Illinois River Kayak Trip (6-3-18)

Carrie an I had planned an overnight trip on the Buffalo River in Arkansas for this weekend, but as luck would have it the forecast called for damaging thunderstorms with possible flash flooding.  Not a good forecast for kayaking.

We waited out the storms at home Saturday (which never formed) and decided to just do a day trip on the Illinois River near Tahlequah OK on Sunday.  I called around and found a shuttle through Sparrowhawk Campground. We arrived there about 9:00 am and made the shuttle arrangements.  The owner of the campground jumped in the truck with us and I drove to No Head Public Access Area. We quickly unloaded the kayaks and gave the driver the keys to take the truck back to Sparrowhawk camp where we would end our trip today.

We got on the river about 10:00 am and soon we were in the current which gently pushed us downstream with little paddling required.  We circled around Sparrow Hawk Mountain with its towering bluffs rising up from the river.  As we proceeded down the River we could see several houses that were situated right on the River or overlooking the River from the bluffs above.  The River traffic was very light and we saw only a handful of floaters on the River today.   We stopped after a couple miles and took the opportunity to get in the water to cool off.  The temperatures were great today with a high forecasted at 84F. Back in the water we passed through several small rapids and a couple areas where we had to drag our kayaks across the gravel where the water was too shallow.  Shortly before noon we went through some shallow Rapids and Carrie got her kayak turned sideways against a submerged tree limb which flipped her kayak, dumping her out in the water.  Her phone, which was in a waterproof float, began a quick trip down the river.  I took my kayak to shore and ran along the sandbar and was able to catch the phone before it got too far away.  Making my way back to Carrie we worked together to flip the water filled kayak over and dump the water out.  Not to be discouraged, after a short break, Carrie jumped back in the kayak and we continued down River.

There was a sign and river access at the halfway point (for the floaters taking a shorter trip) and we stopped on a sandbar shortly after this to eat our lunch.  We took a short swim in the water to cool off again and then found a spot in the shade behind some trees to sit down and enjoy our Subway sandwiches and chips.  Once back on the River there were several other rapid areas with downed trees which we navigated flawlessly.  We soon came around a bend and could see elephant rock, a rock that resembles an elephant head dipping its trunk into the water.  Several floaters had gathered in that area and were fishing and cooling off in the waters as we floated by.  We continued down the River and in what seemed too short a time, we arrived at Sparrowhawk campground and could see our truck waiting for us near the landing area.  We floated into the landing, loaded up our gear, and began our drive back home.

The Illinois River is a beautiful place to go and great for a hot summer day.  We will definitely be planning some extended trips there in the future.

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