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Kayaking ideal at Stinchcomb Refuge

A wildlife habitat in northwest Oklahoma City offers an ideal kayaking experience for Oklahomans who love the water sport.

Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge, just north of Lake Overholser at Northwest 51st Street and Stinchcomb Avenue, is one of the most popular areas to kayak in Oklahoma City and is worth the drive for kayakers who live outside the metro area. The wildlife refuge contains 1,000 acres of wooded land, situated on either side of the Canadian River (the Oklahoma River when it is inside the Oklahoma City limits) which meanders the length of the refuge.

The area serves an ordinary purpose.

Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge, which is managed by the Oklahoma City Water Trust, was originally part of the 160 acres acquired by early day Oklahoman Lee Stinchcomb in the Land Run of 1889. Today part of Oklahoma City, the refuge is immediately north of Oklahoma City's primary water source and the four small lakes contained within the refuge are sedimentation basins for the Oklahoma City Water Authority.

While Oklahoma City has a practical use for the area, the refuge also is a haven for mammals and birds, courtesy of the Canadian River that provides water and vegetation. In addition to hiking and biking trails, the refuge also offers fishing and boating opportunities on a river lined on the south with rushes and on the north with hardwood trees such as oaks.

Residents who want to enjoy the refuge's water feature can paddle north on the Canadian from Overholser or launch on the river at Yukon and boat back to Overholser.

The easiest route is to enter at the kayak beach, located at Northwest 39th and Route 66, on the northeast corner of the lake. Kayakers describe the area as being just south of the old Route 66 bridge, and it offers a good-sized free parking area and a small ramp where vessels can easily glide into the water. Boaters also can launch from the bank, but that is a little more difficult because of the depth of the water when the river is full. Be prepared to wait in line before you can put onto the water on weekends and holidays; it is an extremely popular launch site.

The river's level will influence your trip, kayakers say. When the river is running high, paddling can be a little more challenging because of the current, and even at the shoreline the water is 6 feet or deeper.

When the river is high, boaters can paddle through the reeds at the Route 66 entrance. Load from the boat ramp area, go under the highway bridge, then to the right to meander through reeds that are taller than your head and a nesting site for a variety of water fowl. The terminus is Street Car Lake, one of four lakes within the refuge.

Experienced paddlers and members of the OKC Outdoor Network (okcoutdoornetwork.org) say you can see blue herons, owls, ducks, egrets and beaver at the right time of day and migrating birds during the spring and fall. Deer are common.

The Lawton Constitution

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