Saturday, November 14, 2009

I Go Canoeing With the Cree

Here in Okmulgee, the leaves have almost all fallen and the geese are flying over everyday. My guess is that a taste of winter weather is right around the corner. I'm sad to say that my day job and other distractions have prevented me from getting out and enjoying the Fall color and higher river levels much. Just sneaking in a bit of sunset paddling after work is pretty tough with sunsets coming in at 5:30pm.

I did manage to get some reading in. I read Canoeing With the Cree by Eric Sevareid. This is the first actual book I have read, purely for pleasure, in years. My day job requires a great deal of reading, so I normally try to be more active in my off-time. Of course, I didn't make the big leap all the way into reading an actual work of fiction.

The story of Eric Sevareid and his friend Walter Port paddling through the great northern wilderness, way back in the 1930's, was inspiring, exciting and informative. I can see how it has managed to stay in print for so many years. Canoeing With the Cree is the non-fiction account of two recent high school graduates, novice paddlers, that planned and executed an historic 2,250 mile canoe trip from Minneapolis to Hudson Bay.

These young folks plotted the route, picked their gear and even talked a newspaper into funding this risky four month long adventure. Heck, I was impressed that they were able to talk their parents into agreeing to let them go on such a journey!

The newspaper stories that Eric Sevareid sent in about this canoe trip, not only earned him and his partner a cool $100, they also launched an impressive career in journalism. Sevareid went on to become a celebrated war correspondent and to appear in or on the CBS coverage of every presidential election from 1948 until 1976. He died in 1992, widely recognized as one of the most influential journalists of the 20th century.

Although this book will certainly make you long for your own personal canoe adventure, "Canoeing With the Cree" is also a story about growing up, facing risks and working together in the great outdoors.

Tenacity is a pretty fair substitute for bravery, and the best form of tenacity I know is expressed in a Danish fur trapper`s principle: 'The next mile is the only one a person really has to make.' - Eric Sevareid


The power of one person's story is often underestimated, an honest tale can give shape to the dreams of several generations. In 2008, two more teenage friends named Colton Witte and Sean Bloomfield recreated this historic journey in record time, you can read all about it here: Bloomitte Expedition 2008 Chaska to Hudson Bay.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Get a Recreational Kayak During The Off Season

I saw a 17 and a half foot Folbot Kayak for sale cheap on the Tulsa version of Craig's List today. With room for 2-3 paddlers onboard it sounds like quite a bargain at less than $400. Lots of folks willb be putting their kayaks on sale now that summer is over. Time to start kayak shopping!

I got a chance to paddle my good friend, Greg's 15 foot Dagger Edisto touring kayak this Summer. It is a real deal Sea Kayak with a rudder and everything. You squeeze into this boat like an extremely intimate pair of shorts. The cockpit is so small, I think I could have used a rubberband for a spray skirt! Where my recreational kayak has sturdy foot pegs to transfer the power of my paddling stroke to moving the boat, the touring kayak has pedals attached to the rudder via rope or something. I do not like paddling with a rudder.

Touring kayaks don't really suit me for paddling in Oklahoma. The extra length in the water line does make these long kayaks slip through the water with a bit more ease. However, the longer boats tend to catch more wind. A shallow drafting boat like the Dagger Edisto can weathercock quite a bit in Oklahoma's nearly perpetual winds.

Trying out different kayaks is always funfor me, but so far, I am a hooked on the recreational kayaks like my Perception Swifty or Dianne's new twelve foot Vapor Angler XT kayak from Old Town. Her 12 foot kayak offer much more carrying capacity, it is quite a bit faster than my Swifty and is one of the quietest, most comfortable kayaks I have ever paddled.

I would like to paddle a few foldable kayaks. I tried a cheap inflatable kayak, but I found it to be WAY more hassle than I want to add to my paddling trips. I haven't really tried any of the folding kayaks yet, but they do look compelling. My 9.5 foot plastic kayak won't fit easily into most vehicles, but it is tough as nails and always ready to hit the water when I am...no waiting required.

Saturday and Sunday both look like they will offer warm temps and low wind. Local lakes and rivers are mostly devoid of other boaters and the Fall color is quite vibrant. This is an awesome season for canoeing in Oklahoma. Find yourself an inexpensive recreational kayak, a cheap digital camera and embrace the sweet nectar than is Autumn. Of course, if you don't want to buy a kayak, you could always build your kayak.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Fall Rains Usher in the Ozark Canoeing Season

Evening Kayaking on Table Rock Lake
The recent week of showers in Oklahoma have opened up the Fall canoeing season. Water levels are up on rivers and creeks throughout the Ozarks. Our local Okmulgee Lake is running strong over the spillway. Head down Highway 56 west of Okmulgee and you can see our local part-time waterfall from the highway just west of the park entrance. This is the classic backdrop location for an Okmulgee family photo. If you happen to be paddling Okmulgee Lake...better not get too close to the Dam. That way lies MANY trees you will not enjoy paddling into.



Al and the Oklahoma Flatwater Paddlers have a Buffalo River trip planned. The Kiamichi River is up again after a long dry summer for Tom & the Gang at Kriver.com. I would love to get a weekend free to head down to Antlers, OK and paddle the Kiamichi and the Buffalo River is breathtaking in any season. BTW, did you catch the recent PBS special on the Buffalo National River? It was called The Buffalo Flows - The Story of Our First National River...an excellent story of the efforts to protect that free flowing gem of the Ozarks. If you have never paddled the Buffalo River, I highly reccomend you make the trip this Fall. It is a breathtaking river, perfect for canoes and recreational kayaks. Since it is about a five hour drive for us, we only visit the Buffalo River during the Spring & Fall canoeing seasons when the color is blazing.

Dianne recently bought her five year fishing license, so she is eager to drown some goldfish. I think I am going to follow her lead. Anybody got any tips for cool weather fishing in Oklahoma? Right now, our part of the North Canadian River is up and running fast. The Deep Fork River is also stretching out across the bottoms around Okmulgee County. A bit of warm sunny weather on the weekend would be right on time.

Also check out this link to a Kansas outfitter: Brooks Canoe & Kayak - they rent those cool pedal powered Hobie kayaks, I've always wanted to give one a try and Wichita is not too far for a road trip.
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Friday, October 02, 2009

Tulsa River Rush 2009 on October 10

Participate, observe or simply learn more about the many activities that make River Parks Tulsa's favorite park, recreation and entertainment destination at Tulsa River Rush 2009! Visit booths sponsored by a multitude of local clubs, organizations and businesses including: the Tulsa Rowing Club & Kayak Club.

The River Activity Expo begins October 10, 2009 at 7:30 a.m. Check http://www.riverrush.net/ often as additional groups are added. To register an organization or business for participation in the River Activity Expo, contact tpitzer@riverparks.org or call (918) 596-2010.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Mulberry River Whitewater Two Hours from Home

Whitewater Kayaking on the Mulberry River RapidsOur first visit to The Mulberry River in Ozark, Arkansas this weekend was a blast!

Just a couple hours down I-40, the Mulberry River offers a fun ride with constant current and loads of fairly easy rapids. In fact, the Mulberry offers about 40 miles of great canoe & kayaking water. This river is rainfall driven, so you must plan your trip carefully. Too much water makes it very dangerous and too little water means dragging your kayak through the shallows. Visit the Turner Bend website for a daily updated gauge of the current river level. They will even sell you a detailed river map and canoe guide with all of the named rapids listed.

Since Dianne and I arrived at Turner Bend late in the afternoon, we took the short four mile float trip from the public access at Redding Campground in The Ozark National Forest down to the Turner Bend take-out at the Highway 23 bridge. The Mulberry River level was at 2.05 feet according to the Turner Bend gauge. The river level was perfect for a couple of recreational kayakers like us. As you can see from the picture on the right, the Mulberry provides lots of chances to test how cold the water is! The nice folks at Turner Bend shuttled both of our kayaks for a mere $16. I am eager to return and paddle more of this thrilling river.

Kayakers had better snap on the sprayskirt for paddling the Mulberry River. Although it is not as rocky as the LMF, there are loads of ripples and standing waves that make it difficult to see the rocks that are there. There are many more rapids on the Mulberry River than the Lower Mt. Fork River. Rather than the typical pool & drop, the Mulberry River water descends at a consistently swift pace through rapid after rapid.

Since we launched so late in the day, we had the river practically to ourselves. This was surprising because the Turner Bend store where we arranged the shuttle was absolutely packed with bikers! Turner Bend is located where the river crosses Highway 23. This is part of 'The Pig Trail', a scenic roadway popular with motorcycle clubs and car clubs. The Pig Trail and the National Forest campgrounds bring folks from all over the country to this beautiful part of the Arkansas Ozarks.

One of the best features of this river is the great put-in and take-out spots. Our put-in at Redding Campground was large and made with tons of lovely native stonework. With so many riffles and S-curves to paddle on the Mulberry, it is easy to lose track of time. Thankfully, Turner Bend has a take-out that you simply cannot miss. One highlight of our Turner Bend visit was seeing the electric boat lift they use to bring canoes & kayaks out of the water. For me, it was love at first sight!

The Mulberry River is an exciting series of whitewater rapids, so keep your wits about you. Watch the river levels closely, dress for immersion and paddle sober for the ride of your life! Dianne and I paddled the river without flipping the kayaks, but we still managed to get quite wet. To contact the Mulberry River outfitters and plan your own float trip, visit our Mulberry River page at: http://www.oklahomaroadtrips.com/Float-Mulberry-River.htm

While you are there, check out the town of Altus, Arkansas, home of several local wineries & vineyards, just 20 minutes away! If you don't have time to visit the wineries in person, just grab a few bottles of Arkansas wine at the Turner Bend store!
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Friday, September 25, 2009

Oklahoma Area Rivers Up for Floating

Dianne's Vapor 12 kayak in the morning mist It looks like we have perfect paddling conditions on tap for this weekend. Recent rains have nice river levels flowing on a number of popular Ozark area kayaking locations.
This weekend, I like the looks of these waterways:

The Mulberry River - Whitewater off I-40 near Ozark, Arkansas
The Illinois River - Scenic paddling in Tahlequah, Oklahoma
The Kiamichi River - Remote backwoods canoe trips in Antlers, OK
The Upper Mountain Fork River - Watch out for the six foot waterfall.
The Kings River - Scenic canoeing trips near Eureka Springs, Arkansas
The Glover River - Big time whitewater in Southeastern Oklahoma

All of the above rivers are running strong and the Oklahoma weather forecast is calling for nothing but sunshine. I've got a load of work to do this weekend, but I still hope to slip off somewhere to enjoy some shady water.
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Monday, August 24, 2009

Clear Cold Elk River Kayaking Two Hours From Tulsa

The Elk River - Floating from Pineville to Noel, MO This weekend, Oklahoma was blessed with lower than normal temps under clear, sunny skies. That kind of weather is not to be ignored! Dianne and I decided to make a day trip to the Ozarks to kayak some clear, cold moving water.

For day trips, Dianne and I keep it to four hours away or less. Eight hours of total driving in a single day should be plenty for any non-professional driver. Typically, this means the Lower Mt. Fork River in Broken Bow, but the levels on it have really been fluctuating this year. We decided to visit an old friend, the Elk River in Missouri for some late summer kayaking fun. We were NOT disappointed.

Unlike the lower Mt. Fork River, the Elk River from Pineville MO to Noel, MO drops gently but consistently. The water moves faster over the shallower areas making paddle-work nearly optional. This makes it popular with rafter during Summer Vacation. Hitting the Elk River on this Sunday morning in August, we were surprised to see more canoes than kayaks or rafts. Dianne enjoyed the river much more with the lighter traffic and more family friendly atmosphere. The eight hours of driving...not so much. Next time, we might seek lodging in Jane, MO.

There are loads of outfitters on the Elk River in Missouri and the river flow is so consistent that folks float it all year long. Visit the Elk River on a Saturday during summer vacation to see hundreds of other crafts on the water. From church group outings to bachelor parties everyone is out enjoying the summer on the Elk River.

We put-in at Big Elk Camp & Canoe, right off Highway 71. They charged us $30 to shuttle us and our boats back to our truck from the Shady Beach Campground at Mt. Shira, Missouri. Many outfitters won't shuttle private boats, so plan carefully and call before you drive. With so many outfitters in Pineville and Noel, you are sure to find someone to take your money. I usually end up spending more on t-shirts and other mementos than shuttling. This time, it was close.

Since I have never gotten a decent restaurant recommendation from an outfitter in Noel or Pineville (strange phenomenon peculiar to the Elk River), Dianne and I drove around in desperation seeking Sunday lunch... at 2pm when we got off the water. Right next to River Rat Pizza in Noel (they were closed), we found Rosa's Mexican Store and restaurant. The window said "Buffet, All Day, Everyday"... and the congregation shouted: "Amen!" Rosa's had the best buffet I've tried in ages and a cool little ethnic food market right next door! They make wonderful breads and pastries at the market!

Yakker didn't make this trip, so I wasn't able to test self-shuttling options in the area. Someday, when I have more time in the area, I would like to make a list of the public use areas on the Elk River. It is truly a great river for recreational paddling. Until then, consult this map for public access points on the Elk River: Elk River area map.

I don't believe I have ever seen so many baby fish swimming around my kayak as I did this weekend. As Dianne said: “the water is so clear you can read the labels of the countless beer cans that litter the bottom of the Elk River”. A small fortune in aluminum cans awaits someone in 'The Canoe Capital of the Ozarks'. Other than that it was lovely. I'll bet I saw 20 soft shelled leather back turtles. It was so cool watching them swim through the crystal clear water. It may not be challenging whitewater, but it moves along nicely through a very scenic portion of the Missouri Ozarks.

According to our outfitter, the water levels on Big Sugar and Indian Creek were too low, but we might be able to catch some deeper water this fall.

From Tulsa, you can head up north on I-44 for about an hour, then east on US 60 and finally south down Highway 71 to reach Pineville, MO. However, there are scores of routes to get to the Elk River including many slower routes popular with bikers. Don’t miss the town of Noel, Missouri…the highways there are bordered by really scenic bluffs! I can't wait to see the area when the fall colors set in, it really isn't very piney, so there should be quite a change.
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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Shady Flatwater on a Cool Morning

Salt Creek on Okmulgee Lake I slipped out onto Salt Creek of Okmulgee Lake to enjoy an unexpectedly cool and cloudy late Summer morning. It turned out to be time well invested. Launch your kayaks somewhere this weekend, my friends! The weather is too sweet to waste. I saw several of the Oklahoma Flatwater Paddlers were out to enjoy Salt Creek this morning as well. The light was very interesting on the creek today.

Speaking of the OFP, I hear Al is striking deep into Missouri territory to paddle this weekend, we couldn't join him, but I think we may try to make a quick run to Pineville, MO on Sunday. The Elk River in Pineville is too close to Oklahoma to be ignored. A fun bit of moving water with gravel banks, the Elk River should be on your annual schedule for recreational kayaking. Yakker even suggested he might be able to join us!

It is great to be able to link up with friends for kayaking, but if you want to paddle early in the morning...you are likely to be paddling alone quite a bit. When I am kayaking alone, I like to stick to safer-than-usual waters. My wife sleeps better when I am not out risking life and limb. The Salt Creek channel into Okmulgee Lake offers four seasons of shady, sheltered, quiet, Oklahoma flatwater that rarely disappoints me with its beauty. Try not to kill your vehicle on the access road. It is very rough, so take it real slow and leave your lowrider in the garage for this trip!

Salt Creek is low, but the Deep Fork River, the Arkansas River and The North Canadian River are rolling pretty fast in our area. I have to get rolling myself, Dianne wants to head to Tulsa and visit her favorite new restaurant for Philippine cuisine. If I play my cards right, I might be able to get in some bowling!
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Monday, August 10, 2009

Lily Pads At Beggs Lake


Lily Pads At Beggs Lake
Originally uploaded by FreeWine

My day job has kept me too busy to make many kayaking trips this summer. When that happens I try to spend my weekends exploring local waters. This weekend, Dianne and I took the kayaks to New Beggs Lake for some flatwater 'lily paddling'.

The New Beggs Lake offers quick access and quiet paddling due to only aloowing fishing from non-motorized watercraft. If you enjoy fishing from your canoe, kayak or float tube, you may want to give New Beggs Lake a try. We saw quite a bit of fish activity on this lake and the water looks quite clear in the deeper portions of the lake.

More pictures and details from our Oklahoma Road trip to New Beggs Lake.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Grave Creek Kayaking at Sunrise


Yakker and I encountered strange mists during our morning of kayaking on Grave Creek in McIntosh County, Oklahoma. As the sun began to peek through the leafy green canopy of treetops, it created tiny, swirling, white tornados. The thin columns of white mists spiraled upward like smoky spirits, rising into the heavens on golden beams of morning sunlight.
Grave Creek is an excellent spot for flatwater paddling at sunrise. It also offers a great little parking area and boat ramp access to Lake Eufaula near the Deep Fork River arm of the lake. Read more and check out my latest pictures on our Grave Creek kayaking page.
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Monday, July 20, 2009

Table Rock Lake Kayaking Trip

Kayak Magic On Table Rock Lake
Originally uploaded by Thomas Jones.


Dianne Kayaking through the morning mists on Table Rock Lake, Cape Fair MO.
Missouri Road Trip Report:
This weekend Dianne and I visited Flat Creek Resort on Table Rock Lake in Cape Fair, Missouri. Located in Southern Missouri / Northern Arkansas - Table Rock Lake is one of the finest Ozark lakes for kayaking. The lake's long, narrow and twisty shape bordered by rocky bluffs and tree covered hills is quite scenic. We saw a huge amount of fish jumping in the fairly clear waters of the lake. I would advise any paddlers and especially any kayak fishermen out there to find time to paddle Table Rock Lake.

We chose Flat Creek Resort after having read their webpage which presented itself as a full-on Ozark paddling resort. I had hoped for something like the world famous NOC or the Otter Bar in California... that was close enough for an Oklahoma road trip. I longed for a place crowded with knowledgeable paddlers and a wealth of kayaking t-shirts to browse.

The aging Flat Creek Resort has recently changed management and appears to be shifting away from focusing on kayakers and canoe trips, but it still offers an excellent access point, dock and boat ramp. Their location on the James River and Flat Creek arm of Table Rock Lake is quite scenic, however I was deeply disappointed to find the Paddleshop had been closed, the float trips outsourced and liquor license currently not in effect. Our AT&T cell phones did not work in Cape Fair, MO and the rooms at Flat Creek Resort had no phones or working TV's. Not being a HAM radio operator, this left me feeling pretty isolated and a little creeped out.

Despite the shortcomings, fishermen flock to spots like this for the great fishing. We spoke to several bass fishermen that drove down from Springfield, MO, by 9:30pm the parking lot was full of boats. We were surprised to see only one motor boat during our sunrise paddling the next day. The fleet had launched long before we drug the kayaks to the shore! We saw fish feeding constantly on Table Rock Lake and we paddled through lots of shallow water coves perfect for top water bass fishing from the kayak.

The entire 3-day weekend we were blessed with shockingly cool summer weather that created great conditions for kayak photography. Paddling the Flat Creek area of Table Rock Lake is deeply calming and its location near The White River, Branson, MO and Eureka Springs, AR means we are certain to bring our kayaks back to Table Rock Lake for more fun in the future!

Gotta go now, my new KF'ing DVD: Kayak Fishing: Game On just arrived from Amazon.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Our Upper Mountain Fork River Trip

Upper Mountain Fork River Near Smithville, OK
Upper Mountain Fork River
Originally uploaded by FreeWine
Dianne booked us a stay in southeastern Oklahoma's mountains for the Father's Day weekend; it was SO secluded and relaxing! I recommend it highly for couples and small families looking for a great deal on an Oklahoma cabin in the country. The owners have only one cabin they treated us like royalty the entire time we were there.

River Ranch Cabin is nestled in the Oklahoma 'mountains'. Southeastern Oklahoma is more mountainous and forested than any other part of the state. The roads that lead to Smithville, Oklahoma reminded me on the switchback-laden three lane highways of Colorado. You have to watch out for logging trucks, but it is well worth it to see the amazing vistas of the Ouachita National Forest and the Kiamichi mountains.

The single one-bedroom cabin at River Ranch Cabin sits on over a hundred acres of solitude fronted by a half mile section of the Upper Mountain Fork River. This river resort offers the most exclusive luxuries on market: solitude and comfort amongst breathtaking natural beauty. I'm sure it was the spacious indoor Jacuzzi that attracted Dianne's attention to this cabin. That gal is drawn to hot tubs, like a moth to the flame! However, we both knew she would end up spending very little time in the Jacuzzi as soon as we saw the 'swimming hole' at River Ranch Cabin.

The Upper Mt. Fork River is quite different from the Lower Mt. Fork River we are accustomed to kayaking in. The water in the Upper Mt. Fork River is much warmer than in the lower river. In my opinion, the Lower Mountain Fork River is almost too cold for swimming. The rocky, pool and drop descents of the two rivers are similar, but we didn't see the Cypress trees and Spanish Moss that we normally see on the lower river.

Swimming at the private gravel bar 'swimming hole' at River Ranch Cabin means you see no one else. We swam about five hours a day all weekend and we never saw a hiker, boater, fisherman...anyone! The crystal clear waters are teaming with fish, deer are plentiful and the grounds are well mowed. The spacious 'swimming hole' is actually quite long, but since it is a narrow bit of river you can always find some shady water to take a break from the sun. A gas grill stands nearby so you don't even have to return to the cabin for lunch. The gravel bar also makes an excellent place to launch kayaks from.

Once it gets dark, Dianne and I were willing to return to what was easily the nicest cabin we have ever stayed in. The first thing I noticed when we entered the cabin was a lovely homemade cake resting under glass. The lady made cake for us! Dianne was impressed by how new everything was in the cabin and rushed in straight to see the tub. It is a beauty and elegantly placed in the large bathroom. My attention was captured by the truly world-class cooling system. Heat pump, digital thermostat and more ceiling fans than I have ever seen a single home, much less a one bedroom cabin! I counted two in the living room, two in the kitchen, one in the bedroom and two on the back porch for goodness sakes!

Everything about the cabin was perfect from the location right down to the smallest details. Although American Whitewater will tell you that the river is only runnable after local rains, we enjoyed paddling for quite a ways around the cabin even late in June. However, I must confess that the heat of the summer had us much more focused on swimming than we were on kayaking during our visit to River Ranch Cabin in Smithville, OK.

Looking for a kayaking shirt to beat the summer heat? This weekend I tried Under Armour Heatgear and it really works! I wore this black shirt in the blazing heat and sun and found it to be wonderfully cool. try one yourself sometime: Under Armour Heatgear.


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Quiet Kayaking on Dripping Springs Lake

A Deer Moment on Dripping Springs Lake Saturday afternoon's sunset was a bit of a disappointment, but the clouds made the lake cool off earlier. The wind laid and the lake water became increasingly glassy as Scott and I paddled our kayaks up Salt Creek on Dripping Springs Lake. I took Dianne's new 13 foot kayak out, but still had to work pretty hard to keep up with Scott's 17 foot Pygmy Coho plywood kayak.

The day had been blisteringly hot when we launched our boats from the fishing dock at Clovis Point. Once we reached the point where the lake began to slim-down into Salt Creek (and I began to wonder if one bottle of water was going to be sufficient) blessed shade happened. When Scott offered to bring his fancy new kit kayak to Okmulgee, I got pretty excited. Since I started reading about building kayaks lately, I was familiar with stitch and glue boat building. However, I had never seen one up close. It was just the boat the slide across the lake and sneak up on some wildlife.

Although the Clovis Point campground had been crowded with RV's, we saw only two fishing boats on our trip up to Salt Creek. The seclusion was conducive to wildlife watching, as was Scott's super-sleek Coho kayak, it cuts through flat water like a scalpel, leaving barely a ripple in its wake. We slipped up on this lovely whitetail doe foraging on the lake shore. Before returning, to the fishing dock we saw several more deer and a few beavers.

Because I had allowed the hour to get a bit late, paddling back to Clovis Point provided a bit of a workout (much eased by in the cool of the evening). On the way back Scott and I met up with Ron, another local kayaker. Ron paddles an Old Town Loon. It is a Sit-Inside fishing kayak, much like Dianne's new Vapor 12. Ron is a swell guy (with a used whitewater kayak for sale, ping me if you want) and he lives not too far from my house. Mark has paddled this part of Oklahoma for decades; I hope to learn from him some more trips to share on this kayaking blog.

I hear some of the Oklahoma Flatwater Paddlers visited Lawton for some scenic paddling. Anybody else make the most out of this somewhat wet weekend in Oklahoma? Drop me a comment or fine me on Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, etc.

Happy Paddling!
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Saturday, June 06, 2009

Chronic Summer Wanderlust

Although our recent trip to the Illinois River was great, it really got me itching to paddle some new waters. Reading other bloggers talking about their awesome summer road trips is just making it worse. I was reading the Gliding Calm blog this morning. The author is traveling across the US, while working toward sticking to her rather strict diet (she is a chia seed dieter like me). As she visits state after state, I am struggling to find time to hit a few paddling spots right in my neighborhood! Thankfully, this month we will be visiting the Upper Mt. Fork River for the first time.

Speaking of the Mountain Fork River, I hear through Twitter that Broken Bow's Lower Mountain Fork River is back open for canoe and kayak float trips and trout fishing. This is great news, the LMF River is our favorite Oklahoma paddling location. According to American Whitewater's site: The Tulsa Wave is running and Arkansas' Saline River at Dierks Lake is kicking up some great whitewater. Happy paddling!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Illinois River Watershed Appreciation Day June 6, 2009

The Illinois River Watershed Partnership will hold Illinois River Watershed Appreciation Day from 2 to 7 p.m. Saturday, June 6, 2009 at Lake Fayetteville.

The day's itinerary includes children's games in the pavilion from 2 to 4:30 p.m., a geocaching treasure hunt, Stream Team watermonitoring demonstrations, canoe racing, fishing and volleyball contests, barbecue and a concert. Everything's free and open to all.

The Illinois River originates near Hogeye, southwest of Fayetteville, and flows west, crossing the Ozarks into Oklahoma five miles south of Siloam Springs. Eventually it flows into the Arkansas River near Gore, Okla. More information is at http://www.irwp.org/ or 479-238-4671.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Illinois River Float Trip May 2009

Dianne and I joined up with Yakker for a Friday trip down the scenic Illinois River (self-shuttled because it is good to have friends). At just a bit over 4 feet, the river level was perfect for our entire trip - no dragging and no paddling in treetops. Just the way I like it. We launched from the public access at No Head Hollow off Highway 10 and paddled down to the public take-out at the Highway 62 Bridge.

Just about 15 minutes into our trip, Dianne spots a Bald Eagle perched on a tree. It even let us get close enough to take some decent pictures (on Flickr) before making an abrupt departure! I wish we could have gotten on the water by 7am instead of 9am. Osprey frequent this river as well. Due to hitting the water around 9am on a weekday, we saw only a few canoes and two kayaks paddling the river with us. The weather, like the water level, was perfect at 70+ degrees and very little wind.

We saw lots of large carp, several large blue herons and dozens of turtles. I saw one canoe turnover, not due to an obstacle, but rather a poor launch. Although there are no real rapids on the Illinois River float trip we took, there are some downed trees to avoid and barely submerged root balls from past flooding. Although you watch out for these, you are bound to get the occasional unexpected bump. In this situation, you are a greater risk to your boat than the obstacle. React calmly and the collision is usually no big deal. However, if you get spooked you could end up swimming (more likely wading) this Class I water.

I paddled my old Perception Swifty, Dianne paddled her 12 foot Old Town Vapor and Yakker had his newly purchased Dagger Edisto. Despite paddling a somewhat tippy 15 foot touring kayak, Yakker admirably managed the few obstacles the river threw at us. Dianne's Vapor performed well and my old Swifty just about has this river memorized. We stopped on a gravel bar for a brief snack and again at Todd Public Access for a bathroom break. Unlikely the other public access points on our trip, Todd Public Access is on the East side of the river.

After we made it to the take-out at the Highway 62 Bridge, we were all eager to find some grub. However, my priority was to rummage through the outfitters stores for some kayaking t-shirts. I grabbed some decent canoeing shirts from the stores at Diamondhead Resort and War Eagle Resort, but alas...no kayaking shirts. Thankfully, right next to War Eagle's outfitter store we found Fatty's BBQ!

I was hungy enough to eat the butt out of a skunk by the time the paddling and shopping was concluded. The smoke rising from Fatty's was a sight for sore eyes and sunburned ears. We enjoyed Pulled Pork sandwiches and Potato Salad Alfresco from Fatty's BBQ. The shady seats and Doors music set the mood for basking in the afterglow of a perfect day of paddling. The pulled pork was delicious.

Those of you who went to work on Friday, truly have my pity.

Illinois River Watershed Appreciation Day June 6, 2009 from 2 to 7 p.m. Saturday at Lake Fayetteville.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Family Fun on Flatwater

Sunset Kayaking at Jim Hall Lake We stayed close to home this Memorial Day Weekend, but still managed to squeeze in a little bit of paddling between the Oklahoma monsoons.

Saturday, we linked up with a couple friends and paddled around the marina at Lake Eufaula. We had to wait until fairly late in the afternoon for the rain to stop, but eventually it did stop. Eufaula was bustling with boats and every variety of wake sport enthusiast. I enjoyed the easy launch from the boat ramp and getting to check out Greg's new Dagger Edisto kayak.

After sleeping in on Sunday, we decided to do some family style paddling in Henryetta, Oklahoma. Jim Hall Lake is the reservoir lake just southeast of Henryetta. It was not crowded with campers, like the Lake Eufaula marina area we visited yesterday. We saw only a few groups of tent campers and two other boats on the lake. Once again, we successfully dodged the rain showers. Dianne was paddling her new Vapor 12 kayak, we put Dylan in my old Perception Swifty and I paddled the Heritage Angler kayak.

I always enjoy taking pictures of Dianne and Dylan paddling around in the sunset. Now that we have three kayaks, I hope we can spend more time together on the water this summer. Jim Hall Lake is an easy-to-find spot for picnics, flatwater paddling, fishing and sunset chasing. We will surely be back.

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Saturday, May 09, 2009

Did You Know Southern Kansas Has an Elk River?

A strong cycle of Spring rains has water levels up all over Oklahoma and the rest of the Ozarks. Just about every river offering whitewater fun is running fast now. Extreme whitewater enthusiasts are hitting spots like the Tulsa Wave, The Mulberry River and The Kiamichi River. Flatwater paddlers are enjoying higher lake levels providing access to narrow backwater creeks leading into the local reserviors.

Kayak Demo Day

Shopping for a new kayak around Tulsa? Visit the Kayak and Canoe Demonstration at Bass Pro Shops in Broken Arrow, OK May 23, 2009 - May 30, 2009. They have a couple of deals on twelve foot fishing kayaks that look attractive to me.

I am planning on making a couple road trip this summer. Floating the Ouachita River and the Caddo River. However, for my next trip, I am thinking about heading North to Kansas. Has anyone ever paddled the Elk River in Kansas? Leave us a comment!

According to my new copy of Paddling Kansas, the Elk River above Elk City Lake is a very scenic 9.2 miles of Class I-II water. At a little over 2 and a half hours from home, that is well within Day trip striking range. I've paddled the Elk River in Missouri a few times, so it will be interesting to compare them.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Kayaking Events in the Area


Two Together, Two Apart
Originally uploaded by FreeWine

Kayaking season in Oklahoma has kicked off with some much needed rain, but as usual the rains are landing on the weekends and the truly outstanding weather is saving itself for midweek. Thankfully, the Spring time change means I have time to slip down to my local lake for some sunset chasing after work.

I never cease to be fascinated by the sunsets Dripping Springs Lake is blessed with. What Oklahoma lacks in horizon features for photographers, it more than makes up for with interesting weather. How did I manage to spend my whole life here and never notice this vibrant fountain of color in my own background?

Besides sunset chasing and trying to find homes for the new puppies at our house, I have been thinking about building my own kayak. There are a number of fine books available on building kayaks and canoes from wood, fabric, fiberglass or kevlar.

I think I may buy a kit for building a cedar strip kayak. They are light-weight boats built for speed and beauty. The boat construction technique used allows you to build almost any kind of boat using commonly available and inexpensive tools.

Folks planning on buying a kayak rather than building one should consider a trip to OKC this May. The annual OKC Kayak Expo will be at Hobie Point on Oklahoma City's Lake Hefner on Wednesday evening May 6, 2009 from 6pm to 9pm. There are usually upwards of 30-40 boats out there for this free event and it's a great way to get the feel of different types of kayaks and canoes, as well as a great introduction to kayaking in general.

If you already have kayak, you can volunteer to paddle in the Olympics...sort of. The Oklahoma City Boathouse Foundation is hosting an international Triathlon May 16 & 17. They need Oklahoma kayakers to help with the swim portion of the race. It will be on the Oklahoma River at the Chesapeake Boathouse. They are needing people who have some experience in a kayak, who would be able to keep an eye on the swimmers, and in the case they need assistance provide them with a floatation device. It's going to be a unique opportunity to see some of the best athletes in the world up close. For more information about the race here's the web site: http://www.boathousetriathlon.org/

Also, the 2009 Teva Mountain Games are happening June 4 – 7, 2009 in Vail, Colorado. Expect some extreme whitewater action at that event.

Keep Paddling, Y'all!


Thursday, April 02, 2009

We Got Water, Now Get a Kayak

Rivers all over the area are running fast and high. Good news, if you are one of the unlucky folks like myself who are NOT going to be paddling the Buffalo River this weekend with the local flatwater paddling group. Did that sound bitter? Seriously, this is the primo time of year to paddle the Buffalo National River. Get there while the water is fast and the redbuds are in bloom, don't wait for summer.

The North Canadian River, the Illinois River, Deep Fork, just about every river in my area is benefiting from the surprise snowfall last weekend. So get out there and paddle something quick before it all flows away! Don't have your kayak yet? There is a kayak demo day in Dallas this month and Dave Lindo at OKC Kayak has a ready supply of great kayaks you can try out. My favorite kayak features are: ten or twelve foot length, foot pegs, comfy seat, deck webbing, and capacity of at least 200lbs.

Dallas REI Store Paddle Demo Day will be held April 11, 2009 at White Rock Lake.
Try out the latest canoes, kayaks and accessories for free! Time: 11 am - 3 pm. Test boats to see how they handle and get paddling tips from REI staff and vendors at free paddling clinics. Take home a coupon for 15% off a boat.


Of course, if you are not ready to buy a kayak yet, you can always rent a kayak instead. Just get out there and paddle some sunsets.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Ancient Forest Near Tulsa Area Lake

This may be the year I address the flood of email requests I get for Tulsa area paddling spots. Other than a brief paddling trip to Lake Bixhoma, Dianne and I haven't tried much kayaking near Tulsa. Normally, we avoid paddling near metro areas, as the required permits and regulations can be a pain to chase down.

However, I recently learned that Sand Springs, Oklahoma is home to Keystone Lake and the eastern shoreline of Lake Keystone is home to the Keystone Ancient Forest. I personally did not know that Oklahoma offered hiking through a 1,300-acre old-growth forest.

Now that I know about the old-growth forest...I would like to see it for myself. The confluence of the Arkansas and Cimarron Rivers is said to be visible from the high ground on the nature preserve...but you can't go there alone. To protect the park, hikes through the Keystone Ancient Forest are only allowed for groups of ten or more.

Since the lake looks like a good one for paddling, I've decided to move Keystone Lake up to the top of my Priority Paddling List. If only there were some group of local kayakers that I could team up with, maybe we could get a reservation to visit the Keystone Ancient Forest and paddle the lake on the same day.

Anyone out there ever checked out the old-growth forest on Keystone Lake? Can you paddle to it?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Texas Water Adventures in May and June

Southwestern Kayaking Get Ready for Canoe Racing Season

The Texas Water Safari (June 13-17, 2009) is a long, hot, tough, nonstop, marathon canoe racing adventure for teams. The course traverses 260 miles of challenging rivers and bays! Teams may not receive any assistance of any kind except verbal, so you must pack in everything you will need. You must be prepared to travel day and night, nonstop to be competitive, but teams who occasionally stop for sleep have been able to reach mandatory checkpoint cutoff times and cross the finish line by the 100 hour deadline.

Sound too tough? I agree! There is no way I would attempt to endure the Texas Water Safari without trying my team's luck at the preliminary race, Texas Water Marathon, first. The season is cooler, the water levels are likely to be higher and the distance is much shorter. If you do plan to paddle the Safari, wear your PFD. There is a new PFD rule this year, so watch yourself, know your rescue techniques and wear a lifejacket.


Texas River Marathon at 9am on Saturday May 2, 2009

The Texas River Marathon is a 45-mile race from Cuero Highway 236 to Victoria City Park. This is the preliminary race of the Texas Water Safari. Location: Cuero, Tx - Hwy 236 (Under Bridge) Fee: $25/person if registered by April 24, 2009 or $35/person race day registration. http://www.texaswatersafari.org/

More paddling in Texas


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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Preparing for Spring Paddling in the Ozarks

With today's low wind and high temps, it is clearly and excellent day for winter kayaking in Oklahoma. Naturally, you can't get weather like this on the weekend. I would take a sick day to go paddling on a day like this, but wouldn't you know it...I'm already sick. I picked up a head cold somewhere, so I will be spending this wonderful 70 degree February day at home sneezing like crazy. More warm weather is currently on tap for tomorrow, but the wind speeds and rain chances are higher as well. Since I am likely to be sick all week, I will miss this fine weather, hopefully you will be more lucky.

If you do get out for some paddling, do me a favor and wear a PFD, the water is still quite cold.

Do You Facebook?

I've been trying to learn the ropes on FaceBook this week. With Spring kayaking season just aroung the corner and the Tulsa job market tightening, I thought that this would be a great time to expand my social network. I've already managed to form ties with a couple of my friends from the Oklahoma Flatwater Paddlers, a large amount of my wife's family and several friends from High School. I haven't figured out all of the applications on FB yet, but I cannot help but be impressed with its ability to locate old buddies that I have not spoken to in years. If you are a local paddler in the Tulsa area and you find yourself on Facebook, send a friend request for Thomas Jones in Okmulgee, OK. Maybe we can go paddling sometime soon.

I hope to be hale and hearty again in time to make a trip to OKC for the Paddlesports and Outdoor Gear Swap at OKC Kayak March 6th and 7th. I recently aquired some neoprene waders, that would be excellent for Winter kayaking, but they are one size too small for my comfort. I also have some kayaking DVD's I could part with.

The Buffalo River & The Kings River

Float trip outfitters throughout the Ozarks have begun inspecting their rivers in preparation for the Spring paddling season. The early February ice storms have created some serious timber issues this year for both paddlers and outfitters on the Buffalo River and the Kings River in nearby Arkansas.

The last I heard, the popular Ponca-to-Kyle's-Landing Buffalo River float isn't possible because Kyle's Landing Access is closed. The nearest take-out to Ponca is the Erbie access 15 miles downstream. The Steel Creek access, just below Ponca, Arkansas is also closed. To check the status of the Buffalo National River access points, visit the Buffalo River park's Web site, www.nps.gov/buff or call park headquarters at (870) 365-2700.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Parched Oklahoma Finally Gets Some Rain and Too Much Wind


North Canadian River
Originally uploaded by FreeWine
Water levels are up in many area lakes and rivers such as the Illinois River, the Mulberry River, the North Canadian River, The Buffalo, The Kiamichi River and even old muddy Deep Fork. Sadly, the winds were deadly, our prayers will be with the victims in tornado struck Lone Grove and Edmond, Oklahoma.

Adding more excitement in my area is: powerline tree trimming by helicopter! You should see the high flying helicopter horror show happening right outside my window today. About half a dozen whirling blades dangling from a very low hanging chopper. Without a doubt...today is a scary day to be a squirrel!

I got my kayak out this weekend and paddled for a couple hours on the North Canadian River, but the low water levels at the time made it more like plowing than paddling. At least it was a warm and fairly sunny day.


OU Sooners Gifts




Thursday, January 15, 2009

January Sunsets on the Deep Fork River

Deep Fork River Paddling at Sunset
I hope many of you got out on the local lakes and rivers for some winter paddling during the recent warm spell. It is snowing at my house today, but I'm willing to bet there are going to be a few more 60+ degree days before Spring arrives. Taking advantage of Oklahoma's occasionally warm winter days are one of the best advantages that come from buying a kayak or living near an outfitter.

I recently got out on the Deep Fork River for paddling with my friend Yakker, from Checotah. He tried his luck at kayak fishing, while I tried to grab some pictures. We launched from the wonderfully handy Deep Fork River boat ramp on at the bridges on Highway 266 between Dewar and Grayson. The water is deeper than most parts of the river, so you can paddle this portion of the river in the dryest of seasons. The high muddy banks provide good protection from the winter winds. There was little to no current running, we could sure use some rain around here. I brought paddling gloves, and an extra set of dry clothes just in case the weather changed unexpectedly.

The scenery may look lame early in the day on Deep Fork, but as you near sundown the sunken trees start to take on a surreal look. Don't leave your digital camera at home, winter provides some stunning sunsets that truly light up the Deep Fork River. Remeber to prepare for the water and the weather...cold kills and camera film gets brittle when the temps fall. That being said, flatwater paddling on Oklahoma lakes and low current rivers can really spice up your winter.

Got a local lake you like to savor the sunset on? Drop us a comment!
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Friday, January 02, 2009

Cold Season Kayaking is Common in Oklahoma

Kayaker Sunset on Okmulgee Lake
My son Dylan and I slipped out last week for a few hours of sunset paddling. It was his first time paddling in the winter, so I hooked him up with some paddling gloves and a spray skirt. Okmulgee Lake was calm and beautiful from our warm and bright 3:30pm launch until our chilly 6pm return. Despite the unseasonably warm 72 degree weather, we saw more Osprey than fishermen!

This Saturday's forecast calls for more 70 degree temps and you know what that means...more winter kayaking! Since there are also likely to be gusty winds, river kayaking is preferable to lake kayaking.

Some of the Oklahoma Flatwater Paddlers are planning on doing some kayaking around OKC.

Dianne and I have been discussing kayaking on the Deep Fork River just off Highway 266 between Dewar and Grayson, Oklahoma. I don't expect any current, but this part of the Deep Fork River is deep enough to maintain a decent level for kayaking even during dry seasons. This spot also offers great parking and easy access to the water via boat ramp!

I hope all of my paddling friends out there got some cool kayaking gear for Christmas. I got a black kayaking t-shirt and some neoprene cold water paddling pants, shirt and even kayaking socks! Having the right gear certainly makes winter paddling more fun.

I'm trying to talk Dianne into a trip to Caddo Lake in February for some Texas paddling. I foolishly choose Valentines Day for our wedding, so now I can rarely get reservations to take her out to celebrate it. I figure Texas is likely to be a bit warmer in February and if not... we can always go bowling!

Dianne thinks we should probably stay closer to home in Tulsa or OKC, just in case the weather gets icy. Planning winter road trips can be risky if you have to make reservations. Got any tips?


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