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 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.