Brandon and I launched our kayaks just below the Cherokee Bridge waterfall unsure of the legality of our venture not to mention the health risk. We set off to kayak the Caney River, because we felt like it, in the mold of Sir Edmund Hillary who once said, “It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.”
This scene shows Circle Mountain in the background and the river flowing southwest not far from Hillcrest Country Club.
I’ve always been aware of the river, since I grew up in Bartlesville, and I’ve watched it at flood and drought stage, muddy, serpentine, hardly a river one would call beautiful.
Looking south toward the old and new, the arched concrete structure of the 7th street bridge and the steel and concrete of the new Adams Blvd bridge.
But as we paddled lazily along the shoals of the now gentle, rippled river, I found myself both proud and ashamed.
Brandon somewhere south of the Cherokee bridge and north of the Tuxedo bridge
Proud that this river shapes the contours of a beautiful historic city, and that like a plain-faced lass made beautiful in the shadows of a glowing fireplace, this river was somehow made enchanting in the soft pastel of late winter sunlight.
Brandon ready to launch into the shoals below the Cherokee bridge.
Ashamed because the river swelled with the refuse of my grandfather’s generation–oil drilling pipe and cable–my father’s, bold all-white sidewall tires–and my generation, plastic trash bags and aluminum cans.
Beneath the piers of the Frank Phillips Bridge
We paddled past the discharge pipe of the sewer treatment plant, maneuvering as close as possible to the arc of the water spilling from the pipe. It seemed clear and smelled like fabric softener, perhaps they add Febreze?
The high sandy east bank of the Caney, just east of high school.
We passed under the support structure of the Tuxedo, Frank Phillips and Adams bridges, paddled past the mobile home park, the high school, and disembarked just below the Pathfinder bridge just west of the Wesleyan church on Silver Lake Drive.
An old bike was just one of many modes of transportation abandoned to the silt and flow of the river. We saw a hundred old tires, rusting shells of old Model T era cars, an old paddle boat, and lots of oil field equipment.
The remnants of an old stone house stand on the east bank of the river, probably not too far from Kane Elementary School.
As we paddled south, the river became a bit cleaner, fewer tires and trash, the water less muddy. We hauled our kayaks on Pathfinder trail over to Silver Lake.
An old paddle boat somewhere in the vicinity of Robinwood Park
The historic graceful arch of the old bridge filters the late day sun next to the modern, but less beautiful bridge which was built about 1972
Here are the piers of the old bridge just south of Frank Phillips Bridge.
On Christmas day, three days after we made our first run from the Johnstone falls to Pathfinder bridge, we set out to finish the river, from Hillcrest/Sandcreek junction, all the way to the 2400 road bridge near gap road.
We launched on Sand Creek underneath the old metal and wood bridge on the east road to Circle Mountain
While still on Sand Creek, we spied an old cemetery headstone lodged against some debris. We didn’t see the name, but the person was born in 1860 and died in 1950.
Turning south onto the Caney from the intersection of Sand Creek, the river flows faster and wider. This section of the river is really pretty and we saw a large heron, a couple of turtles, and a coyote running parallel to the bank, until seeing us, and the coyote scurried into the woods.
The banks of the river are very steep, more imposing when viewed from water level, hard to climb up and out. Brandon exited to get a view of the topography west towards Circle mountain and snapped a picture of me circling below, waiting on his return.
A different perspective, Christmas day floating down the river, somewhere between Rice Creek road and 2300 road
We dragged our kayaks up the muddy bank east of gap road 2400 bridge. The sun was fading quickly, and we borrowed a neighbors field and woods, a short cut to the truck we had shuttled along 2400 road next to the bridge. Brandon found an old camouflage hat, probably someone dropped while hunting. He put it on and we got in the truck and headed home.
We started the day around a Christmas tree and ended it paddling down a cold coffee river. It felt good to paddle 8 miles with my son on a river I’d noticed in passing while growing up in my hometown, but had never really seen up close, until now.