Here in Oklahoma, I Paddle in the Winter, Too.
Maybe I am overly confident, but I don't expect Oklahoma's waters to
be so cold that they instantly paralyze me. I enjoy lake kayaking during
the winter in Oklahoma. Many folks store their kayaks in the winter
because of they fear unintentionally capsizing and suffering from
hypothermia. This is a totally valid worry. I advise recreational
kayakers in Oklahoma to get ready for winter paddling by getting: a
spray skirt, a change of clothes, a paddling partner, a good
brace and a good pair of
I have unintentionally capsized many times, if you have not... then
next summer, you should give it a try. I recommend the Lower
Mountain Fork River in Broken Bow, Oklahoma. I'll bet I
unintentionally capsized 15 times on my first trip down that fun
four miles of clear, rushing water and rocks. I don't paddle that
river in the Winter, but paddling it in the summer taught me the
value of using a spray skirt. Using a spray skirt, you can
unexpectedly tip the boat and still not have it start filling up
with water. A spray skirt for your recreational kayak also keeps
paddle splash off your legs, protects your body from wind and keeps
half of you out of the rain.
The Illinois River is another nice one to unintentionally capsize on
during the summer. At safe paddling levels, these rivers are so
shallow that there is little risk drowning and in the summer the
heat is more of a threat than the cold. It doesn't take an expert
'eskimo roll' to drag your boat out of the water, dump out the water
and start again during the summer.
Cold Kills...Even in Oklahoma
course, in the winter season unintentionally capsizing can kill you.
In Oklahoma, I don't consider any water temperature to be safe, when
the air temperature is cold. Once you get wet, the wind becomes a
huge factor. My main consideration during winter paddling is: how
quickly I can get dry and somewhat warm to prevent hypothermia. That
is why I avoid wearing cotton during winter paddling trips. It dries
too slow. There are may ways to get wet while kayaking: paddle
splash, unexpected swim, a rouge wave, rain, etc.
I have been
on many Spring kayaking trips, where it rained unexpected. I was
glad to be wearing
Under Armour, rather than cotton, on our last Elk
River trip. Cold rain poured down on us for about 15 minutes,
followed by loads of sunshine...after a few minutes of paddling I
was dry again. Even on a hot day cotton will not dry in time to
provide you with any warmth.
Choose Your Paddling Locations with Care
Kayak fishing during the winter is quite common is the more southern
parts of the U.S. and Mexico. We packed our furry Trooper Hats
to stay warm during our winter kayak fishing at Caddo Lake.
When I paddle Oklahoma's lakes in the winter, I'm mostly looking for
nice pictures. In my opinion, the nicest kayaking photos in
Oklahoma, are fairly close to the shoreline.
Near the shore, you
will find more wildlife, nice rock formations, trees and other
lovely foreground elements. I often paddle across the wider, more
open parts of the lake, but I spend most of my time a very short
swim away from the shore. I paddle with a
dry bag containing
emergency kayaking gear: a spray
skirt, a warm change of clothing and fire-making materials. I like
to think I could self rescue, if I have a surprise swim during my
winter lake paddling trips.
Rivers are riskier because there are many parts where you cannot
easily swim to shore and your gear may be swept away by the current.
Since this isn't the rocky mountains, a few weeks without rain can
turn many rivers into flatwater paddling spots. The photo to the
left is the Deep Fork River in Creek County, and it is was taken
while paddling in January. You can see that there is little
risk of the current sweeping away a kayak at this level!
The last couple kayak fishing photos are from our winter kayaking
Caddo Lake in Texas. Caddo Lake is teaming with fish.
In the winter months, you won't have to share this beautiful lake
with the horde of Bass Boat that cover this water in Summer months.
Although, I prefer the more colorful seasons on Caddo Lake, this
lake is spectacular even in the winter.
Okmulgee State Park is just about 15 minutes from my home, I do
most of my winter kayaking there. Remember: the weather may be less
comfortable during the winter, but the sunsets tend to be much more
Disaster Strikes Me On My Mild-Water Summer Kayaking Day Trip
I had an unexpected swim one summer on the
North Canadian River near
Pierce, Oklahoma. I
found it very difficult to climb the steep banks and swampy areas
even in light current. I
am convinced that two things saved me that day:
my PFD and my
paddling partner. I got very tired trying to swim to shore dragging
my boat and paddle. By the time I decided to let them go and focus
on making it to shore, I was exhausted. Thankfully, I didn't have to
struggle to keep my head above water to breath because I was wearing
lifejacket and I got my boat and paddle back because I was not
out there all alone.
The reason I took that unexpected swim is because: I launched
without a spray skirt on, lost my balance and then failed to 'brace'.
Bracing is a
paddling technique where you use your paddle to stop you from
tipping over. This paddle stroke allows you to regain your balance
by rotating your kayak or canoe back underneath you with your hips.
The brace doesn't work too well in a recreational kayak, because
that huge cockpit tends to fill with water quickly. Add a $50 nylon
spray skirt and you have a whole new way to avoid a chilly swim in
Most paddlers try to develop two types of braces: a high brace and a
low brace. I'm not qualified to teach you these two bracing strokes,
but there are countless photos, books, videos and how-to articles on
the web that will try. Seek out these resources during the winter
and them give them a try when summer comes.
Here are a few to get you started:
and a great
brace article from Canoe & Kayak Magazine.
a spray skirt for your kayak -
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