It's a long, long way to the water.
Obviously, I need schooling in interpreting their daily lake water level statistics. According to what I found on their site, the lake was supposed to be down 2 ft. Paddling the coves and feeder streams are what I enjoy most, since they are more picturesque, and that’s where you find the most wildlife. Since they are all dry, I tabled the idea of canoe-camping around the entire lake now in lieu of family time and a few day paddles. The wind helped reinforce that decision. When I first planned the trip, I had hoped to start from Arkansas City, just north of the Kansas state line, and follow the Arkansas River down to the lake. I called the town’s executive secretary to explain what I was doing and seek
guidance on the town’s launch sites. She said, “I wouldn’t recommend trying that. You’ll be extremely disappointed. Right now you could walk the Arkansas without getting your shoes wet. There’s grass and weeds where there should be water.” Instead, Plan B was to paddle from Kaw Lake up the Arkansas with the objective of reaching Trader’s Bend. Sometimes finding the feeder stream for a lake can be tricky, especially since I was holding two conflicting maps. One showed the river entering the lake along the west shore around a bunch of islands, and the other from along the east shore. As it turned out, I went up the west shore and ran right into it.
With the water level down, the shores and coves were seeded
with millet by plane for the migratory waterfowl.
With the lake way down, there were also countless dead trees, stumps, and other obstructions to avoid running up onto. The river was shallow, seldom much more than a foot deep, and as little as eight inches. After a few miles, I rounded a bend, and the river suddenly broadened and flattened out. I ran aground a couple times trying to negotiate sandbars in search of a channel. Finally I got out and towed the canoe behind me as I walked 80-yds. back and forth across the river seeking a channel. Nothing! It was earlier than planned, but I had little recourse but to come about and head back down the river. I had bucked a decent headwind all the way up the lake and river, but found comfort in the prospect of riding the wind all the way back. The joke was on me. As soon as I came about, the wind died. In all I paddled 13.4 miles.
It was a great day, and plenty physical enough after several months of hibernation. My body was saying it may have been a bit much. You can say anything bad you want though, about the low lake, tree stumps everywhere, sandbars, shallows, but just being on the water always brings things to enjoy and appreciate---watching huge catfish leaping and darting from beneath the boat, pelicans gathering to begin their migration, the first hint of changing fall colors. Cool!