Last April some friends and I took a trip down the Baron Fork and found it to be an easy, beautiful trip. We put in at N4670 Road, approximately 1/2 mile south Hwy of 62 near of the tiny town of Christie, OK. This high up, the creek appears to be somewhat rain-dependent. The USGS gauge at Eldon, OK was between 6.5 and 6.7 feet for the duration of our trip, which was perfect, but I expect that summer flows are too low to float a boat.
Water quality is excellent along this stretch, which flows east to west. It's blue, cold, and very clear. There were a couple of spots where the channel deepened to six to eight feet and we could make out fish swimming along the bottom. Scenery consists of wooded Ozark hills to the south and small farms to the north.
All of the surrounding land is private, so once you put in you have to stay on the water. We camped on a gravel bar about 10 miles down from Christie. There are many such gravel bars, making finding a camping spot an easy exercise. Dinner consisted of smallmouth bass, which were more than happy to bite on any lure resembling a crawdad. We woke up to rain, which raised the water level slightly and sped us along. While the Baron Fork is free of anything resembling whitewater, it does have lots of snags and fallen trees to avoid, and we found Day 2, with its increased water flow, to be somewhat more exciting than Day 1. At one point we flipped a canoe and got it pinned against a tree; the kayaks chased after the gear that hadn't been lashed down, the canoe was righted and dumped out, and we were soon on our way.
The Baron Fork turns south and flows toward the first possible take-out, at the Hwy 51 bridge near Eldon, OK. This location is approximately 20 miles downstream from the put-in at Christie. It's necessary to shove the boats up a steep eight-foot bank at this point so it's a good idea to have some help. The water gets flatter and slower here and isn't quite as clear. I haven't been beyond this point, but two weeks later my brother did the trip again and continued down to the next take-out point at Welling Road. This adds an additional six miles to the trip. My brother reported that stiff south winds required an extra degree of exertion, and also reported seeing other people, mostly fishermen, on the water (we hadn't seen a single person on the upper stretch). He said that access at Welling Road is very easy, with a gently sloping gravel bank on the east side of the creek. It's a public access area with parking and is popular with swimmers.
Overall, the Baron Fork is a gorgeous alternative to the Illinois River, and is an excellent trip for anyone looking for some seclusion. Just be prepared to pack everything you need for a couple of days because there are no services of any kind along the way.
Lodging and facilities are available in Tahlequah, but once you're on the water, you're entirely on your own for at least 20 miles. Pack accordingly.
The Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission requires a use permit for all private boats. This permit is $1.00 per day or $10 per year.
Contact them at:
15971 Oklahoma Hwy 10
Tahlequah, OK 74464
phone: (918) 456-3251
From Tahlequah, follow Hwy 62 east for 19 miles to N4670 Road in Christie, OK. Turn right at N4670 Road; the put-in is 1/2 mile south. The take-out is at Eldon, OK, 1/2 mile southeast of the intersection of Hwy 62 and Hwy 51.