A Guide to Kayaking in Oklahoma

A Guide to Kayaking in Oklahoma

Oklahoma is a must-see state for nature lovers, with some of the most diverse terrain in America. This bountiful state contains 12 different ecoregions — areas of similar geographical and ecological makeup — with a mix of mountains, foothills, swamps, prairies, forests, rivers and lakes. Whether you enjoy calm waters or thrilling rapids, Oklahoma is the perfect location for your next kayaking adventure.

In this guide, you’ll discover some of the best spots for kayaking in the state and the ideal time to visit. We also cover Oklahoma kayak laws and safety tips so your trip goes smoothly.

Best Places to Kayak in Oklahoma

Kayakers are spoiled for choice when it comes to lakes and rivers in Oklahoma. The state is home to over 200 lakes and many more rivers you can take to for a fun day of water activities. If you’re looking for more controlled, safe areas to kayak, Oklahoma has 38 state parks for you to explore.

We’ve compiled a list of Oklahoma’s popular lakes and rivers where residents and tourists alike enjoy kayaking. They’re in no particular order, so consider your own preferences when choosing a spot to visit.

1. Broken Bow Lake

Broken Bow Lake — which connects to the Mountain Fork River — boasts over 14,000 acres of clear water thanks to the rocks that cover the lake floor. The lake is an incredible destination for all kinds of watersports, including swimming, fishing and boating. Dense forests surround the lake that hikers and bird watchers enjoy, and you can picnic or camp in the area.

2. Mountain Fork River

The lower section of the Mountain Fork River is an incredibly popular kayaking spot in southeast Oklahoma, especially for those who love whitewater kayaking. Depending on the time of year, you’ll find either class I or II rapids and small waterfalls that offer a challenge to kayakers. It’s a beautiful route that passes through the Ouachita Mountains with calmer sections and an abundance of trout. You also have the option to rent your kayaks from the 15 outfitters in the area.

Along the Mountain Fork River, you have the following access points to launch your kayak from:

  • Beaver Bend State Park: This park along the river has private access points for kayakers.
  • U.S. Highway 70 bridge: There is a public access point to the river near the bridge.
  • Presbyterian Falls: Kayakers can access the rapids at this public access point.
  • Broken Bow Lake: Launch your kayak from the large lake that connects to this river.

3. Lake Eufaula

Lake Eufaula

If you’re looking for a serene float experience, try out Ohlahoma’s largest lake. Lake Eufaula spans over 102,000 acres and has over 600 miles of shoreline. It’s part of both the Lake Eufaula State Park and the Arrowhead State Park, with loads of camping and accommodation options. You can launch your kayak from the multiple boat access points along the shore and enjoy the change in scenery as you move from one side of the lake to the other. 

Lake Eufala is also a popular destination for expert anglers who come to take part in the bass tournaments. The lake is full of crappie, bass, sunfish and catfish. There are also hiking and birdwatching opportunities surrounding the lake, where you’ll find quail, deer, rabbits, turkey, squirrels and even bald eagles. Plus, you can play a round of golf or go horseback riding in the area too.

4. Illinois River

Illinois River is a popular kayaking option with over ten launching locations and several outfitters and resorts in the area. The river itself flows for over 60 miles through the Cookson Hills and offers picturesque views of the tree line and rocky bluffs. 

There are various water types along the route, from calm waters to class II rapids. During your ride, you’ll spot birds, eagles, deer, foxes and even turtles. You can also check out the unique natural feature called “Elephants Rock.” If you want to spend multiple days along the river, you have various lodging and camping options to choose from.

Some public access options for the Illinois River include:

  • Edmondson: This popular spot has a large gravel bar and swimming spots.
  • Peavine Hollow: This is an easy access point from the highway with a gravel bar.
  • Round Hollow: This is another popular access point with a large gravel bar that’s easy to reach.
  • No Head Hollow: This is a smaller access point with a steep ramp. The river here is mainly backwater.
  • Todd: This fun access point features picnic tables, a rope swing and a small ramp for loading kayaks.
  • Stunkard: This spot near the highway has picnic spots along the road to the steep launch site.

5. Lake Tenkiller

Lake Tenkiller is the clearest body of water in Oklahoma, with nearly 13,000 acres of surface perfect for water activities. The rocky bluffs, cliffs and forests of the Ozark Mountains make for a stunning view as you travel across the lake. It falls within two state parks — Cherokee Landing State Park and Tenkiller State Park — so the area is patrolled and protected well, and there are various lodging, camping and activity options in the area.

But the real gem of this lake lies near the northwestern end of the lake in Pettit Bay. Goats may not be the first thing that comes to mind when planning a kayaking trip, but an island full of them may spark your interest. Launch from Pettit Bay and head over to Goat Island — an island solely inhabited by goats. The locals have named the goats that live there and feed them frequently, so they’re friendly and may even come out to greet you!

6. Lake Skiatook

Lake Skiatook

Lake Skiatook — located in Osage County — is a gorgeous artificial lake promising a quiet and serene kayaking trip. The lake is surrounded by steep bluffs, prairie grass and oak trees, with small coves to explore and over 160 miles of shoreline. Stick around as the sun goes down to see the breathtaking sunset across the water, but keep an eye on the wind levels.

There are a few launch sites for Lake Skiatook, including:

  • Tall Chief Cove: This charming campsite has boat ramps and sandy beach areas for easy kayak launching.
  • Osage Park: This small park has access to the lake for watersports and swimming.
  • Twin Points: This campground has a boat launch kayakers can use, clean restrooms and a playground.
  • Crystal Bay Marina: This full-service marina has covered docks and launching sites.
  • Black Dog Park: This park has fantastic picnic spots and multiple boat launches.

7. Oklahoma River

If you’re looking for a challenge and an overall great time, head to the Boathouse District of Oklahoma City along the Oklahoma River. This U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Site is the place to go for outdoor activities in Oklahoma, whether you’re an Olympian or a beginner. Enjoy whitewater kayaking at the RIVERSPORT kayaking facility, go for a run along their paved trails, or challenge your fear of heights with the SandRidge Sky Trail — the tallest adventure course in the world.

The RIVERSPORT OKC also offers classes, flatwater kayaking and full-moon kayaking, so it’s a must for families and adventurous kayakers. You can purchase a membership if you plan to go there often.

Best Time of Year to Kayak in Oklahoma

Oklahoma has pleasant weather year-round, with an annual average temperature of 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Most of the year has sun and clear skies, with only some snow from November to February and high rainfall in May. The hottest and most humid month is July, with temperatures reaching around 100 degrees.

If you want to visit Oklahoma for kayaking, you’ll enjoy the warm temperatures, clear skies and limited rainfall between June and September. However, temperatures rarely dip below 50 degrees throughout the year, so you can kayak anytime if you don’t mind the chill.

It’s important to note that Oklahoma does fall within the “tornado alley” — an area with the highest number of tornadoes in the country. May is historically the month with the highest probability of tornadoes, but there is also a risk of tornadoes appearing in April and June. Consider kayaking between August and October if you want to avoid this risk.

Oklahoma Kayak Laws

Oklahoma Kayak Laws

Before you begin planning your kayaking adventure, it’s vital you educate yourself on the kayaking laws in the area you’re visiting. Following these laws will keep you safe and help you avoid any negative consequences that can spoil the fun. Most laws for kayaks in Oklahoma distinguish between motorized and non-motorized kayaks. When the regulations mention motorized kayaks, it’s typically only for those with 10 or more horsepower.

With that in mind, here are some of the kayak laws in Oklahoma you need to know:

  • Registration: If you use your kayak manually with oars or paddles, you are exempt from registration. You need to register your kayak annually if it has a motor.
  • Titling: Non-motorized kayaks do not need a title. You need to title your motorized kayak — both the boat and motor — within 30 days of purchase and renew it annually.
  • License: You don’t need a license for non-motorized kayaks. If you have a motorized kayak, you’ll need to have a Boater Education Card and your ID to prove you’re above 16 years of age. Children between 12 and 15 years old can also operate a motorized kayak, provided the kayak is registered, they’ve completed the Boating Safety Education Course and an adult is on board.
  • Alcohol limits: You can be charged with boating under the influence (BUI) if your blood alcohol level is above 0.10%. You’ll face a fine of about $1,000.
  • Life jackets: Every person on a kayak needs to have a life jacket approved by the United States Coast Guard (USCG) that fits and is in good condition. Anyone 12 years old or younger will need to wear their life jacket at all times.
  • Emergency equipment: Non-motorized kayaks under 26 feet in length can have red and green sidelights or a flashlight on board. You’ll also need a whistle or horn with you. If you are kayaking between sunset and sunrise, you must have a Visual Distress Signaling Device (VDS) on the boat.

Always call ahead to check to see if you can kayak in an area and if any permits or fees are involved.

Safety Tips for Kayakers in Oklahoma

Kayaking can be a thrilling and adventurous sport, but things may get out of hand quickly if you’re not prepared. Use the following advice to stay safe while kayaking in Oklahoma.

  • Check the weather: Oklahoma weather can be unpredictable, so check the weather forecast ahead so you’re prepared for the day and any changes it may bring. 
  • Research the area: Ask the locals and outfitters or look online to find out what dangers you may need to be aware of while kayaking there. They’ll know what the weather and water are usually like and if there are any dangerous animals. Knowing what could potentially go wrong will help you avoid it.
  • Share your plans: Let others know your kayaking plans and where you’ll be traveling. Better yet, take someone else with you!
  • Dress right: It’s essential to check the water temperature before you kayak. If it is or will go below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, wear a wetsuit or dry suit. If it’s hot, stay hydrated and wear a neck gaiter. Whatever the temperature, wear sunscreen and reapply every two hours. 
  • Wear a helmet: Helmets are crucial while kayaking, especially in whitewater and rocky areas. They’ll protect your head during falls and from wayward paddles.
  • Pack a first aid kit: Having a first aid kit on hand is the difference between enjoying your trip and cutting it short. It should contain all the necessary items for wound care, allergic reactions, hypothermia and more to help you when you’re outdoors.
  • Respect people and wildlife: Protect yourself and those around you by keeping a safe distance from other people and vessels in the water. Keep an eye out for dangerous animals — like the venous cottonmouth snake, snapping turtles and alligators — and avoid disturbing them. Most animals will not attack unless provoked.
  • Know your limits: Knowing your skill and fitness level can keep you safe on a kayak trip. Steer clear of rapids if you don’t have any experience, and don’t go too far if you don’t have the stamina to make it back.
  • Swim safely: If you’re the type to hop in the water after kayaking, ensure you only swim in designated swimming areas and avoid stagnant, dirty water. Try your best not to swallow any water, and consider wearing earplugs and goggles to limit infection. 

Launch Your Kayak With EZ Dock

Getting in and out of the water with a kayak can be a challenge, but it’s a super simple process with the EZ Launch® Residential from EZ Dock. This innovative kayak port with integrated paddle notches, hand holds and a V-shaped entry makes launching and docking easy, safe and secure. Additionally, kayakers of all experience levels will find it easy to stay dry using the EZ Launch, even when water levels change.

The EZ Launch® Residential fits snuggly onto our standard or low-profile docks. Our floating docks and launches are the best investment you’ll ever make for your waterfront property. Made from high-quality polyethylene, they require low maintenance and are barefoot-friendly. We’ve been making and selling our docks for over 20 years, and during that time, we’ve helped thousands of water lovers have safer and easier access to the water. Don’t take our word for it — see what our customers say!

If you’re interested, contact us to learn more about our kayak launch and docks and request a no-obligation quote today.

Launch Your Kayak With EZ Dock