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 Caller.com



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


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!