The original riverfront landscape featured sandstone bluffs, natural wetlands and diverse native vegetation. The North Canadian River is a tributary of the Canadian River, approximately 440 miles (708.1 km) long, flowing through New Mexico, the Texas Panhandle, and most of Oklahoma. In 2004, a 7-mile stretch of the river, south of the downtown central business district and including The American Indian Center site was renamed the Oklahoma River. The Center is the eastern anchor for the Oklahoma River development and one of several Brownfield projects responsible for improving environmental and human health impacts from the industrial history.
The site experienced extensive disruption and contamination during the industrial period. The site, part of Oklahoma City Oil Field No. 1, was covered with over 57 oil and gas wells, sludge pits and storage tanks. The site’s history is reflected in the infrastructure and damage resulting from its former use for oil extraction. Left on the site were numerous roads, oil lines, storage tanks and surface contaminants. Varying amounts of illegal dumping activity occurred as well. Nearly one million cubic yards of soil was dredged from the North Canadian River and placed on the site.
Oklahoma River Development
The North Canadian River, Oklahoma City’s original prairie river, was straightened and channelized in the 1950s to alleviate chronic flooding issues downtown, leaving a mostly dry channel devoid of habitat. In the 1990s, the City partnered with the US Army Corps of Engineers for an ecosystem restoration project that created three river lakes, several wetlands, river trails, and a more stable river system. Prior to this The American Indian Cultural Center and Museum development site was almost entirely in the “100 Year” floodplain.
U.S. Olympic/Paralympic Venue
In 2009, The Oklahoma River was designated an official U.S. Olympic/Paralympic training site for the sports of rowing and canoe/kayak. The River was also established as a center for High Performance training by US Rowing and USA Canoe/Kayak, drawing athletes from across the country to Oklahoma City to train. The American Indian Cultural Center and Museum is positioned at the start line.
Other river projects to be completed include a Whitewater Rafting & Kayak Center, a $35-million recreation and training center for whitewater rafting and kayaking, and the Oklahoma River Stadium, with grandstands, floating stage, permanent lighting and additional race infrastructure.