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!