Weekend Getaway: OKC Riversport Adventures
By Bonita James
My fascination with the SandRidge Sky Trail, a vertical, 80′ ropes course, started three years ago. It was there, on day three of quitting smoking (Thanks 1800QuitNow!), I vowed I would climb that sucker and jump off of the Rumble Drop. My mission came true during my weekend getaway from Tulsa to Oklahoma City. Well, almost.
Weekend Getaway from Tulsa to Oklahoma City
I met my sister, Barbara, and a literal truck-load of kids (they belong to our family), at the Boathouse District off of I-40 on the Oklahoma River. Now, when I visited this area three years ago, there was little to be seen. The Oklahoma River, of course, the Chesapeake Boathouse, and this mega-ropes course which challenged me from the moment I saw it. That was basically it. Now, the dreams of OKC damming the river have been realized with OKC Riversport Adventures and it’s definitely worth the trip! The same will be said for the Gathering Place in Tulsa once complete and they reopen Riverside.
Once OKC decided to dam the river, endless possibilities came of it. Now, the site for rowing, para-rowing, and canoe/kayak training for the Olympics and Para-Olympics, the Oklahoma River produces world-class athletes. While driving to Riversport we could see a regatta race taking place. Just pulling in, there is a sense of excitement and we were about to do some really cool stuff.
First thing first. Ziplining on the Sandridge Sky Zip. Well, signing waivers and then zip lining. I have to give props to the staff and to Riversport. Aside from looking up what type of shoes to wear, I didn’t prepare much. Riversport is a well-oiled machine and all of the staff are ready to help. Everyone paid special attention to our kids, too. Which, as the greatest aunt in the world, the entire experience for our kids is what’s truly important. Before they could take off or play on their phones, we were suited up to zip.
We climbed the stairs outlining the ropes course all the way to a platform at the top. Despite knowing we were securely hooked into our harnesses which were hooked into the tracks above us, the higher we climbed the more frightened I became. With my nephews ahead of me and my sister and niece behind me, I suddenly realized I had gotten us all into this.
What happened next was much more than stepping off a platform and hoping for the best. Once the boys got to the final landing, pure fear struck one of them and pure courage struck the other. While Colin hugged the pole, Colton took it as a chance to go first. He wasn’t waiting for anyone. We cheered him on as he got hooked up to the line. Before I knew it, he walk out to the ledge and jumped without hesitation. In that moment, I saw this 10-year-old’s fearlessness and love of the thrill.
Gliding over the river, Colton looked back with the most amazing expression of “This is so awesome!” on his face. That’s all it took for Colin to quickly mustered up the courage to step up. And it was all courage. He was scared and he found bravery within himself. Just like that, he was off … and then it was my turn.
Now, I am the type of person who gets “over” her fear of heights by going skydiving, but I’m still scared of heights! It took a few glances at my sister’s super excited and encouraging face before I stepped off and zipped away.
I loved it! It’s like you sit down to fly and it’s an awesome ride. I pretty much screamed and giggled going across the river. When I landed on the other side, I had so much adrenaline going through me, I swear I was near an out-of-body experience. Zipping back, it was still hard to step off but this time I reveled in the trip. Going back, there is an expansive view of Oklahoma City’s downtown and it was gorgeous.
My sister was the last to go and when she landed we totally had a “sister, sister” moment. “Sister, Sister days” are full of memories and this one was special. Ziplining was one of the most fun experiences we had ever had together.
“This is the best day of my life!” Colton was ecstatic. Colin took a little while to come around. Later, he told his dad he was proud of himself for doing it. Cue warm and fuzzies. My niece had the most beautiful smile on her face. Pre-ziplining, she was worried about her looks. Post-ziplining she had forgotten all about keeping up appearances.
After zipping in in OKC, I’m ready to zipline off of everything! We are already planning a trip to the PostOak Canopy Tours outside of Tulsa. You bet I’ll tell you all about it on Tulsa Places when we go, too!
We had some time to kill before the rapids. There is so much to do with your Day Pass at Riversport! Every area is super interactive. Kids and adults can wall climb, scurry through multiple Adventure Courses, hit the pump track, catch a thrill with Extreme Jumping, and hang out in the Youth Adventure area. Everything at Riversport for the kids (and adults) to play on encourages and requires physical activity. Even the “splash pad” requires a turn of the crank. It makes sense with Riversport sharing a space with an Olympic training site. Activities go beyond the Boathouse District, too. On your weekend with Riversport, you can plan adventures at Lake Overholser and Lake Hefner. The list goes on.
Next on the agenda, River Rapids.
This is an activity, not a ride.
After we were checked in for the rapids, we were asked if we had ever done this before. The answer is no, floating the Illinois river does not count. I made sure each of our kids were paying attention to the 20 minute safety talk. The Safety guide kept us interested with quips and jokes. But, seriously, the rapids are not a ride. You are not buckled into anything and you must be an active participant in the experience, and possibly in your own rescue. A lesson my sister learned well, was to french fry and not pizza. Basically, keep you legs in front of you and together while the rapids sweep you away. There are man-made obstacles under the water to replicate what you would find in nature. Keep you legs closed and in front.
Hannah, our amazing rapids guide, got our kids pumped up to get in the raft. Once we were suited up with helmets and PFDs, we were ready to get wet. And yes, you will get soaked!
Hannah put our two oldest in the front, my sister and I in the middle, and the youngest two in the back with her. After learning commands and some practice, she put Clayton, my soft-spoken 14 year-old nephew in charge. Captain Clayton emerged, a strong-voiced leader commanding our strokes.
I had never heard or seen this kid take such charge. Forget puberty, leadership changed his voice and we all followed suit. One. Two. Three. Four.
The first course was a blast! Hitting the bottom of a big spill sends huge masses of water crashing into the boat. After the first course, we thought it couldn’t get any better. We were wrong.
The second time around Hannah guided us to a different course. Kayakers ahead of us, battled the current, upping their experience points. Round two was a much different course and next thing we knew we were crashing into the water and paddling through intense rapids. My sister was there one second and gone the next. I saw her helmet floating ahead of us.
Hannah took us around again and stopped to see if Barbara wanted back on the raft. She opted to be our cheerleader instead.
We nailed the course much better the second time. I almost flew out, and at one point, we were all in the middle of the raft, scrambling to get our butts back on the sides. Somehow, we managed to dig our feet in and pull it together. There’s a calm before the storm ahead of the final “mega-fall” on the second course. Hannah put thrill-seeking Colton in the very front and told him to hang on. He loved every second! By then, we were better in sync and we hit the course for a third time. Hitting the rapids at OKC Riversport is totally worth the trip up the turnpike!
Now on land, I got to check in with my sister to find out what happened. She had a gnarly boo boo on her shin, one that cost her three stitches. Again, the rapids are not a ride! They are an activity and she totally participated in her own rescue by grabbing the rope thrown out to her. All of which was covered in our safety training.
OKC Riversport Adventures has safety built into everything they do.
If you get into a jam or tip your raft, trained rapid guides and staff are literally everywhere and ready to save the day.
After the rapids, we quickly determined there would be no ropes course this trip. Not in wet clothes. I’ll have to beat my mission jump off of the Rumble Drop another time. Despite not climbing the ropes course, I was proud of all of us. In one trip to OKC, we conquered our fears, took charge, put our vanity aside, and had an incredible time together. Our Riversport Adventures trip was a day we will never forget. And, I’m still a proud non-smoker, ropes course or not.
Plan your own adventure to OKC!
Below is just what I squeezed into a weekend trip. Anything you are looking for, you can find at visitokc.com. The site is easy to navigate and has great content to help you find exactly what you are looking for. Get in on the social trend of the city by following and tagging #SeeOKC.
Earlier in the day we went to see Matisse: In His Time at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. This show was the catalyst to planning the trip in the first place. Check out more on my blog Must See Matisse and then go see Matisse! OKCMOA is the exclusive stop in North America and the show runs until September 18.
After Barbara and the kid’s headed home, I kept keepin’ on. Luckily, I was there in time for the Internet Cat Video Fest hosted by the beautiful Myriad Gardens. It’s too good not to miss. Put on your whiskers and go next year.
After a great night’s sleep at the Holiday Inn Bricktown, I woke up early to check out the new Wheeler District, OKC’s Ferris Wheel down the river from the Boathouse District. There, I met a couple of cyclist who told me how amazing the trails are for cycling. You can ride to and from all the Riversport locations — Lake Overholser, Lake Hefner, through the Wheeler District, and to the Boathouse District with no traffic.
I discovered the a new favorite for breakfast in OKC. My usual is Cafe Kacao, but I opted to try the new Sunnyside Diner on 6th and Classen. Holy Cannoli! I had the green chili pork tamales with eggs and tried a bite of the most amazing French Toast.
It was great to getaway and have all the fun right there at our fingertips. With little planning, you can get out of your own back yard and take the short trip to OKC. What do you like to do when you go to OKC? What are other fun things are there to do when we take the trip down the turnpike to OKC?