Nature Experience #11 – Kayaking on Keystone

The morning is cool. We load the kayaks into the back of our pickup truck, and tie them down to prepare for the short journey from our home in southwest Tulsa to Keystone Lake, west of Tulsa. The lake is manmade, formed in the 60s when a flood control dam was constructed to hold the sometimes raging waters of two of the state’s largest rivers, the Cimarron and Arkansas Rivers in northwestern Oklahoma.

The huge lake features two Oklahoma state parks, Walnut Creek and Lake Keystone. Camping, as well as facilities for RVs and showers are available at both parks. Keystone also features trails for hiking. It is a huge lake, 24,000 acres with 330 miles of shoreline. But it’s not for camping facilities that we go to Keystone. It’s for the easy access for kayaks, with numerous places where a kayak can be carried to the shore and launched. Then, the adventure begins.

We discovered kayaking at Beavers Bend State Park in southwestern Oklahoma on the Mountain Fork River. After that first experience, it was only a matter of time before we budgeted for kayaks and purchased our first ones at a late winter Tulsa Boat and Travel show. Although double seater kayaks are available, we learned from that first experience that each of us liked the independence of having our own ‘boat.’ We could go where we wanted, piddle where we wanted, row as fast or as slow as we wanted, or drift with the waves and the wind. So, we bought one for each of us. Then, we made a few practice journeys on small lakes nearby, where motor boats were not allowed. That gave us a chance to learn how to paddle correctly, get in and out without falling out of the kayak, and travel both with and against the everpresent Oklahoma wind.

Then we were ready to tackle a larger lake, with motor boats that create wakes which can easily swamp a kayak paddler.

Together, we carry the kayaks one at a time to the edge of the water. Then, with life jackets on, double-ended oar stowed, water and food packed, each of us pushes the prow of the kayak into the water and maneauvers our way inside.

The great thing about kayaks is that they can float in only a few inches of water. Once you’re in and settled, you can glide through relatively shallow water. This makes it possible to stick close to the shore and investigate vegetation and critters that live ‘on the edges.’ The quiet kayak lets us traverse those worlds without disturbing the inhabitants in advance. They hardly realize we are there until we are almost upon them.

Birds, whether egrets or hawks, songbirds or shorebirds, fly only when we are within a few yards of them. Racoons and beavers hardly notice when we arrive, and then appear stunned that we’ve gotten so close. Fishes leap out of the water only inches away. 

And all around us there is quiet and the peace of nature, a blue sky above, dotted with fluffy clouds, and the rolling surface of the water. The water laps at our boats, rhythmic, soothing. Soon, a stretch of sandy beach – and a nap – are too tempting. We point the boats at the shore, pull them up onto the sand, and then throw ourselves down on the beach towels for a snooze. Later, a picnic lunch, and we’re off again, paralleling the shore, watching, learning, relaxing.

There’s nothing like kayaking. And Keystone offers the shoreline and the many peaceful inlets and fingers full of wildlife that make this a perfect kayaking location!

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