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)