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Difficulty I-III
Length 2 Miles
Gauge N/A
Flow Range
Reach Info Last Updated 11/07/2005 8:02 pm

River Description

All data here (including length, put-in, take-out, etc) is highly speculative, based solely upon cyber investigation (using TopoZone), which suggests that the area of best gradient appears to be from just below the confluence with Mud Creek (the listed 'put-in' coordinates) to the second bridge south (on Denoya Rd?).

Starting just north of Grainola in Osage County, Oklahoma, near the Kansas border, then flowing southward to its Arkansas River confluence near Ralston is Salt Creek, a moderate whitewater stream with Class II to III rapids, some of which may escalate to Class III+ or higher as flows increase substantially. The creek is a rural stream with limited access crossed by several low-water bridges that are suitable for putting in or taking out. Much of the land adjoining unpaved roads leading to the creek is privately owned, but the roads are public, though not particularly hospitable to low-clearance vehicles.

While the total length of Salt Creek is probably about 50 miles, only perhaps 30-40 miles are boatable in canoes and kayaks. The creek is too narrow and congested for enjoyable rafting. SH 18 closely parallels the creek from source to mouth passing through Grainola, Shidler, Fairfax and Ralston. The main crossing roads are SH 11 just west of Shidler and US Highway 60 south of Shidler, between Ponca City and Pawhuska. SH 20 crosses SH 18 at Ralston.

While not significant in terms of size, some of the rapids can be technical because of the presense of vegetation, particularly trees, that may partially obstruct the best channel where the strongest current is found. Depending upon flow conditions, portages may be required to avoid getting injured or caught in the wood. A number of low-water bridges make excellent access points, but can also become hazards in high flow conditions. Limestone beaches along the creek offer excellent resting or camping sites, but many are on private land where advance permission should be obtained beforehand.

Fishing is excellent, with largemouth bass and various species of catfish being prevalent. Crowds are non-existent, so Salt Creek offers a respite from rivers that resemble a "city on the water". This is another stream that will never be a major paddling destination, but one which offers good whitewater opportunities for those who venture here when it is running. Look for recent local rainfall near the creek as an indication of its condition. Bird Creek, near Avant to the east, may presage conditions that will be found on Salt Creek. Pack lightly, but bring your camera. This is a remote wilderness run of immense natural beauty.

Unnamed Osage County road between Hardy and Grainola at 0.0 miles; Unnamed Osage County road between Foraker and Kaw Lake at about miles; SH 11 west of Shidler at about miles; Unnamed (and unpaved) Osage County road about 1.5 miles south of Shidler at about miles; US Highway 60 crossing near Burbank at about miles; Unnamed Osage County road near Ralston and the Arkansas River confluence at about miles.

NOTE: There are at least 5 low-water bridges between Shidler and Burbank, the precise locations of which are not known. These are not shown on conventional road maps, but appear on detailed maps of Osage County. It is recommended that paddlers obtain a detailed map, then drive the roads to observe and learn to recognize access points and potential hazards before attempting to paddle Salt Creek, especially in high-flow conditions.

Rapid Descriptions


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Directions Description

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Matt Muir


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1192334 11/07/05 n/a n/a