addressalign-toparrow-leftarrow-rightbackbellblockcalendarcameraccwchatcheckchevron-downchevron-leftchevron-rightchevron-small-downchevron-small-leftchevron-small-rightchevron-small-upchevron-upcircle-with-checkcircle-with-crosscircle-with-pluscrossdots-three-verticaleditemptyheartexporteye-with-lineeyefacebookfolderfullheartglobegmailgoogleimageimagesinstagramlinklocation-pinmagnifying-glassmailminusmoremuplabelShape 3 + Rectangle 1outlookpersonplusprice-ribbonImported LayersImported LayersImported Layersshieldstartickettrashtriangle-downtriangle-uptwitteruseryahoo

Float/Raft/Kayak Camp on the Illinois River

Winding through the Cookson Hills of northeastern Oklahoma is a sparkling, 60-miles-plus scenic waterway. The Illinois River cuts through steep and rocky bluffs, creating a breathtaking landscape for visitors. Shortleaf pine, red and white oak, hickory, sycamore, dogwood and redbud trees surround the river, providing shade and wildlife habitats for deer, foxes and a myriad of bird species including bald eagles.

Recreational opportunities abound in this picturesque landscape, especially along the portion of the river that flows parallel to SH-10 northeast of Tahlequah. A float trip is the most popular way to experience the Illinois River; embark on a leisurely ride on the cool water and take in all the river has to offer. 

A few of us scouted ahead this weekend for this float and had a really good time! The water was cool, clean, and moving, the scenery was beautiful and the distance was just enough to get your fill! We worked with the good folks at Sparrow Hawk camp to fill in some details, and they even gave us a deal for shuttle service and parking for NTO. We believe that this trip is suitable for paddlers of pretty much any skill level and we saw plenty of kids on the river having fun as well.

* It is your responsibility to call Sparrow Hawk Camp [masked]) and reserve a camping spot and a rental raft/canoe/kayak if you need one. When you call, tell them you are with NTO or North Texas Outdoors so they will keep all of your information with the group and show you were to go! They are super friendly and will take care of you as well as they can. They are allowing us to camp on their private property on Saturday night at no charge, so only reserve a site for Friday night ($15). 

* The river levels and weather can change quickly. Because of this, our schedule is subject to change at any time. If you are not traveling with the main group for the entire itinerary, please note that we may or may not be able to relay schedule changes beyond those who are with us. We had cellular signal during the entire trip down the river, so if any changes do occur, I will do my best to get it posted on the site. I will also try to communicate any schedule changes to Sparrow Hawk Camp, so if you cant get ahold of us, try those guys too.

*Keep in mind that rafting/kayaking/canoeing involves inherent risk and no one can decide for you except YOU whether this is a trip you should be on. It appeared to be a fairly laid back paddle with a few faster areas, but nothing more than large ripples and a few sharp turns around trees. I believe even a beginner can have fun with this and figure out what’s going on in a short distance. Know your limits.

* Know how much will FIT onto your raft/canoe/kayak. Everything you need for camping on Saturday night needs to be able to come with you on YOUR boat. Load up at the house to make sure it all fits or call and talk to Sparrow Hawk about their rentals. Consider bringing a water filter so you don’t have to carry so much water. Contact other members in advance and try to share things like stoves, tents, coolers, etc.  Please don’t arrive with 200lbs of gear and rely on other kind hearted, awesome NTOers to carry half of it for you. Added weight makes maneuvering harder and paddlers grumpier.

*Wear your life jacket. In some places, the water can be moving pretty fast past fallen trees. A sideways boat against these can quickly become dangerous. A life jacket is most effective when being worn. 

*Know the rules/laws and regulations of this river. There are laws like no glass, Styrofoam or alcohol above 3.2 percent, among others. It is your responsibility to know these and law enforcement was present the weekend we went. The links below should help.

* WEAR SUNSCREEN!! We saw so many people that were lobster red on this trip. You will burn faster than normal on the water. I recommend bringing a light weight long sleeve shirt and something that covers your legs. All of us were glad to have these items on this trip.

*All information collected below was under the following conditions:

River level at Tahlequah according to http://water.weather.gov/ahps2/hydrograph.php?wfo=tsa&gage=talo2

On the day of our float was at 5’6” on the Tahlequah guage. Wind was at 0-10mph with scattered showers in the area; highs in the mid 80’s, overnight lows in the mid 60s. Total miles: 24.5, total travel time: 9 hours 40 minutes.

* Please read the itinerary carefully and let me know if you have any questions.

Friday Night:

“Sparrow Hawk Camp” (21985 North Ben George Road Tahlequah, OK[masked])- Arrive during office hours and check in under the “NTO” group; arrive after hours and look for the banner in the primitive camping area (loops C or D) and settle up with them in the office the following morning.

Saturday Morning:

8:00 AM SHARP- Park your loaded vehicle near the park office and we will all meet on the patio at the office door. There, we will determine who has their own vessels and who needs to rent. Those who have their own will caravan to Pea Vine Hollow Public Access (36°03'51.1"N 94°53'06.4"W). At Pea vine, everyone will unload their boats and camping gear onto the gravel bar. At least one person will stay behind to keep an eye on everything. They will all then drive back down to Sparrow Hawk Camp and park their cars in the secure lot for the night. While these folks are gone, the renters will stay at Sparrow Hawk and sign their wavers and settle up payment. After the folks arrive back from Pea Vine, everyone will join up again at the camp office. Everyone with their own vessels will need to purchase 2 days of float permits from the office, total cost is $2. From there, all NTOers will pile onto a shuttle and go back up to Pea vine Hollow together. The rented vessels will come with us on this shuttle. The shuttle will be $45, divided evenly depending on how many people go. This is where Sparrow Hawk really made us a good deal, it’s usually $45 for just one vehicle to shuttle. Consider bringing a few extra bucks to tip our driver! 

 10:00AM- Everyone will launch from Pea Vine Hollow Public Access. If you arrive after 10 for some reason, get in and catch up with us before camp. There are many sandbars along the way to stop for breaks and lunch, go at your own pace and enjoy the river; you’ll reach the camp around 5 hours down on river right between War Eagle and Diamondhead Resorts. There is a giant flat rock to pull out on. We saw tons of giant fish in the river, so if you fish, bring your gear, get an OK fishing license and slowly make your way down! We shoved off from Pea Vine at 10:20 AM and reached the camp, “Sutton’s”, at 2:40PM. This particular stretch of the river from Pea vine to Suttons will be very busy with drinking young adults on rafts. Maneuver around these folks and don’t be afraid to pluck a few of their beer cans out of the water to throw away. They were all generally friendly and too sunburned to cause any issues besides litter. Hammockers, we were not able to scout this particular camp for trees (we camped further down river), so consider bringing backup for your hammock. 

Saturday Night:

 “Sutton’s” (35°59'13.0"N 94°55'00.6"W) - Approx. 4.5-5 hours from put in (Peavine Hollow), camping spot for Saturday Night/Meeting point for those joining us on Sunday morning. There are not restrooms here, it is private property that we have permission to camp on. Owners say you can walk about .5 mile to the main road from here and there is a store if you found you forgot something, need to completely bail on the trip or get to the hospital because you forgot to apply sunscreen. If you are driving in on Saturday and joining us, check in first at Sparrow Hawk Camp to make sure they are available to shuttle you back to Sutton's this evening. If not, youll have to camp at Sparrow Hawk and join us on Sunday morning.   

 Sunday Morning: 

 7 AM- At Sutton’s, we will put the NTO banner on the road (HWY10) to show you where to turn in. If you are joining us here on Sunday morning, you need to get here no later than around 7AM to drop off your boat and drive back down to Sparrow Hawk Camp. The folks at Sparrow Hawk will then shuttle you back up to Suttons to launch with us. You will float back down to your car with the rest of us. 

 9 AM- We will be shoving off at 9AM sharp from Sutton's. If the banner is no longer on the road, we have left and you’ll have to paddle faster! Even if you miss us, this is a great trip and you’ll still have fun. We will paddle for another 4.5-5 hours this day, and pull out at Sparrow Hawk Camp. Your vehicle is parked here. Run up from the river, fetch it, load up, grab a warm shower and head home! There was a good pizza place in Tahlequah called Sam and Ella’s Chicken Palace, worth a stop for a starving group of paddlers that just had a blast on the river! You should be home before 10 PM- ish on Sunday evening. 

Here are a few links to get you started.  It will be full of the best meetup group members around on the weekend we decide to go!

Sparrow Hawk Rental Fees:

Overnight trips
13 mile    =  Canoe...$42.00 per person 
23 mile   =  Raft.....$50.00 per person
28 mile   =  Kayak...$50.00 per person

Camping:

$15 per night, per vehicle, 3 tent max

Shuttle/Parking

NTO Shared shuttle from Camp to Peavine Hollow Put in- $45 and optional tip. 

Current River Flow and other important Information:

http://www.oklahomascenicrivers.net/

http://www.oklahomascenicrivers.net/files/Floaters_Guide_2009.pdf

http://www.travelok.com/article_page/illinois-river-float-and-camp-trips

Sparrow Hawk Camp:

http://www.sparrowhawkcamp.com/

Join or login to comment.

  • Bonnie H.

    The trip was awesome! Great people. Thanks Kristie for organizing a wonderful river trip!

    2 · June 24, 2014

  • Della M.

    Even though I had the privilege of riding 6 hours home with Kristie, I have to publicly proclaim that this was an excellent event. The weather was fantastic, and even the drunk college kids were entertaining.

    Thanks for letting me borrow the 'yak.

    2 · June 23, 2014

  • lisa

    Had such a wonderful time! Meeting and spending time with all of you was, as they say, "priceless". Kristie, thank you for organizing this trip; the water and scenery were beautiful and the people around us more so. Looking forward to more adventures! ! Thanks again!

    2 · June 23, 2014

  • Paul

    Can we somehow get ride of all the drunk college kids? LOL Overall a very enjoyable trip! Thanks Kristie. :-)

    4 · June 23, 2014

    • Paul

      rid not ride.

      1 · June 23, 2014

    • Kristie

      We get rid of them by going in the fall next time!

      2 · June 23, 2014

  • Princess

    A great event. The Illinois River was excellent for rafting, kayaking and canoeing. The folks at Sparrow Hawk Camp were so wonderful! Thank you Krisiti for organizing!

    2 · June 23, 2014

  • Vikki P.

    Great Trip!

    2 · June 23, 2014

  • David

    Besides the billion-redneck-flotilla we encountered it was totally awesome

    3 · June 23, 2014

  • Kristie

    Everything went great and we had a fine time in the sun!

    3 · June 23, 2014

  • Paul

    Got pictures to post but I don't see the little button to upload pictures. :-/

    June 22, 2014

  • Ginny A.

    Thank you Kristie for planning this!! I had an amazing time!!!

    2 · June 22, 2014

  • Kristie

    Moving camp to sparrow hawk half way point. It os referenced on the map above. If you're meeting us Saturday night or Sunday morning, call sparrow hawk camp to get directions from hwy 10!

    June 21, 2014

  • David

    Several are in site D first straightaway last site on left before road turns left. My truck has plates KB5YLG silver Ford with green canoe

    June 21, 2014

  • Isaac G.

    10pm eta

    June 20, 2014

  • Kristie

    I have a PDF file with map and river mileage that is easy to print, but I dont know how to get it to everyone. If you would like a copy, pm me.

    June 16, 2014

  • Gary M.

    Thanks for the map Kristie. What time will you've arriving at camp. Lisa and will be leaving Dallas between 1and 2.

    June 19, 2014

    • Kristie

      I think a few of us plan to caravan from Hurst around 4p, due to a few folks not being able to get off any earlier. That will put us there kind of late after traffic and stopping for dinner, probably around 10ish. Save us some trees! If we miss you, we'll catch you at the office at 8am on Saturday!

      1 · June 19, 2014

    • Paul

      Eta 9-10 pm

      1 · June 20, 2014

  • Bonnie H.

    I am leaving from Valley Ranch with my 1+ about 9 in the morning. So we may be there really early. Is there any place in particular at Sparrowhawk camp ground that we need to scope out for the group?

    June 19, 2014

    • Gary M.

      Not really. I just need a couple trees about 15 to 20 feet apart for my hammock. I think kristie does too. Thanks and we'll see you tomorrow around 6 or 7.

      June 20, 2014

  • Gary M.

    Aww. That's too bad but yes I'll save ya a couple trees. Lol. See y'all tomorrow evening.

    June 19, 2014

  • Isaac G.

    Kayak purchased, but it has been a very long time since I have paddled. It should be a very interesting first day on the river. Are we able to make fire on the camp-site sand bar?

    1 · June 16, 2014

    • David

      I'm planning to bring a bag of charcoal.

      June 17, 2014

    • Gary M.

      Charcoal, which I'm bringing a little bag too, to cook with but we will need wood for campfire. Can't camp without campfire.

      June 17, 2014

  • Gary M.

    Well, David my canoe partner is now not going I am looking for a canoe partner and possible carpooling. Doesn't make since to drive all the way up in separate vehicles and without a possible floating partner. I've done this river several times years ago. Any takers?

    June 12, 2014

    • lisa

      I would be interested

      1 · June 13, 2014

    • Crispin

      Sorry guys, I'm out for this one. Too much else going on!

      June 17, 2014

  • David

    Looks like a chance of storms the day before our trip...that should make for some ideal water flow!
    http://forecast.weather.gov/MapClick.php?lat=35.92416159828019&lon=-94.9718887547615&site=all&smap=1#.U577mfldV8E

    3 · June 16, 2014

    • Kristie

      Little to no wind and its not supposed to break 90 degrees, sold!

      1 · June 16, 2014

  • lisa

    Hi Gary, I would be interested in making the trip but this would be a 1st for me and maybe too frustrating for you. Let's chat. Lisa

    1 · June 13, 2014

    • Gary M.

      Cool. I'll email you soon.

      June 13, 2014

  • Gary M.

    Reservations made! yay David from previous comments and I are canoe partners.

    June 11, 2014

  • Crispin

    So I heard previously that the outfitter would only rent canoes for overnight, is that still correct? Because I am one person, non-boat-owner, and I don't think I would be up for a solo 28-mile canoe. :)

    June 9, 2014

    • Kristie

      Paul, did they seem to know who you/NTO was? I haven't heard from anyone yet who has made reservations and just want to make sure they have it together!

      June 9, 2014

    • Paul

      She was aware of NTO group. No problems

      June 9, 2014

  • Gary M.

    Kristie, are there trees to hang a hammock in on both sites? I plan on bringing a 1-person tent as well but would rather hang.

    June 9, 2014

    • Kristie

      We were able to hang at sparrow hawk camp, but we were not able to check the actual campsite that we will be at on Saturday night. If you want to be safe about sat, call them and ask about "Suttons". I think I'm bringing a backup 1p tent myself just in case...

      1 · June 9, 2014

  • Gary M.

    Who is interested in carpooling and partnering with an experienced canoeist?

    June 4, 2014

    • David

      I am. I have no experience with canoeing though. Absolutely none.

      1 · June 9, 2014

  • Della M.

    I vote that Kristie plan all future NTO trips.

    My plans: Here's a random map I found off a questionable internet site that may not be accurate! Let's do this! Kristie's plans: 3 pages of detailed waypoints, prices, people, and itineraries. My hero!

    4 · June 6, 2014

    • Della M.

      Variety is the spice of life, right! I'm glad you're up for my adventures (and mis-adventures) Paul.

      1 · June 9, 2014

    • Kristie

      Your way works just fine too! Sometimes half of the fun is making it up as we go!

      4 · June 9, 2014

  • David

    Recommendation wanted. I can not kayak I tried and cant do it (at least the flipping upright thing). I have gone on the Lower Gully, New River, somewhere along side I-70 in Colorado on guided rafting trips. I have also gone a kiss your butt do everything for you multi day on the Green River (no major accomplishment but very relaxing and enjoyable). I also went on a team formed upon meeting trip somewhere a ways outside of NYC where I was in the front and the person leading in the back did not know what he was doing. The water level was very low so it was extremely challenging because my boat was clueless. It was embarrassing but I often tried leading the boat from the front. Not a good idea but the job got done. Not saying I would be a good captain but these things are important.

    Would I be a good candidate for this trip?

    June 9, 2014

    • Kristie

      David, it sounds like you will be fine! This is a flat water river and there isn't much to it but a few faster parts. We only dumped once on our trip and I think he just wasn't paying attention and ended up sideways on a gravel bar. Consider renting a canoe and getting someone to partner up with you, Gary Mitchell has offered in a post below. I can say, almost everyone we saw in rafts looked pretty miserable compared to those in kayaks and canoes. They are bulky and harder to paddle if the water is low.

      June 9, 2014

  • Monica

    For me, the challenge is the address? Do I need to buy a compass? What is your compass suggestion?

    May 26, 2014

    • Monica

      Thanks. I saw the address is changed to a GPS friendly address:)

      June 7, 2014

  • Kristie

    New details are posted above in the description, let me know if you have any questions after reading! The river was really nice and I cant wait to get back there! I can email you a copy of the map above as well, it is custom for NTO and wont be available anywhere else.

    1 · June 2, 2014

  • Michael M.

    You mention that "your car will already be waiting at the camp". Is this a valet service for fee? What if we bring our own boat? Different fee? Different second day vs first day?

    May 30, 2014

    • Kristie

      Michael, I will be on site there this weekend to get definate answers to your questions and more, I'll get the new info posted early next week.

      May 30, 2014

    • Michael M.

      Terrific. I really appreciate it. I have a commitment to attend my son's karate tournament Saturday morning but would like to meet everyone in my kayak at War Eagle Resort or paddle on to the alt. campsite Saturday night.

      May 30, 2014

  • Kristie

    A small team will be deploying on a quick recon trip next week to this river to gather more info. We will mark sandbars suitable for camping, lunch, etc, as well as speaking with a few of the liveries about their prices and policies. A full trip report with a finalized float plan will be posted here in two weeks. If you have any questions, let me know, thanks!

    4 · May 22, 2014

  • Bonnie H.

    Has anyone decided where they are going to camp on Friday night?

    May 12, 2014

  • Bonnie H.

    my 1+ got someone to work for her so she will get to join us.

    1 · May 3, 2014

  • Bonnie H.

    My 1+ found out she will have to work that week end and won't be able to go.

    April 30, 2014

  • Kristie

    Im zeroing in on the exact plan! I think there will be two options, one for those who want to really rough it and sleep on a sandbar, and one for those who want an established campground with flushing toilets and tiki bar. Plan:
    -Everyone put in at Peavine Hollow Public Access Lat: 36° 3'[masked]" Long -94° 53'[masked]"
    -12 miles down river, War Eagle Resort, bailing point for those wanting a camp or to just do a one day trip, your car will already be at this camp. Everyone else will float a few more miles and find a sweet sandbar to build a fire on. These coordinates are ones we still need to figure out. I was told you can camp anywhere you feel like, but I would like to have an exact spot.
    - Day 2, 16 miles down river from War Eagle Resort, everyone left will take out at Sparrowhawk Camp, most of our cars will be parked here, shuttle the remaining few back up to Peavine Hollow. There are canoes to rent from War Eagle, $40PP, 2 per canoe, must be canoe only for that length of trip

    April 15, 2014

    • Bonnie H.

      So are you saying that we must have a canoe? I have a kayak that would work just fine for this trip.

      April 15, 2014

    • Kristie

      Both liveries said they would only rent a canoe to those doing an overnight trip. I am personally going to be on a kayak too, I don't see any problem with it. I suppose you could also rent a kayak and not tell them your iteniary!

      April 15, 2014

  • Steve

    So would this be a car camp with day float side trips? I am in the process of buying a kayak and would love to try it out here

    April 7, 2014

    • Princess

      Primitive sounds good to me too

      April 15, 2014

    • Raymond

      Primitive +2

      April 15, 2014

  • Princess

    I just talked to Tammy (very nice Lady) @ Sparrow Hawk. Primitive campsites - C & D areas (no water or electric), they do not take reservations, all are 1st come 1st serve. She also said that if the organizer would call her with an anticipated head count, they would hold water/flotation equipment to accommodate our group ie: Canoes, Rafts, Kayaks, tubes, etc.

    2 · April 15, 2014

  • Kristie

    Ok, it looks like most can make it on the 20th and that would allow the West Texas Sand and Surf group to join us too. I hope the change didn't hurt anyone's plans!

    April 7, 2014

  • Kristie­ changed the date and time from Friday, June 13, 2014 at 7:00 PM to Friday, June 20, 2014 at 7:00 PM

    April 7, 2014

  • Bonnie H.

    I am doing sand and surf in west Texas that week end. If it was on the 20th I would be in. I prefer primitive camping option.

    April 7, 2014

  • Della M.

    How about the weekend of June 20th?

    April 6, 2014

    • Raymond

      Ginny i am a bad father didnt realize that was fathers day week.

      April 7, 2014

    • David

      13th or 20th is good for me, 27th is bad, got Amateur Radio Field Day then

      April 7, 2014

  • sandra

    Della: I would love to join you, and I'm sure Princess would as well, but we have a camping trip to Palo Duro on this weekend. I could do the 20th or 27th. thanks

    April 7, 2014

  • Crispin

    This was super-fun last year! This weekend works for me, tentative yes! :)

    April 7, 2014

  • Bonnie H.

    Bummer! I cannot join you on that weekend. I already have a commitment.

    April 7, 2014

  • Kristie­ changed the date and time to Friday, June 13, 2014 at 7:00 PM

    April 7, 2014

  • Neil

    This sounds like a lot of fun!

    April 6, 2014

  • Bonnie H.

    this is tentative depending on the date.

    April 6, 2014

24 went

Our Sponsors

  • NTO Facebook Page

    Use this link to connect to us on Facebook too! And check out our store!

People in this
Meetup are also in:

Sign up

Meetup members, Log in

By clicking "Sign up" or "Sign up using Facebook", you confirm that you accept our Terms of Service & Privacy Policy