There are good and bad options for a summer float trip

It’s been years since I floated down the Illinois River in Northeastern Oklahoma.

I think I only did that three times – twice with church groups and once when my in-laws, George and Martha Campbell, came to Tulsa for a visit.

We went on a weekday to avoid the crowds and the water was flowing well and deep enough that we didn’t have to ever stand up and carry our canoes.

This was more than 30 years ago, when we were in much better shape. We had an incident on the river. We rounded a bend and there were several drunks sitting on a cliff just above us on the opposite bank.

Not only did they cuss at us but they threatened us for “being on their river.” We paddled through and at the end of our float trip, we notified the sheriff’s office.

I am certain that drinking has been curtailed on the river and such problems are few and far between.

As a teenager, our high school church group took a float trip down the Illinois River. It was in the spring and the river was up. It was probably more dangerous than normal but we were all good swimmers and didn’t give it much of a thought.

Getting sunburned was a bigger issue. You don’t think too much about sitting in an aluminum canoe for four hours in your bathing suit when you are a kid and indestructible.

I checked online and now you can float down the Illinois by renting a raft, a canoe or a kayak. The prices seem to be about $25 for a 2-4 hour float and $3-4 more for a 3-6 hour float trip.

I am sure that the river is more polluted these days than 30 years ago and my guess would be that it is more crowded, especially on a summer weekend.

In 2014, my son Josiah invited us to spend a weekend in the woods in Missouri. He spent the summer as an intern at River of Life Farm near the Mark Twain National Forrest in southeastern Missouri.

ROLF has wonderful accommodations, mostly cabins that are on hillsides. It offers world-class fly fishing (catch and release) on the North Fork of the White River.

Our son talked us into a float trip.

ROLF has year-round float trips because the river is fed by the eighth biggest spring in Missouri. The weekday float trips by canoe are either 7 or 12 miles. The 7-mile-trip takes about four hours while the 12-mile-trip is five or six hours. They all leave at 10 a.m. the prices range from $24 a day for a canoe, $34 a day for a kayak and $120 a day for a raft that holds up to six people.

My wife and I were in a canoe while our son was soloing in a kayak.

The river was clear as a bell. We saw some of the springs that feed the river. The wildlife was spectacular. We could see schools of fish around our canoe.

It had been decades since we had taken a float trip and I was concerned about how we would do. We are all good swimmers but when you paddle a canoe, you use muscles that you don’t normally use.

I did take some sunscreen this time.

The river was very crowded (we went on a Saturday) at the launching site but as we snaked down the river, it thinned out pretty well.

We hit some mild rapids but overall, it was a pleasant trip.

We have driven past the Buffalo River in Northern Arkansas and I have wondered what it would be like to float down that river.

Canoes rent for around $60 a day ($55 a day for multiple-day trips). Kayaks rent for $55 per day.  A four-man raft is $120 while a six-man raft is $180. And you do pay extra for a shuttle ride back to your car.

The Buffalo River runs from Boxley to Ponca to Steel Creek to Erbie to Ozark to Pruitt to Hasty to Carver to Mount Hersey to Woolum. The float trips range from 18-26 miles and the duration depends on how fast you paddle and how big of a hurry you are in.

I think you need to be a bit more experienced to take on the Buffalo River. Navigating with a canoe can be tricky sometimes and a kayak is even more of a challenge.

I don’t think the Buffalo River is going to be on my bucket list.

Perhaps 10 years ago, my in-laws took the kids rafting on the Colorado River when we were in Breckenridge. Susan and I didn’t go because we only had a few days on that particular summer vacation. The kids stayed a few extra days with Grandma and Grandpa. They had great fun on a milder portion of the Colorado River.

I don’t think I would ever take a canoe on the Arkansas River in Tulsa. The water is too polluted and the river is just not safe – no matter how many millions we waste on making a beach for the casino.

I might go back to ROLF and I might give the Illinois one more try sometime.