Houston-based freelance writer Dan Oko has covered paddle sports and other outdoor recreation, fitness, environmental affairs, and active travel for magazines and newspapers including Houston Chronicle, Outside magazine, Texas Parks and Wildlife, USA Today, Canoe and Kayak and the now-defunct Paddler magazine. His writing is currently featured in The Texas Monthly, where he has been a Writer and Large since early 2018. Among the rivers and races he has paddled, Dan has rafted the Grand Canyon on a private two-week trip from Phantom Ranch, and the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho. Dan also completed the Texas Water Safari in 2016, and in Texas has canoed the Pecos and Devils rivers, and Mariscal and Boquillas Canyons on the Rio Grande.
A Yankee by birth and Texan by choice, Dan Oko’s experiences on Western rivers have shaped his life and career in profound, sometimes surprising ways. During his presentation, Dan will share his perspective as somebody who has spent decades improving his paddling skills, engaging America’s last wild waters and the landscapes they traverse, and learning about critical challenges faced across the waterways of the Lone Star state from the Big Thicket to the Big Bend. Few river expeditions promise better insights than a trip down the Devils, which Dan canoed the first time just a year ago, a zone where concerns about groundwater and energy development encroachment have led area ranchers to often embrace the paddling community they once shunned.
“We often hear concerns raised about ‘loving’ a resource to death,” says Dan,
who for 20 years has explored the wilds of Texas, “but I think the real challenge is
keeping our hearts and minds open to the complexity of nature — something that
canoeing lets us experience up close and personal.” In the end, Dan hopes by relating
personal stories of his mishaps and adventures, he can illustrate how outdoor
recreation, and paddling in specific, can prepare individuals, families and friends to live their best lives.