Touring the Arkansas River in Tulsa

Tuesday, May 20th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

There are many people who feel that the Arkansas River will have a lot to do with Tulsa's future. One man already has a vision about making a living on the river. News on 6 reporter Emory Bryan explains.

Think of the river - and most people think only of Riverparks - because it's about the only way to enjoy the Arkansas. The only families out on the water are the ducks. Steve Smith wants to change all that. He's started a river tour on a river that no one ever thought needed touring.

Steve Smith, River City Tours: "It's nice - I love having people call me up and say thank you for doing this.” Smith is finishing up a 25 passenger riverboat that's going to tour the Arkansas whenever the water is deep enough to float it.” Smith says there's enough water there for him to make a living. He's got bookings for a riverboat that's not even done - and stays busy with an airboat ride he started last year.

He's started a land-based tour with a bus that will go wherever the passengers want - but it usually ends up at the river. If interest in the river tour is a gauge of interest in the river itself, then Tulsans clearly want something to happen here. The mayor say the river is Tulsa's greatest undeveloped resource and wants it to be a major part of the vision package - that could provide some money to get things moving. “I think there's a strong groundswell of people under 30 years old who are really surprised were not doing nothing with it. It's a beautiful park river but it's not bringing us any tax dollars.”

Steve Smith believes the river could float the tourist trade in Tulsa - and he's not waiting for a vision plan to take advantage of it. Some decisions on what's including in the Vision plan will be made this week.

There's just one restaurant on the river right now. More development is expected in Jenks when the Oklahoma Aquarium opens.