TULSA, Okla. (KNWA/KFTA) — A new ‘national-caliber’ whitewater park is under construction on the Oklahoma and Arkansas border, officials from Grand River Dam Authority and the City of Siloam Springs announced on Thursday
Construction on the WOKA (formed from a combination of the words water, Oklahoma, Arkansas) Whitewater Park broke ground at the old spillway of Lake Frances on the Upper Illinois River in Oklahoma on Thursday.
The main attraction will be an approximately 1200-foot long, 100-foot wide side channel off the river with eight drop-features to “provide low-hazard recreation for well-equipped, responsible wave action for kayakers, surfers, and tubers of all skill levels.”
Construction is expected to be complete in 2023.
Money from the Walton Family Foundation will provide funding for 95 percent of the $33 million construction cost.
“The innovative partnership of Siloam Springs, The Walton Family Foundation, the Grand River Dam Authority, and the states of Oklahoma and Arkansas demonstrates the possibilities when non-profits and public sectors combine resources,” said Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson. “WOKA will entertain Arkansans, attract visitors from other states and encourage people to enjoy the natural beauty of the outdoors.”
GRDA will oversee and manage WOKA, which forecasts 85,000 visitors annually with an estimated yearly economic impact of $900,000.
Park activities will include kayaking, surfing, stand-up paddle boarding, tubing, and rafting. Additional amenities will include waterfront, shaded spectator seating, rental services, parking, trail system, public restrooms, and course put in and take outs.
The 30-acre park will fall within the Oklahoma border and inside the reservation boundaries of the Cherokee Nation.
“Together, GRDA, the Walton Family Foundation and the City of Siloam Springs, are building a best-in-class whitewater park that will attract thousands of visitors each year to the region,” said GRDA CEO and president Daniel Sullivan.
The City of Siloam Springs operates another waterpark upstream, which served as the inspiration for WOKA, according to Thursday’s release.
In support of the project, the city of Siloam Springs deeded 17.25 acres to GRDA from the Siloam Springs Water Resource Company and will further partner to reinforce the existing dam which supplies water to Siloam Springs from upstream.
Materials repurposed from the whitewater park construction will be used to create a “stair-step” dam that will also mitigate hydraulic conditions and dangerous currents, according to the joint news release.