Paddling on Oklahoma Lakes
Paddle the beautiful lakes that dot the Oklahoma landscape for
fun, for fishing, for photography and for fitness!
- Since most of Oklahoma communities get their water from a
lake, there is sure to be some flatwater paddling that is just a short drive from
your home in Oklahoma.
- Oklahoma wildlife abound on our lakes, but they prefer quiet,
secluded hiding spots that are not readily available to motor
boats. Kayakers see and photograph them with ease.
A canoe or kayak is an affordable way to get more from the
outdoors in Oklahoma. I hope my tips and pictures help you
discover the fun of paddle sports in the Ozarks.
Many lakes and rivers that are near large cities require
municipal permits for boating their waters. Most waterways
near OKC require special permits, but low cost daily permits
are available in most cases.
Enjoy river trips kayaking in the states around
The Elk River
The Kings River,
The White River,
The Buffalo River
Spring River in Kansas and more. We recently
traveled to Wichita, Kansas to paddle Santa Fe Lake.
Lake Bixhoma - City Permit Required
New Beggs Lake
Visit Our Blog
Jim Hall Lake in Henryetta, OK
Anderson Creek on Dripping Springs Lake
Do you offer kayak rentals in Oklahoma? If you
are not listed on this website, leave a comment on our blog
and let us know!
Find Your Local Lakes
No matter where you live these days, I'll bet that
you are within a short drive to a reservoir lake. Some of
Oklahoma's lakes are massive like lake Eufaula and others are tiny
an relatively unknown like Shell Lake near Tulsa, OK.
Flatwater kayaking on these lakes can be loads of fun. It may
not hold the life-altering excitement of whitewater kayaking, but it
can take your fitness, your fishing and your photography to a whole new level.
The tricks to getting the most out of flatwater paddling on Oklahoma
lakes are pretty simple: choose a lake that is close by, pick
the right hours to paddle, find your way to the tiny coves and
scenic feeder creeks. You just might find that you have a
paddler's paradise or secret fishermen's honey-hole right in your own backyard!
Try It Before Your Buy It
Most kayak and canoe enthusiasts get started by renting a watercraft
from a local paddling outfitter.
OklahomaRoadTrips.com maintains a large list of kayak outfitters,
float trip locations and recreational areas around Oklahoma that
offer rentals. if you like kayaking as much as my wife Dianne
and i do, you may want to check out
Buy vs. Rent Kayaks page. Dianne and i enjoyed renting kayaks
around Oklahoma and Arkansas for years before we each decided to
buy a stable, easy to paddle recreational kayak. You can easily
rent a small recreational sit-inside-kayak or sit-on-top kayak from
any number of outfitters on the Illinois River in Tahlequah or on
the lower Mt. Fork River in Broken Bow. You can even rent
larger, faster touring kayaks from OKC Kayak in Oklahoma City.
Paddle the Magic Hours
I try to hit the water at least one or two hours
before twilight. I believe that any body of water is
beautiful...if you catch it at the right time. Chasing sunsets
across the shining surface of Dripping Springs Lake and Lake
Okmulgee has become one of my favorite workouts. I like to
meet with any paddling buddies at Clovis Point Campground Fishing
Dock at Dripping Springs Lake. The campground parking is good
and there is good lighting near the fishing dock, just in case I am
a bit late paddling home.
After launching my From Clovis Point, I either
paddle South toward upper Salt Creek or straight across Dripping
Springs Lake and then West toward the lakes other feeder creek (my
Dad calls it Anderson Creek). Both offer narrow sheltered
passages across seldom visited parts of the lake. Upper Salt
Creek stretches west a short distance across Dripping Springs Lake and then turns South and
stretches into Okfuskee County.
Clovis Point Fishing Dock at Okmulgee State Park
Oklahoma Offers More Paddling Than You Might Think
Oklahoma has around 78,578 miles of rivers and
streams, but many only offer unpredictable seasonal flows. You may
not be able to kayak them all without the help of a powerful social
network reporting river levels and paddling conditions to you.
Average annual lake evaporation in Oklahoma ranges from 48 inches in
the extreme east to 65 inches in the southwest. Unfortunately, that
far exceeds the average yearly rainfall in those parts of the state.
Enthusiastic Oklahoma paddlers usually take to our 1,120 square
miles of lake and pond water, when river don't abide. Naturally, Oklahoma's
largest lake in surface area is
Lake Eufaula, but that is only the
beginning of the story when it comes to Sooner State lakes. A swift
and silent touring kayak or user-friendly recreational kayak can
open this world up to you in ways you never imagined.
Since Okmulgee State Park is practically in my backyard, I spend a
lot of my paddling time on Okmulgee Lake and Dripping Springs Lake.
Tulsa paddlers frequent Keystone Lake, Shell Lake,
Bixhoma Lake and
Pretty Water Lake in Sapulpa, OK. In Oklahoma City flatwater
paddlers enjoy kayaking on windy old Lake Hefner when the
Canadian River (AKA: Oklahoma River) is running too low. If
you don't like sharing the lake with fast moving wake riders,
consider on of Oklahoma's smaller low wake lakes like Bixhoma or Henryetta's two small lakes.
Get A Water Atlas When They Are Available
I am looking for local lakes to paddle, I go first to my Oklahoma
Water Atlas, it is often available for FREE from the ODWC. It
includes a great little map of just about every public lake in the
state of Oklahoma. These maps are so detailed that you can find all
of the boat ramps. The small feeder creeks that are the best
for kayak paddling are easy to find using your water atlas! They
sent me mine merely for paying the price of postage. This fine
Paddler's Tome was created in 2007 through a partnership between the
Oklahoma Water Resource Board, the
Oklahoma Department of Wildlife
Conservation, The Kerr Foundation and the Oklahoma Tourism and
Although it was out-of-print when I
wrote this, they are working on getting funds for a
New Oklahoma Water Atlas, watch this page for details or to view
the electronic version.
Escape the Speeding Bass Boats and Jet Skis
Narrow creeks feed just about every Oklahoma lake I
have ever paddled. When you find these creeks they are often backed
up for miles along narrow, curvy channels. They are full of
fish, secluded and safe from fast boats. Their meandering
curves will provide you and your kayak some welcome shade and the
ability to slip silently and stealthily up on all manner of local
flora and fauna.
Use your Oklahoma Water Atlas to plot the quickest
routes across the lake to these scenic waterways. When you
find an especially cool one, drop me a comment on my blog or look me
up on Twitter,
Facebook etc., my username is FreeWine.
You will find that most boaters have little use for low wake lakes
and reservoirs that don't allow loud, smelly motor boats. Kayak
paddlers seek out this tiny jewels to enjoy a peaceful day of kayak
fishing or sunset chasing.
Choose A Kayak for Oklahoma Lake Paddling
an an almost endless variety of choices when it comes to kayaks.
New paddlers usually start with wide, stable, easy-to-paddle
recreational kayaks. Folks who travel often may prefer folding
kayaks, river runners buy whitewater boats and many manufactures
produce hybrid boats that cross multiple genres. River
outfitters and kayak fishermen that frequent the oceans, tend to
choose Sit-On-Top kayaks because they are nearly unsinkable.
Sea kayakers choose long touring kayaks for their straight tracking
and easy speed.
Recreational Kayak (Sit-Inside) - Made for novices paddlers,
these kayaks are wide enough to be very stable, but short enough to
be easy to haul.
Recreational kayaks come in two major styles:
SINK or SOT. The Sit-Inside Kayaks (SINK's) are preferred for
three-season paddlers. Sit-On-Top Kayaks (SOT's) are primarily
summer-time boats that offer maximum stability, payload capacity and
are unsinkable. All Recreational kayaks offer
large cockpits for easy entry and access to gear like fishing rods &
cameras. They cost between $300-$1200 and are usually between 9 and 13
feet long. I paddle a
recreational kayak made by Perception Kayak.
Many Sit-Inside 'Rec
Kayaks' are rigged for fishing, like Dianne's Heritage Featherlite
Angler Kayak or her Old Town
Vapor 12 Kayak.
You will pay extra for fishing rig features, so don't pay for it if
you don't plan to use it. Although I don't do much kayak
fishing, I really like the enormous cockpit on the Old Town Vapor
for kayak photography where room
for a tripod is important.
Recreational Kayak (Sit-on-Top) - SOT kayaks are unsinkable,
due to scupper holes that drain the deck and a fully sealed hull. A
SOT kayak offers the a better chance of self-rescue, since you can
simply climb back on. However, they tend to be somewhat slower and
you are more exposed to wind, sun, mosquitoes, water, cold etc.
Wilderness Systems makes some fine SOT kayaks that are great for
fishing. Don't let the unsinkable nature of a SOT kayak lull you
into a false sense of security. It is just as easy to fall off of a
SOT kayak as it is to capsize a traditional Sit-Inside kayak. This
is why you rarely see Sit-On-Top kayaks in extreme whitewater. One
very unique SOT kayak is the Hobie Mirage kayak. We recently rented
some of these 'pedal-powered' kayaks on Santa Fe Lake near Wichita,
Kansas this year. You can read our review of the Hobie Mirage kayak
Kansas Kayaking page.
Touring Kayak -
Touring Kayaks are sit-Inside kayaks longer
than 13 feet. They are more narrow which makes them faster,
but less stable than recreational kayaks. Built for sea kayaking,
they offer sealed bulkheads and hatches for keeping camping gear
dry. These boats handle waves well and they paddle straight and
fast. You do sacrifice the ability to turn very quickly, which can
be a problem in whitewater.
Touring kayaks like the
Necky Eliza tend to be
more costly than recreational kayaks, but if you make long journeys
the extra speed of a longer kayak may be worth the expense.
Folding Kayak - If you travel far and wide, you may be
considering a folding kayak. Folding kayaks breakdown for storage in
bags. Companies like
Advanced Elements, Feathercraft and Folbot make both touring and
recreational kayaks that are highly mobile. However, Folding Kayaks
require more 'care & feeding' than rugged little plastic boats.
If you live near any major mass transit system, you may find that
one of these 'boat-in-a-bag' kayaks are worth the extra upkeep
trouble OR if you simply don't have room to store a ten foot
Whitewater Kayak - Whitewater kayaks are Sit-Inside Kayaks built to change
course on a dime. They are short and tend to track poorly on
flatwater. The small cockpit on a whitewater kayak helps to
keep it from sinking, but can make it uncomfortable for
larger-framed paddlers. The smaller cockpit on a whitewater kayak
makes them harder to enter and exit. The
Wavesport Diesel kayak is an excellent example of a whitewater
boat. DO NOT buy a whitewater boat for lake kayaking unless you are
willing to put a great deal of muscle into you paddling journeys.
The poor tracking on such a short kayak makes paddling them in
so-called 'flatwater' a real chore.
Hauling Your Kayak
Whatever type of kayaks you choose, make sure you
have a way to get them to the water. This usually means
roof racks, pickup trucks or kayak trailers. We haul our
recreational kayaks in the back of our Chevy Silverado, we an fit
four of them in at once!
In addition to a
shuttle method, you will need a place to store your kayaks. If
you are short of garage space try using an
Overhead Storage Kit hoist your kayak and free up valuable
Constant sunshine can kill a plastic kayak long before its time.
Oklahoma Boat Stickers For Kayaks
Registering canoes and kayaks in Oklahoma is required. The OKC
Outdoor Network keeps a very helpful page on
Oklahoma Canoe and Kayak Registration - check it out!
Your local lakes and river may have additional permit
requirements that go beyond state boat stickers and boat
Oklahoma Area Float Trip Outfitters List