Although August is known for its intense heat, you don’t have to melt into a puddle like the Wicked Witch of the West every time you step outside. Oklahoma has dozens of water parks, over 200 lakes and 78,000 miles of rivers that offer a refreshing reprieve from the dog days of summer. From lounging by the pool to whitewater rafting, there are myriad nearby aquatic activities to enjoy.


Appreciate the beauty of Oklahoma’s natural scenery and wildlife on a boating sojourn. Grand Lake, Lake Eufaula, Lake Keystone and Lake Tenkiller are just a few of Oklahoma’s boating destinations, providing plenty of opportunities to fish, swim and participate in water activities.

No matter which lake you choose to visit, there are several shops and marinas that offer daily or hourly boat rentals to lake-goers, along with any additional equipment needed. When choosing a watercraft, it’s a good idea to consider how you plan to spend your time on the water. Pontoons, for example, can comfortably seat large parties, whereas ski boats have less space but can reach higher speeds, making them perfect for skiing, wakeboarding and tubing.  

In Afton, Sail Grand Waterfront offers a variety of watercraft rentals, from ski boats to yachts. Visitors are encouraged to make advanced reservations and arrive early to check-in. When operating a watercraft, safety is key. All boat operators must be 18 years or older and have a valid driver’s license. Shops generally require all passengers to take a life vest with them. 

Scuba Diving

Although Oklahoma is a landlocked state, it has a surprisingly robust scuba diving community. Tim Knight, owner of Nautical Adventures Scuba, says that he serves up to 100 divers on summer weekends at Lake Tenkiller. Part of what makes Lake Tenkiller a popular scuba diving spot is its Dive Park, which features a sunken school bus, helicopter and other interesting artifacts.  

To get started, Nautical Adventures Scuba encourages beginners to try out its Intro to Scuba Diving course, which it holds in an indoor, heated pool. No experience is required, and the course is suitable for anyone ten years or older. The shop also offers a three-day certification class that allows people to dive virtually anywhere. 

“Once you’re certified, you can dive anyplace in the world, from Lake Tenkiller to Cozumel, Mexico,” says Knight. 

Nautical Adventures Scuba is currently putting on its third annual summer dive event, Bonaire or Bust, which will run through the end of August. Divers compete for prizes, including the chance to win a spot in a group diving trip to Bonaire, off Venezuela’s coast in the southern Caribbean. 

No matter your experience level, Knight encourages others to give scuba diving a try. 

“We’ve worked with kids as young as ten years old to… [people] in their 70s,” he says. “Scuba diving is a non-impact, relaxing activity that anyone can do year-round.” 


Did you know that swimming is the most popular recreational activity in the United States for children and teens? With a set of goggles, some inflatables and dive toys, you can keep your kiddos entertained for hours. If you don’t have a personal pool, grab your swimsuit, a beach towel and some sunscreen, and check out one of Oklahoma’s themed waterparks. 

Originally opened in 1984 as Big Splash, Paradise Beach in Tulsa touts a Lazy River, a wave pool and a children-designated swimming area called Toddler’s Paradise. Visitors can rent cabanas, tubes and lockers onsite to make the most of their day. 

The Water-Zoo Indoor Water Park in Clinton opened its doors in 2012, making it Oklahoma’s first and only indoor water park. The 28,000-square-foot facility features glass walls, a retractable roof and high-powered fans that help keep the park’s water and air temperatures comfortable all year round. 

Rafting, Kayaking and Canoeing

Rafting, kayaking and canoeing are ideal for groups of adults that crave a sense of adventure. Rafts can accommodate large numbers and generally provide a stable, gentle experience on the water. On the other hand, kayaks and canoes are less likely to get stuck in shallow waters and can cover long distances more quickly than rafts.

The stretch of the Illinois River that runs through Tahlequah is a hotspot for these water-based activities. With class II rapids, the Illinois River has a moderate current with few obstacles that require some navigation, making it accessible to beginners and families. The length of the trip can vary from six to 70 miles depending on the starting checkpoint. Popular rental shops in the area include Eagle Bluff, All American Floats and Diamondhead.

If you’re looking for a more thrilling experience, RiverSport in Oklahoma City offers whitewater rafting and kayaking on class II-IV rapids.

“Our whitewater venue is ranked among the best in the entire world,” says Mike Knopp, RiverSport’s executive director. 

Its world-class facility has been selected as the site for the ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships in 2026. To prepare for one of its whitewater experiences, Knopp recommends that participants wear comfortable clothing, closed-toed shoes, and drink plenty of water. 


Originating as a form of transportation in ancient Egypt, rowing has evolved into a recreational and competitive sport that is chock full of health benefits. Because it requires synchronization, rowing is also a great team-building activity. 

RiverSport offers rowing classes for people of all ages. Its Learn to Row course takes place on the Oklahoma River, teaching beginners techniques, water safety and boat handling. More experienced rowers can take advanced lessons at RiverSport’s National High Performance Center.

Visitors should take advantage of RiverSport’s wide range of water sports and activities when they purchase day passes or annual memberships. 

“It’s so inspiring to see people come out and get active while having fun,” says Knopp. “Being able to enjoy the water and engage in so many activities is a real differentiator for Oklahoma.”

Main image cutline: RiverSport in OKC presents a bevy of water-based activities, from kayaking to canoeing, rafting and even surfing. Photos by Georgia Read

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