Nichols Lake

Thumbnail version of Henryetta Kayaking Photograph by Thomas P Jones
Henryetta, Oklahoma Kayaking






















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The Kiamichi River near Antlers, Oklahoma.
Scenic Kayaking on The Kiamichi River in Southeastern Oklahoma.







Grave Creek Access to Lake Eufaula offers nice flatwater paddling near Hitchita, OK.
Kayaking from Grave Creek to Lake Eufaula







Kayaks for Oklahoma

Dianne paddled a Heritage Angler 9.5 for several years. We are big fans of Heritage Kayaksand their excellent customer service.


Heritage Kayaks

Old Town Kayaks

Spray Skirts





The Elk River offers plentiful canoe, kayak and raft rental in Southern Missouri.

Elk River in Noel, MO


The MT. Fork River offers Class II Whitewater in Southeastern Oklahoma with several kayak outfitters offering rentals.

Mountain-fork-river.jpg (47608 bytes)
Mt. Fork River - Broken Bow, OK





The White River offers a nearby escape from Oklahoma's Summer for those wanting to try renting boats for some Arkansas Kayaking.

Misty Mountain Hop

White River Float Trips

Kayaks - Buy OR Rent? Choosing a Kayak.

Choosing a kayak can be tough!

  • SOT or Sit-Inside Kayak? Which kayak is best? I prefer a Sit-Inside Kayak, your mileage may vary. Read about the pros & cons of each type of kayak below.
  • Sea Kayaks or Touring Kayaks are usually more than 14 feet long and are more suited for use outside of Oklahoma. Folks living on or very near a large lake may demand the easier speed of a longer kayak, but it can make river running a bit more difficult.
  • Thomas paddling his 9.5 foot Perception Swifty Recreational Kayak.Recreational Kayaks are more stable than canoes and offer a less extreme form of paddling than the whitewater kind. Averaging around 10 feet long, recreational kayaks work well in most of our Oklahoma rivers and lakes. They offer a stable, low cost platform for fishing and camping that is roomier than other kinds of kayaks.
  • Whitewater Kayaks are shorter than other types of kayaks and tend to be slow and rather tippy in flatwater. They are short of space, so they are rarely used for fishing or camping.
  • You don't need any special training to paddle a recreational kayak on Class I waters...anyone can do it! I spend more time doing 'flatwater kayaking'  than running rivers, because catching Oklahoma rivers at the right level for paddling can be tricky. Kayak fishing is growing in popularity every year in Oklahoma and around the U.S., so give it try this year!
  • Should You Rent or Buy Your Kayak?   Most recreational kayaks cost between $200 and $800 each and renting costs from $15 to $50 per trip/day.  Shuttling is normally provided with rented kayaks, for private boats it is DIY all the way.
  • Scroll down for our list of Pros & Cons for renting vs. buying kayaks.  Choose a spray skirt for your kayak.


Outfitting your kayak for angling calls for rod holders, deck rigging, drift anchors, etc. Check out these common kayak accessories to trick out your kayak.

Modular Kayaks for easy transport



Top Ten Reasons to Buy Your Own Kayak

1. Outfitter boats tend to be Old Town Otters, and many paddlers prefer other brands of Kayaks or Canoes.  Certainly, this is true on Oklahoma's scenic rivers that offer kayak rentals: the Illinois River , The Kiamichi River & The Lower Mt. Fork River. The Otter is a fun kayak, but it usually offers no features like foot pegs, deck rigging or hatches unless you rig them yourself.

2. Some river outfitter boats may be worn out or nearly worn out, even in the off season.  They spend so much more time in the sun that they unlikely have the lifespan of a properly stored, privately owned kayak. I have been paddling my Perception Swifty 9.5 recreational kayak heavily since the Summer of 2005, and it is still a great boat with no leaks. Not bad for a kayak that cost less than $400!

3. Most outfitter supplied kayaks lack features like fishing rod holders, storage and tie downs.  My wife Dianne and my buddy Yakker both enjoy kayak fishing, so much that they purchased angler kayaks. Angler Kayaks or Fishing Kayaks are most often SOT kayaks, but many are Sit-Inside kayaks like Yakker's Wilderness Systems Pungo or Dianne's Old Town Vapor.  They are pre-fitted with fishing rod holders and additional storage space. Few outfitters in the area rent fishing kayaks.

4. You don't have to rent very many kayaks to cover the price of owning one. We bought our first kayaks in the $400 range, brand new and they have been well worth the cost over the last 5 years. On the other hand, you can easily spend over $2000 to build your own kayak from a kit. Hauling your boat is also likely to generate some additional costs, if you own your own kayak. I bought foam blocks, cam straps, a small trailer and even an RV at one time.  I spent a great deal of loot to haul my kayaks, because they have become close family friends.

5. PaddlingMany times the outfitters only have canoes to rent and no kayaks.  Worse, they often open too late in the day or they close too early to suit me. if you enjoy kayak photography, getting on the water at twilight is important to me.  Most folks paddle between Noon and 4pm, these are the worst hours of the day to be outside in the Oklahoma Summer.

6. Most Oklahoma rivers have no canoe & kayak outfitters (Broken Bow and Tahlequah are the key exceptions).  If you want to chase sunsets and sunrises across a body of water close to your home, you probably need to buy your own kayak.  I heartily recommend the activity listed above!  See my Flickr photostream for examples of having fun in our area with a couple kayaks.

7. Many kayaks are designed for a weight limit of 225 lbs and some of us Okies are bigger than that! A general rule is that longer and wider kayaks carry more weight.  Longer kayaks are also faster, however they can be tougher to haul. It is best to choose a paddle that suits your height as well. By owning your kayak rather than renting, you can choose the perfect boat for your build, your goals and transportation options.

8. Tulsa Stores like Bass Pro Shop, Sun & Ski and Academy Sports offer a small variety of kayaks to choose from and many outfitters don't offer any kayak choices at all (OKC Kayak is the exception to the rule).  You can view a much larger variety of kayaks and their prices in our online paddling store.  Check the prices and if possible attend a kayak demo. A kayak is a longterm purchase, so take your time and choose the perfect craft. If you live on a lakeshore, your probably don't want to start off with a whitewater boat.  If plan on hitting the Tulsa Wave for some kayak surfing, don't buy a long touring kayak.

9. Canoe and kayak rental businesses tend to be closed for at least half the year (OKC Kayaks in Oklahoma City is open all year).  In Oklahoma, we often see a number of 75 degree days in the midst of winter.  These days are not wasted by wise kayak owners, as they realize that the waterways will be devoid of distractions like ski boats.

10. Doesn't your Geo Metro look cool with a 16 foot long kayak strapped to the roof?  Ok, that may be a bit extreme, but I will bet that adding paddling to your lifestyle will change your outlook on your own life.  It certainly has improved my worldview and that is the best reason I can think of to buy your own kayak!

17 foot Pygmy Coho plywood kit kayak on Dripping Springs Lake near Okmulgee, Oklahoma.
My friend Scott in his 17' Pygmy Coho plywood kit kayak

Of course, there are also many good reasons NOT to buy your own kayak.

Top Ten Reasons to NOT Buy Your Own Kayak

1. Shuttling (getting your boat to the water and yourself back to your car after a float trip) is not included in the purchase price of your boat, this can mean a lot of paddling upstream or paying someone to shuttle you, your car or your kayak.  Your only other (and more fun) alternative is to recruit fellow paddlers for self-shuttling. Try joining the Oklahoma Flatwater Paddlers group, OKC Outdoor Network, The Red Dirt Paddlers or some other local group of like-minded paddling enthusiasts. Even if you link up with some paddling buddies, 'shuttle math' will be a continuing hassle.

2. Dianne and I often travel to Arkansas, Missouri, or Kansas to go on float trips. Your night's sleep can be stressful if you have to leave your treasured craft strapped to your car roof at some strange motel. I have never had one stolen, but I have worried plenty.  Folks renting their kayaks from outfitters don't have such worries.

3. Some outfitters charge nearly as much for shuttling your boat as for renting AND shuttling theirs!  Still, location is everything.  If the outfitter has carved out a bit of heaven from the undergrowth, I'm willing to pay the premium to paddle by and see it! There is one outfitter on the remote Kiamichi River, why throw yourself at the mercy of Mother Nature when you can a partner with local knowledge on your side?

4. Our Mitsubishi Eclipse Packing Both KayaksYou need a way to haul your 10 foot to 16 foot yaks to the water: car top, trailer, roof racks, truck bed, etc. the options are somewhat limited. Don't put this decision off.  You have to get your boat home on the day your buy it, if you are not renting!  This photo is our 2003 Eclipse hatchback carrying two 9.5 foot recreational kayaks.  Obviously, this is NOT an ideal shuttle vehicle. I much prefer a Chevy pickup for hauling kayaks of this size.  For sea kayaks you are likely to need to go with a trailer or roof rack.

5. Sunshine can kill your kayak and this is NO PROBLEM if you rent your kayak. If you own your kayak you will need a place to store your plastic boat OUT of the sun. If you don't have the space to shade a 9.5 foot may want to try renting kayaks instead of buying.

6. Maybe you cannot decide what kind of kayak to buy: touring kayak, fishing kayak, recreational kayak, inflatable kayak, folding kayak or whitewater kayak. Renting kayaks gives you a chance to try different types of kayaks and options.

7. Buying a trailer, trailer hitch, chain, lock and about 50 bungees to haul our two yaks was costly. In time, we decided to trade Mamma's sports car for Chevy Silverado Truck.  It solved our kayak transportation problem, but created a 'Mamma Problem' and those are the worst kind!

8. Outfitters offer more services than mere boat rental... such as river reports, advice, timing estimates, lodging, food and safety tips.  A simple command like 'Keep Left" can save a novice paddler significant swim-time. God Bless the Canoe Livery operators for that!  Check our Oklahoma Outfitters Directory for links to some of the best.

9. After a long, hot and somewhat exhausting paddle trip, leaving your boats at the shore rocks! Cleaning the kayaks up and strapping them in for the journey home can be a rather inelegant ending to a great paddling trip.

10. Maybe you get free rentals from an outfitter in barter for managing their website or some other helpful task.  Why buy if you can borrow?

When we did the math, it was worth it to buy our own kayaks to serve our new addiction.

Had we not chosen to be the last American family to NOT buy an SUV, the hauling might have been cheaper. We recently gave in and traded our little foreign car for a big ol' American pickup and the shuttling has improved a great deal!  I just toss them in the back of the Chevy and secure one bungie.  A few months later the price of gasoline starting climbing higher than humidity!

If you choose to get yourself some kayaks, make sure to rent a few from time to time. A little reminder of how it feels to have a wet butt for 10 miles, really helps you accept the cost of buying yourself that cool new fishing kayak, canoe or canoe-kayak hybrid boat.

Also, it is important for paddlers to support the outfitters that help keep our scenic rivers clean and open to discovery by generation after generation of Oklahoma youth.  Check out our list of Oklahoma Canoe & Kayak Outfitters.

White tail deer spotted from my kayak while paddling Dripping Springs Lake.
You can't beat a kayak for nature and wildlife photography!


Sit-Inside Kayaks vs. Sit-On-Top Kayaks

Choosing a Recreational Kayak to purchase requires deciding between Sit-Inside Kayaks (SINK's) vs. Sit-On-Top Kayaks (SOT 's).  When Dianne and I bought our first kayaks, we chose Sit-Inside Kayaks because they felt more like 'real' boats to us.  Also, we rented both SOT's and SINK's and found that Sit-On-Top Kayaks often left us sitting in a puddle of water.  Sitting in a puddle of water may be refreshing for 15 minutes or so, but I don't recommend it for an All Day Paddling session.

We ended up with two 9.5 foot Sit-Inside Kayaks.  I paddle the Perception Swifty and Dianne paddles a Heritage Angler Kayak.  Both have been great boats.  We treat them to a great deal of rock scraping and mud sliding, including portages across blacktop, gravel and mud.  We have had to home repair Dianne's Heritage, but it is about a year older (and 5 lbs lighter) than my Swifty. 

Repairing these kayaks is dead easy. You use little plastic welding rods and a glorified hairdryer to repair holes in minutes.   Although we treat them rough, we are careful to KEEP THEM OUT OF THE SUN when not in use.  These are plastic boats so sunshine is the enemy...paddle in the shade whenever possible. Five years of fairly regular use before the first major repair is not uncommon for these durable little boats.

Shopping online for a new kayak is a great idea, whether you choose to buy online or not.   Naturally, getting a kayak delivered is a little more complex than ordering a pizza, so you may choose to buy on site somewhere, once you have done your homework.



...Oklahoma Area Float Trip Outfitters List

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