Dylan and Thomas Canoe the Kings River in Eureka Springs, AR
Kings River Float Trips near Noel, Missouri.













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Spring River Near Quapaw in Northern Oklahoma







This AE Kayak is built for comfort, but travels anywhere with ease!






Winter Kayaking in Oklahoma

Safer Cold Water Kayaking in Oklahoma 

  • Check the weather before your leave.
  • Don't wear cotton for kayaking, choose synthetics instead.
  • Don't paddle alone in cold water or strong current.
  • Lakes are safer than rivers.
  • Always wear a PFD and carry a dry bag with warm gear.
  • Even recreational kayakers can use a spray skirt and a brace.
  • Warm winter days occur in Oklahoma, but are tough to predict.  Paddling close to home lets you take advantage of (and avoid disasters resulting from) unexpected weather changes. A long road trip to your paddling spot might make you feel that you MUST paddle...no matter what the conditions are when you arrive. Don't set yourself up to fail; winter paddling is best close to home.

Deep Fork River - Winter Blues

Here in Oklahoma, I Paddle in the Winter, Too.

Dripping Springs Lake Kayaking in JanuaryMaybe I am overly confident, but I don't expect Oklahoma's waters to be so cold that they instantly paralyze me. I enjoy lake kayaking during the winter in Oklahoma. Many folks store their kayaks in the winter because of they fear unintentionally capsizing and suffering from hypothermia. This is a totally valid worry. I advise recreational kayakers in Oklahoma to get ready for winter paddling by getting: a spray skirt, a change of clothes, a paddling partner, a good brace and a good pair of paddling gloves.

I have unintentionally capsized many times, if you have not... then next summer, you should give it a try. I recommend the Lower Mountain Fork River in Broken Bow, Oklahoma. I'll bet I unintentionally capsized 15 times on my first trip down that fun four miles of clear, rushing water and rocks. I don't paddle that river in the Winter, but paddling it in the summer taught me the value of using a spray skirt. Using a spray skirt, you can unexpectedly tip the boat and still not have it start filling up with water. A spray skirt for your recreational kayak also keeps paddle splash off your legs, protects your body from wind and keeps half of you out of the rain.

The Illinois River is another nice one to unintentionally capsize on during the summer. At safe paddling levels, these rivers are so shallow that there is little risk drowning and in the summer the heat is more of a threat than the cold. It doesn't take an expert 'eskimo roll' to drag your boat out of the water, dump out the water and start again during the summer.

Cold Kills...Even in Oklahoma

Of course, in the winter season unintentionally capsizing can kill you. In Oklahoma, I don't consider any water temperature to be safe, when the air temperature is cold. Once you get wet, the wind becomes a huge factor. My main consideration during winter paddling is: how quickly I can get dry and somewhat warm to prevent hypothermia. That is why I avoid wearing cotton during winter paddling trips.  It dries too slow. There are may ways to get wet while kayaking: paddle splash, unexpected swim, a rouge wave, rain, etc.

I have been on many Spring kayaking trips, where it rained unexpected. I was glad to be wearing Under Armour, rather than cotton, on our last Elk River trip. Cold rain poured down on us for about 15 minutes, followed by loads of sunshine...after a few minutes of paddling I was dry again. Even on a hot day cotton will not dry in time to provide you with any warmth.

Winter kayaking on Caddo Lake

Choose Your Paddling Locations with Care

Kayak fishing during the winter is quite common is the more southern parts of the U.S. and Mexico.  We packed our furry Trooper Hats to stay warm during our winter kayak fishing at Caddo Lake.  When I paddle Oklahoma's lakes in the winter, I'm mostly looking for nice pictures. In my opinion, the nicest kayaking photos in Oklahoma, are fairly close to the shoreline.

Near the shore, you will find more wildlife, nice rock formations, trees and other lovely foreground elements. I often paddle across the wider, more open parts of the lake, but I spend most of my time a very short swim away from the shore. I paddle with a dry bag containing my emergency kayaking gear: a spray skirt, a warm change of clothing and fire-making materials. I like to think I could self rescue, if I have a surprise swim during my winter lake paddling trips.

Rivers are riskier because there are many parts where you cannot easily swim to shore and your gear may be swept away by the current. Since this isn't the rocky mountains, a few weeks without rain can turn many rivers into flatwater paddling spots. The photo to the left is the Deep Fork River in Creek County, and it is was taken while paddling in January.  You can see that there is little risk of the current sweeping away a kayak at this level!

Kayak fishing for winter catfish on Caddo Lake. The last couple kayak fishing photos are from our winter kayaking trip to Caddo Lake in Texas.  Caddo Lake is teaming with fish.  In the winter months, you won't have to share this beautiful lake with the horde of Bass Boat that cover this water in Summer months. Although, I prefer the more colorful seasons on Caddo Lake, this lake is spectacular even in the winter.

Since Okmulgee State Park is just about 15 minutes from my home, I do most of my winter kayaking there. Remember: the weather may be less comfortable during the winter, but the sunsets tend to be much more colorful.

Disaster Strikes Me On My Mild-Water Summer Kayaking Day Trip

I had an unexpected swim one summer on the North Canadian River near Pierce, Oklahoma. I found it very difficult to climb the steep banks and swampy areas even in light current. I am convinced that two things saved me that day: my PFD and my paddling partner. I got very tired trying to swim to shore dragging my boat and paddle. By the time I decided to let them go and focus on making it to shore, I was exhausted. Thankfully, I didn't have to struggle to keep my head above water to breath because I was wearing my lifejacket and I got my boat and paddle back because I was not out there all alone.

The reason I took that unexpected swim is because: I launched without a spray skirt on, lost my balance and then failed to 'brace'.

Bracing is a paddling technique where you use your paddle to stop you from tipping over. This paddle stroke allows you to regain your balance by rotating your kayak or canoe back underneath you with your hips. The brace doesn't work too well in a Sit Inside Kayak, because that huge cockpit tends to fill with water quickly. Add a $50 nylon spray skirt and you have a whole new way to avoid a chilly swim in any season.

Most paddlers try to develop two types of braces: a high brace and a low brace. I'm not qualified to teach you these two bracing strokes, but there are countless photos, books, videos and how-to articles on the web that will try. Seek out these resources during the winter and them give them a try when summer comes.   Here are a few to get you started: Free Online Paddling School and a great brace article from Canoe & Kayak Magazine.

Find a Spray Skirt for Your Kayak.- In the interest of of full disclosure I should tell you that a little bit of change comes my way when folks buy the items I link to on this website.  The money goes toward paying the hosting costs and other expenses involved in keeping the information available.  No one pays me to test or recommend their products.  I have purchased many of them for myself and others I have my eye on.  If you try one of these products and think it is a rip-off, send me an email.  I would love to hear your review.

You can't count on many shuttle operators if you want to do winter kayaking. This makes folding boats and other portable kayaks a great option!

Float trips in great Ozark Rivers like The Elk River, The Kings River, The White River, The Spring River, and The Buffalo River offer fun, adventure and an immersion in nature (and often water) ...that you will never forget.

...Complete Oklahoma Area Float Trip Outfitters List


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