Float #142: Courtois Creek

27 Apr

Berryman to Huzzah Conservation Area

F142_Courtois

Courtois Creek
Crawford County, Missouri
Saturday, April 1, 2017
14 Miles
Temperature: 59˚/40˚
Wind: ENE at 8mph
Water Level: 3.5ft. at Steelville gage

Courtois Creek is always a nice spring float. It tends to get pretty shallow in the summer so you have to hit it up when there has been some decent rainfall. It’s been a few years since we did this river and my sister Emily and her family had never paddled it before. We put in at the Berryman access (Hwy. 8 bridge). Since this is a repeat float I’m not going to get into specifics, but if you want more details, check out Float #63.

Courtois Creek

Berryman Access

Courtois Creek

Tree hazard

Henry navigating the tree hazard

Courtois Creek

Emily paddles Stable Maybel

Courtois Creek

As we put on the river the weather was overcast and a little chilly. Emily and I and the kids waited at the put-in while DW and Henry ran shuttle. Henry paddled “Marge the Barge,” his 19′ aluminum canoe with Celia and Silas. A 19′ canoe is quite the vessel to paddle down the tight turns of the Courtois, but they did just fine. There are a few tree hazards on upper section of this float that you have to duck under or portage around. The first one we had to duck under, Silas didn’t quite listen and bonked his head. He finally got the routine down by then end of the trip though.

Portaging the canoe and the kids

Courtois Creek

Marge the Barge on Wheels

Courtois Creek

The sun comes out!

On this trip we saw a fair amount of wildlife. There was a mink scuttling around on the bank at the put-in. Celia thought it was a hedgehog, so she was close, just the wrong side of the globe for hedgehogs. We also saw quite a few deer; a couple of them were swimming across the river. The usual assortment of birds and turtles were in attendance as well. The sun finally came out in the early afternoon, which made for a much nicer float and really brought out the colors of the water.

Henry’s big canoe is quite heavy and nearly impossible to portage easily. He has devised a canoe dolly from some milk crates with wheels that he attaches to the bottom of the canoe to get it from the car to the river. It also works quite well to get over low water bridges. They didn’t have to unload the kids either!

Celia shows off her paddle skills

Courtois Creek

Confluence with the Huzzah

We stopped on a nice gravel bar for lunch and built a small fire to warm up a bit. We stopped once more to let the kids out of the boat to play a bit. Silas tried his luck at peeing in the woods by himself. It was not a complete success and he had to get rinsed off in the river! Eventually we made it to the confluence with the Huzzah and then to our take-out. A 14 mile float is a pretty long trip for a couple toddlers, but Celia and Silas got out of the boat at the end and ran around the parking lot while we loaded up. So I guess they still had energy to burn! It was a good day on the river and nice to get back to the Courtois before the summer crowds.

Critter Count: Hawks, Herons, Kingfishers, Turtles, 1 Mink, 7 Deer.

 

Float #141: Meramec River

24 Feb

 

Onondaga State Park to Sappington Bridge

F92_Meramec

Meramec River
Crawford County, Missouri
Sunday, February 19, 2017
15 Miles
Temperature: 75˚/35˚
Wind: S at 9mph
Water Level: 2.85ft. at Sullivan gage

Another warm weekend in February means another float trip! This makes 45 miles so far this year. This trip DW and I were joined by my sister Emily, her husband Henry, and their two children Celia and Silas. Celia and Silas are some of my favorite canoe paddling friends. They are both preschool age and love to help their Dad paddle their big aluminum canoe, Marge the Barge. We all met up at Onondaga State Park at 8am and DW and Henry ran the shuttle to our take-out at Sappington Bridge, while Emily and I waited with the kids. Shuttle for this float takes about an hour round-trip. There are two other accesses we pass along the way (Campbell Bridge and Blue Springs) so there are shorter options on this stretch of river, but we enjoy this 15 mile stretch when we have the whole day to paddle.

Meramec River

Meramec River

Henry, Celia, Silas, and their dog Lucas

Meramec River

Celia and Silas paddle Marge the Barge

The Meramec was beautiful and clear, as it always is in winter. The day started out kind of chilly, but a few minutes after we started the sun came out and it warmed up quickly. We spent the day mostly paddling and picking up trash, with a leisurely break for lunch. No one went swimming, on purpose or otherwise. We didn’t see many other paddlers, but there were several motorboats toward the end of the afternoon. Celia and Silas regaled us repeatedly with their knock-knock jokes (they only know two). There wasn’t much wildlife to see beyond the usual birds. It was an uneventful yet pleasant day on the river, just as it should be.

Meramec River

Meramec River

Emily paddles Stable Maybel

Meramec River

Cave in the bluff

Meramec River

Critter Count: Hawks, Herons, Kingfishers, Turtles

Bonus Prizes: A Yeti Tumbler, a Rubbermaid trashcan and a 5 gallon bucket (with lid)

Float #140: Eleven Point River

24 Feb

Greer to Riverton

F90_ElevenPoint

Eleven Point River
Oregon County, Missouri
Saturday, February 11 – Sunday, February 12, 2017
19 Miles
Temperature: 79˚/50˚, 62˚/36˚
Wind: S at 8mph, N at 10mph
Water Level: 2.8ft. at Bardley gage

The past couple years of blogging I have only been writing trip reports for sections of river I had not previously paddled. However, last year those new trips were pretty infrequent. So for this year I decided to write a trip report for every trip, even if it’s a stretch I’ve done a thousand times. Even though this trip report will not be as extensive as the original report, there is always something different to see. Documenting the weather and water level also gives a good idea of what the river is like at that time of year. So here goes our first repeat trip report!

If you live in the Missouri Ozarks area, you know this February has been unseasonably warm. So warm in fact that DW and I decided to do an overnight float on the Eleven Point, a river we usually reserve for the dog days of summer. We both needed a getaway, but not having time or money for a vacation meant a trip to our favorite Missouri river would have to satisfy our yearning for adventure. Plus, we have never been to the Eleven Point in the winter and we were eager to see how the river would be different without leafy vegetation and hot temperatures. We drove down after work on Friday night and rented a lovely little cabin at Hufstedler’s Canoe Rental. Saturday morning, Mike (owner of Hufstedler’s) shuttled us up to Greer Access. We always enjoy talking with Mike. He is a good person, always fair and friendly, and has extensive knowledge of the Eleven Point river and surrounding area. We were not the only people putting on the river, though we may have been the only ones staying out overnight. Most people appeared to be spending the day fishing.

Eleven Point River

Eleven Point River

A Bald Eagle takes fight

Eleven Point River

A small spring we’ve never noticed before

Eleven Point River

Old chimney at Turner Mill

Eleven Point River

The mill wheel in winter

Eleven Point River

Turner Mill spring

We pushed off from Greer around 9:30am. The water of the Eleven Point is mostly spring fed. The water level was pretty near the levels I’m used to in the summer and the clarity was about the same as well. Being spring fed, the water is a consistent temperature year-round. It actually felt a little warmer since it was closer to the air temperature. The best part of this trip was all the things we noticed along the river that we’ve never seen before, due to being covered by leafy foliage in the summer months. We noticed a small spring along a bluff, lots of old foundations and a chimney at Turner Mill, and many other foundations, old roads, and old rock retaining walls along the banks.

It is tradition for DW and I to take a dip in the spring water at Turner Mill and Boze Mill, regardless of the weather. We did it this time too. It was no more shockingly cold than usual, just took more time to warm back up. It may have been the earliest I’ve ever going swimming in the year! There were a lot of Bald Eagles on the river. We saw a couple of adult birds and 3 or 4 juveniles.

Eleven Point River

Ocoee – portrait of a happy canoe dog

Eleven Point River

Our lunch spot

Eleven Point River

Sitting in the canoe is so exhausting

Eleven Point River

Our campsite

Eleven Point River

Evening at camp

We stopped for lunch at a popular camp spot that is always occupied in the summer. We spent a while laying in the sun and enjoying the nice weather. As we paddled onward, we noticed several gravel bar campsites had a stack of nice, split firewood waiting for someone to use. We stopped at one such campsite for the night. Whoever that good samaritan was, thank you! It made setting up camp so much easier! We gathered a bit of deadwood too and left plenty of split firewood for the next campers. Our campsite was on an elevated gravel bar just past Whitten. It is a popular spot with plenty of flat space for a tent. Someone had fashioned steps into the slope of the gravel bar with logs and pegs, making the gear haul from shore to camp much easier. It was a pretty fancy spot! The moon was full that night and so bright we didn’t need any flashlights to see by. The next morning we slept in a bit, warmed our breakfast burritos over the fire, packed up and put on the river around 10:30am.

Eleven Point River

DW in Boze Mill spring

Eleven Point River

Me in Boze Mill spring

Eleven Point River

Turtle pile

Eleven Point River

Riding the rapid at Halls Bay

Sunday was about 15 degrees cooler than Saturday. We donned our wetsuits to keep warm. Especially for our dip in Boze Mill spring. That spring is always very cold and the wetsuit helped minimize the initial shock. It was still damn cold though. Halls Bay rapid was just about perfect. The wave was at a good, fully soaking height. Ocoee got completely swamped in the front of the canoe and DW took on a few inches of water. Always a fun spot on the Eleven Point. We reached Riverton Access around 1:30pm. On the last bend of the river I was picking up trash and came upon a small bottle of Jack Daniels. It was nearly full to the brim of with a dark yellow liquid. I held it up and asked DW, “Wadda’ ya think, whiskey or pee?” The only way to know is to open it up, lol! It was whiskey, thankfully. Then at the access I found a bottle half full of Mountain Dew. I tried to convince DW to try my signature cocktail of river trash whiskey and Mountain Dew, but he declined. And he calls himself adventurous!

Critter Count: 5 Bald Eagles, Osprey, Hawks, Kingfishers, Herons, Turtles

Bonus Prize: Bottle of Jack Daniels

Float #139: Bourbeuse River

10 Feb

Reiker Ford to Mayers Landing

f139_bourbeuse

Bourbeuse River
Franklin County, Missouri
Sunday, February 5, 2017
11 Miles
Temperature: 58˚/37˚
Wind: WSW at 2.5mph
Water Level: 2.10ft. at Union gage

Hello, and welcome to the first float trip of 2017! Keeping in line with my goals for this year we floated a new-to-us section of river. We finally paddled on the Bourbeuse River after many years of avoiding it. The Bourbeuse is close to my house, but with so many beautiful miles of the Meramec in my area, the Bourbeuse doesn’t get much love. It isn’t the prettiest of rivers and can get very murky in the summer. We figured it would be a good float to hit up in the winter months when the water is clear. We were joined this time by my brother-in-law Henry, and our friend Amy.

DW and I dropped our gear at Reiker Ford Access and then DW drove back up to Mayers Landing Access to meet up with our other paddlers and run shuttle. This is a nice, easy shuttle that only takes about 15 or 20 minutes round trip. When everyone finished organizing their gear we shoved off around 9:30am. Another couple of kayakers put on the river right behind us (which would be very beneficial to us later at the end of the trip), so we weren’t the only ones hitting the water that day.

Bourbeuse River

Gravel bar access at Reiker Ford

Bourbeuse River

Reiker Ford Access

Bourbeuse River

DW, Amy and Ocoee

Bourbeuse River

The Bourbeuse is kind of like a miniature lower Meramec. There is much of the same sort of landscape; small bluffs and wooded banks. There are not many houses on this stretch of river despite it being pretty close to the town of Union. The water was at a good paddling depth for most of the trip, but there were a few spots where the kayaks dragged a bit.

Bourbeuse River

Bourbeuse River

Icicles on the bluff

Bourbeuse River

The day warmed up quite nicely and the sun was out for most of the trip. I expected to see more ice on the river, but there wasn’t any in the main channels. We did see some icicles on the bluffs. Wildlife was pretty sparse, as is normal for winter floats. We saw the usual hawks and river birds as well as a few turkeys. The Bourbeuse is supposed to have some good bass fishing too. Which reminds me that I need to buy my fishing license for this year!

Bourbeuse River

A log parked on a boulder

Bourbeuse River

Lovely scenery

Bourbeuse River

There wasn’t too much trash on the river to clean up, just the usual amount of litter. However there was one bank that was pretty awful. Someone has a lovely mobile home graveyard parked right on the edge of the eroding clay river bank. Insulation and sheet metal were falling off the trailers and into the river. How that doesn’t count as littering or illegal dumping, I don’t know. Maybe I should look into it! It’s only going to take one good flood to dump one of those trailers directly in the water.

Bourbeuse River

The slough on the left leading to the take-out

Bourbeuse River

Icebreaking our way to the take-out

Bourbeuse River

Mayers Landing

Around 4:00 we knew we were approaching the end of our trip and were keeping an eye out for our take-out on the left. However, unbeknownst to us, Mayers Landing is one of those accesses that used to be on the main channel, but then the river changed course. It is now a little ways up a slough and not at all visible from the main channel. Luckily the other kayakers on the river that day waved us in just as we were about to pass it up. So keep an eye out for a slough on the left side of the river that wraps around a large island. Might be a good idea to pin the location on your GPS so you don’t miss it. We definitely would have passed it up!

This weekend looks like unseasonably warm weather again. DW are taking a impromptu trip to the Eleven Point for an overnight float. We’ve never been there in the winter before, so it should be a different experience!

Critter Count: Hawks, Kingfishers, Turkeys

2016: Year In Review

30 Dec

2016 was a little slower year for us than usual. DW started a new business in the last quarter of 2015 and that took up a lot of free time this year. Even though our float count and mileage was just a little below average, only 5 rivers were new to the blog this year. That is not enough! Yesterday DW and I pored over our Missouri Paddling Guide and targeted some new areas for us to explore in 2017. So expect lots of new content next year! I am also going to change up the format a little bit. For floats that are repeats to the blog I will be doing a short description of the day and a couple photos. Enough to keep the blog active with content, but not a full trip description as I do with new stretches of river.

Here’s a look back at 2016.

Float Stats

Number of trips in 2016: 20 (5 of them new trips posted to the blog)

Number of rivers floated: 11

Miles paddled: 281 (82 new river miles)

Best critter sighting: Razorback Hogs on the Buffalo River

Best bonus prize: A cooler containing 1 craft beer on the Black River

Best Photos

My favorite photo from each trip on the blog this year.

Meramec River

Meramec River

Buffalo River

Buffalo River

Black River

Black River

Big Creek

Big Creek

Mississippi River

Mississippi River

 

Float #138: Mississippi River

28 Sep

Chester to Wittenberg

f138_mississippi

Mississippi River
Perry County, Missouri
Sunday, September 4
28 Miles

Every year we try to knock out at least one new section of the Mississippi. This year we did it over Labor Day weekend and put in where we left off last year, in Chester, IL. We floated down to Wittenberg, which doesn’t have an official access on the map, but there is a boat club ramp that is open to the public. We were joined by DW’s Dad, our friend Richard, and our friend Jess. The weather wasn’t too terribly hot, but the water was pretty high. All the wing dikes (rick rack) were underwater, which created some interesting currents and turbulence in the river.

Mississippi River

Putting on the river at Chester.

Mississippi River

Richard and Dan

Mississippi River

Mississippi River

Mississippi River

Our lunch spot on what is usually a large sandbar

We finally found a sandbar that wasn’t completely underwater and we stopped there to eat lunch. My favorite part of Mississippi floats is combing the sandbars, but there weren’t many above water to stop at. There was nothing notable on this sandbar, mostly just driftwood and bird poop.

Mississippi River

DW and Jess

Mississippi River

DW and Jess

Mississippi River

Mississippi River

Barges

The river was moving at a good clip that day and there was a fair amount of debris and logs floating downstream with us. I try to stay away from the logs, as you never know how big they might be under the surface of the water. There were also a lot of barges moving upstream. However, with the river being this high there was plenty of room to put a lot of space between us and them. There were also a lot of gradient fluctuations and whirlpools due to the wing dikes being underwater. The whirlpools weren’t big enough to actually be a danger, but they made me a bit nervous nontheless. Especially as they make their way from the current to the edge of the bank. I had a couple instances where I was trying to outrun them before they got to my boat!

Mississippi River

DW in the Mark Twang

Mississippi River

More barges

Mississippi River

Mississippi River

Approaching the take out at Wittenberg

With the water being so high and so muddy it was hard to tell where the sandbars were located. Some spots in the river were very shallow, as they are usually not even near the water. We saw one illusion that looked like a person standing in a jon boat. When we got close to it we realized it was a bald eagle sitting on a tree trunk on a very tiny island in the middle of the river! Thank goodness for buoys to mark the main channel!

We arrived in Wittenberg around 5:30pm. A total of 5 hours paddle time for a 28 mile trip isn’t too bad! We easily could have done 50 miles in a day at that water level.

Critter Count: 1 Bald Eagle, Herons, Vultures, Cranes

Float #137: Big Creek

15 Jul

Hwy. 143 to Sam A. Baker State Park

F137_BigCreek

Big Creek
Iron & Wayne Counties, Missouri
Sunday, July 11
10 Miles

Big Creek has been on our list for a while, but it’s one of those trips we never seem to get around to. It is a fairly large creek/small river that confluences with the St. Francis River. It has a couple sections of shut-ins that make for fun, casual whitewater when the river is flowing good. It’s not nearly as technical as the whitewater portions of the St. Francis, but it’s still fun. Big Creek is rain dependent for the most part, so it is usually only floatable in the spring when there is a lot of water. We got lucky and had a big rainstorm a few days before which bumped the water level up enough to make it feasible. Our friends Jake and Jess had paddled Big Creek on the Thursday before and they convinced us to come along and paddle it before the water dropped too low. I think we just barely made it, any lower and we would’ve had to portage the shut-in sections. You don’t want to float this creek much lower than 2ft. at the gauge.

Accompanying DW and me on this little adventure were our brother-in-law Henry, our friends Jake and Jess, and our friend Rob, his three kids, and his girlfriend Crystal. We put in around noon at the Hwy. 143 access in Des Arc, MO. This is not an official conservation access, but it is fairly popular with locals and there are no problems with parking your vehicle there.

Big Creek

Hwy. 143 bridge access

Big Creek

Big Creek

Big Creek

Two miles from the Hwy. 143 access is a low-water bridge. There was just enough water for the kayaks to scrape over, but DW and the canoe had to portage. Somewhere above the bridge Jake saw a beaver swim directly beneath his kayak. That was a cool experience! Three miles from the access the first shut-ins begin. The first shut-in section is technical because you have to do a lot of maneuvering, but it is not dangerous. There were a couple of boat flips all the same.

Big Creek

The shut-ins begin

Big Creek

Jake & Brianna surf some rapids

Big Creek

Henry makes a run

Big Creek

Jake works the gnar

Big Creek

DW wrangles the canoe through a garden of boulders

After everyone finished playing in the rapids (or bailing water from their boat) we headed downstream. About a mile down from the first shut-ins is an old bridge and a few cabins. The next set of shut-ins is right after that bridge. The water in Big Creek is crystal clear and you can see all the way to the bottom. We saw quite a few big smallmouth bass hiding out in the deep pools. This would be an excellent river for fishing if you have some time to kill.

Big Creek

Big Creek

Big Creek

The old bridge near Brunot

Big Creek

More rocks!

Big Creek

Rob shoots the rapid

Big Creek

Brianna rocks it!

Big Creek

DW shows off his paddle skills

Big Creek

Another successful run for the canoe

After this second set of shut-ins there are a few boulders strewn here and there, but nothing to make much of a rapid. The water slows down quite a bit as you near the state park. There are several beautiful swimming/fishing holes and gravel bars that look excellent for camping. We also paddled by quite a few rock slide areas and a few bluffs.

Big Creek

Big Creek

Big Creek

Big Creek

Sam A. Baker state park access

We arrived at the state park access around 5:30. Everyone felt pretty well exercised by the end. Dodging those boulders is a lot of work! I can’t wait to get back to this stream when the water is higher and there is more action on the shut-ins. We had an excellent time, as usual!

Critter Count: 1 Beaver, Herons, Kingfishers, Hawks, Turtles