Family Time at the Kayak Park

It’s become somewhat of a routine. Double checking the car to make sure I have everything loaded up that we need- towels, sunscreen, snacks, bottled water, tubes, water shoes, lifejackets and of course those anxiously awaiting kids. We’re heading out to the Siloam Springs Kayak Park for the day. I like to go in the morning when it’s not as crowded, stake out a picnic table as a home base and go around and around on the rapids “loop”. This park is for everyone, my fun loving sixty-something mother, my sit and watch mother in law, my active husband Kolin and I and of course the kids with all the energy in the world. And the best part is it’s free. You heard right- FREE.

While the park is along the Illinois River and Mother Nature can be unpredictable, we’ve managed to escape with just slight battle wounds. Joshua knocked his head on a rock climbing up the shoreline and I banged up my foot when I jumped in the swimming area without water shoes. We think it’s totally worth it. Situated about 4 miles south of Siloam Springs, the park is a quick jaunt for my family and as long as we prepared accordingly, can make for a wonderful (and free!) afternoon. And that’s something not easily accomplished with a family.

There’s usually the safety talk on the way out to the park- everyone must wear life jackets since we’re dealing with a natural river and not a controlled amusement park ride. Wait your turn if the kayakers are surfing in the waves and of course just be cautious as you use the park.  Unfortunately we’ve heard about some more serious injuries: kids swimming through the rapids head first and scraping their faces on the concrete that makes up the river bottom, sprained ankles from getting caught in between the rocks and have also seen a lot of kids unsupervised without any personal floatation devices.  The park has two engineered rapids that kayakers and canoers love to test their skills on, but (un-skilled families like mine) can go out and float tubes down to rapids too. The current is strong, but usually spits you out in the right place to get out of the water and walk up the fully paved, accessible path to the top where you can jump in a do the loop again and again.

At some point we take a break and head to the picnic table where we have snacks and get re-hydrated. Since there are no concessions on sight and the closest gas station is about four miles, I make sure to bring plenty for everyone. I usually take a break and sit on the edge of the amphitheater-like seating, dipping my feet into the family swimming area. It’s fun to people watch as well. The experienced kayakers and canoers often put on a great show, trying tricks and flips I didn’t know were possible. I love how this park is accessible to anyone and has something for each of my family members to enjoy. The Siloam Springs Whitewater Recreation Park is a long-awaited treat: perfect for keeping kids active and giving me a moment of peace to sit back and enjoy the memories being made.

Holland Hayden

Mom and user of the Kayak Park