Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Get An Oklahoma Water Atlas While They Last

Good news from Dave Lindo at OKC Kayak!

The Oklahoma Water Resources Board and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation have updated and reprinted the Oklahoma Water Atlas.

This is a nice publication that Oklahoma paddlers are fortunate to have reprinted considering the condition of state and local budgets. The first run disappeared quick so don't delay. It is an ideal resource for kayak fishing in Oklahoma and it makes a great gift too.

You can pick up a free copy at the Water Resources Board or download PDF version of individual lake maps online. These lake maps show boat ramps, campsites, depths, and more for lakes all over Oklahoma. I mainly use them to discover how to find the shady, narrow, feeder creeks that offer better kayaking conditions and less motor boat traffic than the more open areas of the lake.

I use my old copy of the Oklahoma Water Atlas constantly, but the high quality materials and binding have allowed to to remain in superb condition. You may prefer river kayaking to lake paddling, but during Oklahoma's regularly occuring droughts, lake paddling may be your only choice that does not require five hours of driving.

Speaking of OKC Kayak, they have a great selection gifts for kayakers of every kind. If you don't want to shop online for kayaks and paddling gear or you need some expert advice, stop by OKC Kayak and meet Dave Lindo...you won't be disappointed. He's a standup guy...ask anyone. OKC Kayak is located at 220 N Western Ave Oklahoma City, OK. Phone: 405-553-9988.

See you on the water!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Paddling Spot - Grave Creek

Still not enough rain in my part of the Ozarks to enjoy any river paddling. My schedule has been too hectic to get out much these days anyway. I hope you have been enjoying the mild temperatures. I got out on Grave Creek yesterday afternoon for some much needed recreational paddling. Like most spots, Grave Creek is very low this Fall. However, there is enough water to paddle upstream a ways and Grave Creek always offers water enough to paddle down to Lake Eufaula from the boat ramp.

It was a windy afternoon, but Grave Creek is pretty well sheltered from the wind. The fish were very active and several groups of folks were out pursuing a fish dinner. Since Dianne was stuck at home with Dylan (both have beeen sick with a cold all week), I didn't bother to try any fishing. I just enjoyed a lovely evening of flatwater paddling, no permit required. Although the totally clear skies made for a lackluster sunset, the curvy nature of the creek means there are many spots where the light filters through the treetops in a way that pleases me.

For whitewater adventures, it looks like I will have to settle for my favorite Kayaking DVD's this season. During the cold season, I enjoy the exotic locations and fun soundrtrack music of both whitewater kayaking movies & kayak fishing DVD's.

In fact, the local heros from the Arkansas Canoe Club offer a cool whitewater kayaking flick called ARKAYAKANSAS. Check it out in the online store on their website: http://www.arkansascanoeclub.com. I've watched it many times and I think the Arkansas whitewater footage is pretty awesome.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Kayaking at Okmulgee Lake with the OFP

I got to meet some of the kayak fishing enthusiasts from the Tulsa area this Sunday. Several of the Oklahoma Flatwater Paddlers (OFP) had planned to test their skills at Okmulgee State Park. I met up with about half a dozen NE Oklahoma area paddlers at 6:30am at the Hickory Point Campground in Okmulgee State Park. Okmulgee's two lakes are a popular destination for Oklahoma kayakers due to the lovely scenery, the wildlife and the lack of city permit requirements for boaters. For launching kayaks and camping, I prefer Clovis Point on Dripping Springs Lake and Hickory Point on Lake Okmulgee. Both lakes have clean water, good camping facilities and fishing for crappie, bass and catfish.

As usual Dianne did all of the fishing, while I shot the sunrise and 'shot the bull' with the other paddlers. Dianne caught several small Bass and I got to see two osprey splashing down on the surface of the lake as they worked toward the same goal. I got some pictures of the Osprey, but the quality is pretty crappy as we had low light and they were much too far away for the 12X zoom on my camera.
Herons and crows and such will pass over head occasionally, but eagles and osprey circle high in the sky, then they hover and then drop suddenly to the surface of the water with a tremendous splash. Amazingly they fly off with a fish between their toes without even buying bait!

If you have a better camera and want to get a picture of an Osprey flying away with a fish, here's what you do. First, buy a kayak. Then, launch your kayak at the Hickory Point Campground boat ramp as early as possible and paddle, quiet as a mouse, left toward Salt Creek. Keep your eye on the sky and look for large birds hunting. If you see birds hunting sit still and get your camera ready for Sports mode shooting that will freeze the action using a ISO. About half a mile up Okmulgee Lake from the boat ramp, you should start seeing a large patch of weeds in the lake just before the entrance to Salt Creek. This shallow water portion of the lake is popular with birds that eat fish. Find a shady spot and sit still in your kayak. Watch the skies and you should see some of the amazing hunters at work.

One of my favorite things about kayaker meet-ups with the OFP is the chance to see what kind of gear the other paddlers purchase. Since the group was made up mostly of fishermen, the majority of the kayaks were Sit-On-Top kayaks fitted with many upgrades and sporting at least three fishing poles per kayak. I saw a Wilderness Systems Pungo & Tarpon, an Ocean Kayak Prowler, and even a couple of those new Ascent SOT kayaks.

This was my first time meeting most of the folks on the trip. Big thanks to everyone who made the trip to Okmulgee. I hope to kayak with you folks again soon!
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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Lake Sardis in Clayton Oklahoma

Dianne and I went kayaking at Sardis Lake, near Clayton, Oklahoma this weekend. Although this was my first visit, I think Sardis is one of the most beautiful lakes in Oklahoma. It has very clear, cold water a rocky bottom and it is surrounded by heavily forested hills of hardwood and pine. I wanted to visit Lake Sardis soon, as the future of this lake is very much in jeopardy.

Oklahoma City has agreed to pay $27 million to acquire the water storage rights by paying off the debt owed by the state of Oklahoma to the Army Corps of Engineers who built the lake in the early 1970's. Local residents enjoy this lovely lake, so they are trying to preserve it. See www.ORWP.net for more info on the water dispute. You know what they say: 'whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting'.

In fact, the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes offered to pay the $5.2 million installment payment that was due by July 1 of this year, but that offer was rejected. The Oklahoma Water Resources Board then signed a contract to sell the storage rights at Sardis Lake to the Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust.

Located in the Ouachita Mountain Range, Sardis Lake is so lovely that turning it into OKC tap water seems a bit short-sighted once you have camped here.

For our visit, we camped at Sardis Cove campground. The camp host was very helpful and the outhouse-style restrooms were the cleanest I have seen in quite sometime. The clouds of disgusting insects that plague most campsite restrooms were nowhere to be seen!

We chose Sardis Cove campground because it is on the more shallow side of the lake. Boats tend to run slower here to avoid submerged trees and The Narrows, a shady, curvy bit of the lake, is much closer than the more crowded campgrounds and boat ramps at nearby Potato Hills on Highway 2.

Good fishing, camping and scenic paddling make Lake Sardis an obvious choice for kayakers eager to experience Kiamichi Country before it is transformed into a hilly desert.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Kayaking the Illinois River is Back!

With a water level well over four feet, The Illinois River in Tahlequah Oklahoma offered some great kayaking this weekend. Dianne and I had recently spotted the Hmong Cafe around 31st & Garnet and we had been curious about Hmong cuisine since we saw Gran Torino. I mentioned to Dianne that since we were going all the way to Tulsa, we may as well hit the Illinois River in Tahlequah afterwards. OK, it isn't exactly right on the way but she reluctantly agreed anyway. Recent rains left the water more green than clear, but running fast. We had fun and we both tried out new Paddling PFD's.

The full trip report for our latest Illinois River kayaking trip, including our visit to the Hmong Cafe, in Tulsa is on our Illinois River page.

The annual Outdoors expo is coming up, so Dave Lindo at OKC Kayak is looking for folks to volunteer to help with the kayak demo pool. It is a fun event to participate in, great folks to work with and it is all for a good cause.

I'm hoping to join up with some of the Oklahoma Flatwater Paddlers for kayaking at Okmulgee Lake on September 19, 2010. If you happen to be camping at Okmulgee State Park this weekend I want to let you know that the Nuyaka Creek Winery Wine Festival is going on Saturday, September 18. Did you hit the water this weekend?
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Friday, September 10, 2010

Fall Kayaking is the Best!

The water levels are rising and the weekend forecast calls for low winds and temps less than 90 degrees! It would appear that the Fall paddling season is ready to begin.

Fall is my favorite season for kayaking around the Ozarks. I enjoy the faster water for paddling combined with the color changes in the trees. You will also find mmuch less traffic at popular kayaking destinations like the Elk River in Noel, MO or the Kings River near Eureka Springs, Arkansas. The mighty Mulberry River in Ozark Arkansas is too high for paddling now, but keep an eye on it as it should start falling soon.

I don't know where I will be putting my kayak in this weekend, but I like the looks of The Kings River level today. On Sunday, September 19 some of the Oklahoma Flatwater Paddlers are meeting at Okmulgee Lake. I hope/plan to head out there and paddle Salt Creek with some of the gang. You should grab a kayak and join in!

The Illinois River was rather low when I wrote this posting, but the forecast is for it to rise very fast. Watch out for downed Willow trees, if you paddle in Tahlequah this weekend.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Kayaking at Okmulgee Lake

Okmulgee Lake August 28 Oklahoma was blessed with some relief from the Summer heat this week. Kayaking conditions are still too dry on the area rivers to enjoy much floating. Because the prospect of a cool morning was too inviting to pass up, I decided to enjoy some flatwater paddling at Okmulgee Lake. I hit the water at about 7am, but I really should have gotten there an earlier. The morning light was golden and lovely reflecting off the mists and water.

Okmulgee Lake is within Okmulgee State Park, so there are no additonal city fees to kayak on Okmulgee Lake. Paddling from the base of the Dripping Springs Lake dam down Salt Creek and taking out at the Boat Ramp at Hickory Point campground on Okmulgee Lake is a safe and shady flatwater trip.

I only stayed out paddling for a couple of hours this Saturday, but it was quite pleasant crossing the glassy waters while the early light came pouring through the trees. I was glad to see that I was not paddling the only kayak on Okmulgee Lake Saturday morning. When I returned to the Hickory Point boat ramp, I saw two more kayaks had just landed.

Hopefully, the Fall rains will come along soon and raise our rivers back up again.

In other Oklahoma paddling news...
Oklahoma City's ban on water skiing on Lake Hefner and the Oklahoma River was expanded to include banning tubing after the OKC city council members approved the change on Tuesday.

Kayak paddle upgrade choices.
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Thursday, August 05, 2010

Mothership Kayaking Deep Fork River Style

Dianne has had some elbow pain lately, so she decided to run this weekend's catfishing limblines via motorboat. I figured it would be a good time to try and expand my summertime paddling range by doing some 'Mothership Kayaking' - where you move your kayak on a motorboat to cover more distance. I've read about kayaking vacations in Alaska and Canada that use bigger boats to take paddlers deep into some of the most scenic waters in the world. We were only going a few miles up the Deep Fork River, but it would give me chance to try moving my kayak upriver, launching my recreational kayak from the motorboat and re-boarding the motorboat from my kayak.

It takes a shallow running, but very stable boat to chase catfish in the Deep Fork River during the late Summer. Dianne's Generation III Pro Shadow is a 15 foot flatbottom and it works well on these narrow, curvy and shallow Oklahoma rivers. There is room onboard to haul my Swifty 9.5 Sit-Inside kayak, but we found it works best to just tow the kayak on a rope tied to the stern of the motorboat. I tried towing the kayak both empty and while inside the kayak and towing it empty works the best by far. Tow the kayak empty and it follows along behind you like a little puppy. We drive our little fishing boat quite slow, so it was not a thrill ride to get towed in the kayak, but it is still difficult to keep the kayak traveling on a safe course.

Once we got upriver, much farther than I would have paddled on this hot day, it was easy to slip into my kayak off the back of the flat-bottomed boat. While Dianne set out some fishing lines, I paddled around taking pictures as usual. After the day got hot, I eased back into the motor boat and we started towing the kayak back to the boat ramp. Dianne even caught catfish, what a perfect first attempt at Mothership Kayaking...almost.

Did I mention that neither of us have much experience piloting motorboats?

About two thirds of the way back to the boat ramp...we ran out of gas. That is when I got to try my hand at 'Fathership Kayaking'- where you tow your motorboat using your kayak. I predict that Fathership Kayaking will not take off with the popularity of Mothership Kayaking. Mostly, this will be because of the backbreaking labor involved... and the slow progress... even going downstream.

Eventually, we decided it would be easier for her to park the Shadow Pro and fish while I paddle back to the boat ramp and go buy some more fuel. Yes, my old Perception Swifty Kayak saved the day proving once and for all...that simpler boats are better for fool's like me!

Kayak Fishing Gear
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Monday, July 19, 2010

Oklahoma Summer Kayaking on the LMF River

LMF Cypress Tree
Originally uploaded by FreeWine

This Sunday, I dropped my son off at Hale Boy Scout Reservation in Talihina, Oklahoma. Since he didn't have to be there until 1pm, I decided to sneak in a paddling trip on the Lower Mt. Fork River in Broken Bow, Oklahoma. These days, I rarely find an opportunity to break out the Sprayskirt and ride the current. The LMF is typically the only whitewater paddling to be found in the Oklahoma summertime. Don't be surprised if you AT&T phone doesn't work anywhere in Broken Bow, mind didn't. Luckily Ambush Adventures is right at the take-out and they shuttled me and my boat back to the put-in for a mere five dollars!

While my Wife & Son slept in, I hit the LMF River at about 6:30am and practically had the river to myself for a few hours of pure serenity. At this time of day on the Lower Mt Fork, the river is misty and quiet. The herons hold court as the morning light slowly changes from gray to green to golden. As the sky cleared, the heat & humidity rose too late to spoil a perfect morning of paddling. More of our LMF kayaking pictures in this Flickr photoset.

The water flow was nice at around 35-400 cfs, so the Rock Garden section was a bit bumpy, but loaded with great eddys to 'park' the kayak in and take pictures. The narrow bit before the falls is the most exciting part of the paddling. The current is strong here and the rocks and snags are many. However, if you go with the flow and only use your paddle to keep your bow pointed downriver and to brace when you bump something, you should get through it fine. If you want to avoid the falls, you can cut hard to the right at the end of the narrow section. This will allow you to 'park in an eddy' and take pictures or pick the best spot to go over the falls.

The one downside of paddling the LMF River so early in the day is that I didn't get to photograph the usual fleet of strangers picking their own way down the three-foot Presbyterian Falls. You can capture some very honest emotion on the faces of folks when that ice cold water hits them in the lap as the go over Presb. Falls. On my way home, at the end of my latest Mt. Fork River float trip, I saw loads of people lining up to enjoy the ride. I think Broken Bow offers the 'most fun four miles in Oklahoma' - Kayaking The Lower Mountain Fork River. Don't miss it this summer.

As usual, no kayaking t-shirts were available for purchase. So, I bought myself this kayaking t-shirt online.

There were two major problems on this trip. I hesitate to bring them up, because I prefer to keep my trip reports positive. However, I must warn you that my AT&T cell phone had no signal anywhere in or around Broken Bow, Oklahoma...total deadzone. All the local folks apparently use Verizon. This caused me some issues. I had gotten a kind offer of shuttling from the folks at Broken Bow Canoes

Also, upon arrival at MicroTel in Broken Bow, OK I was informed that despite my so-called "Reservation" and "Confirmation Number", they were full up. The clerk seemed pretty amused by the whole thing. She had they same wry expression on my previous visit to this very flophouse, where they failed to honor the deal we had reserved online. Luckily, someone built a brand new hotel right next door. I did not waste more than a couple minutes in the Microtel and next time I will waste even less.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Bayou Kayaking at Caddo Lake in Texas

Caddo Lake in Uncertain Texas
If you have ever visited our Kayak Texas page then you know I have long wanted to visit Caddo Lake. Caddo is an old, natural lake that is more like an elaborate river system than a lake. It flows down from the Big Cypress Bayou in a series of interconnected fish laden, tree-lined canals, ditches, ponds and shallow lakes. This lake offers more shade than any other body of water I have ever seen. We just got back from a two night stay on Caddo Lake. We did a little bit of fishing, a whole lot of kayaking and we even shelled out the doe for a guided boat tour. If you enjoy the Cypress trees on the Lower Mountain Fork River in Broken Bow, Oklahoma, visit Caddo Lake soon. This shade-tree paddler was in flatwater heaven.

Guided Boat Tour
Normally, Dianne and I won't consider spending our outdoor time enduring the noise and odor of a motor boat. It is one thing to watch them pass by, but being out the water without hearing the birds holds little charm for me. However, Caddo Lake is vast and varied and our time was short. We decided to take the one-hour lake tour at the last minute. To my shock, Billy Carter's Go-Devil® Tours was the highlight of our trip to Caddo Lake. I wish we had taken it earlier in our trip and I will definitely take the tour again upon our return to Caddo Lake. The river guide was able to show us the oldest most scenic areas in this ancient flooded forest.

Caddo Lake is an ancient flooded forest of Bald Cypress trees. The huge water trees are 'curtained' with thick garlands of Spanish Moss that capture moisture from the early morning air. As the moisture evaporates, it has a cooling effect. The tea-colored waters are teaming with unusually large Catfish, Bass, Sunfish and Crappie. Lily pads abound on the Caddo. Lovely white water lilies and bright yellow Lotus border small tree lines in some places and fill lakes in other area. On Caddo Lake you can paddle your kayak into a 'field' of thousands of water lily blooms. Caddo Lake is paradise for fishermen and photographers.

Caddo Lake Lodge

We spent our two fabulous nights at Caddo Lake Lodge, in the small town of Uncertain Texas. The Wells family was nice enough to offer us a discounted 'press' rate to facilitate of first trip to this paddler's paradise. The lodge offered plenty of room for Dianne and I plus our son Dylan and Dianne's mother. The house has ceiling fans everywhere, cold A/C, a large, deep, soaking tub, spacious deck and other luxuries. The large dining room was great at mealtime. The Caddo Lake Lodge website has pictures of the rooms, but my favorite feature was the private canoe launch and fishing docks. The height of luxury in the perfect location. The dock is located on a narrow section of Caddo Lake called Clinton's Chute. We paddled our kayaks a short ways down to an even more narrow and shady branch called Clinton's Ditch. This part is too narrow and shallow to appeal to the speeding Bass boats.

Photopaddling on Caddo Lake
The mix of land and water on Caddo Lake is unusual. It allows you to slip silently through the forest in your kayak. Paddle quietly and you are sure to sneak right up on a wide assortment of interesting wildlife. Such a wealth of trees is of course ideal for Dianne because she loves to set and run limb lines for Catfish and Bass. For the photopaddler, Caddo Lake offers filtered light on the brightest of days, loads of reflections and a unique blend of light and shadow that is like nothing I have ever seen before. Taking the guided tour earlier in our trip would have improved my photopaddling success as the guide took us to see several more ditches through the bayou. On future trips I hope to launch from a few different boat ramps to see more sections of this amazing lake.

I expected the swampy bayous of Caddo Lake to be stinky and crawling with snakes. I surprised to find neither was the case. I only saw one snake the entire time I was in the area and it was being carried away by a hawk at the time! The smell of Caddo Lake was lovely during the hot, muggy season we visited. I have never spent so much time on the water and still avoided sunburn. Dianne and I both bought short-term fishing licenses, but as usual Dianne did all of the fishing, I was too busy exploring the boat lanes, duck blinds and 'bayou architecture'. It is like the Lower Mountain Fork River, but with much larger Cypress and much flatter water.

Kayak Fishing in the Bayou

Neither Dianne nor I have ever found a spot that was so ideal for limb lining. The large amount of cover on Caddo Lake allows the fish the time to grow enormous and there is always a handy limb to set a hook. The trees are often surrounded by very deep water, which is excellent for fishing or very shallow water which is excellent for catching bait. Catching limb line bait just takes a Minnow Trap, Seine or a few minutes with the casting net. You can also buy bait at a number of places like: Jonhson's Ranch, Crip's Camp and other fine local establishments. Dianne had no trouble catching a whopper Bass at Caddo Lake, but it takes a mighty big one to get the record...over 16 lbs the last I heard!

Uncertain, Texas is a very economical travel destination for any Oklahoma paddler who is eager to explore water trails that have more in common with a rain forest than with the Great Plains. Check out Caddo Lake photoset on Flickr to see more of our pictures from this great road trip.

I can't wait to go back!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Catfish and Mayflies on the Deep Fork River

Early Summer is a great time for fishing in the Deep Fork River. Dianne and I met up with our friend Greg for some excellent kayak fishing action this weekend. Dianne and Greg ran the limb lines with strong results from Friday evening through Sunday. I chased them around with my camera and tried to stay in the shade as best I could.

Limb lining is one of the most effective ways to catch catfish using a kayak. They like to lay in deep muddy holes in the riverbanks on Deep Fork, but they will come out of their holes for a small perch or goldfish dangling seductively from a tree limb. Blue catfish, Channel Cats and Flatheads grow very large in the Deep Fork River, so choose your hooks accordingly. You can also expect to see quite a bit of action from Aligator Gar, a toothy prehistoric fish that is best handled with fish handling gloves and much caution.

This weekend the fish and birds were very active due to large clouds of Mayflies in the air and covering nearly every leaf on many trees. Once mayflies have molted, they usually gather in swarms over the river to mate. The Mayfly (AKA Ephemeroptera) is considered to be among the first group of organisms to have ever taken flight. That is no surprise to me, since the Mayfly normally only lives for one day...it requires the extra speed of air travel.

It was an epic weekend, we even stapped the lights on our kayaks and did some night kayak fishing. I heartily reccomend it if you like the taste of insects. Dianne and Greg both caught the biggest catfish they had ever hauled into their kayaks...several times. I got some great pictures and had a ball watching the action. You can check out a few of the pictures that I felt were not too bloody to upload on my Flickr page at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/freewine.

Remind me to give you Dianne's fantastic recipe for pan-fried catfish fillets sometime. See you on the water!
Update 6-19-2010 - Check out the new Kayak Fishing page at OklahomaRoadTrips.com for all the details on limblining for Catfish in the Deep Fork River.

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Kayak Fishing and Fathers Day

With Father's Day Weekend right around the corner, Oklahoma's Summer heatwave has kicked in right on time. Float trips on the Illinois River, The Elk River and other area waterways are way up. Fishing season is in full swing whether you are pursuing Bass, Catfish or Crappie. Dianne is catching fish everywhere she wets a line these days. My kayak fisherman friend Scott reports that the Gar are up on Spavinaw. I am glad Summer is here!

The Father's Day holiday has long been a favorite of mine since it usually means Dianne will agree to going paddling in Broken Bow, Oklahoma. I haven't taken a trip down the Lower Mountain Fork River in far too long! Since we have a Texas kayaking trip to Caddo Lake planned this Summer, I may not be able to get a 'haul-pass' to the LMF anytime soon. BTW, I just added a new outfitter for the LMF River page: Broken Bow Canoes (that name sounds a bit grim, eh?). Check them out sometime and let me know what you think: www.brokenbowcanoes.com.

In Northeastern Oklahoma, The Spring River levels have been looking quite good lately. Of course, there are no outfitters working on Oklahoma's Spring River, so plan to self-shuttle if you make the trip. I think it is a lovely river offering an easy Class I paddle from Baxter Springs KS down to Quapaw, OK.

FYI - Fleet Feet Sports in Tulsa, Oklahoma is seeking kayaker volunteers for The Tulsa Triathlon on Skiatook Lake (out in the water in case a swimmer falters). Sunday June 13, 2010 at 7 am.

Free meal and tons of good karma for helping post watch on the water in your kayak, just in case a swimmer falters and needs some help. This is the 28th anniversary of the Tulsa Triathlon, an International distance triathlon on a moderately challenging course. To volunteer, contact Drew Barton at 918) 492-3338. www.fleetfeettulsa.com

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Hobie Mirage Kayaks in Wichita Kansas

Test Paddling the Hobie Mirage Kayaks

We test paddled two Hobie Mirage kayaks at Santa Fe Lake near Wichita, Kansas on Memorial Day weekend this year. My son Dylan paddled the inflatable version: the Hobie Mirage i12s and my wife and I both paddled the hardshell version: the Hobie Mirage Outback SUV. Both kayaks were rented from Brooks Canoe and Kayak in Augusta, Kansas.

To my knowledge, Brooks is the only kayak outfitter in the region that is offering the Hobie kayaks for rent. The kayaks are quite costly and require some special handling to avoid damaging the cool pedal propulsion system that makes these particular Sit-On-Top kayaks so different from others. That being said, these are lake kayaking boats that just might change your whole attitude about what kayaking can be. We were stoked to find someone to rent them to us!

Hobie Mirage i12s Specs:
Length: 12'/ 3.66m
Width: 36"/ 0.91m
Weight: 53 lbs./ 24.04 kg
Mirage Drive Weight: 6.6 lbs. / 3 kg
Capacity: 500 lbs./ 227 kg

Hobie Mirage Outback Specs:
Length: 12' 1"/ 3.68m
Width: 33"/ 0.84m
Weight: 62 lbs./ 28.12 kg
Mirage Drive Weight: 6.6 lbs. / 3 kg
Capacity: 400 lbs./ 181 kg

Steering the Hobie Mirage is handled by a small lever near the handrest. A lever one one side operates the rudder and I found it quite intuitive and easier to use than most. The lever on the opposite side is used to stow or deploy the rudder. The rudder combined with the pedaling makes it turn pretty fast for such a wide and stable SOT kayak. Both versions of the kayak performed well, even in lots of boat wake like we were enjoying on Santa Fe Lake. We used narrow docks to launch and land the kayaks, rather than sliding off a muddy riverbank as is my custom. This is a good idea for protecting the pedal drive system.

The Mirage Drive - Hobie's Patented Pedaling System

Hobie kayaks offer an innovative pedal-driven kayak propulsion system. It uses flippers under the hull to move your kayak forward much like a penguin swims. It moves the kayak much more quickly and quietly through the water than paddling a normal SOT kayak. This means you can travel much farther across the lake to reach that special fishing spot. It also leaves your hands free for fishing and photography. You still carry a paddle stowed on the side of the kayak, but it usually only comes out for movement through shallow water OR if you want to go in reverse. This is a good thing because I really didn't care for the Hobie paddle...too much flex.

Tons of Optional Features

Ever want to try kayak sailing or add an electric motor to your kayak? Hobie makes it easy to add those features to their Mirage kayaks. Hobie offers tons of great kayak and fishing accessories. Heck, you can even get a Hobie Bimini Sun Shade and carry your shade anywhere you paddle!

If you have the scratch, Hobie makes some amazing lake kayaks. I'm not convinced the system is rugged enough for river use, but it is removable, so you don't have to risk your Mirage-drive bouncing down the Lower Mt. Fork River.

What About Kayak Pedaling in Oklahoma?

My wife tells me that Dave Lindo at OKC Kayaks has a couple of pedal-powered kayaks made by Native Watercraft. So, there is another handy excuse for heading to Oklahoma City to visit with our state's newest outfitter. Much like Brooks Canoe & Kayak, OKC Kayak offers a suprisingly vast selection of kayaks to rent. Renting is the best way to find the perfect kayak for your needs and it is a whole lot of fun.

Know your needs, know your budget and know how you are going to transport your kayak to the water...before you buy. If you want all of the gory details of our Wichita, Kansas Hobie pedaling trip just visit our new Kansas Kayaking page at OklahomaRoadTrips.com.
Happy Paddling!

Friday, May 07, 2010

Low Water Paddling in Oklahoma

Oklahoma Lake Paddling
Such a dry Spring, like we are having here in Oklahoma, can really harsh a guy's kayaking plans. Not so long ago, you could count on a regular Thursday night water release from the dam in Broken Bow to keep the Lower Mountain Fork River rocking for the weekend. These days, checking the Oklahoma river levels on American Whitewater's site shows not much fast water for early May. I, for one, am praying for rain!

Lake kayaking is the best way to get out and enjoy that new recreational kayak when the rivers just are not right. Good planning is the key to enjoying paddling the nearest wildlife refuge lake or your local reservoir lake. Most lakes have some secret waiting to be discovered like lovely lily pads on Beggs Lake or creepy drowned trees on Dripping Springs. Bald Eagle sightings on Oklahoma's lakes are quite common. You need the right timing, the right recon and the right bait to enjoy lake kayaking in Oklahoma.

The Right Timing

Time your trip to capture the so-called 'magic hours' just before and after sunrise or sunset. Any weather website will provde the daily time of the sunrise and sunset. It doesn't matter if you are fishing for photos or for flatheads. You will see more action during these magic hours. You may need to move your meal times or carry a sandwich, but do seize these hours on the lake. Until the dry weather passes or your wife agrees to that road trip to Arkansas to paddle the Mulberry River, the White River or the Buffalo...lake paddling beats walking any day.

The Right Recon

The right recon work will provide you with a good idea of where to find the slimmer, shadier more scenic parts of the lake. They tend to be the parts most distant from the dam. Launching from the right spot can save you a lot of baking in the sun paddling across open waters playing chicken with Bass Boats. Ask the locals about no wake zones on the lake for the most peaceful paddling. Position your boat in the shade and photograph your subject in a spot of illuminated water between spots of shade. It makes a lovely shot that is tough to setup on even mild whitewater, but is easy in some shady wading cove. Small lakes are low-wake-lakes, so the Oklahoma kayaker can enjoy lakes that are off limits to larger boats. Smaller lakes often offer more shelter from the wind as well.

The Right Bait

If you are looking for action, you need more than hungry intentions...you got to have bait. My wife swears by goldfish for gathering catfish and she turns her nose up at mere minnows. To quote the great bluesman Taj Mahal: 'plenty fish bite if you got good bait'. Paddle slowly and quietly if you are kayak fishing or pursueing wildlife photography via kayak. Nature is attracted to stealth.

Personally, I don't have the knot-tying prowess or the patience to enjoy much fishing, but I also need good bait for kayak photography. Oklahoma lakes rarely offer snow capped peaks on the horizons of my lake photos. However, our unique weather patterns can provide some powerfully colorful light, shadows and cloud backgrounds that simply cry out for a foreground...a subject...some small bit of action. The best bait to draw this kind of action from your lake paddling trip is good company. Whether it is your kids, your lover or your very best dog, a paddling partner improves any trip. Take some friends kayaking this year. Don't let low water keep you out of your kayak.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Kayak Fishing for Catfish

Grave Creek in Mcintosh County Oklahoma Loads of local folks are gathering up at the usual spots on the Deep Fork River. This time of year, when the Deep Fork River rises it brings white catfish in addition to water. These white catfish are said to merely be blue cats that have altered pigment due to the stained water. My Dad claims they are tastier than other catfish and I am inclined to believe him. He has hung a tooth on many a catfish.

Dianne has been catching them off limb lines from her Old Town Vapor Kayak (Pics on Flickr). The Deep Fork River makes a good fishing line spot for us because it is close to home. Limb lines are a great way to catch catfish, but you have to 'run' them every four hours or so to harvest fish and or re-bait your lines. Our new Kayak Fishing page has all of the details to get your started limb lining for catfish in your kayak.

Watch your fingers during this type of fishing, Dianne caught a rather large Gar today. Gar have teeth like a dog and are much more risky to handle than catfish. Most folks use a thick leather glove to protect their hands from gar teeth. Dianne also uses a lip grip gaf to help keep her prey under control while kayak fishing.

I had a three-day weekend scheduled and the weather forecast suggested I spend every day of it indoors. I am glad I ignored the weatherman. I went mushroom hunting in several spots and paddled both Grave Creek and Deep Fork. Spring is usually short in Oklahoma, don't let it go to waste!

It is kayak buying season. Bass Pro Shops has Old Town Rush kayaks for $299 each and that is a pretty sweet deal. OKC Kayaks is churning out the new kayakers with their social paddles, swamp paddling trips and blemished kayak bargains. Even my buddy Yakker got himself a new fourteen foot sit-inside kayak. I prefer ten foot kayaks for my sunset chasing, but Dianne is finding her twelve foot Vapor to be an excellent platform for fishing. Get yourself a kayak and hit the water!

The Illinois River in Tahlequah, OK has been flowing at a consistently excellent level for weeks. This is the perfect time of year to enjoy some kayaking in Tahlequah, Broken Bow or the waters of Arkansas and Missouri.
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Monday, April 12, 2010

Keep Your Kayaking Economical

Paddle Season 2010 Begins
Originally uploaded by FreeWine

As a purely recreational kayaker that rarely travels more than an hour or two away from home, kayaking should be a very inexpensive sport for me. Surprisingly enough, my passion for this fantastic sport has driven me to spend a small fortune on my paddling. There is no end to how much money you can spend on paddling...and it is worth every dime! Here are some help you keep your kayaking affordable.

Discover what aspect of paddling truly drives your passion.

Although I did some canoeing as a child, when I tried it again decades later I instantly fell in love with paddling. My wife and I made a short day trip down the Illinois River in a rented canoe one early summer day and I suddenly felt like I knew how I wanted to spend my weekends for the rest of my life. After renting canoes on only two rivers, Dianne and I realized that neither of us cared for sitting in the front of the canoe. We both wanted to drive. Kayaks proved to be the ticket for putting us both in the driver's seat of a much quicker craft.

With many rivers now under our belts, Dianne and I have learned that there are countless things to enjoy about float trips. We love seeing the lush scenery and wildlife, getting outdoors and seeing our neighborhood waterways from a different perspective. I am endlessly amused with the anticipation of wondering what lies around the next bend in the river.

Kayak photography has also become something of an obsession for me and Dianne spends more and more time kayak fishing every year. The fairly easy whitewater rapids on the Mulberry River and the Mt. Fork River offer a thrilling change of pace that is down right addictive. Even the simple workout that comes from paddling across the lake chasing a good sunset is reason enough for me to own a kayak. Decide what kind of paddling excites you most and it will help guide your purchasing choices.

Choose the Right Canoe or Kayak

So far, I have purchased three plastic kayaks, one plastic canoe and one cheap inflatable kayak. Every boat I buy teaches me something different about paddling and about myself. The Wal-Mart inflatable kayak (I forget the brand) cost less than $100. It taught me how important it is for me to have a boat that is quickly ready to get on the water. An inflatable kayak takes two viagra and twenty minutes of sweet-talking to get ready. It did not fit the busy schedule my day job forces me into and it tracked very poorly. We paddled it once or twice and then banished it to the nether reaches of our garage as future yard-sale fodder.

When the plastic Bayou canoe arrived, I was surprised to learn that it weighed in at a far-from-lean 70+ lbs... unloaded! At around $700, it is one of our most costly boats, but it rarely sees water. Canoes make great cargo vehicles on the river, but they can be overkill if all you want to do is enjoy a few hours exploring the local reservoir.

Choose Between SINK or SOT Kayaks

All three of our plastic kayaks are Sit-Inside-Kayaks (SINK's). We rented a few Sit-On-Top Kayaks (SOT's) and found that the most affordable SOT kayaks keep you sitting in a small pool of water much of the time. Although they are unsinkable, it is just as easy to fall off a SOT as it is take-on-water in a SINK. Since we like to paddle a bit during the winter and in waters that are less-than-pristine, a Sit-Inside Kayak is the only way to go for our floating adventures. You can check out the wide range of kayaks available and do some price checking here: Kayaks for Sale.

Boat Length Impacts Speed

When the first plastic kayak we ever purchased started to get a bit leaky, Dianne decided that she wanted to try out a longer boat. In the recreational kayaking world, fourteen feet long is HUGE and most Rec Kayaks come in at around ten feet long. Like most longer kayaks, Dianne's Old Town Vapor Sit-Inside Kayak promised more weight capacity, faster speed and better performance in wavy conditions. Adding length at the waterline, almost always has those impacts on performance and the 12' Vapor is no different. What they don't tell you in the ads is that longer kayaks are more difficult to load and carry off the water and slower to turn when on the water.

The slow turning is an issue for me. I enjoy throwing the kayaks in the back of the pickup and heading for the put-in fast and Idon't want to ask anyone for help. Either Dianne or I can get Dianne's twelve foot long Vapor in and out of the back of the truck, but it is more difficult and it would not work at all with a longer kayak. You can also count on paying around a hundred dollars per extra foot of kayak length above 10 feet long. On the Sea, bigger boats payoff more, but I often paddle creeks where I can reach out and touch both river banks!

Hauling Kayaks & Canoes

A longer, faster kayak is also bound to weigh you down more, especially when strapping to the roof racks on a car or SUV. Most folks who paddle longer kayaks tend to roof rack them. Folks that are new to the practice are often surprised to learn that their roof racks require some additional investment in bracing and tie-downs that can end up costing as much or more than an entire boat trailer! You can't have much fun with your kayak, if you can't get it to the water. Make sure you have a boat transportation plan before choosing your kayak. For most folks the choices are: roof rack, pickup truck bed, toy hauler RV or boat trailer.

Secure Your Kayaks

Believe it or not I spent of a lot of time worried about my kayak getting stolen. Even when we were sharing a single $400 plastic boat, I wondered how those big bass boat owners slept at night. To my knowledge, no person ever tried to swipe any of our kayaks. However, a bit of change and a cheap padlock improved my ability to sleep at night (cable locks work good, too). After paddling waters all over the Ozarks, I can tell you that most people we pass tell us that we are 'working too hard'. I don't think our cheap plastic boats are hugely at risk!

A much bigger security issue is how you secure your gear on the river. Dry bag your gear and tie it to the boat. You can even find small dry bags and pelican boxes for your cell phone & GPS. Keep your wallet bagged or leave it at home. No glass containers on the river.

Plan your Accommodations Carefully

Riverside cabins offer the nicest way to enjoy a few days of paddling, if you have the loot. Tent camping can be a lot of fun too, but if sleeping on rocks turns your gal off the desire to hit the river...you failed. Motels offer a cheap alternative to get lodging that is closer to the water than home and they are much cheaper than river cabins.

If you have old bones like ours, you might prefer the comfort of Trailer Camping aka 'Tramping'. We bought a toyhauler RV to help me and Dianne get a good night's sleep and still get on the water, while the light was good. It wasn't long after that until we were shopping for a river lot to keep the toyhauler parked on.

As I said, there is no end to how much money you can spend on paddling. Just make sure the spending doesn't start to interfere with your time on the river!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Spring 2010 Grave Creek Kayaking

Hello Springtime!
A warm Spring day like today deserves a good paddling, so I woke up early and visted a new section of an old favorite flatwater paddling spot in McIntosh County. Grave Creek is a small feeder creek that eventually ends at Lake Eufaula. The creek is narrow, curvy and usually pretty shallow. The deepest section of Grave Creek offers a boat ramp right off Highway 266 a mile or so above the lake. The boat ramp is popular with fishermen and can be pretty crowded these days. This morning, I used a more primitive access to the creek North of the boat ramp off Highway 266.

It was very secluded. I saw many creatures but no people. Clearly, I wasn't the first one there because there was litter and even some old chopped up vehicle in the creek. With another six inches of water it would be much better kayaking. Still, it was peaceful and lovely and the weather was great. You can paddle on both sides of the road, if you can find the old dirt road outside of Hitchita, OK that crosses Grave Creek. Heck, I even paddled through a steel pipe to enjoy the short drop off the other side! The best way to find this creek access, is actually to take Cedar Road, right off of Highway 52 between Morris, Oklahoma and the junction of Highway 266. Follow Cedar East a couple miles until the pavement ends and then a bit farther up the dirt road until it crosses Grave Creek at a crude concrete and steel pipe bridge.

It became quite windy later in the day, so I am glad I got out early in the morning. However, this part of the creek offers high banks that shelter you from the wind better than most Oklahoma kayaking spots I know. More pictures on our Grave Creek page at OklahomaRoadTrips.com.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Time for Spring Kayaking Trips

Perfect paddling weather is currently forecast for Oklahoma this weekend! The Spring rains have many local waterways up and running but few, if any, are flooded. Since my buddy Yakker has just purchased a new 14 foot sit inside fishing kayak from Wilderness Systems, I know he will be wanting to get out on the water. You should, too! The redbuds are in full bloom and the dogwood trees won't be far behind.

The area's most scenic rivers for paddling are at great water flow levels this week. It looks like good paddling conditions on: the Buffalo River, The Illinois River, The Ouachita, the Mt. Fork River, the Caddo River, the Kings River and on Big Piney Creek. Plus whitewater kayaking favorites like: the Glover River, the Cossatot, the Poteau River, the Saline and the Mulberry River are all running at fun levels for playboat adventure.

Sunday, I am hoping to make another trip to Grave Creek. I went hunting for morel mushrooms this week with my dad and on the way home he showed me another spot to access Grave Creek that is upwards of the Boat ramp most folks use to access Lake Eufaula via Grave Creek. I'm hoping to plot out a good one way kayaking trip on Grave Creek, so i can invite the Oklahoma Flatwater Paddlers down this way for a group paddling trip.

BTW, if you decide to hit Grave Creek at the boat ramp this weekend, expect a crowd. The crappie are running, so many fishermen are launching there and driving down to the confluence with the lake. It looks like they are really catching them, too!

In other local Oklahoma paddling news, OKC paddlers have an excellent chance to have some fun in the OKC area and do somehing noble for their community at the same time.

The Fifth Annual Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge & Lake Overholser Cleanup will be held in northwest Oklahoma City on Saturday, April 24, 2010. The event will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Meet at the pavillion near the Lake Overholser Dam tennis courts to check in and get trash bags. (near NW 39th and Council—visit the http://www.okckayak.com for launch map links, Google Earth maps and detailed directions).

Please RSVP no later than April 20 by calling Rodney Boegel 405.802.3678 for more information and to reserve your free kayak, lifejacket, and paddle... generously provided by OKC Kayak. OKC Kayak will even give you a mini safety & how-to briefing prior to putting you in a boat. Tell them Kayak Oklahoma sent you!

Spring is one of the best seasons to enjoy nature while taking a float trip on an Oklahoma river, so don't misss out! See you on the water!

Thursday, April 01, 2010

The Season of Change and Renewal

Spring has sprung and the temps are warm. In addition to the weather and the scenery changing, the Kayak Oklahoma Blog is changing too. The Blogger-required migration from the old blog address of http://www.oklahomaroadtrips.com/paddle.htm to the new URL of http://kayak.oklahomaroadtrips.com/ did not go completely without hickups...however it seems to be working now. Please let me know if you have any problems with the webpage or news feed after you have updated your own bookmarks and subscriptions.

Recent rains have many Oklahoma area rivers running and great levels for canoe and kayak trips. As of today, you can find great water levels on the following area rivers: the Illinois River, the Caddo River, the Upper Mt. Fork River, the Lower Mt. Fork River, and the Glover River in Oklahoma, plus the Upper Buffalo River, the Kings River and the White River in Arkansas. Check the main OklahomaRoadTrips.com site for details on these rivers.

To paraphrase the folks at Blogger.com - embrace the changing season for you surely cannot stop it from occuring!

Got a comment on the recent changes, hit the new site and leave us a comment. We may not have to sunset this blog after all!

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Monday, March 08, 2010

Kayak Oklahoma Blog Sunset

Kayak Oklahoma Blog Sunset It looks like the Kayak Oklahoma Blog may be soon coming to an end. The folks at Blogger.com have decided to end support for authors who own their own domain. Although it is kind of a bummer that they are dropping this service right at the start of Spring kayaking season, I hope it will open up more time for paddling.

Still, OklahomaRoadTrips.com will continue. Dianne and I are still eagerly paddling all of the local waterways that we can manage, so you can expect to find float trip reports and kayaking photography on this site...just not on this page.

This Summer we are heading south to visit a cabin on Caddo Lake in Texas. We are also planning a trip on the Caddo River and the Ouachita River in Arkansas. As usual we will hit our two favorite Oklahoma rivers: The Lower Mountain Fork River in Broken Bow, Oklahoma and the Illinois River in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Also, keep an eye on our site to get the details of Dianne's kayak fishing exploits as she goes after Gar, one of Oklahoma's largest and oldest fish species.

For late breaking news on Oklahoma kayaking issues, look me up on Twitter (username: FreeWine) and if you want to contact me you can always email me or hit me up on Flickr or Facebook. Until then, I hope to see you on the water!

Happy Paddling!

Thomas Jones (FreeWine)
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Monday, January 18, 2010

Oklahoma Winter Warm Up

As Oklahoma's winter high temps reach into the 60's, many recreational kayakers grab at the chance to sneak in a little winter paddling. My buddy Al Want (of OKC Flatwater Paddlers fame) met up with a few OKC area kayakers this weekend for a minor river adventure on the North Canadian. I've been trying to sneak away for some lake kayaking for the last several days, but I haven't made it yet. Thankfully, I've gotten to enjoy reading about he river adventures of other folk. Check out the tale of the June 2006 San Juan River trip in Enokidancer's Blog. If you can't go paddling at least you can enjoy the exploits of others.

Been Kayak Shopping, Lately?

Many folks buy their kayaks in the winter. Some choose this season to take advantage of sales and other folks just like to be ready for Spring well in advance of the warming weather. I noticed someone in Norman, Oklahoma has put their kayak for sale on Craig's List: http://oklahomacity.craigslist.org/boa/1557235716.html, $200 for Old Town 16 foot kayak is quite a bargain if you looking for long, touring style kayak.

Canoe Across Missouri

Sign-up is now open for the 2010 Missouri River 340 canoe & kayak race. More details on this 340 mile canoe race across Missouri are on our Oklahoma area news blog. Canoes & kayaks are both allowed, but all boats must be paddle-powered ONLY. If you do head over to our Taste Oklahoma site, stop by the home page to check out the January 2010 list of Oklahoma Eagle watching events.

Now is a great time to start making plans and reservations for your Spring and Summer paddling trips. The best cabins is great kayaking areas like the Buffalo River, Broken Bow, Tahlequah will sell out fast later in the year.