When I first moved to Louisiana, I joined outdoor groups to learn more about the area. Mostly I wanted to find new hiking spots, but once met a group of outdoor enthusiasts on a paddling trip.

With the summer heat building, it seemed like a good time to relive that experience. Last weekend, I rented a single kayak for $30 at Okatoma Creek Farm and Outdoor Post at 550 Walter Lott Rd., Seminary, MS. The drive to Seminary took just under three hours from Port Allen and the destination is approximately 10 miles northeast of Hattiesburg, MS.

Services include drop-off and pick-up (if needed) and prices vary depending on size of the rental craft. They also offer day rentals on canoes and double kayaks for $40 and $50 respectively. If you have your own kayak, they charge $20 to haul it to the launch site. Overnight rates on rented crafts are also available if you are camping. Reservations are encouraged. 

A short distance before reaching the outpost, I saw large signs on US 49 for Country Tyme Fruit Stand where they made me a to-go lunch sandwich and also had a large variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, old time candies, beverages, and locally packed snacks. I highly recommend this last minute stop if you make the same trip as it was reasonably priced with helpful and welcoming employees. 

Okatoma Creek Farm has three runs to choose from when paddling for the day. The Lower Creek Run is six miles, The Upper Short to Fairchild is a seven creek mile trip, and finally The Upper Run combines length of both for a total of 13 miles. I saw many kids, around the age of 10 and up on the river, but a few younger children rode with parents.

The website suggests children age 8 and older for the single kayak, while younger children can ride in a double kayak or canoe. The river required no technical skill but has a few small waterfalls to navigate—mostly on The Upper Short to Fairchild section. 

I have some experience paddling but would still consider myself a novice. For beginners, I would recommend going on one of the two shorter length trips. The water is mostly still with a gentle current that carries you even as you take breaks from paddling. I chose the 13 mile trek, which I enjoyed. Just remember the long option will take four to six hours—which includes picnicking and swimming breaks.

My trip was on Memorial Day weekend, so I imagine the wait time was longer than typical. Still, the staff was organized and friendly. I waited about an hour to pay for my reservation and check my car keys. Within 20 minutes after that, my name was called over an intercom to load my bus with the other groups in my launch.  

On that day, the first half of the 13 mile run felt like a floating party. Groups of friends laughed and played music along the river, quenching their thirst with drinks from their coolers. People were respectful of spacing and when passing groups. At almost every sandy shore, boats gathered to take a rest and a swim, or eat snacks before resuming their trip. 

The second half of the 13 mile experience was peaceful and less crowded than the first— more of this writer’s taste. Since most of the party animals exited the river at the 7 mile mark that ends the Upper Short to Fairchild, the second half was only sparely speckled with fellow paddlers. I saw turtles and listened to the calls of birds, drifting along most of that section in solitude. 

I was thankful for both my hat and sunscreen, completing the day without getting burned. I would recommend using both and bringing plenty of water. At the end of The Upper Run, an attendant sat by a large sign at the creek’s shore with a few dropped kayaks to indicate the ending.

At the top of the bank, I crossed the road and was back at the General Store, attached to guest restrooms and shower facilities, and the parking lot for Okatoma Creek Farm. When taking the Upper Short to Fairchild, buses shuttle you back to the parking area, similar to the drop-off routine. 

If you are interested in taking this trip, visit www.okatoma.com or call 1-888-652-8662 for more information.

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