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Not too far from the Spring River is the Elk River.  Lots of canoe and kayak float trip outfitters are available for floating the Elk River from Pineville, MO to Noel, Mo.

 

Love Kayaking? Show the world by sporting a  paddler t-shirt!

 

Eating Out in Baxter Springs, Kansas!

Don't miss out on eating at The Cafe on the Route. Great gourmet food, just a few miles from Blue Hole. Right downtown on Route 66 in Baxter Springs Kansas.

 


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Kayak Paddlers Supply Store

 

Kayaking in Extreme Northeastern Oklahoma

The cool clear Spring River flows from northern Kansas all the way down into the Ozarks in Oklahoma. Near the border at Twin Bridges State Park it merges with the Neosho River to form Grand River and Grand Lake.  We  went on a flatwater kayak paddling trip down this lovely scenic Oklahoma river in 2006 and we plan to return often. You can read about this trip and our most recent Oklahoma area float trips on our Kayak Oklahoma weblog. For an exhaustive list of Kansas kayaking rivers, grab a copy of Paddling Kansas.  We even did some flatwater paddling near Wichita, Kansas one weekend when a Kansas Float Trip was not possible. On this page we list the trip reports from our occasional road trips into Kansas for kayaking float trips.

According to my new copy of Paddling Kansas, the Elk River above Elk City Lake offers a very scenic float trip 9.2 miles of Class I-II water. At a little over 2 and a half hours from my home!  Elk City Boat Ramp to Card Creek Boat Ramp float trip...3 to 5 hours at a minimum recommended flow 100 cfs. Camping is available at the State Park near the Card Creek take-out. I think it would be fun to compare the Kansas Elk River float trip with the Missouri Elk River float trip.

Blue Hole Canoe Floats is once again open for business in 2011!

Blue Hole Canoe Floats offers campsites, cabins, canoe rental and more.  Float trips available from a leisurely trip of 4 miles up to the two day journey of 29 miles. Paddle from Baxter Springs, KS all the way down to Oklahoma's Twin Bridges State Park!

Directions: I-44 Exit at Miami, 5 miles E on Hwy 10, then 5 miles N on Hwy 137; in Quapaw on Hwy 66, turn E on 1st St, go 3 miles.

Blue Hole Canoe Floats Inc
63800 East 40th Road
Quapaw, Oklahoma 74363
Call: 918-542-6344
www.blueholeok.org

Spring River Float Trip Put-In:

Riverside Park is a small park at the east edge of Baxter Springs, Kansas on the Spring River on the south side of Highway 166.
Facilities include fishing, boat ramp, camping, a few electrical hook-ups, shelter houses, tables, grills, & rest rooms.
 


Spring River Kayaking (River Level)

Float Trip Report for June 1, 2008

Kayaking on the Spring River from Kansas to Oklahoma was the big event for Dianne and myself on June 1st, 2008. We haven't been on this river for a couple years, but it is still a beautiful spot to paddle. The Spring River in Northeastern Oklahoma is one of the two rivers that merge to form Grand River and then it dumps into the Grand Lake of the Cherokees.

Blue Hole Canoe Floats Rustic Cabins and Staff Photo by Dianne M. Jones.Camping is available at lots of spots along the river: near the dam in Baxter Springs Kansas, Blue Hole Canoe Floats, Devil's Promenade, the Highway 10 Bridge East of Miami, OK or at the Twin Bridges State Park. There are good kayak put-ins at all of those locations and you can camp at most of them, too! (See more of our Spring River Pictures on Flickr.)

This year we used an outfitter, which may not be there after the end of this summer season. Chet, the founder of Blue Hole Canoe Floats in Quapaw, Oklahoma has decided to sell his canoe livery and lodging business. I hope another outfitter takes over the business as this is a great bit of river for paddling and kayak fishing. BTW, Blue Hole only rents canoes currently, no kayaks for rent. However, they do shuttle private kayaks, so visit Quapaw, Oklahoma soon and paddle this easy paddling river. Blue Hole Canoe is right next to a public river access and tent camping spot called Bicentennial Park - a great spot for fishing.

Sadly, Blue Hole Canoe Floats continues the tradition of Oklahoma paddling outfitters in offering excuses rather than t-shirts for sale. So, we didn't come home with new paddling shirts, we did have a fun trip on the Spring River.

Blue Hole Canoe Floats, the only Spring River paddling outfitter, offers a number of float trips ranging from 4 miles to 29 miles long. We took a short two hour trip from Riverside Park in Baxter Springs, Kansas to the Blue Hole Canoe Floats campground, but they also offer trips all the way down to Twin Bridges State Park. The part of the Spring River we paddled on Sunday was wide and fairly deep, it was easy paddling with no real rapids or obstacles. The river level was somewhat high, so we did encounter some small whirlpools and riffles, but nothing that might make us portage or get us wet...except the rain.

It rained almost the entire time we were on the water. Thankfully, we had decided to wear our spray skirts just in case of surprises, so the rain was kept out of our boats and off our butts. Luckily for us, it didn't get stormy, it just rained straight down. When we thought it was just a passing shower, we decided to take shelter under some trees. We watched it rain around us for about twenty minutes before concluding that it was not slacking up anytime soon. When we paddled on through to the take-out, and upon arrival got the news that Tulsa had been hit by a pretty heavy storm. We were blessed to have escaped with nothing more than soggy torsos.

Surprisingly, Dianne and I actually enjoyed the rain quite a bit. We were expecting ninety degree heat and scorching sunshine. I mentioned this to Dianne as I applied a liberal dose of sunscreen at the launch, optimistically ignoring the distant thunder. "The last forecast called for a twenty percent chance of rain". Well, it 'twenty percented' all over the both of us. Although it was a nicely cooling rain, it prevented me from taking any decent pictures. I'm sure glad I had a good bag to put my camera in during the downpour!

The last time we paddled this river, we paddled upstream from the nearby Bicentennial Park. Wearing a spray skirt would have been a huge hassle on that trip, as we had to get out of our kayaks every few miles and portage over low spots. This river depends on recent rains to provide deep water, but has a number of natural springs feeding it all year. I much prefer paddling downstream from Baxter Springs, but I didn't know where the Spring River Park put-in was back in 2006. Also, Baxter Springs is a pretty cool little Kansas town to visit and only a few miles from Blue Hole. Dianne and I had two excellent meals at a place called Cafe on the Route. This little jewel offers an amazingly diverse menu of extremely well-prepared gourmet food with fancy cheeses like Stilton and Brie!

Despite Sunday morning's unusual conditions, the Spring River makes a nice trip for kayak photography. There are rocky limestone bluffs and clear feeder streams that remind me of the Buffalo River. The little spring-fed creeks offer shallow, clear, and cold water teaming with fish. This river has big gravel bars and is a favorite with the whole spectrum of fishermen from Fly Fishing Disciples to Okie Noodlers. The outfitter said they even have a couple bald eagles nesting on the river!

Overall, this a great river for folks looking for some fairly safe current to kayak in and plenty of camping spots along the way. Being just an hour and a half outside of Tulsa, the Spring River is a trip in striking distance of many Oklahoma paddlers and well worth the tank full.


Trip Report  - 4/15/06 Spring River near Quapaw, Oklahoma

Dianne and I made a quick overnight trip to Twin Bridges State Park & Spring River Canoe Trails near Quapaw in extreme Northeastern Oklahoma.

Getting There is Half the Fun

I say 'extreme' not due to the attitudes of the locals, but to the number of other states we accidentally visited on the way (both Kansas and Missouri). Due to a slight miscalculation on the part of our navigator (me), we ended up driving into both Missouri AND Kansas. Did I mention I hate turnpikes? I think that they should be called turn-less-pikes because there is nowhere to turn off the darn things. Thatís not a road; itís a livestock-loading chute!

I suppose the first thing I should tell you about Spring River Canoe Trails State Park is that it is much harder to find than the other State Parks I have visited. Also, once we arrived at what we think was Spring River Canoe Trails State Park; we found no sign officially marking it as that particular Oklahoma State Park. In fact, the only signs we found marked the spot as merely "Park" and mentioned some history of the Nez Perce Indian tribe. Looking around on the net, I think we may have been at Bicentennial Park.

Maybe the proximity to one of the nation's largest superfund sites has given folks a pessimistic attitude concerning the area's potential for tourism development.


Oklahoma's Spring River

Spring River Bluffs near Quapaw, OKEither way, we were definitely on the Spring River near Quapaw, Oklahoma and it was a lovely spot for paddling. The water is very clear and cold with banks surrounded by large limestone bluffs. After only a few miles of Spring River paddling, we saw more fish than in all of the other rivers of Oklahoma that we have been kayaking in. The river is quite low and full of stringy green moss. The flow is plenty low for paddling both downstream and upstream where the water is deep enough.

The water in the Spring River gets deeper as you near Twin Bridges State Park and the Spring River merges with the Neosho River to form Grand River. Twin Bridges State Park has deep, plentiful water even in this oh-so dry rainy season. In fact I've read that Neosho is an Indian word meaning "plentiful, clear water".

Sadly, we arrived to Twin Bridges Park too late to check in with the park office and get any info on the Spring River Canoe Trails. Although they are two separate parks, they share the same park office. I wish we had made it their earlier, we could have used some guidance. Looking around Twin Bridges, it was a lovely park but seemed to be filled to the brim with RV's and Ski boats. The water in the river was wide and the wind had stirred up large waves all over the surface.

We decided that Spring River Canoe Trails with its primitive tent camping spots and canoe launch might be more Ďour speedí. The park we finally found right before dark was indeed primitive tent camping. However, when we arrived they were several small celebrations underway and only a few real campers. It would appear that we had found the favored spot for teen drinking and mating games. Since it was too late to explore other options (there is another park on the Spring River in nearby Baxter Springs, Kansas) we pitched our new, larger, Wal-Mart tent and hoped things would settled down by morning.

A Fun Night in Quapaw

Sadly, once the sun set, the people went a little crazy. Campers on three different sides of our tent built campfires! As if that were not appalling enough, considering the extremely high winds Saturday night, one of the fires was huge. I would have considered the campfire closest to our tent to be unsafe during a rain shower! One of the other burn ban scofflaws spent most of the evening trying to extract their pickup truck from a gravel bar that they had decided to drive onto. About 11pm a large 4WD truck showed up that was finally able to pull them out.

The next morning they asked to borrow my jack to change a flat on their now unstuck truck. Once they got it changed, they left the park with their campfire still burning brightly around 9:30am. Clearly, prudence was not the central theme of the holiday weekend for these campers. Thankfully, we are not haters, so we didn't let the foolishness of those around us spoil our goodtime. Nonetheless, I cannot recommend the park as a place to take your family for an overnight stay unless your family picks up beer cans for a living. We were glad we had not brought Dylan with us on this trip.

After an excellent night's sleep, we woke up early and took down the tent. We have learned that packing up camp before the morning paddling tends to save us about a gallon of sweat and a lot of frustration. The price is: we don't get on the river as early. Actually, that price is pretty high for me. I love the way the morning light looks on the water and taking down this new tent is not a real rapid operation.

The decamping operation left us with about four hours to paddle, take pictures and enjoy the river. Heck, we spent that much time on the road getting here! Honestly, it's gotten me shopping around for some kind of tent camper or van for the family.

Despite the short amount of time on the river, I really enjoyed the trip. The Spring River is very scenic canoe and kayak paddling water and we didnít meet another boater the entire time on the river. In addition to our paddling, we drove around and explored some more of old Route 66 and ate at two cool cafes. In many ways, the Spring River  reminded me of Missouri's Elk River, just a short drive away in Noel, MO...but with more acidic mine drainage.

 

This river is appears to be just loaded with fish.  The day we paddled the Spring River there were fish hitting surface prey constantly.  In many shallow areas we could see the backs of huge fish wriggling their way through the channel. I sure hope they aren't loaded with lead tailings. Like the Buffalo River in Arkansas, the Spring River offers little caves and coves in the limestone bluffs that provide some much needed shade during warm weather floating.

 

Santa Fe Lake Kayaking!

We test paddled two Hobie Mirage kayaks at Santa Fe Lake near Wichita, Kansas on Memorial Day weekend in 2010. My son Dylan paddled the a Hobie Mirage i12s and my wife and I both paddled the hardshell version: the Hobie Mirage Outback SUV kayak. Both kayaks were rented from Brooks Canoe and Kayak in Augusta, Kansas.  See our full Santa Fe Lake trip report on our Kansas Kayaking page or on our Kayak Oklahoma Blog.



Oklahoma Kayaking Clubs

When using an established canoe & kayak outfitter, shuttling is their problem.
Once you get your own private kayak, shuttling becomes your problem.
It pays to have some friends to help 'set the shuttle'. Successful paddlers join up with a local paddling group.

Oklahoma Kayaking Facebook Groups:


Yahoo! Groups:
Oklahoma Flatwater Paddlers.


How to do Kayak Shuttling 
Best Method:
Use multiple vehicles one Boat-Hauler & one People-Hauler & at least three paddlers/drivers. (two boat haulers work even better).

Step One - Meet at the downstream take-out at dawn and park your People-Hauler vehicle. It will be left waiting for your group at the end of the float trip.
Two paddlers will be driving it back to the put-in to get your boat-hauling vehicle and then drive both vehicles back to the take-out to pick up your fellow travelers and all boats.  Kind of a hassle, eh?  This is why outfitters charge money for it.


One of the worst things about this method is the large margin for error. There are countless ways to 'blow the shuttle'.


Most Common Method: If you only have one vehicle, you must go 'up & back' (paddle upstream, turn around when youíre ready then paddle back downstream to your vehicle). Going 'up & back' is less fun, but also much less complicated to plan than a multi-vehicle shuttle mission! Paddling 'up & back' tends to be primarily a flatwater option only.


 

...Complete Oklahoma Area Float Trip Outfitters List


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