Michelle Rupp: Joining me now is Trey Reid from Arkansas Game and Fish. Trey, thanks for coming in.

Trey Reid: Thanks for having me.

MR: I’m excited because we are talking about being on the water but we’re talking about canoeing, kayaking, paddling. All those things that you might not think about the Game and Fish commission when you’re thinking about canoeing, kayaking, and paddling.

TR: Yeah, but it’s actually a big part of what we do. You know, we’ve talked about it before, and people think of Game and Fish as a hunting and fishing organization and obviously that that’s our core constituency are hunters and anglers. But we serve all Arkansans. And by calling attention to some of our waterways and getting people connected to that, it fosters a spirit of conservation. It makes people want to take care of our resources. So yeah, paddling is, we’ve really gotten big into it over the last 10, 15 years.

MR: Well, talk about any paddling programs or canoeing or kayaking programs that you guys offer.

TR: Yeah, so we do a lot of stuff at our nature centers. We do like paddling 101, you know, teach you well, actually put a kayak out, you know on dry ground and show you how to get in and out of it or you know how to how to steer a canoe, you know, just how to make the paddling strokes and things like that. Now some of our facilities like at Fort Smith, our Arkansas River Valley Nature Center, there’s Wells Lake that’s right outside the back door. So we can actually put you in a boat, push you off and give you a life jacket and a paddle and you know, kind of help you get started. Another really cool program we have is the Arkansas water trails program. We have a watchable wildlife coordinator on staff. And one of the best ways to see wildlife in Arkansas is in a canoe or a kayak because you know, unlike a motorboat or even when you’re hiking, you’re really quiet, you’re just sort of slipping along. And we have a network of trails. You know, the streams are kind of a natural trail anyway. So, what we go out and do is, you know, we have some signs giving folks directions, basically blue medallions that you’ll find on trees and make sure you stay on the right path and things like that. We also have some maps that you can download and use on your phone, even when you don’t have cell service to follow some of these trails. We have them on lakes. So flat water. We have them on your traditional streams like, you know, the crooked creek up in the Ozarks. And then also on some what people might not think about as a paddling trail, some of our wildlife management areas in the delta on some slow bios and things like that. So really, really cool program that I would encourage folks to check out.

MR: Let’s talk about the exercise benefit and just being outside and all the wonderful things that can do.

TR: You know, just being outside is a benefit to health. I mean, studies have shown that just being out there and enjoying nature, hearing birds sing. Having that quiet, that solitude is really good for our mental and physical health. But then you get into the physical health benefits. I mean, paddling, it’s not sedentary. I mean, you’re actually moving. You’re getting some upper body workout. It is really great for core workout too. There’s a reason they have rowing machines at the gym because they’re great exercise. And so paddling can offer that too. But I would not underestimate the benefits of that mental health of being out there in nature and really just kind of soaking it all in and having that quiet and that time to kind of reflect and reset the hard drive.

MR: Yes, there is nothing like it Nothing like it. So, let’s talk safety. What do we need to know before we go? Do we wear life jackets? I know in a regular boat. You do. So, I would presume.

TR: Yeah, absolutely. I would definitely encourage folks to wear life jackets. You have to have one in the boat. It’s a law. You’re not required to wear it if you’re over the age of 12, but wear it. I mean, especially when you’re floating a stream that has, you know, some white water. And we’re not talking about like the Colorado River out west, but we do have some, some streams that have some, you know, current, some rapids and you can, sometimes you can get knocked out of, you know, fall out of the boat or whatever lose your balance. So, wear that life jacket. I mean, they’re very comfortable. They make special life jackets for canoeing and kayaking so you can still lean back and they’re not as bulky. So do that, you know, always know the conditions. Paddle within your abilities. If you’ve never been on the water before, maybe don’t go to the Cossatot River after a rainstorm. And be aware of conditions as well. Like if we’ve had a big rain event, it may not be the best time for a beginner to get out. And again, you know, sign up for a class. Game and Fish is not the only person that does these. Arkansas canoe club and other organizations. Some of the outfitters on some of our popular float streams will do classes where they can, you know, teach you how to take care of yourself if you fall out what to do and you know how to, how to, you know, do everything the right way, in a safe way.

MR: I would think that’s the biggest, takeaway is if you’ve not ever been canoeing or been paddling, get into a class before you get out on that water and don’t just go out on the water thinking I got this, it’s a canoe. I got this.

TR: Right, No, absolutely. And unfortunately, I mean there have been a number of, as canoeing and kayaking have really grown immensely in popularity over the past decade, there have been a few incidents where, you know, people were kind of doing things outside of their ability or didn’t know enough about the body of water, they were on. You know, we have some paddling that takes place on some of our trout streams that are subject to releases of water from the dams for hydropower generation. And when that water comes up it’s a whole different ballgame. And if you’re 10 miles downstream, you’re not going to hear the horn that they sound on the damn. So you just have to be aware of things and again, know your abilities and learn what to do before you get out there.

MR: Where can people go to paddle? Any stream they, see?

TR: There’s so many places. You know, some streams are private, but many of our streams are considered navigable waters of the United States. And so, they’re open to the public as long as you stay below the high-water mark. You know, there will be private property on either side of the river a lot of times. But you know, the Buffalo River is probably the most famous stream in Arkansas. I mean it was the nation’s first National River, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Established in 1972 and that should be on the bucket list of every Arkansan. And people come from all over the country to experience that. The Washington River up above the lake is a great place. Over in the Mount Ida area. The Caddo River is another great one in the Ouachita’s. The Kings River up in North Arkansas is one of my favorites. But we have so many, we have so many. You know, I would encourage folks to go to agfc.com, click on that Arkansas water trails link and that will show you some other places to go. Yea, don’t just think about like the white water streams, those mountain streams, there’s a lot of other places and you know, even out like on the west end of Lake Maumelle, where the Maumelle River enters it. There’s a great canoe and kayak launch, that’s part of the sleepy hollow access there and you can paddle up and downstream on the river above the lake.

MR: And down around two rivers. Two rivers park.

TR: Another great water trail. Yeah, from Pinnacle Mountain State Park, down to Two Rivers is a wonderful flow. That is literally five minutes really from downtown Little Rock.

MR: Yeah, it’s perfect to have it right here in the heart of the city.

TR: And you will never know that you’re that close to the capital city of Arkansas when you’re out there.

MR: That’s right. Alright, agfc.com Fantastic, Trey. Thanks for joining us.

TR: Thank you Michelle.

MR: And thank you so much for joining us today. We’ll see you back here next week for more AFMC TV.