Family Fun on the Oklahoma River



In our home, the word “bored” is forbidden. Say the “b” word and I’ll get a dust rag in your hands. Fortunately, thanks in part to the Oklahoma City’s MAPS projects. The Oklahoma River near downtown Oklahoma City supports an invigorating environment with activities to satisfy restless energy levels and fight off the forbidden “b” word. This spring break, get your family to the river and get creatively active; there’s so much to do!

Oklahoma River Trails and River Access

Thirteen miles of paved river trails (six miles on the north side and seven on the south) are available to all runners, rollerbladers, skateboarders, bicyclists and those with mobility aids.

You can access the north side from three parking area locations:

  • Regatta Park off Byers Avenue, just west of Byers Avenue bridge;
  • SW 15th Street, between Walker and Robinson; or
  • Wheeler Park, SW 9th Street and Shartel.

The south side can be accessed from parking areas at:

  • SW 15th Street and Meridian;
  • River Park at SW 8th Street and Agnew;
  • Wiley Post Park, SW 17th Street and Robinson; or
  • SW 15th Street, just east of Portland.

While pedestrian access to cross the river (at time of writing) is limited to the Robinson St. overpass just west of the Chesapeake Boathouse, the SkyDance Bridge, a 380-foot long, landmark pedestrian crossover bridge is scheduled to open in late spring 2012 spanning the new I-40 cross town highway.

Oklahoma City Regatta Park/Boathouse District

What a difference a few years makes! That was my thought as my sister, Anita Zotto, and I ventured out to the Oklahoma River. A decade in the making, the boathouse district is growing continually. Having already earned a reputation as a world-class training ground for collegiate and Olympic rowing athletes, the Oklahoma River, with support from the Oklahoma City Boathouse Foundation, offers the public access to a variety of river activities.

Try It Now

Always looking for new ways to exercise, Anita and I decided to use the “Try It Now” passes available through the Oklahoma City Boathouse Foundation’s Riversport program. These passes allow users to try three family-friendly activities for free. We redeemed our passes (reserved ahead of time online, but walk-ins are welcome) at the Chesapeake Boathouse where a staffer got us started.

  • Biking. We worked our legs touring the riverfront on the paved trails using bikes borrowed from the boathouse (you can also bring your own bikes, which I would recommend as bikes are limited).
  • Paddle-Boarding. Next, we attempted the stand-up paddle boards (SUPs), a large surf-like board you stand or kneel on as you paddle up and down the river—a great core stabilizing exercise.
  • Kayaking. Lastly, we kayaked east on the river, touring the new Chesapeake Finish Line Tower, Devon Boathouse and KaBoom Playground (designed by children and erected in one day by over 300 volunteers)—a relaxing, but good upper body workout. What a fun and a refreshing change from the routine at the gym!

Try-It-Now passes are available year round for any number of activities. While the water activities are available March through October, passes can also be used to try out the fitness center, yoga or indoor rowing classes.

Learn to Row

Your family can take river sporting to a whole new level by taking advantage of other programs, including spring break camps, suitable for ages 8 and up. And, beginning this month, Riversport is hosting free open houses for kids to learn about rowing. No experience is required. Parents are welcome to meet the coaches and sprint team athletes. Kids will get an introduction to the sport and take an actual lesson on the water. Open houses run from 10:00 am – noon. If your child elects to enroll, the one and a half-hour classes meet twice a week for one month with sessions offered March 17 through the last week of August.

Oklahoma River Cruises

River cruises are another river activity worth experiencing. Beginning in 2008, MetroTransit, through a partnership with HMS Global Maritime, began offering public transit ferry service along a seven-mile route on the Oklahoma River. Today, three boats provide public ferry transportation as well as chartered and themed cruises along this route. As Patrick Murray of Oklahoma River Cruises explains, “There are a myriad of cruises offered throughout the year, including a St. Patrick’s Day Cruise. Other cruises include the popular Sunset Cruise, Sunday Live Entertainment, themed cruises (including adult Haunt the River Cruise in October) and chartered cruises for special events.

By visiting the Oklahoma River, Anita and I certainly found new, creative ways to stay fit and have fun. You can zap the “b” word from your family’s vocabulary. Go to the Oklahoma River often. New activities are being added continuously. The added benefit is quality, family, fitness time together.

Visiting the Boathouse District

The boathouse district lies just south of the new I-40 crosstown. To access it, take Lincoln Avenue south from Reno Avenue and continue to 725 S Lincoln.

Chesapeake Finish Line Tower’s first floor visitor’s center is a good place to start for an introduction and panoramic views of the river activities and trails. Visitor center hours are Monday-Friday, 9:00am – 6:00pm and Saturday 1:00 – 6:00pm.

For more information on Riversport activities including canoe/kayak class open house and class dates, equipment rentals, season or Try It Now passes, visit www.riversportokc.org or call 405-552-4040. Chesapeake Boathouse hours are Monday-Friday, 6:00am – 8:00pm, Saturday 7:00am – 5:00pm and Sunday 1:00 – 5:00pm.

Oklahoma River Cruises

Public ferry service on the Oklahoma River runs from April 6 – December 16, Wednesdays-Sundays. Boarding stops are located at Regatta Park (Boathouse District), Exchange Landing (near Stockyards City), and Meridian Landing. Tickets may be purchased online, at the office or at the boat landings. Advanced ticket purchases are recommended. Tickets begin at $6 (one way) and $12 (round trip). Discounts available for seniors and children ages 6 – 12, children under 6 are free.

For more information, tickets or to reserve a chartered cruise, visit www.okrivercruises.com, call 405-702-7755 or visit the Oklahoma River Cruises office at 300 SW 7th Street in Oklahoma City.

Coming Soon to the Oklahoma River!

Construction is scheduled to begin this summer on a new 16,000 square-foot youth pavilion that will include an indoor surf park, “a very unique water feature,” according to Mike Knopp, OKC Boathouse Foundation Executive Director. An outdoor climbing wall, Sky Trail and Zip Line that zips passengers over the river are other attractions being added. “We all want to see kids being more active outdoors, and this is going to be an adventure center unlike anything else in the country,” says Knopp. “While our focus is on youth, it’s really going to appeal to people of all ages.”

Fundraising is still underway for this multi-million dollar project. For more information on how you or your company can support this effort, call 405-552-4040.

Karen Mitchell, a lifelong resident of the Oklahoma City metro area, lives in Edmond with her husband Mark, teenage son, Ryan, and one spoiled Welsh corgi. Daughter Megan attends OSU in Stillwater.

[Editor’s note: This marks Karen’s last Exploring Oklahoma column for MetroFamily. We appreciate her hard work and wish her all the best!]

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