Monday, September 19, 2011

Lower Mountain Fork River Kayaking

Kayaking on the Lower Mountain Fork River with Greg & Dianne This Saturday my wife and I decided to ignore the rain in the forecast and head to Broken Bow, Oklahoma for some kayaking. It has been too long since we last paddled this fun few miles in southeastern Oklahoma. I love this river!

My buddy Yakker joined my Wife and I on this river trip, so we were able to self-shuttle for a change. I like to self-shuttle... not so much to save money (I'm not sure it does), but in order to get on the water earlier. This sort of worked because we did arrive at the put-in before any of the outfitters starting dropping off paddlers. Sadly, it was raining buckets at the time!

This part of Oklahoma has not gotten enough rain to even settle the dust this summer, but they made an exception for us. As usual around Nine o'clock the outfitters started dropping off paddlers. Some had rain gear, others only had their high hopes of improving conditions.

We decided to burn another hour before launching, figuring it couldn't rain for long. We were quickly rewarded with a cloudy but rainless sky and it just got sunnier all day after that. As always, I had a ball weaving through the rocks, slipping down the chute and splashing down the tiny waterfalls. The light was not all I hoped for, but at least I made it on an off the river with my camera still in functional!

Launching as late as we did on a Saturday means you get to enjoy a lot more company on the water. Picking your line through the Rock Garden or The Chute requires dodging many canoe paddlers struggling to rescue their water filled boats. For added fun, stop and help from time to time. However, pace yourself you cannot help them all!

Here's are a few free tips for first time paddlers on the Mountain Fork River:

  • Paddle a SOT kayak alone. Sharing a canoe with another novice paddler is just about the worst choice you can make.
  • Bring nothing with you but sunscreen... and even the sunscreen needs to be waterproof!
  • Towels, wallets, dry clothes & electronics stay in the vehicle, not in the canoe.
  • Reserve your boats in advance with one of the LMF River paddling outfitters.
  • To rescue your canoe with your friend: move the canoe out of the current, grab it by the ends and lift it out of the water while you rotate it 360 degrees.

For the most part the boat will find its own way downriver, if you keep the nose pointed down river. Even backwards is OK. However, IF your boat turns sideways to current, it is likely to fill with water the minute it hits an obstacle. Because canoes are usually around 16 feet will hit just about any obstacle in the area.

Renting a SOT kayak puts you in a 9 foot long boat that can turn on a dime and WON'T fill up with water. First time paddlers on this river find more success by renting a sit-on-top kayak and even if you do run into a problem, they are much easier to self-rescue.

Fall starts this week. Summer is the most popular time for trying out kayaking, but experienced paddlers usually prefer the Spring & Fall months due to better water levels, fewer crowds and cooler weather. Check out some of the paddling locations described on the website and plan a kayaking trip soon!