Once known mostly for its ‘dustbowl days’ and winds sweeping down the plains, Oklahoma City has come into its own as a mecca for outdoor urban adventure, especially when it comes to both whitewater and flatwater paddling. The transformation was intentional and began with the rejuvenation of the Oklahoma River, a once dry riverbed cutting through the heart of the city. A one-cent sales tax initiative known as MAPS (Metropolitan Area Projects) revitalized the river with a series of low-water dams creating a destination for paddlers, rowers and economic development. Today, paddlers will find this and other great spots throughout the metro, with top picks including urban, suburban and wildlife waterways.
Oklahomans experience all four seasons, sometimes all in the same day. The prime season for paddlesports is March through October, but warm November days will find people on the water. Spring is typically windier – go early in the day for the flattest water. Summers offer miles of flat, calm water but temps can reach triple digits in August. Early fall brings the same great flat water, but without the heat.
Aerial view of the RIVERSPORT park. | Photo: Andy Greene
Urban paddlers head to RIVERSPORT in the Boathouse District for stand up paddle boarding on this 4000M section of the Oklahoma River. Located just south of the city’s Bricktown entertainment district, it’s a short walk from hotels, restaurants and night life. Paddle board rentals are available March through October. Most paddlers also find their way to RIVERSPORT’s $45M man-made whitewater center also located in the Boathouse District. Class II-IV rapids offer rafting, tubing, kayaking and river boarding. A six-story ropes course, world-class pump track, high speed slides and zip line make it a full-day destination. New and opening late summer, 2020- Surf OKC, a freestanding surfing experience. The location is also a US Olympic & Paralympic Training site for both rowing and canoe/kayak.
Lake Overholser. | Photos: Shutterstock / RIVERSPORT
Oklahoma City’s hidden gem is located on the far west side of the metro along Route 66 at Lake Overholser. Here, the North Canadian river parallels the lake’s east shore and then winds into the 1000-acre Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge which offers miles of pristine paddling. Paddle board rentals are available from RIVERSPORT’s Lake Overholser Boathouse and its Flat Tide mobile rental fleet located just south of the Route 66 bridge on the lake’s east side. RIVERSPORT’s Stinchcomb Wildlife Paddles are available by reservation and allow paddlers to ride either via boat or vehicle deep into the refuge where they are dropped off to paddle back. Full Moon group paddles are held monthly in warmer seasons, and fall foliage tours are also available.
Oklahoma City's Lake Hefner surrounded by trees in fall color. | Photo: Shutterstock
Head north to the city’s Lake Hefner for a more suburban paddling experience. RIVERSPORT’s Flat Tide kayak and SUP rentals are open daily on the south shore of the lake which also boasts sailing, kite surfing, a golf course, fishing, miles of trails and popular restaurants along the lake’s East Wharf.
Oklahoma sunrise at Lake Arcadia in Edmond, Oklahoma. | Photo: Shutterstock
Paddlers with their own equipment can head to Lake Arcadia on the far north side of the metro. Rentals aren’t available, but there’s plenty of shoreline from which to launch. A relatively new lake, it has 1,820 acres of water and about 26 miles of shoreline. Entry fees range from $2-$6. Amenities include docks, camping, swimming, water skiing, boating, disc golf, and hiking / biking / equestrian trails.
RIVERSPORT is the central point for all things paddle sport in Oklahoma City.
Brent Allen paddling in Oklahoma.
The rad places to kick back with other paddle people would be Our Big Water Grille adjacent to the white water channel in OKC or our Lake Overholser Trailhead Café located on the canal “perfect vibes for everyone.” If you are looking to purchase stand up paddle gear go see our friends at Oklahoma Kayak. If you are dropping into Oklahoma City just hit up RIVERSPORT lifestyle director Brent Allen for the inside track on all things SUP.
To explore more SUP destinations, click HERE.