Best Places To Kayak In Oklahoma

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In the exciting world of kayaking, the best locations are filled with variety and, of course, beautiful surroundings. Both can be found in Oklahoma’s many lakes and rivers. Even though it is not a coastal state, Oklahoma has a plethora of water-based activities. This State of infinite outdoor activities, known as the Sooner State, begs to be explored.

The opportunities for kayaking in Oklahoma are seemingly endless, surrounded by exquisite scenery with flowing lakes and rivers. Whitewater and flatwater enthusiasts will have their fair share to choose from. Popular kayaking spots include Lake Eufaula, Illinois River, and Lake Hefner.

Come and discover why Oklahoma should undoubtedly be the next destination for your kayaking adventure! With exquisite lakes and rivers that cater to kayakers of all experience and skill, as well as state-of-the-art kayaking clubs and facilities to enjoy, Oklahoma is a kayaking destination not to be missed!

Kayaking In Oklahoma

In Oklahoma, there are a lot of great spots to explore on a kayak. Rivers and lakes abound in the State, making for spectacular multi-day treks with the family or just a peaceful few hours with some close friends.

You may anticipate seeing a variety of scenery on your kayaking experiences since the State of Oklahoma has four breathtaking mountain ranges, as well as various forests and the famous Great Plains. Undoubtedly, all those who live in Oklahoma or will be visiting will be spoiled for choice with some of the most beautiful kayaking spots in the country.

Another thing that makes paddling in Oklahoma so great is its various spots cater to kayakers of all skill and experience levels. As such, regardless of how much time you have spent in the world of kayaking, Oklahoma undoubtedly has something for you.

The Best Kayaking Spots In Oklahoma

Let’s paddle right into the most exciting part and help you to plan for your next kayaking outing by showing you some of the best kayaking spots in Oklahoma:

Lake Eufaula

First on the list, Lake Eufaula is the largest lake in Oklahoma, measuring 41,000 hectares. This massive lake stretches across three counties and encompasses more than 600 miles of coastline. With numerous annual fishing events occurring on the lake, Lake Eufaula is also an excellent site for kayaking, fishing, and swimming.

The topography of Lake Eufaula changes as you travel south along the waters. Kayakers will be able to see a diverse assortment of wildlife and scenic nature the further south you paddle. Try to plan to visit in the spring when the lake is flooded by rain, as the increased water levels typically make the kayaking experience easier for those with less experience.

Around the lake, there are numerous marinas and boat docks with various services and hotels. So, if you wish to extend your journey a couple of days, you will have plenty of options to choose from. There are a few marinas and resorts where you will be able to rent kayaks. However, it would be more convenient to carry your own if possible.

Illinois River

Second on the list is the Illinois River, an excellent alternative for beginner kayakers who want to see everything Oklahoma offers in terms of nature and wildlife. Paddling down the Illinois River is also a paradise for birdwatchers, with roughly over 250 different bird species to be seen. 

This kayaking spot is nothing short of spectacular. Blooming redbuds can be seen throughout the spring and fall. And regardless of the time of year that you visit the Illinois River, you will find a plethora of beautiful trees as well as a diverse range of wildlife, like the exquisite bald eagle, if you happen to be lucky enough.

The river is mainly tranquil, except for some small Class II rapids. However, it is certainly manageable for beginners. So, whether you’re searching for a gentler, more relaxing trip or a rush from Class II rapids, the Illinois River has it all.

Lake Of The Arbuckle’s

Lake of the Arbuckle’s, located just south of Sulphur, Oklahoma, is widely recognized for its beauty. It was built in 1966 and has 36 miles of breathtakingly beautiful shoreline, and boasts several camping places, boat docks, and picnic spaces. This is undoubtedly an excellent kayaking spot suitable for the whole family.

On the north side of Lake of the Arbuckle’s, you will find the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, where you will be able to kayak through woodlands and other exquisite scenery. Aside from kayaking, there are also some fantastic hiking opportunities to enjoy while onshore. 

Additionally, for those who might enjoy kayak fishing, various fish like catfish, bass, crappie, and perch are all possible species to catch on a day out on the water.

There are also a few options for kayak rentals for those traveling far or do not have their own kayaking equipment.

Mountain Fork River

Because the water is calmer in the summer, this is another good option for novice kayakers. However, this, of course, does not rule out the possibility of some adventure. Mountain Fork River can easily reach Class II rapids during rainstorms or dam releases. In fact, parts of the Mountain Fork River are regarded as having some of Oklahoma’s most incredible whitewater.

Many people frequent the lower parts of Mountain Fork River for various water sports and recreation, especially during the summer months when the overall conditions are ideal. In particular, there is a short route in Beaver Bend State Park north of the Re-Regulation Dam that is a trendy kayaking spot.

Along the lower sections of the Mountain Fork River, you will be able to find a large number of kayak rental facilities. So, even if you have your own kayak, you do not necessarily need to bring it along.

Skiatook Lake

Skiatook Lake is another must-visit spot on our list. This exquisitely breathtaking spot, which covers 4,200 hectares and is bordered by scenic hills, provides one of the most tranquil kayaking experiences in all of Oklahoma. The crystal-like water takes on the appearance of a mirror, perfectly capturing and reflecting all of the surrounding scenery.

Skiatook Lake, Oklahoma’s 15th largest lake, is located in the Osage Reservation northwest of Tulsa. There are many spots to pause and rest along the 160 miles of shoreline on your kayaking excursion, so do not worry about not having enough stamina to paddle around the entire lake. Skiatook Lake is undoubtedly a kayaking spot not to be missed.

Lake Hefner

Lake Hefner is located northeast of Oklahoma City and northeast of Lake Overholser. Even though Lake Hefner is surrounded on one side by a dam and the other by residential zones, it still offers an excellent variety of recreational activities, including kayaking, fishing, and hiking.

Since Lake Hefner is in such close proximity to Oklahoma City, there are additional activities to enjoy, like golf. All in all, Lake Hefner is another ideal kayaking location that offers plenty of opportunities for the whole family to enjoy themselves together. 

Lake Hefner is also home to a diverse range of wildlife. However, it is also a popular site for motorboats, so keep a lookout as you explore the 1,000-hectare lake. Lake Hefner is suitable for kayakers of all skill levels and is also a good spot for kayak fishing. 

Kayaks are available to rent at a few locations, including the marina on the lake’s southern borders. You can also launch from the marina’s dock.

Grand Lake Of The Cherokees

Grand Lake of the Cherokees, one of the most popular lakes in the region, is located in the northeast corner of Oklahoma among the hills of the beautiful Ozark Mountain Range. Every year, almost 6 million individuals visit the lake to explore all of the beauty that it has to offer.

Grand Lake of the Cherokees is also the largest and most developed lake in the region, covering 36,000 hectares. The lake is not only considered to be massive by Oklahoma standards, but it also happens to be one of the biggest in the whole country.

The view around Grand Lake of the Cherokees is absolutely breathtaking. Kayaking around the enormous reservoir, which flows through two state parks and two wildlife refuges, will enable you to enjoy some of the most excellent views in all of Oklahoma.

The Grand Lake of the Cherokees is known to be very shallow, which could be considered a benefit from a safety perspective. It also boasts a considerable number of little inlets and bays that are ideal for exciting detours along the way. In these parts, though, you will need to keep a watch out for large boats.

Kayaking Clubs In Oklahoma

Now that you are ready to explore some of the best kayaking spots in Oklahoma, you might also want to think about joining a local kayaking club. Becoming a member of a kayaking club is one of the best ways to meet fellow paddlers, improve your kayaking skills, and ultimately make the most out of all of your paddling excursions.

Most kayaking and outdoor activity clubs offer their members access to several scheduled outings, training facilities, fellowship opportunities, and they often serve as platforms to benefit and protect land conservation, as well as various community programs. 

There are several platforms such as Meetup and Facebook where several kayaking groups and clubs can be found and joined, but we will highlight one in particular that undoubtedly offers the most benefits. 

Riversport OKC

Riversport OKC (Oklahoma City) is a nonprofit foundation aimed at outdoor adventure and fitness activities with a goal to encourage people to challenge themselves, whether a beginner or someone on their way to the Olympics. They offer outdoor fun for the whole family, with activities including kayaking (both whitewater and flatwater), ziplining, stand-up paddleboarding, and a whole host of other activities.

Riversport also offers various programs and lessons to improve your kayaking abilities and even take your skills to a competition, if you so wish. They even have an 11-acre whitewater kayaking center called Riversport Rapids, where anyone from families to elite athletes can take to the waters. 

This massive state-of-the-art center cost a whopping $42.2 million to put together and is one of only a few to exist in the world. This is undoubtedly something you don’t want to miss out on. You can still access Riversport Rapids even if you are not a member. It is open to the public for daily or annual rates.

Membership fees start from $25 per month up to $50 per month for the Riversport Plus annual membership. The annual membership gives you year-round access to all of their exciting facilities, including whitewater kayaking, flatwater kayaking, free classes, coached programs, group exploring excursions, and so many other incredible opportunities. 

Even though Riversport OKC is not a kayaking-only facility, all of the other added activities and benefits make them by far the most exciting and value-for-money kayaking resource you could find. Riversport’s facilities can be located in Oklahoma City, Lake Overholser, and Lake Hefner.

Kayaking Laws In Oklahoma

Before you dive into any of the best kayaking spots or sign up for a yearly subscription with an exciting kayaking club, it is of utmost importance that you make yourself aware of the necessary state laws and regulations around kayaking. 

The vast majority of laws around kayaking are standard across the country. However, oftentimes individual states may have a few subtle differences that are vital to know. Remember that kayaking laws are ultimately implemented for your own safety and the safety of those kayaking with you to ensure that you have the best time on the water.

Here are a few common questions relating to kayaking laws in Oklahoma:

Do Kayaks Have To Be Registered In Oklahoma?

No. As of July 2013, kayaks and other non-motorized water vessels do not need to be registered in Oklahoma. Registration only becomes necessary in motorized water vessels with a horsepower of 10hp or more. 

Do I Need A License For Kayaking In Oklahoma?

No. No license is required for non-motorized water vessels, like kayaks, in Oklahoma. A Boaters Safety Education certificate will be needed if you are operating a motorized water vessel. Anyone under 12 may not legally operate a motorized water vessel in Oklahoma.

Can You Drink Alcohol While Kayaking In Oklahoma?

In Oklahoma, the law does not consider non-motorized water vessels like kayaks under standard DUI law. However, drinking alcohol while kayaking is not recommended as it can put you in dangerous situations. When operating a motorized water vessel, a Blood Alcohol Level of 0,08% will result in you getting charged with a DUI.

Do You Need To Wear A Life Jacket To Kayak In Oklahoma?

Life jackets must be worn at all times by those 12 years old and younger. While adults do not need to wear them at all times, a United States Coast Guard-approved life jacket is required for each individual on board the kayak.


Overall, no matter what you’re searching for in a kayaking experience, Oklahoma has it all. There is something for every kayaker’s level of expertise and interest, whether it’s peaceful waters with only the wildlife for company or a heart-racing excursion on some whitewater rapids. Don’t miss out on kayaking in Oklahoma!