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.

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 or 479-238-4671.