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
For an exhaustive list of Kansas kayaking rivers, grab a copy of
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
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!
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
Blue Hole Canoe Floats Inc
63800 East 40th
Quapaw, Oklahoma 74363
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
Facilities include fishing, boat ramp, camping, a few electrical
hook-ups, shelter houses, tables, grills, & rest rooms.
Spring River Kayaking (River
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 Kayaking Clubs
When using an established canoe & kayak outfitter, shuttling is
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:
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.
Oklahoma Area Float Trip Outfitters List