Arkansas Canoe Club

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About the Club

When was the ACC established?

The ACC was established in the Fall of 1975 by about 25 people mostly located in NW Arkansas. Early club leaders and participants included Joel Freund, the first ACC President Carla Crawley, Stewart Noland, the first ACC VP, Phil Colwell, Steve Day, and David Thrasher.

Where can I find a copy of the ACC Bylaws?

They along with other documents are posted on our website here but you will have to have an active membership and a user profile established to view.

How many members does the ACC have?

Because of how we define family memberships as everyone within a household we don't have an exact number of ACC members. Our number of membership households fluctuates throughout the year but tends to be about 700 or so. It is probably safe to say that at least 1,500 people are ACC members.

What is the purpose of the ACC?

The ACC promotes paddlesport in and around Arkansas by focusing on and promoting 3 fundamental principles – Recreation, Conservation and Paddling Education.

Who is the club President and/or main point of contact?

A complete list of ACC Board of Directors can be found at this link on our club website.

Is the ACC a non-profit organization, i.e. a 501(c)(3)?

The ACC is currently not a 501(c)(3) and donations are not tax exempt. We are a 501(c)(7) which among other things allows the ACC to lobby the Arkansas legislature and encourage our members and the public to do likewise.

Are there kayakers in the Arkansas Canoe Club?

The vast majority of Arkansas Canoe Club members today are actually kayakers. When our club was first started in the mid 70's it was just the opposite. The name is now well established, and the ACC promotes and supports all types of paddlesport.

Are there organized ACC paddling trips throughout the year?

While we have some organized paddling trips, the rain dependent nature of many of our streams make planning trips well in advance challenging. Watch the ACC Facebook page closely to learn about official and impromptu trips that are occurring.

Is the ACC a family friendly club, i.e. good for kids?

Absolutely! Paddling is one of the best activities for children and families. All of our club events are family friendly, (some more than others.) It is important to note that some of our events such as the School of Whitewater paddling and the School of River Paddling do have age limits for participants. Rendezvous very specifically is a great place to get children introduced to the sport of paddling and to the ACC.

How do I get plugged in as a volunteer or potential club leader?

Speak up! Let our current leaders know you are interested in serving. Come to one of our ACC Board Meetings. All dues paying members are welcome to attend our Board Meetings.

About Membership

Why should I join the ACC?

There are countless benefits of joining the ACC. Your membership supports a number of recreation, conservation and paddler education events and efforts throughout the year. Great stuff that simply would not occur without dues paying member support. A member is afforded a number of tangible benefits as well, such as quarterly newsletters, free or discounted attendance at ACC events, access to chapter meetings and chapter events, discounts at local outfitters, discounted membership in the American Canoe Association and the American Whitewater Association, free or discounted course fees for CPR, First Aid and paddling instructor training. The biggest benefit however is likely the lifelong circle of friends you will gain by becoming a dues paying and active member of the ACC.

How do I join the ACC?

You can join online at our club website or by selecting this link.

How much does a membership cost?

An annual household membership is $25.00. An annual business membership is $100.00. A further discount for family memberships is available if you choose to pay for a 3-year membership.

Does a membership cover an individual or a family?

A membership covers up to four members living in the same household.

What benefits do I get for a business membership?

Business members get all the benefits of membership + 4 business advertisements in our Arkansas Paddler Newsletter. Contact the ACC Communications Officer to get details on ad submissions.

I joined the ACC Facebook page. Does that make me an ACC member?

No. The ACC Facebook page is a very active social media tool of the ACC and an engagement point for paddler in Arkansas and elsewhere. We currently allow non-members to “join,” view and post on it, but being a Facebook page “Member” does not make one a member of the Arkansas Canoe Club.

When I fill out the ACC membership form, what chapter should I select?

Currently we have 10 chapters: Central Arkansas (based in Little Rock), Northwest (based in Fayetteville area), River Valley (based in Ft. Smith), Piney Creeks (based in Russellville) ArkMoTenn, (based in Jonesboro area) ArkLaTex (based in Shreveport, LA), Dust Bowl chapter (based in Tulsa, OK) and the North Texas chapter (based in the DFW area), Buffalo River (based in north central Arkansas), and Frontier (based in Oklahoma City). You can select any one (or none) of these chapters. Most members pick a chapter geographically closest to them.

What is the ACA and what does it have to do with the ACC?

The ACA stands for the American Canoe Association and is a national non-profit organization that the ACC aligns with that serves the broader paddling public by providing education related to all aspects of paddling; stewardship support to help protect paddling environments; and sanctioning of programs and events including ACC events, that promote paddlesport competition, exploration and recreation. ACC members get reduced fees for ACA memberships, but an ACA membership is not required to be a member of the ACC.

About Events

When and where is the ACC School of Whitewater Paddling?

The ACC School of Whitewater Paddling, our club's premiere event, is generally held the first weekend in May on the Mulberry River in Northwest Arkansas. Consult the ACC website and the ACC Facebook page for exact dates, registration information and more details.

When and where is the ACC School of River Paddling?

The ACC School of River Paddling is usually held around the second weekend in June on the Illinois River in Northwest Arkansas, near the town of Siloam Springs. Consult the ACC website and the ACC Facebook page for exact dates.

When and where is the ACC Rendezvous?

The ACC Rendezvous is usually held during mid to late September and historically has been held on Lake Catherine, near Hot Springs. Other sites are being considered for this event however. Consult the ACC website and the ACC Facebook page for exact dates and location.

New Paddler

I'm new to paddling. What gear do I need?

You're going to need a boat of course, a single- or double-bladed paddle and a Personal Floatation Device (PFD) a.k.a. a wearable life jacket designed for the type of boat and type of paddling you chose. Adults are required to have a life jacket accessible (but we recommend you just wear it), children 12 and under are required by law to WEAR the life jacket. If you are going to be in a closed cockpit kayak, or in a canoe outfitted with thigh straps or thigh braces, you'll want a helmet designed for paddling. If in a closed cockpit kayak you will need a spray skirt as well. That's the absolute minimum gear required gear to get you out on the water.

What then would be the next wave of gear that I'd need?

The next round of gear you are going to want to acquire is apparel that will make you more comfortable and hopefully drier when you paddle. Much of the paddling in and around Arkansas occurs during cool and even during the very cold months. Apparel that will keep you warm and dry is really a must. You can often approach this challenge one of two ways, wet/warm or dry/warm. Wet/warm is what it sounds like. You will be wet, but you will be considerably warmer than you would be without cold weather paddling apparel. This set up will allow you to paddle into the cooler weather months but is NOT advised for very cold weather paddling. The key item in a wet/warm outfit is the wetsuit. A wetsuit is a magical piece of apparel made of neoprene designed to warm the body when wet. This was the go too apparel item for paddlers for decades and still has followers. Most who go this route chose the sleeveless ‘farmer john” or ‘farmer jane” style of wetsuit and layer a splash jacket or dry top and sometimes splash pants on top to minimize the “wet” and to act as a wind break. Be aware that if you take a swim in a “wet/warm” apparel setup, you are going to be wet and inevitably colder than you would be in a dry/warm outfit.
The focal point of a dry/warm outfit is the dry suit. A dry suit is a suit that keeps you dry. It is essentially waterproof, has gaskets around the neck and wrists and can either have gaskets around the ankles or can totally enclose the foot in a waterproof “bootie.” Generally the hands and head are the only thing exposed to water. Dry suits are considerably more expensive than a wetsuit. A new one can cost well over $1,000. They however are the gold standard for serious paddlers seeking cold weather apparel. You will want to wear layering apparel under the dry suit. This can be as light as silk underwear or as thick as a fleece bunny suit or even a combination. You are going to need footwear that will help keep your feet warm and comfortable and If you are going to be padding in cold weather (and you will be) you are going to want to have a headcover, often worn under a helmet usually made of either neoprene or fleece and some kind of hand protection. There is a debate between paddling gloves or paddling poggies. Gloves give you less exposure to the elements but limit your contact with the paddle. Pogies are sort of like mittens that attach to the paddle. You insert your hands into them, allowing you to have full contact with your paddle, yet they give remarkable thermal protection too. It's a good idea to try both gloves and pogies. Eventually you will swear by one or the other.

There are other items that you will eventually want and need that gets into the area of paddler safety, paddler rescue, and what not, but the above list of items is a good place to start your search for gear.

What is the best type of kayak?

Volumes could be written to answer this question. The “best” type of boat (and this is not limited to kayaks) is like asking what is the best type of vehicle to drive? There are boats designed for flat water, there are boats designed for oceans, there are boats that are designed to run waterfalls and boulder strewn steep creeks, there are boats designed to surf, spin and loop (intentionally). There are kayaks made of plastic, wood, Kevlar and fiberglass. There are those you sit in and those you sit on. There are hard kayaks and soft inflatable ones. There are even two-person kayaks. There is one thing that applies to all of the above. None of them do everything or even most things well. You do need to consider the main type of paddling you want to do. To begin to answer this question you need to ask yourself what kind of paddling have you done, but more importantly what type of paddling do you aspire to do? What do you think looks like fun and what do you have zero desire to do? Consider your potential paddling partners and what they like to do and where they like to go? What type of paddling do you have access to on a regular basis? In Arkansas we are blessed to have options. We have placid streams, swamps and bayous on one end of the spectrum and when the water is up we have hair raising, dare devil whitewater steep creeks on the other. In between is where many people land and if you hang around for any length of time you will find yourself with multiple boats for different types of paddling.
Regardless of what you wind up with, here are some suggestions: Consider buying used but don't rule out a shiny new boat either. Demo boats whenever you get an opportunity. ACC events such as Rendezvous and the School of Whitewater Paddling event are excellent opportunities to do this. Some outfitters have demo boats you can try out. Use the ACC Facebook page and other online resources to help you determine the type of boat(s) you want and to help you find one. Don't be afraid to ask questions in these forums. We've all been there where we did not know one end of the boat from the other.

What is the best type of canoe?

The above information regarding different types of kayaks applies to canoes as well. Canoes come in both the tandem (two person) and solo (one person) variety. (Technically so do kayaks). While the vast majority of paddlers paddle kayaks these days, many people still hold to the old saying “half the paddle, twice the paddler.”

Where is the best place to paddle?

Arkansas is blessed to have a variety of paddling options available, many of these options are only available however when the water levels cooperate. Many streams are “rain dependent” streams. Some of these can only be paddled within a very short window and some only after very heavy rainfall. New paddlers wanting to explore new streams should study the Ozark Creek Information Summary page and the American Whitewater river level page for Arkansas. Studying these pages before, during and after rain events will allow you some idea of when streams rise and fall, when they are too low to paddle when they are good to go and when they are dangerously flooded. Note that there are a few streams that are what we call “dam release” streams. These streams react to rainfall just like the others but also have dams upstream where released water dictates their flow to a large degree. The Ouachita below Remmel Dam near Hot Springs and the Lower Saline downstream of Dierks Lake are two examples of "dam release" streams. Reading material available online and in bookstores can help you learn where to paddle.

In addition to these whitewater resources, there are also many good places to paddle easier water or flatwater for touring, birding, and general wildlife watching, including the “Big Woods” of Arkansas, or as some of our members like to call it, “swamp paddling”. You can find a number of water trails listed on the Arkansas Game and Fish website or the Arkansas Watertrails Partnership website

I'm claustrophobic. I don't think I'd like being strapped into a kayak.

While whitewater kayak outfitting is designed to provide a secure fit, it is also designed for an easy exit should it be necessary. The “wet exit” is among the first techniques most kayakers learn. Taking individual or group lessons from a qualified instructor will help alleviate this apprehension.

Is there anything else I need to know before I get on the water the first time?

Yes! Arkansas has some anti-littering laws you need to know about. The main points are that no glass containers are allowed, and every vessel carrying drinks or “foodstuffs” has to have an attached, sturdy trash container. A mesh bag is the most commonly recognized type of trash container. Open drinks have to be attached to or in a floating holder to keep the container from sinking. Styrofoam ice chests are prohibited. Music (radios, etc) are prohibited on sections of the Buffalo River that are designated as Wilderness areas. You can see a more complete discussion on these issues on our forum

I don’t want to lose my stuff, what can I do about that?

The number one way to not lose your stuff is to put it in a waterproof or at least water resistant container or bag, and tie that container or bag to your boat so that even if you turn over, it won’t float away or sink out of sight. But here are some additional tricks that will almost always bring your gear home no matter what happens:

  1. Write your phone number on the containers. Also write your phone number on your boat, your paddle, your PFD, your helmet, etc. This can easily be done with a black Sharpie permanent marker; for black paddle blades use a silver metallic Sharpie or white paint pen.
  2. If you have a camera or Go-pro type camera, the first picture on the SD card should be something with your name and phone number on it. Additional messages like “Please call me!” may also be helpful.
  3. If you have a cell phone consider including a spouse or friends phone number on the background screen so that it can be seen even when the phone is locked.
  4. If you don’t have a floating, waterproof container for your phone, then leave it in the car, or put it in two “freezer grade” (thicker) ziplock bags. Leave enough air in the bags that the phone will float, unless it is in a zippered pocket or something that can be tied to the boat.

What other water craft are represented in the ACC?

In addition to kayaks and canoes, there are rafters (both oar raft and paddle raft) and stand up paddle (SUP) boarders. There are also probably a few paddlers who are strictly kayak fishermen. Fishing kayaks are so unique and so highly specialized they tend to be thought of in a class all by themselves.

Is there a paddling season?

It depends. If you are willing to paddle different types of water, i.e. flatwater, moving water and whitewater, you can paddle pretty much year-round in Arkansas. If you are only interested in whitewater, then your window of opportunity tends to be during the rainier seasons which tend to be primarily from November to early June, often peaking in March and April. Some years are exceptions of course and there are summers that are wet and there are also winters and even springs that are pretty dry. Dam released streams are the weird exception and can sometimes be paddled when everything else is bone dry.

Where can I learn to roll my kayak or canoe?

A number of our chapters have roll sessions at local indoor swimming pools for our dues paying members. Look for more information on the ACC website and/or inquire on our Facebook page.

Are there instructors or other paddling classes?

The ACC has a number of qualified canoe, kayak, SUP and swiftwater rescue instructors. Many of these instructors teach at our School of WW Paddling and our School of Recreational Paddling. Some also do individual lessons. Some are very willing to meet up at the local pool sessions to help you learn. Don't be shy. Use our ACC Facebook page and inquire about qualified, trained instructors. If you ask for help, you are almost sure to get it.

Where is the best place to buy paddling gear?

Local outfitters that specialize in paddling gear are a good place to start especially when you are new to the sport. Ouachita Outdoor Outfitters and Ozark Mountain Trading Company and Ozark Outdoor Supply are three that come to mind. All three are ACC Business members and some, if not all give ACC member discounts.
Often you can find used gear for sale on our ACC Facebook page and on other sites such as the Whitewater Gear For Sale Facebook page. We also have a For Sale section on our forum. Once you get more comfortable knowing what you are wanting to buy, there are quite a few online stores of course.

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