The Beaver River enters Oklahoma from New Mexico as the North Canadian River, then assumes an alias at the Oklahoma border all the way to Fort Supply, where it again becomes known as the North Canadian River. It flows through Cimarron, Texas, Beaver, Harper and Woodward Counties in the Oklahoma Panhandle east of New Mexico and North of the Texas Panhandle, dipping briefly into Texas northeast of Stratford, the back into Oklahoma where it is joined by the Goff River just northwest of Guymon from which it flows east to Optima Lake, created by a dam on the river southeast of the Town of Optima. At the Town of Beaver it flows through Beaver State Park. The Kiowa River flows into the Beaver northwest of Laverne, then turns southeast to Fort Supply, where it becomes the North Canadian River once again. This report will describe the Upper Beaver River as the reach between Felt and the headwaters to Optima Lake.
The Beaver River is basically a flatwater stream flowing through the plains of the Oklahoma Panhandle area near the borders of Colorado and Kansas to the north. The surrounding area is a remote wilderness with a few small towns nearby. Oklahoma Panhandle State University and the Optima Wildlife Refuge are close to the river. The Beaver is not a high-flow stream, and seldom has navigable waters, though it flows at sufficient volume for recreational boating shortly after a major rain event within its drainage basin. Because of Optima Dam it is not possible to make an uninterrupted run from the headwaters to Fort Supply, but the entire reach of the river is navigable with a portage around the dam whenever adequate flows are present. Numerous major highways and county roads crisscross across or parallel to the river all along its run, though signs of civilization along the river itself are rare. The Cimarron River, flowing out of New Mexico, is in near proximity to the north except where it diverges into Kansas before re-entering Oklahoma north of the Town of Beaver. Paddlers running the Beaver River should be prepared for extended paddling in a very remote area, having with them everything they will need for their trip. There are no campgrounds, outfitters or other river-related services available near the river.
Oklahoma Panhandle near the borders of Texas, New Mexico, Colorado and Kansas, flowing west to east from New Mexico to Fort Supply through Cimarron, Texas, Beaver, Harper and Woodward Counties before becoming the North Canadian River once again at Fort Supply.
Oklahoma City 345 miles; Tulsa 450 miles; Dallas 485 miles; Austin 675 miles; San Antonio 652 miles; Houston 731 miles; Little Rock 690 miles; Kansas City 690 miles; Albuquerque 442 miles; Phoenix 900 miles; Denver 321 miles; Salt Lake City 855 miles (all distances are approximate, depending upon starting point, destination point at the river and route taken.)
Water quality is usually good to very good at navigable flows, though it may be sandy or silty from runoff carried downriver. Flows are usually inadequate for paddling, but after local rainfall in the area the river can rise to boatable levels for a short few hours to a few days, then drop again to insufficient levels.
There is no "season" for paddling the Beaver River, which only flows at navigable levels after major rain events within its drainage basin. Flows below Optima Lake will be more consistent due to occasional dam releases. Check the USGS gauges at Goodwell and/or Beaver, depending upon where you want to paddle, before going.
Other than general remoteness and the dam at Optima Lake, there are no particular hazards to havigation on the Beaver River. Be prepared for true wilderness paddling in a sparsely populated area where emergency or other services are not readily available. Take everything with you that will be needed for your trips, but pack as lightly as possible in the event the river drops too low to paddle before the end of your trip.
Cimarron County road running north from Felt at 0.0 miles; US Highway 385 bridge south of Boise City at about miles; US Highway 287 bridge southeast of Boise City at about miles; SH 171 bridge south of Keyes at about miles; Unnamed Texas County road running parallel to the Oklahoma-Texas State Line west of the Town of Texhoma at about miles; SH 95 north of Texhoma at about miles; Unnamed Texas County road running parallel to the Oklahoma-Texas State Line north and west of the Town of Texhoma between Griggs and Goodwell at about miles; Unnamed Texas County road running north from Goodwell and east of Guymon at about miles; US Highway 64 / SH 136 bridge just north of Guymon at about miles; US Highway 54/64 bridge just east of Guymon at about miles; SH 94 bridge at the headwaters of Optima Lake at about miles (last access above the lake).
There are no known campgrounds located along the Upper Beaver River. Abundant natural campsites can be found all along the way, but be careful to avoid camping on private property without having first obtained permission, even though it is unlikely that you will be discovered while there unless you are setting off fireworks or otherwise calling attention to your presence.
There are no known liveries, outfitters or shuttle services operating along the Beaver River. Take whatever you need for your trip and arrange your own shuttles.
The Upper Beaver River is a gorgeous wilderness trip when it has adequate water, which is not frequently. For the most part paddlers will see few, if any, signs of civilization on this remote journey. The Oklahoma Panhandle area can be very hot and uncomfortable much of the year. There are no places along the river to resupply or get emergency help, if needed, so be prepared! This river is best suited for those who enjoy and are prepared for wilderness paddling with the possibility of long portages, especially if the water drops to levels too low to boat. Whitewater hazards are not a concern, but packing economically is of paramount importance. Because of the remote nature of this area contacting the Oklahoma Highway Patrol with your trip plans, including where vehicles will be staged, might be a very good idea so that they are not mistaken as being abandoned, then towed while you are on the river.