Cane Bluff to Myrtle
Eleven Point River
Oregon County, Missouri
Friday, July 4 – Sunday, July 6
July 4th weekend is always crowded on the river, and I prefer my rivers quiet and pristine most of the time. However, I can’t waste a 3-day weekend sitting at home so what better place to be than the Eleven Point. The Eleven Point is rarely crowded since it is so far from any major city and the water is too cold for most people. The weekend turned out to be beautiful with unseasonal cool temperatures and the water was higher than normal due to recent flooding. I almost wish it had been hotter since the water is so cold!
We were joined by our friend Jake from Nashville to float 3 days on the Eleven Point from Cane Bluff (which is above Greer Spring) down to Myrtle (just above the Arkansas state line). Jake’s brother Jess, his girlfriend Kat, and her dog Nellie joined us for the first two days. We camped at Hufstedler’s on Thursday night and had them shuttle our boats up to Cane Bluff and our car down to Myrtle all for a reasonable price. Hufstedler’s is my favorite outfitter on the Eleven Point and we have been going there for well over 10 years. The camping is cheap, the firewood is free, the rental and shuttle prices are reasonable and the owners are pleasant, hardworking people.
Friday morning we woke up early and broke camp while waiting for Jess and Kat to arrive. They pulled in to our camp right on time, so we got all our gear together to ride the shuttle van up to Cane Bluff. We were unloaded and ready to put on the water by 10:30. Earlier in the week the Eleven Point and surrounding areas were hit with a flash flood and the water was still draining, making the river level higher than normal and a little bit murky. I have never been up at Cane Bluff with the water at that level. It was nice because Cane Bluff can be tricky in the summer and fall and you sometimes have to portage low spots. Not this time! We sailed over places that were normally scraping. However, all the new trees in the river made for plenty of new obstacles. All of them were passable, but it did make things tricky for anyone unfamiliar with this river, or canoe skills in general. One of the things I like best about the Eleven Point is that it can be more challenging than it looks, especially when the water is flowing swiftly!
DW, Jake and I brought our fishing poles and put them to work as soon as we hit the water. Over the weekend we caught some smallmouth, bluegill, and plenty of trout. I don’t know if the river was recently stocked with trout, but I have never caught that many here before. We each caught a few nice sized rainbow trout and I caught a brown trout. If we hadn’t been in a blue ribbon area we could have kept them! Kat did some fishing as well and caught her share. Poor Nellie (the dog) sniffed a fishing lure and hooked herself, requiring some emergency nose surgery. She was fine as soon as the hook was out and you couldn’t tell anything had happened.
Six miles down from Cane Bluff, Greer Spring enters the river on the right side. Greer Spring turns the Eleven Point from creek to river. The second largest spring in the state, Greer is beautiful and massive. The spring branch is bigger than the river itself where it meets the Eleven Point. At the time of this trip all the springs were higher than normal due to the rains, and Greer was pumping out an impressive amount of water. I had never seen it that high before! Thus, the waters of the Eleven Point were colder than usual, consisting mostly of fresh spring water in a rush southward, not spending much time warming in the sun.
Just after Greer Spring branch is Greer access off of Hwy. 19. The best reason to put in at Cane Bluff is to see the change in the river once Greer Spring comes in. If you put in at Greer access you will miss it. The river flows quickly from Greer access, through Mary Decker Shoals (a rocky boulder dash) to Turner Mill Spring and access. At Turner Mill the remnants of the old mill and the spring are on the left side of the river and the campground and access are on the right side of the river. The spring flows out of a cave in the face of a bluff just up the hill from the river. It can be reached from a short hiking trail behind the bathroom. The trail is usually flanked by poison ivy, so tread carefully! Turner Spring was also pumping out an impressive amount of water and DW, Jake and Jess plunged in the flow for some hydrotherapy.
We camped just below Turner Mill on Friday night on a small gravel bar that was quite peaceful (except for all the frogs yelling about which one has the sexiest voice). The men gathered firewood, and Kat and I avoided the ticks and poison ivy while setting up our tents. We enjoyed a nice fire and a good meal that evening while we watched the bejeweled sky. The stars are spectacular on the Eleven Point and we saw several meteorites before hitting the bed sometime around midnight. The next morning we broke camp in a leisurely fashion and were back on the water between 10:30 and 11.
Our second day on the river was spent much in the same fashion as the first; fishing, swimming and a couple of stops along the way. The next access down from Turner Mill is Whitten. Whitten is often very crowded on the weekends and a popular spot for locals to park their campers and hang out. Between Turner and Whitten is a large rock on the left side of the river that is one of DW’s favorite for diving. Usually the rock is about four feet out of the water and a bit difficult to pull up beside and climb up. This time it was only a couple of feet out of the water and looked so small compared to normal. We stopped here for a bit while everyone took their turns diving into the deep waters. The rest of our day was leisurely up until the last couple of miles. The river slows down somewhat after Turner and there are more long lake-like pools between the swift bends.
We stopped at our favorite spring on the Eleven Point, Boze Mill. There were a lot of people so we didn’t stay long, but we did take our turn dipping into the large spring fed pool. Usually the water coming our of Boze Mill is breathtakingly cold, but it was definitely warmer and cloudier this time. I guess it was pumping out rainwater mixed in with the spring water, still colder than the river though! Right around the bend from Boze Mill is Halls Bay Chute, a class 2 or 3 rapid and the largest drop on the river. When you approach this rapid stay on the left side of the river, as the right is usually shallow and full of rocks. This time the water was so high you could get over the rocks with no problem. I was afraid the water would be high enough to blow out the rapid, making it much less exciting. However it was more fun than usual. The wave at the bottom of the drop was much bigger than normal. A wall of water broke over my boat and filled the cockpit while thoroughly soaking me. Jake was right behind me as we turned into the eddy to bail out our kayaks. Next came Jess and Kat, who filled their canoe with about 6 inches of water but made it through without spilling. DW made it through with a little less water in the canoe. After I bailed my boat I continued downriver behind everyone else and passed Jess & Kat being rescued by a couple of helpful locals in a jon boat. Apparently, they had decided to bail their boat in the worst possible spot, against a tree, and swamped the entire canoe. Luckily with DW and the jon boat’s help they were able to salvage it before the canoe sank entirely. I sprinted downriver to pick up their yard sale (spilled items). Jess & Kat took it in stride and no one was any worse for wear.
Just before we reached Riverton access we came across another swamped canoe being rescued by a jon boat. This one was jammed underwater against a downed tree that had fallen across the main channel. So the lesson here is: swift water + tree = a bad time. Jess and Kat took off the water at Riverton, where we ran into the couple who had been in the other swamped canoe. They were a bit shaken up, as they had been sucked under the tree when their boat capsized. Luckily, everyone was ok, but they didn’t seem interested in floating again any time soon. We said our goodbyes to Jess & Kat and DW, Jake and I headed downstream to find a camping spot for the night. Within the next half hour we came upon a large gravel bar that had washed into the forest with plenty of firewood and flat spots for our tents. Another excellent night of camping was had with a much bigger fire than the previous evening.
The next morning dawned a little bit overcast as we groggily stumbled from our tents. We heated our breakfast and broke camp, getting back on the water around 10. The section of the Eleven Point down from Riverton to Myrtle is much less popular, but worth doing. There are several springs and it is usually a peaceful float. I saw a lot of turtles, some of them soft shell, and many birds. This section is not entirely within the National Scenic Riverway, so there are more signs of civilization and some riverside cabins. We only saw a couple other people the whole day, as almost everyone takes out at Riverton.
About nine miles from Riverton is Morgan Spring float camp on the right side of the river. Float camp is used generously as it is literally one campsite with a stone table, fire ring and lantern post. But it is a beautiful spot right on the bank of the spring branch. It is easy to miss if you’re not looking for it, and this time there was a tree blocking the spring branch. We managed to wriggle around it and paddle up the spring branch a little bit. Around the corner from Morgan Spring is Blue Spring (one of many Blue Springs in the state). This Blue Spring is the eighth largest in Missouri and well worth checking out. There is a footpath somewhere on the bank that leads to an overlook, but I don’t know where that is exactly. We usually paddle up the spring branch to check it out. With all the newly fallen trees it was quite a bit of work to get up the spring branch. We sent DW in first. If he could maneuver that fully loaded canoe between branches, so could we in our little kayaks.
After exiting the spring we passed under Hwy. 142 bridge. There is an access just before the bridge on the left side of the river. We stopped on a gravel bar and ate lunch just around the bend. The sky was beginning to get stormy looking and we could hear thunder in the distance. Luckily, the rain missed us and it was soon sunny again as we paddled down to Myrtle. Myrtle access is on the right side of the river, one mile before the Arkansas state line. We pulled off the river around 3:30, loaded our gear and headed back to Riverton to pick up Jake’s van. On our way home we stopped at Stray Dog BBQ & Pizza in Van Buren for some excellent pizza and wings, which is our little tradition for the end of an excellent Eleven Point trip. We all had a great time. Floating the Eleven Point always soothes my soul and I feel quite refreshed after a weekend spent on the chilly spring-fed waters.
Our next major float trip will be in Minnesota as we are headed there for vacation. Out of state floats are always a fun new adventure and Minnesota loves floating as much as Missouri does, so I’m looking forward to it!
Critter Count: Blue Herons, Green Herons, Yellow Crowned Night Herons, Hawks, Snakes, Turtles, Deer, 1 Mink