View Full Version : Kayaking proposed for Oklahoma River

02-07-2006, 07:42 AM
Another great idea on the drawing board!

Perhaps it could be located somewhere near the boathouse and skatepark, thereby creating a river activity zone.

Projects could bring kayaking to downtown

By John Sutter
The Oklahoman

Oklahoma City, the capital of a state known for its dusty plains and often-dry riverbeds, may be the future site of flowing rapids and white-water kayaking.

Floating an apparent trend of cities that have built urban white-water kayaking venues, Oklahoma City is looking at developing an area of the Oklahoma River for kayaks and canoes.

The city's Riverfront Redevelopment Authority heard a presentation last week from Recreation Engineering & Planning, a group based in Boulder, Colo., that has built kayak water parks in other cities. Oklahoma City's economy and recreation opportunities would be well-served by such a water park, the group's representative said.

"There's tons of potential," said Mike Harvey, from the firm.

"Just like Oklahoma City's already figured out, recreational money spent on a river will return tenfold easily," Harvey said.

Trust members seemed keen on the idea. Ward 5 Councilman Jerry Foshee expressed support, as did Vice Chairman Don Kaspereit.

"It's really exciting to see how young it (the Oklahoma River) is and how quickly it's come about. It's just going to snowball from here," Kaspereit said.

The plan is still in its earliest stages. Harvey said he will be back in three or four months with specific proposals. Kayak and canoe water parks can range in length from 200 to 2,000 feet. He said he will bring city officials "options that run the spectrum."

Harvey said it is too early to speculate how much a venture of this type would cost, but it's clear that it would involve several river alterations.

For white-water kayaking to be possible, water must move downhill to create some semblance of rapids and flowing water, Harvey said. He showed slides of parks in other cities where berms were built in the ground so that the water cascades downward over a distance.

Another issue that must be addressed is water volume.

John Rhodes, who manages Oklahoma River corridor projects for the city, said it's unclear where the rapids would be built. He said one option would be to build a closed-circuit water park beside the river, if it turns out not enough water flows down the Oklahoma River to support a kayaking project. The city will know more when Harvey comes back with proposals, he said.

Rhodes said it's too soon to say how the project would be funded. City or private money, or both, may be used if the city chooses to move forward with the idea, he said.

Harvey said he investigated the Oklahoma River on Monday, and whatever plans he brings back for city consideration will be specific to Oklahoma City conditions.

Kayaking in manmade areas is a trend that started in the mid-1990s and is "absolutely exploding right now," he said.

Harvey said similar projects have been economic engines for other communities. He cited Golden, Colo., which he said saw a $2 million economic boost each of the two years after it built a water park.

During the meeting, members of the trust seemed interested by the idea of kayaking in Oklahoma City. It's an idea so off-beat it might work, Dave Lopez, president of Downtown Oklahoma City Inc., said later.

That's a pitching point Harvey realizes, but he says what these parks can accomplish is larger than pleasing outdoor enthusiasts.

"We know we can make white-water paddlers happy," he said. "It's about making the whole community happy."

02-07-2006, 10:37 AM
I think this would be a really neat feature to have on the river that would draw in money.

I found this PDF ( on their website ( of a proposed whitewater park in Salmon, ID. Looks like they created the whitewater park next to the existing river.

02-07-2006, 12:33 PM
that would really be something worth looking into!

02-07-2006, 12:39 PM
Do we have enough water?

02-07-2006, 01:02 PM
From the website...

Is it Possible to Create a Park in Your Town?

The most important question is, does your town have a river with sufficient drop and flow to create a whitewater park? REP has created parks on rivers with as little as 100 cfs and only three feet of drop. Ideal flows are much higher however and depend largely on the width of the river. There are no real guidelines on the amount of drop required for this type of park. Many of our structures require only 1.5 feet of drop per play feature, however, some of our most successful parks, like Steamboat Springs, CO have only one or two drop structures. This town has only one drop structure yet still hosts major national level rodeo events and festivals! Imagine having that ideal play feature in the center of your town. On the other hand, Cities like Sydney, Australia and Charlotte, N.C. either have built, or will build recirculating courses that are entirely fabricated out of cement channels. These parks don't even use an existing riverbed and the water is pumped around the channel.

I wouldn't even know where to check for Oklahoma River's cubic feet per second.

02-07-2006, 03:18 PM
It didn't even have any water in most of it up until about a week ago. I don't think a rapids park is conducive to drought conditions. Hopefully, that's temporary,

02-07-2006, 03:23 PM
BDP, you probably saw the section that is currently being drained to do some repair work and such to one of the dams. It is normally full

02-07-2006, 05:17 PM
Would that mean it wouldn't be navigable to boats if they build a kayaking section? If so then it's not worth it. This is a much better fit for the Arkansas River in Tulsa, where it has been proposed as well and where there already is a kayaking chute with Class III-IV rapids during high water near the low water dam. The flow is much greater for the Arkansas River, especially during the late spring snowmelt.

02-07-2006, 06:22 PM
According to the USGS, the North Canadian is currently at about 32 cfs below Lake Overholser. Keep in mind we are in extreme drought. If it's possible I think it would be an awesome addition to OKC's recreation opportunities.,00060 (USGS website)

02-07-2006, 07:21 PM
I had to go and check, 32cfs? That really is the number, wow, there really is not much water moving there at all, no wonder it was so easy to build a lock and dam system. To build dams on the Arkansas is a completely different sized project, the low water flow makes everything cheaper and easier.

As a comparison, I checked the Arkansas River in Tulsa, which is pretty dry right now and it's at 2,260cfs. Normal for the Arkansas this time of year is 4,553cfs. It peaks in June on average at 13,800.

Now, normally you are getting 139cfs in February, so normally if what was posted above about only needing 100cfs is correct you could build such a facility. I don't think anything like this is part of the current river plan in Tulsa, it looks cool. You should build it if you can keep the river navigable. That another good feature of the “Oklahoma” river and something Tulsa will not be able to do on the Arkansas.

Tulsa building anything like this is always going to be iffy, all changes to the Arkansas have to go through the Corp and the riverbed in Tulsa is a habitat for an endangered species, the Lest Tern, to boot, so everything also has to have an environmental review. So if it’s not on the plan now being reviewed it’s not going to happen any time soon at all. Such a facility would be good for the OKC and the state.

02-07-2006, 11:16 PM
Are you forgetting the "Tulsa Wave" south of the low water dam Swake? I thought they wanted to not only keep that area intact once the low water dam south of the 71st Street bridge is built but expand it into something better. You could easily do it there with the slope below the dam and the chute created by the PSO jetty.

The Oklahoma River, even under normal conditions, just doesn't seem full enough for rapids. Creating a navigable river that will connect the different nodes of development planned in the River Master Plan should be the highest priority. OKC can do this because they built locks when they built the dams, a smart move that Tulsa should be doing as well.

02-08-2006, 07:07 AM
I'm confused as to what you are defining as normal. As others mentioned we are currently under an extreme drought, and two part of the river is currently being drained for repairs. The past x amount of years it has been a low flowing river that you could mow twice a year. Now with the lockes and dams it has changed everything. Have you had enough time to observe the new statistics/ has it been open long enough before jumping to conclusions?

02-08-2006, 07:18 AM
32cfs was the real time flow last night, it may be more or less this morning, go and check. The average is an 80 year average of the flow for the month, the locks and dams may have lowered the flow a little from having to keep the river full behind the dams. So, today, the average would be a little less than the 80 year average.

02-08-2006, 08:34 AM
the locks and dams may have lowered the flow a little from having to keep the river full behind the dams.

This would be true but only when refilling the area within the dams. Once that is complete, then the flow should return to normal, right?

Also, who says they have to use the existing river? The company might find the river doesn't have a reliable and constant flow and could come back with a proposal to create a self contained recirculating course adjacent to the river.

02-08-2006, 09:53 AM
BDP, you probably saw the section that is currently being drained to do some repair work and such to one of the dams. It is normally full

That's probably it. I drive over it almost everyday and there hasn't been much water in it for some time. Within the last week it did look like it had been filling more. The bed was completely covered, but it wasn't that deep.

I don't mean to be saying I don't favor a kayaking feature. The would be great. It just seemed, from my non-engineer stand point, that it may take some creativity to speed up the flow in that area. It does sound like the developer is saying anything is possible, but we're also in the early proposal stage, where everything always seems to be possible. :)

Whether it comes to be in OKC and/or Tulsa, it sounds like a really fun thing to do, and all without fear the Deliverance syndrome. ;)

02-08-2006, 09:57 AM
Keep in mind the extreme drought also swake

02-08-2006, 11:17 AM
Keep what exactly in mind?

02-08-2006, 01:04 PM
Keep in mind the extreme drought also swake

meaning it has been extremely drier than normal, this along with the river being drained and it being a "new" river are several factors to keep in mind

02-08-2006, 01:15 PM
right, that's why I was saying you should not consider the current conditions so much, that's why I included the 80 year average, or am I missing something.

02-08-2006, 01:43 PM
The average is an 80 year average of the flow for the month, the locks and dams may have lowered the flow a little from having to keep the river full behind the dams. So, today, the average would be a little less than the 80 year average.

Yes, I think you might be missing something. Being you were referring to an 80 year average. For most of those 80 years you could mow the river. Now that it is dammed up within the last year or two, not sure if its been more than 1 year officially. If there is enough data since it has re-opened with the dams and such to use data from the last 80 years. Additionally, that is why I'm saying the drought conditions are even more important because the river has not been dammed up long enough to consider past droughts

02-08-2006, 02:49 PM
well, damming the river is not going INCREASE the flow no matter what. It may look like more water is moving, but that really is not the case at all.

02-08-2006, 02:57 PM
right, i'm not stating it will increase but stating its a factor regardless, even if it slows the flow, its still something to consider. regardless apparently the engineers with today's technology can make it work, just might have to create burms like they originally stated or other mechanisms

Urban Pioneer
02-10-2006, 11:31 AM
The river is currently being re-filled as phase two of the construction is complete. Actually, it is quite amazing how fast it filled up. It only took three days from almost completely empty to completely full for the Easter dam section. As to whether there is enough flow- a reverse turbine could be installed to recirculate water from the the lower reservoirs to the next reservoir above. The firm will probably recommend that a course be built on one wide of the river with a revese turbine or re-circulating pump system as an extreme flow of water is needed for what they are describing. However, there is enough water in the actual river- even with the drought to provide the rapids. The only drawback is the incredible electrical cost/consumption to pump the water needed. It may have to be a combined system to one side with water divereted from the dam above and a re-circulating system.