Riversport Adventures in OKC
Riversport Adventures in OKC
Oklahoma City has a river, a man-made river made for man. Specifically, it’s made for man to riversport. It was, I believe, part of the first MAPS program (Metropolitan Area something or other, a temporary penny tax that helped revitalize downtown OKC and other ‘hoods) and is now managed by Chesapeake Energy or maybe Devon. (Same-same…) That’s probably not entirely true but I’m bitter and torn when it comes to oil and gas money so I don’t want to research it lest it make me angry.
It stretches the width of the city, dumps into a couple of lakes, flows back out and then peters into nothing. But what’s really cool is that it is entirely focused on being active, no small feat in a city where obesity once reigned. Once upon a time, an medium-city mayor got offended by a big-time mag calling his town fat and did something about it. Ellen noticed, thus the world. We still got some issues but we are much more exercise friendly now. And a huge due is to the Boathouse District and OKC Riversport Adventures.
The main locale is east downtown OKC, just past Bricktown. It’s such a big deal now there are a lot of guide signs, or you can basically just head toward the giant white contraption in the middle of the city.. There are other put-ins (e.g. Meridian and SW 15th for the cruises; Lake Overholser and Hefner for the…lakes) but Boathouse Central is where it’s at.
So much. Take a boat cruise, kayak, SUP, and…whitewater raft. Indeed, OKC has an Olympic whitewater training course, one of the few of its kind. And it looks awesome. You can one-man kayak or put your family/friends on a raft and imagine you’re bumping through the Grand Canyon.
Not into water sports? Cool beans, play on the playground, bounce around on this thing I’m going to call the air-trampoline, do some tricks and flips in the skate/bike park, chill under one of the pavilions. Eat at Big Water Grill, have a beer, shop at the tiniest gift shop ever. Stroll along the 13 + miles of walking paths along the river. The paths away from downtown are quite peaceful and that water breeze is so refreshing.
Maybe you like to get high? If so, do the Skywalk, a big jungle gym in the air.
Finish off with the Rumble Drop (a freefall) or the SkyZip a zip-line across the river. Cool thing here? You get to do it twice because there’s no bridge back. It’s like a two-fer.
Though not technically part of the Boathouse/Riversport district, there is also the Wheeler District that comes with its own Ferris Wheel. Not sure if this is a chicken or the egg thing as far as the name goes but it’s kind of a cool area. I’m including it here because it’s on the river. There are food trucks and cool swings and pavilions and picnic tables and a lot of green space to enjoy with your family. There’s also the OKC sign that I see all over my friends-with-kids Instagram and FB accounts and had no idea where it was until I happened upon it in my wanderings.
There are kids camps for all ages but I ain’t got kids so I didn’t look into this. What I did look into? Hourly rentals and lessons. Yep, they will teach you to row, kayak, SUP, even sail.
Lots, but not necessarily. If you just want to paddle for a bit, on the river on the lake, it’ll cost you $19 an hour. A flatwater kayak lesson’ll cost you $35 for 90 minutes. Whitewater is $50 for the same amount of time and a roll lesson (i.e. wet exit) is $35 for an hour. These appeal to me because I want to do river floats and rapids solo sometime soon.
So it ain’t free. Honestly, one day I’m going to buy a city, then build a river in the middle of that city and charge people to do things on it. Smartest business idea ever.
First, a season pass (April-Oct) is only $179. A chunk for a broke chick like me but if you went a lot (and lived near downtown…) it’d be an all right deal.
Next, group passes. Buying in bulk is always better and the boathouse is no exception.
Speaking of buying in bulk, buy a day pass for $49 (+$10 to include the zip-line). You can do everything, over and over. Maybe you want to zip-line till you puke, you can do that. Kayak, then SUP, then row, the whitewater whatever? Sure thing.
Finally, if you own your own craft, you can pay a minor fee and just put in whenever and wherever you want. I so want to be that guy… Full disclosure, I’m not sure how this works with the whitewater course but there were plenty of cars with colorful crafts pulling in the lot so I know they let anyone play.
I have meant to try this whole thing out for a couple of years. Really I want to buy a house near midtown, and just walk to the river with my trusty kayak (I’d call him Joe) and go row whenever I felt like it. But until I make my first million, I have to rent my dreams… Anyhow, I did finally make it to the District.
And it was quite the lovely day. Overcast and mid-70s, not humid at all (no small feat here), with no need for wind. This was good since I’ve never kayaked and I chose the Discover Kayaking lesson, a 90 minute session that was, I suppose, to be guided. Why do you need a teacher to float a river in a very stable craft? You don’t, I just thought, hey, an extra half-hour and maybe he’d be cute… Or maybe I thought they wouldn’t let you get in without some credentials. Turns out, there’s not a lot of policing going on.
Since I knew not where to go, I followed the sidewalk by the river until I saw kayaks and thought, I have arrived. A teenage kid looked at my order printout, sort of shrugged and said, “You need a lesson?”
“Not really, I just need a kayak…”
He held it while I basically fell into the thing and off I went. Only to be called back after twenty feet because I was supposed to check in at the check-in place. (So, FYI, when you go, walk all the way to the far end (by the whitewater course) and go in the building to check-in, even if you’ve signed your waiver, paid, et cetera, you still have to check-in…) I waited in line, thinking about my paid minutes ticking by…by…bye… When I finally got to the counter, she thought I was there for the whitewater course. And I almost let her think that. The screams of joy were all around me and it would be a 30% discount. But I chickened out and was soon walking back to the river.
There was hardly another person the entire time I was floated and rowed like a boss. Really, I think I’m a natural. I realize this is like saying I’m a natural-born walker or breather but I felt good out there. I should have no problem convincing myself to get out on a bay or skirt a coast somewhere. The sky spit on me a bit, much better than searing my skin, and I got a little workout when I tried to go faster.
Not a lot of fast-going in a kayak, let me tell you what. I was surprisingly disoriented from the motion of the water. Surprising because there didn’t seem to be any motion until I looked about thirty feet ahead of me. I wasn’t nauseated or anything (wonderful because I get motion sickness in a hot car that’s sitting still) but if the boat was bigger, I might have issues. When I finally disembarked I could feel the difference.
Country music. There’s the “Riversport Radio” which is all-encompassing (rock, pop, old, new…) but every 3rd or so song was country. Peace smooshed.
I finally got off the river when I realized I had a blister on my thumb but I think I could have stayed out for hours. There was a shift change at the dock and no one would have known. But, I had an owie and decided to oar it in. I pulled up to the dock like a champ but the new chick was swamped with a big group wanting to SUP.
Should I risk falling in the not-so-clean water and get out of the kayak all by my big-girl self? Why not? And while it wasn’t the most graceful of exits, I did not make this story better by getting soaked. I didn’t even drop my oar.
I traipsed over to the rapids course to see what it was all about and got to witness a raft flip and spill its people. The lifeguards were prompt with their life buoys but one kid tried really hard to not get pulled in. I think he liked bumping down the falls with just his lifejacket.
I’m definitely going back next month to try those rapids and probably the SkyTrail too. I’ll probably skip the zip-line as I only care to zip down a mountainside (or into a cenote like I did in the Yucatan). The moral here is that Oklahoma City has quite a cool little attraction right in the heart of it and I’m freaking glad I finally went.
Can’t wait to go again!
Ever been to the Boathouse District? Tried a Riversport? Or maybe SUP-ed somewhere awesome, like Hawaii? Tell me about it in the comments below!