How does a city in the middle of the Oklahoma prairie make a list of paddling’s best towns? You have to visit Oklahoma City (pop. 610,000) to understand. The city is bursting with self-assurance—an “if we build it, they will come” spirit that pervades the community. It, in this case, is the restoration of the Oklahoma River, which the New York Times once called a “scar through the city’s heart, at times a trickle of water in a ditch so overgrown it had to be mowed three times a year.”
How times change. The revitalized river is now OKC’s centerpiece, anchored by a pair of spaceship- inspired boathouses, where Olympic kayakers and rowers train, and where regular folks participate in all manner of paddlesports. The Boathouse District sits between the river and a lush new downtown canal system, accessible from downtown by foot, bike and water taxi.
And Brick Town is just getting started. By this time next year, a new $45 million, two-channel Whitewater Center will be open to the public. It was fully financed by a citizen-funded penny sales tax that underwrites “quality of life” initiatives throughout Oklahoma City. — CK
See more: NORTH AMERICA’S BEST PADDLING TOWNS.
This story will appear in the June 2015 issue of Canoe & Kayak.