Monday, June 02, 2008
Spring River Float Trip from Kansas to Oklahoma
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.