Mayor GT Bynum recently made a social media post that caught my eye. Here is his 3D computer-animated tour of an ongoing construction project on the Arkansas River just south of the area known as Zinc Lake.
Zink Lake doesn’t look like a lake today. The water flowing through Arkansas has been in decline for some time due to the dry conditions that persisted through most of the summer.
The usually wide expanse of calm water between the south side of the bridge on Southwest Boulevard, where workers are building a new pedestrian bridge, shows more sand and rock than water.
no matter. Dry conditions help crews keep pace with what Bynum said will result in new and improved water bodies that city planners hope will be a bigger attraction for local recreational enthusiasts and visitors. It’s helpful.
Bynum’s post mostly focused on what was happening downstream where the lake formed.
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“Part of the new dam is a rapid channel on the eastern side of the channel,” Bynum wrote.
That caught my eye. Oklahoma is no whitewater country. Our rivers and streams are like prairies, slow-flowing sandy waterways best enjoyed at a slow pace. The Great Rough Race took advantage of this. So do many anglers.
But whitewater rafting? That sounds like something that would fit in the Mountain West, or perhaps West Virginia.
can happen here. I believe it because it’s happening now, 106 miles down the Oklahoma City Turnpike.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the state’s largest cities faced a dilemma. It was the state’s largest employer, seat of government, and home to a community with plenty of room to grow. The problem was that people didn’t want to go there.
Downtown was dead after 5pm. A former boss of his used to say that if you shoot a rifle in the middle of a then-near-empty Bricktown warehouse district, no one will shoot you. Of course it was an exaggeration. But not too far.
That changed in 1993. City voters approved a sales tax project to fund the Metropolitan Area Projects (MAPS) program. MAPS built a downtown baseball field, an indoor stadium, improvements to turn Bricktown into an entertainment district, and canals that provide the opportunity for visitors to tour downtown in comfort by boat.
But from a recreational standpoint, nothing was more important than the MAPS-funded series of dams along the Canadian River just south of downtown.
Before I go any further, I need to tell you about this river. The people of Tulsan joke that the Arkansas River is more of a sandbar than a river, and that’s true most of the year. But Arkansas is the Amazon compared to Canada. In Oklahoma City’s past, there were times when city crews had to go to the river and mow overgrown sandbars.
But once the dam was built, Oklahoma City had a body of water suitable for all kinds of water sports. The Canadian River Stream in downtown Oklahoma City has been renamed the Oklahoma River and is home to powerboat races, dragon boat competitions and even triathlons.
More importantly, the Oklahoma River has many college and amateur boating teams operating in the city’s beautiful Boathouse District. It has proven so popular that it is home to the US Olympic Training Center for rowing.
It’s an incredible site that has since grown to include whitewater courses for rafting and kayaking.It’s amazing how Oklahoma City made this facility into little more than a prairie trickle and it’s here in Tulsa. It gives us reason to be excited about the possibilities.
When Zinc Lake’s new dam and bridge are complete (expected by next summer), it will be a flatwater paddle sports destination that doesn’t require a drive to Keystone Lake or the Illinois River.
Downstream of the dam is the rapid channel that Bynum was talking about. I went to see what they were doing last week. It’s no small project.
The course is long and separated from the main river by an island. The Arkansas River flows slowly down the western half of its stretch, moving faster over the rocky underwater terrain currently under construction, rolling in sheer rapids.
Traveling to Colorado now to tackle the Arkansas River rapids. But figuratively speaking, we’re not far from being able to do that in the shadow of the Golden Driller.
I am an outdoor recreation enthusiast and a big fan of what this city already has. From places like Bentonville, Arkansas, we’re learning how to create world-class mountain bikes. Turkey Mountain, Rebelle Park and Bales Park have undergone extensive renovations to accommodate the sport. Hiking and trail running opportunities abound in these locations as well.
But in many ways Tulsa is defined by its rivers, and it seems strange that Oklahoma City, not Tulsa, was the first to tap into its water resources to build water sports destinations. I was.
That will change a year from now, thanks to voter-approved Vision Tulsa sales tax package funding. While you may not be able to build an Olympic training center, you are likely to enjoy other benefits associated with outdoor recreation available locally.
The desire for it is clear, as is the perception outside the city. Tarsataff is proving we are a cycling town, and the success of his past two Ironman events here is proof that we take his outdoor recreation seriously.
River elements will help complete your outdoor recreation portfolio. To put it into perspective, a part of the city is soon to emerge that boasts the pedestrian and biking trails of River Parks, the variety of activities at The Gathering Place, and an ever-growing menu of water sports, all within a three-mile radius. increase. south of downtown.
These facilities are connected to Turkey Mountain via bike paths, creating a unified outdoor recreation ecosystem unlike any other in Central America.
Yes, I share Bynum’s enthusiasm for this project. Diversity in outdoor recreation improves the quality of life in the city and fuels Tulsa’s growth.
Our neighbors don’t have to enjoy “pike”.