Are you searching for Mississippi’s premier commercially supported paddling adventure? Look no farther than kayaking Okatoma Creek, which is located just outside of Hattiesburg.
The Okatoma has a little bit of everything from class I rapids to sandy beaches for picnics. If the water is flowing right, you might even experience Mississippi’s only class II rapid. We created these seven tips on paddling the Okatoma Creek so you can maximize your fun while staying safe.
Okatoma Creek Canoe Tip 1: Start early (~8:00 – 9:00)
If you’re going on an Okatoma Creek canoe trip, do yourself a favor and start early. First off, no matter which outfitter you go with, you’re going to have to take a bus to the Seminary put-in. That means there’s a potential logistic log-jam getting signed in, waiting for the bus, and heading to the put-in.
Secondly, you’ll get the river basically to yourself. Who knows, maybe even entirely to yourself if you paddle a little bit. As they say, unless you’re the lead dog, the view never changes. If you use the extra time in your schedule to paddle back to Okatoma Outfitters (the 2nd take-out) instead of taking the first take-out, you might find yourself in the actual lead position.
Finally, you have the choice between the sounds of nature and a cacophony of tunes from the day drinking flotilla. You also get to pick your ideal line through the rapids without randos body surfing the chutes. What’s more, if you do want to pull over on one of the Okatoma’s many sandy beaches, there will always be a spot.
Okatoma Kayaking Tip #2 – BYO- Bungee Cord.
Okatoma Creek kayaking is a BYOB experience. Bring your own bungee cord, that is . You see, the outfitters use Jackson kayaks, which come equipped with a built-in luggage area. The catch is that the majority of the boats have long since lost their elastic straps.
If you BYOB, you can strap down a cooler, water bottle, or even just your life vest. Having your own straps turns you from the guy who loses their sh%# to that dude that has everything tight. You’re cooler if you keep your cooler instead of floating your flotsam.
Okatoma Creek Paddling Tip #3 – Should You Choose a Kayak or Canoe
Kayaks work better than canoes in low water. You need about 5″ of water to operate a kayak and 6-8″ for a canoe. That might not seem like a lot, but it means that the minimum water level is 16%-40% less for a kayak. If you’re packing heavy or just hefty, this extra clearance might be just what you need for a dry summer afternoon.
You are more likely to get a little wet in a kayak since you’re closer to the water, but they are generally more stable. You will stay drier in a canoe unless you tip, and they are a little more tippy. Also, if you take single kayaks instead of a tandem kayak or canoe, you don’t have to worry about your paddling partner’s temperament or displacement.
Also, you need to pick the correct paddle for your craft. A kayak uses a double paddle, while a canoe has a single paddle with a T-handle. Because of how high you are above the waterline, it’s hard to operate efficiently with the wrong paddle. There are kayak strokes and canoe strokes, but you need to match the paddle to the boat to do either one effectively.
Okatoma River Trip Tip #4 – How to Read a River
You should expect little or no instructions before getting on the river. If you happen to get some, great, but here are the minimal instructions on how to run a river.
First off, load the online map in this section onto your phone before you leave town and keep your phone in a secure place, like a waterproof pouch. That way, all you need to do is pull up the map, and Google will update your position, so you know where you are.
Secondly, look for the “V’s” on the river. If you see a “V” pointing towards you, avoid it. There is a submerged obstacle in your way. If you see a “V” pointing away from you, the water is flowing between two obstructions, and you want to follow the water through the hazard. Also, try to aim the pointy end of your boat downstream because water pushing on the side of your boat will flip you in a hurry.
Long story short, if you put the pointing end of the boat in the V’s pointing away from you, you’ll probably be ok.
It you don’t see the map below, be sure to refresh your browser, we promise it’s worth it .
Kayaking the Okatoma Tip#5 – Bring a Bailing Cup
The Okatoma is a fun river. There are enough rapids that you’re going to end up with a little water in your boat, even if you don’t flip. The question is, what are you going to do about it?
The rental Jackson kayaks aren’t self-bailing, so you’re going to be sitting in a pool of water (and riding low) unless you can clear it out. You could always pull over and drain it out, but where’s the fun in that.
If you bring a small plastic cup, that should be more than sufficient to clear out any water that splashes in. Just be sure to BYOBungie, so you aren’t adding trash to the river or losing your bailer.
Kayaking Tip #6 – Continually Inspect Your Boat for Water
When you’re first selecting your boat, take a moment and make sure it has drain plugs and isn’t waterlogged. You should be able to lift one end and make sure that it doesn’t feel heavy. If you can’t tell, try a couple of boats and pick the lightest.
When you’re going down the river, pay attention to the waterline. If you start riding low or are tracking funny, you might be taking on water. Also, be sure to do the “lift test” again on stops to see if the boat feels heavy or you can hear water sloshing.
If you’re taking on water, don’t worry. Just open the drain plugs and drain the boat. Of course, make sure you put them back in -lol, but you should be good to go until your next regular break.
Okatoma Paddling Trip Tip #7 – Pack Your Essentials
What are boating essentials? It depends on context, but for sure, you need your life vest. You’ll also want at least a quart of water and sunscreen. A few other items are nice to have, including a hat, snack, bug spray, waterproof phone case, sunglasses (and croakies).
Okatoma Creek is in Covington, MS, which is a dry county, so you might want to bring a koozie if you’re going to partake. We don’t encourage such things, and it’s still illegal, but we’re just passing on the advice our guide gave us.
Just don’t get caught up in bringing the proverbial kitchen sink. Everything you bring is going to have to fit onto your boat. And, unless you have a dry bag, you should be prepared for it to get wet. Sometimes, less is more, so long as you don’t run out of water or get sunburned.
Wrapping Up Our Tips For Kayaking the Okatoma Creek
The Okatoma Creek is a super fun waterway that’s accessible to even novice paddlers. The general run is about 3-5 hours from the put-in at Seminal to either the Seminal Creek Canoe Rental headquarters or the first take-out of Okatoma Outdoor Post. You can rent canoes or kayaks from either outfitter, but they each offer a little different ‘extended runs.’
What are the major differences between the two outfitters on the Okatoma? Seminal Creek Canoe Rentals offer a day trip and a 16-mile overnight option. You park at the take-out for both the overnight and day trips.
The Okatoma Outdoor Post is located about 1 1/2 hours past the first take-out that most people exit on. You can either take the shuttle back or, if you’re looking for a longer paddle, you can add a couple of extra miles to the trip by taking the river back to the parking lot at Okatoma Outdoor Post.
We hope that you enjoyed these tips and they serve you well while paddling on Okatoma Creek. While you’re in the area, you should check out our posts for:
As always, the views and opinions expressed are entirely our own, and we only recommend brands and destinations that we 100% stand behind.
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