[Ed.’s Note: The following was submitted by kayaking enthusiast Greg Barrington, detailing his trip down the Red River ending up in Shreveport.]
Kayaking is a seasonal activity for many people and for kayak enthusiasts like Greg Barrington, it’s a year-round sport that saw the Austin, Texas native travel the north and central part of Louisiana via the Red River.
“It would be a challenge in the winter but snakes and alligators would be in a hibernative state decreasing the risk factor. However there was still plenty of wild life to be seen. It was like being at the zoo, but with no bars."
He began his journey at the Hwy. 2 Bridge at Hosston and then paddled 190 miles southeast to Lock & Dam 2 near Marksville.
“I have Kayaked 840 miles of the Red River. It was freezing the first 3 days. The only trees with green were the Conifers. The river was running high and the air crisp and cold. The sounds of hawks screeching and fish flipping in the water would echo between the river banks. The geese would fly over in formation with their calls to each other. And deer would scatter as I came around bends in the river. There were many sand bars on which to camp. I took all my trash out with me to make it just as nice for someone else. The Beaver would slap their tails on the water if you invaded their space for long. In the early mornings I would paddle close to the banks to see one den after the other. At times beaver and nutrias would be spooked and would dart out straight at you. I had one jump from 15 feet up and almost landed in my lap. And with the size of their teeth it can be most sobering. I would paddle past rock out croppings where otter would play all day. They would make up games and were lots of fun to watch.”
He goes on to share more about his journey...
“I would talk to any fishermen I saw and asked them of their catch. Bass were running and large catfish as well. One fellow told me of a 91 lb catfish he landed that almost broke the record. And as we were talking he landed a fresh water muscle on shad on his rod. The muscle was fist size and had closed on his hook. He said he would smoke it on the grill.
“Some morning the fog was so thick the visibility was 1/8 of a mile. Thanks goodness for the river channel markers. And The Red River Water Way Commission that helps make the river friendlier to navigate.
“As I paddled on I saw Pelicans and their gracefulness. They didn’t seem to have to flap their wings and much to keep flight. About sundown the river would come alive the owls hooting and the coyotes were thick the whole trip. Bring down cows and calfs every night. The cows would seek safety by bedding close to my tent. But the coyotes would still come in as close as 20 yards. I would spook them with my air horn.
“Most of the people that traveled The Red River knew of its History. So there were many a stories people shared with me. That offered a kind of Southern comfort feel. Songs would come to mind as I paddled on like 'Blue Bayou' by Linda Ronstadt and movies like 'Red River' with John Wayne and Montgomery Clift. As tugs and trains would pass they would sound their horns and wave.
“As I came around the bend, there was Shreveport a real eye opener with the Casino’s lights lighting up the sky. And the feel of vibrancy and innovative creativity filled the air. As I paddled on through Natchitoches I met a gentleman named Sunny told of Natchitoches being the oldest permanent settlement in the Louisiana Purchase. And he had a lot of interesting facts.
“Getting through the locks and dams on the Red River was Easy Breezy and the lock Operators Superior Caution to attention makes passage through these locks and dams very simple.”
He ended his journey at Lock & Dam #2 Recreational Area and concluded the Red River to be educational and spiritually up lifting.
“It was truly a great Adventure. My thanks go out to the support of my loving wife Karen Barrington and my brother-in-law Nelson Alberthal. And a special thanks out to Luke and Mike at The Red River Water Way Commission, Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries Enforcement Division, The Lock and Dam Operations Division. Also a Special Thanks out to Park Ranger Larry Baum from Marksville, Louisiana for going above and beyond the call of duty.”