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Wichita ‘Floatin’ on the River’ kayak and paddle boarding tours to return this summer

Floating down the Arkansas River through Kansas

Three friends take a slow raft down the Arkansas River to the Mississippi in June 2015.
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Three friends take a slow raft down the Arkansas River to the Mississippi in June 2015.

This summer, Wichitans will have an opportunity to go “Floatin’ on the River” with the return of kayak and paddle board tours.

Wichita Park and Recreation program “Floatin’ on the River” allows individuals to sign up for one of four tours to go kayaking or stand up paddle boarding (SUP) on the Arkansas River from the Wichita Boathouse toward the Keeper of the Plains.

Each of the tours cost $35, which includes the price of equipment rentals, instruction before use, a meal, and other tour extras. All tours begin with activity and safety instruction from Park and Recreation and local paddle boarding center, SUPWichita, staff before hitting the water.

This will be the third summer the department has offered the tours said Park and Recreation Director, Troy Houtman.

Houtman said the tours began after the department began teaching kayak and stand-up paddle board lessons at OJ Watson Park. Since then, they developed classes to allow participants to experience the aquatic sports in an open body of water.

“(We’re) trying to give people a different perspective of the Arkansas (River),” Houtman said. “A lot of people want to experience our river in a different way — we’ve had a great response from it.”

The tours are in high-demand by the community, and there is currently a wait list for additional classes to be scheduled this summer, he said.

The tours offered are:

  • Glow tour: This tour is a moonlit kayak-only adventure for ages 16 and up. Participants and their kayaks will have glow lights and glow sticks as they make their way to watch the Keeper of the Plains ring of fire lighting from the water. This tour starts at 8:15 p.m and lasts until 10:15 p.m., and includes a meal. This tour currently has one open session scheduled on Sept. 9. There is a wait list for sessions on June 22 and July 26. Additional events will be added and updated online.
  • Sunset tour: This tour is for anyone ages 12 and up who wants to go on a kayak or stand-up paddle board trip. This tour typically begins around 6 or 7 p.m., depending on the class date, and lasts two hours. After the tour, dinner is provided at the Wichita Boathouse. This tour has open sessions on Fridays and Saturdays from June 15 to Sept. 20.
  • Sunrise tour: Early risers above the age of 12 can go on a kayak or stand-up paddle board trip on this tour. Participants will watch the sunrise from the water with the tour starting at 6:15 a.m. Following the tour, a full breakfast will be provided at the Wichita Boathouse. This tour has one open session available on Aug. 10.
  • Seniors tour: For those over the age of 55 — there’s a tour just for you. This kayak tour goes at a slower pace across the river from 6 to 9 p.m., and includes dinner afterward at the Wichita Boathouse. If participants are too tired to paddle back to the shore, department officials are there to help.

Due to the remaining volume of water in the river following the recent flooding, tours scheduled in the next week may be canceled. The river is currently above 3,000 cfs (cubic feet per second), and in order to offer tours the volume must be less than 2,500 cfs, Houtman said.

If tour sessions are canceled, the Park and Recreation staff will contact enrolled participants, and the department website will be updated with the cancellations.

All tours require online registration and the Park and Recreation Department will contact participants with more information on where to meet. Individuals can sign up or learn more at the Park and Recreation website at wichita.gov/parkandrec.

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