Summer Staycations: Illinois River Float Trips Have Made Tahlequah A Tourist Hot Spot

Monday, June 29th 2020, 5:46 pm
By: LeAnne Taylor


In the Ozark Mountains, just north of Tahlequah, is the beautiful Illinois River. From April to October, folks of all ages can be found floating the river.

"So looking forward to just relaxing and playing and getting a sun tan and eating picnic food and having fun with the family," said visitor Christy Wicks.

With so many folks tired of being stuck in quarantine, a trip to the Illinois River is the perfect outdoor get away.

"Turn a negative into a positive," said Arrowhead Resort owner David Spears. "I think people are wanting to get out, and they're wanting to go where they can take a trip on a tank of gas. Just a short drive to Tahlequah and all the operators have been very busy."

Arrowhead Resort is just one of many outfitters along the river. The large raft suits small groups just fine, but you can also choose one and two man kayaks. So what about the canoes?

"They're the dinosaurs now. It's pretty much kayaks and rafts," Spears said.

After a day on the river, you may not be ready to head home just yet. Most rafting operations offer different types of lodging.

"We have cabins, full R-V hookups, electric hookups, primitive tent camping. We have group lodges. We have some private camping across the street, another one up the river," said Spears. "We have lots of stuff out here. Most places out here are very accommodating and have a lot to offer."

You may even consider going off the beaten path and try camping in a yurt! A yurt is a round cabin that was originally a tent used by nomads in Central Asia. There are two permanent yurts at the Elephant Rock Outfitters near Tahlequah. One sleeps up to ten people, the other up to six.

While in Tahlequah, stop in the historic downtown district. There are all sorts of shops, a beautiful park and restaurants as well, including Sam and Ella's Chicken Palace, which is a popular pizza place. One of their bestselling pizzas is the Big Sloppy, with lots of pepperoni, black olives and double mozzarella.

The restaurant sits a block from the campus of Northeastern State University and boasts that Carrie Underwood worked there once upon a time. So if you're looking for a quick getaway, consider a stop in Tahlequah!

"You don't need to drive to Missouri, Texas or Arkansas to enjoy a very scenic river that's beautiful. It's close," Spears said. "You're in the foothills of the Ozarks. Tahlequah is a wonderful place to visit, really a wonderful place to visit."


Arrowhead Resort:


Elephant Rock Outfitters


Sam and Ella's Chicken Palace