. When the lake water rises this high it surrounds trees that are colorful and vibrant. More importantly it creates shady paddling, one of the three key features that make rivers better for kayaking than lakes. The flood water often creates excellent new boat launch areas for kayakers.

I found Oak Ridge to be a nice, well-equipped Lake Eufaula campground that was easy to find. BTW, Highway 69 is a great road to explore if you want to see a lot of Lake Eufaula. It runs roughly along the same route as the Indian Nations Turnpike, but Highway 69 is FREE and leads to a whole lot more boat ramps and campgrounds on Lake Eufaula. Frankly, the Indian Nations Turnpike in this area is no bargain! Countless miles of barriers and Men-at-Work signs with no working men to be seen abound on this busy turnpike.

We paddled around at Oak Ridge for a few hours and then headed to McAlester for lunch. The Meeting Place is the name of the downtown McAlester restaurant we ate lunch at. It's a huge 'place' that we had all to ourselves. I hear that they have dinner theater at night, but gravy was the featured attraction we showed up for!

After lunch we drove to Elm Point, off Hwy 31. Dianne and I and paddled there for a few hours. The light was too harsh due to the hour of the day, but I was also surprised to that the trees seemed oddly leafless. This was no place to shoot the we moved on after a couple hours of kayaking.

Our final paddling spot on southern Lake Eufaula was Hickory Point campground and boat ramp. This was the best Lake Eufaula kayaking area we found on this trip. This part of Lake Eufaula is skinny, curvy and loaded with sweet smelling cedar, pine and juniper trees. The campground is more primitive than the others we visited on this trip and it was also MUCH less crowded there. We really enjoyed kayaking around Hickory Point and I hope to be able to return and camp there sometime.

Dinner in Krebs, Oklahoma is a given for Dianne and I when we travel to this part of the state. On this trip, we ate at Pete's Place (established in the '20s). Dianne enjoyed their microbrew and I enjoyed their insanely large portions. The meal was served family style in a private dining room. Pete's Place has about 30 of these private dining rooms. It makes for a cozy meal. Overall, it was not quite up to the food standards of our last Italian food meal at Carrabba's in Tulsa but it was a great end to an excellent day of paddling on southern Lake Eufaula!

So much food and paddling made it a sleepy drive back to Pierce, Oklahoma but we made it safely. We decided to spend the night in the RV at our river lot, so that I could do some dawn kayaking on the river Sunday morning.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Scenic Texas Paddling Race on Neches River Trail

120 miles southeast of the Dallas-Ft. worth metroplex, on the first Saturday in August paddlers from across the nation and the world come to Palestine, Texas to participate in the 'toughest little canoe race' in existence, raising scholarship funds for the students of the Palestine campus of the Trinity Valley Community College. Paddlers race through 22 miles of scenic, largely uninhabited Neches River Trail in Texas. (Paddling The Wild Neches)

'The Neches' is called one of the toughest flatwater races in Texas due to low water obstacles and lack of current. In other words lots of the fallen trees, stumps, in the low water typical in Oklahoma's late summer. Plenty of challenge without the hazards associated with a fast moving river. Conditions that act as an equalizer to the race field, taking away some of the advantage of hull designs and handing it to the resourceful. Stay hydrated and keep moving!

Now in the 15th year, the Neches Race has become one of Texas' favorite paddling events. It's become a tradition around Texas, regularly attracting one of the largest fields of paddlers in the Lone Star State. Over the past 6 years, funds in excess of $10,000 from the Neches River Wilderness Canoe Race have provided over 85 scholarships to deserving college students.

Want To Race?

Registration is now available online where you may pay your fee, purchase extra t-shirts, and rent canoes or kayaks as well. Click here to register for The Neches River Wilderness Canoe Race!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Free Oklahoma Water Atlas - Get One Today!

Sunset Kayaking on Okmulgee Lake
Originally uploaded by FreeWine

Dianne and I just got our new Oklahoma Water Atlas in the mail and we are LOVING it. Every Oklahoma paddler should take advantage of this great new offering from the OWRB & the ODWC.

The Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB), with support from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC), has produced the most useful water-related publication to come off the presses in years. The new Oklahoma Water Atlas includes 146 detailed lake maps containing comprehensive recreational information, such as boat ramps, water depths, road maps, feeder creeks and rivers and other important features.

The Atlas is 190 pages, Spiral Bound and 11” x 14” in size. It is packed full of color maps and images that will help you find great flatwater paddling spots all over Oklahoma.

You can get a free Oklahoma Water Atlas by mail if you pay $6 for the shipping or FREE if you pick it up.

To have a book mailed to your home, send a $6 check or money order (for postage and handling) made payable to “OWRB” to Oklahoma Water Resources Board Main Office 3800 N. Classen Oklahoma City, OK 73118.

Oklahoma Water Atlas by the OWRB - Resource for Oklahoma boatersYou can pick up the Oklahoma Water Atlas at the following locations:

Oklahoma Wildlife Department Headquarters
1801 N. Lincoln
Oklahoma City

3800 N. Classen Blvd,
Oklahoma City

OWRB Lawton branch office
601 "C" Avenue, Suite 101,

OWRB Tulsa branch office
State Agencies Building,
440 S. Houston, Room 2,

OWRB McAlester branch office
321 S. 3rd St. Suite 5,

OWRB Woodward branch office
2411 Williams Avenue, Suite 116,

For more information about the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, log on to For more information about the fishing in Oklahoma, log on to the Wildlife Department’s Web site at

See more regional kayaking guides for planning float trips

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Screen on the Gazebo and Plenty of Water

Screened Gazebo
Originally uploaded by FreeWine
I finally got the screen up on the gazebo at our river lot! This was my first screening project, and it would appear that I have NO special gift for this kind of work. Nonetheless, I got through it. Now we just need to develop a color scheme for painting it. Got any suggestions? We are hoping to have some of our Oklahoma paddler friends over for a BBQ this summer, so I need to come up with something before Spring is over.

Lots of water in Oklahoma these days, eh? The North Canadian River is running strong and out of it banks. I was out there this week putting screen around the gazebo on our river lot. The river is so high that you can actually launch a kayak without climbing down a treacherous sloping riverbank! Yakker will tell you that this is pretty uncommon at our lot in Pierce, Oklahoma.

At home here in Okmulgee, the Deep Fork River is in the same condition. In fact, on my way home from work yesterday I noticed that Thousand Acre Lake (a small playa lake that appears occasionally on the DFWR) was at a decent level for fishing and paddling. If the wind lays for a moment this weekend, I may have to get out there and try to take some pictures. it isn't the most scenic body of water ever, but it is real close to home. Also, I have a thing for bodies of water that play 'hard to get'.

Sadly, there has been so much rain recently that the Lower Mountain Fork River has grown too strong for kayaking. If your local rivers are too swollen to paddle you may want to consider some lake paddling.

OKC area paddlers may be interested to learn that the the 3rd Annual Lake Overholser/Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge Clean-up has been scheduled for April 19, 2008 from 9:30am - 1:00pm. Visit our Taste Oklahoma News Blog for more details on the fun that they have planned and the prizes you could win just by participating!

I've also added a Kayak Photography page to the Oklahoma Road trips site. The content is still a little bit light today, just some kayaking pictures and five kayak photography tips. However, I plan to add a list of kayak photography links and some equipment reviews.

Let me know if you have any ideas to share. Just email me or leave a comment on the blog.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

OKC Kayak Demo May 7, 2008

Lake Okmulgee Water Trees
Originally uploaded by FreeWine
7th Annual OKC Kayak Demo Day

May 7, 2008 presented by the Oklahoma City Outdoor Network.

If you have never been in a kayak before or would like to paddle several models before you make up your mind on a purchase, this evening is what you have been waiting for....

FREE Kayak Demo in OKC

Open to the General Public

Visit Lake Hefner's Hobie Point on

Wednesday, May 7, 2008 from 6:00 - 9:00 pm

There should be around 35 or more different kinds
of kayaks there for people to try, from sit-on-tops,
sit-in recreational kayaks, inflatable kayaks, folding kayaks and sit-in whitewater kayaks. A true 'try before you buy' moment.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Outdoor Activities for Spring 2008

Finally, our part of Oklahoma was blessed with some t-shirt weather on the weekend. Dianne and I paddled our kayaks up a crooked creek that feeds Dripping Springs Lake. Although the redbuds are in full bloom here, there is still not much color in the landscape surrounding the lake. Also, it is starting to get harder for me to paddle at Dripping Springs Lake, as the number of RV increases the rich smell of charcoal and beef becomes almost overwhelming! More details about yesterday's trip can be found here on our Okmulgee kayaking page.

I hope my fellow paddlers got outside and enjoyed the weather also. Don't wait for Summer to start making plans for Oklahoma outdoor fun. Milder temps, lower humidity and easier to find reservations make this an excellent season for taking an Oklahoma road trip.

The Oklahoma Flatwater Paddlers are planning a trip to Broken Bow this April. I am hoping to setup a trip to Noel, MO to take my son paddling down the Elk River in late May.

Oklahoma's wineries are hosting events to celebrate the budding underway in the vineyards! The Grape Ranch at Okemah will hold a Bud Break Party on April 19 and the Grand Wine Trail will host and event in Bartlesville on April 26th, 2008.

The Salt Plains Birding and Heritage Festival will be April 26-27 and features guided birding tours, games and entertainment in the unique ecosystem of northwestern Oklahoma. Get outside and embrace Spring because in Oklahoma it tends to become Summer REAL fast!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Short Kayak Trip on Okmulgee Creek

Yesterday afternoon I ventured out to a spot, not far from home, that is only rarely suitable for paddling. Okmulgee Creek is a narrow creek that runs South through the town of Okmulgee Oklahoma and eventually dumps into the Deep Fork River on its way to Lake Eufaula.

Normally, the water level is too low to cover much distance, but the flooded state of the Deep Fork River has backed up many small creeks in the area. Conditions were OK for paddling, but real lame for taking pictures...wrong time of day. Still, I found it very interesting to view the dark underbelly of our town so intimately.

I had expected to put-in at the YMCA and paddle upstream to the 6th Street Bridge. Unfortunately, the current got quite a bit swifter and the water shallower as I headed upstream. If I could find a decent put-in upstream it would be a pretty fun ride down at this level.

My non-scientific observation is that Okmulgee Creek is pretty nasty. Paddling South from the YMCA required making a portage around some large metal things that cross the creek and strain large amounts of the floating litter. Wal-Mart bags coil around the tree branches while old milk jugs, water bottles and soda cans float on an oily bed of sludge in many spots.

Although Okmulgee Creek feeds the Deep Fork River, the water is local so it hasn't picked up the red tone and sticky clay banks of the river. You can paddle under the 20th Street Bridge and then South for only half a mile or so before you come to another big metal trash catcher that crosses the entire creek.

I spoke to a local Okmulgee newsman last summer that had a vision for cleaning up and developing Okmulgee Creek as a tourism attraction and local recreation asset. Considering the way the creek snakes through the heart of Okmulgee and crosses under many major streets with lovely old arch style bridges, I think he has a pretty good idea.

Sadly, the idea is probably decades too late to get funded. The business community has already mostly abandoned downtown Okmulgee for two narrow strips of land along each side of Highway 75. Our most memorable landmark has become the road that leads out of town. The path of least investment leads to a bedroom community today and to a ghost town tomorrow.

The park and pedestrian trails that are on both sides of Okmulgee Creek represent smart investments in this resource. Since the area is prone to flood, the uses for this land are limited. However, assets like the jogging trails, BBQ grills, benches and Disc Golf setup are affordable and tend to snap back pretty quickly from short term flooding. Although there is no real canoe launch, there is plenty of free parking!

You can see some of the pictures I have taken of Okmulgee Creek in this Flickr Set.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Swollen Rivers and Rising Temps Call Paddlers

Into the Green
Originally uploaded by FreeWine
The Spring rains have landed right-on-time here in Oklahoma.

The Deep Fork River is swollen out of its regular channel backing up flood water into Thousand Acre Lake at DFWR and filling up small creeks like Okmulgee Creek with extra deep water and not much current.

Dianne and I got to paddle the areas above during the flood last summer. I loved the color contrast you see when paddling the Deep Fork River floodwater in Summer. Since Spring has just barely begun in Oklahoma, there isn't much green to see this time. I have noticed the daffodils and pear trees are blooming now, sure signs that mushroom hunting season is right around the corner!

I hope I can make it out onto the water this weekend, but the weather has been a bit uncooperative lately. We have been enjoying 70 degree weekdays, only to see a cold front sweep in for the weekend...ya gotta hate that!

I see that Al is trying to arrange a Broken Bow, Oklahoma trip for the Oklahoma Flatwater Paddlers in mid-April. I'm always up for a trip to Broken Bow, if I can talk Dianne into it. Broken Bow is usually about ten degrees warmer than Okmulgee.

I heartily reccomend purchasing a Spray Skirt for paddling the Lower Mountain Fork River in Broken Bow...even if you plan to rent a kayak. Even if you can't roll your kayak 30 different ways like Dubside, you will find that the sprayskirt will make your sit-inside-kayak much less likely to fill up with water when you get a little bit sideways. This happens to paddlers everyday on the LMF River, and it often happens in water too shallow for a complete roll over.

Obviously, it is a good idea to use the spray skirt when paddling in flood water due to the increased chance of contamination in the water.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Paddling for Correcting Teen Behavior

A group of at-risk youth had a chance to see the world in a new way on Saturday by paddling kayaks. The kids paddled the Texas coast about two miles through Fish Pass on Mustang Island into the Laguna Madre to an island for lunch.

Growing up on my parent's Oklahoma farm, I never went through the kind of challenges at-risk kids today face. However, kayaking has radically changed my worldview in a number of ways. Programs like those listed below wisely harness the power of the river to open minds and hearts.

Youth Odyssey, an adventure-based therapy program for teens, provided the day as practice for a more than 50-mile paddle through the rapids of the Pecos River next weekend. And that's just a warm-up for a 42-day shock wilderness odyssey this summer that takes seriously at-risk youth to the edge of survival and binds them as a team. -- Mike Baird article at

To learn more about the Youth Odyssey Program. for at risk youth in schools, court appointed programs and within other treatment programs visit: For information about the 42 day therapeutic wilderness program for youth struggling behaviorally or emotionally visit:

Paddling The Guadalupe

Paddling the Wild Neches (Texas A&M Nature Guides)

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Monday, March 03, 2008

Spring Paddling Season Approaches

Robbers Cave Trailhead
Originally uploaded by FreeWine
What a long strange winter it's been! I will be glad to see an end to it.

I stopped by K-River Campground's website today and Tom says that the Kiamichi River level has been up at a nice paddling level for quite awhile now. Last week they had 3000 CFS water flow and 70+ degree temps! That is my definition of good times around Antlers, OK. Just drive carefully... they got deer.

The Illinois River looks to be running strong these days also. I would like to paddle down that river before the traffic gets too heavy this summer.

Little ol' Noel, MO... right on the Oklahoma border has been calling me lately.

The lodging options are a bit limited in Noel but nicely flowing, whitewater-free, paddling opportunities abound. I'm thinking a jacuzzi room in nearby Springfield, MO and an early morning arrival at one of several canoe outfitters in the area.

We should be able to book shuttling to the Deep Ford area and take our kayaks down the peaceful and lovely Elk River to a takeout at the Shady Beach campground and canoe livery.

Come on Spring!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Paddle With a PFD

Light Paddling
Originally uploaded by FreeWine
Some sad paddling news came in from Texas this week. Note: the Dripping Springs mentioned in the article is not the same Dripping Springs Lake area that I paddle in often here in Oklahoma.

Austin, TX -- A Dripping Springs man was still missing and presumed dead Tuesday night after disappearing on a kayaking trip in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday.

Stephen Stafford, 19, was on a fishing trip with a co-worker when they decided to go kayak fishing early Sunday morning. Both kayaks were capsized by waves, and although Stafford's co-worker was found, the Coast Guard said Stafford got lost in the waves while yelling for help.

Stafford was not wearing a life jacket, something his mother and girlfriend want others to think about twice. Water safety is something everyone should take seriously. --

Shop Online for a Paddller's PFD

Speaking of Kayak safety, Yakker dropped a great comment on my recent posting about picking a out a kayak for Oklahoma paddling. Yakker mentioned another very important thing to consider: capacity. Every kayak is designed for paddlers of a certain weight range. if you are old and a bit heavy, like myself, don't assume that any kayak will effectively bear your weight. Whitewater kayaks are often for paddlers under two hundred pounds, so check the specs for Paddler Capacity before buying any kayak.

Then get yourself a PFD in a color that nicely accents your boat. Buy a kayak, don't buy The Farm!

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Reader Photography Showcase Contest.

Kayaking the Kiamichi River
Originally uploaded by FreeWine
The editors of Outdoor Oklahoma magazine are calling on Oklahoma sportsmen and outdoor enthusiasts for entries in the annual Reader’s Photography Showcase contest.

Any Oklahoman with a digital camera and an interest in the outdoors is eligible to see their work published in this years Showcase edition of Outdoor Oklahoma magazine.

Submissions are being accepted through March 31, and winners will have their work featured in the July/August 2008 issue.

Although the editors of Outdoor Oklahoma encourage readers to submit images including a variety of outdoor-related subjects, the magazine has been focusing on “faces in the outdoors” to show hunters, anglers, kids and other outdoor enthusiasts enjoying the outdoors.

Each participant may submit up to five digital images. Each submission must include a description of the photo, including the location taken, names and hometowns of subjects and what it took to get just the right shot. Photos should be in sharp focus, and images should be at least 300 dpi (dots per inch). The canvas size should be about 8 inches by 11 inches. Slides and print images will not be accepted.

Hopeful photographers can mail a disk to:

"Outdoor Oklahoma" Magazine
Oklahoma Dept. of Wildlife Conservation
P.O. Box 53465
Oklahoma City, OK 73152.

Readers may also e-mail their entries to