Float #127: Roubidoux Creek

10 Jul

Roubidoux Spring to Hwy. 17 Bridge

F127_Roubidoux

Roubidoux Creek
Pulaski County, Missouri
Saturday, June 20
3 Miles

Another flood float! Seems like this year has been nothing but flood floats. This is a very short float on the Roubidoux, a creek that runs through Waynesville, MO and usually looks pretty inviting. This day it was very high, but nothing dangerous, as the creek is wide enough below the spring to prevent any strainers or blockages. There are many more miles of the Roubidoux above the spring that are floatable, but there are no accesses. Unless you know someone who owns land on the creek, there is little chance you can float it without getting your vehicle towed or ticketed for trespassing. However, these three miles from the spring to the confluence with the Gasconade are mostly through town and there is public parking on either end. It would make a nice short float with children or a good tubing float. This day DW and I were joined by our friend Richard. We met up at the city park to scout the water level and then went up to the spring to put our boats in the water. Roubidoux Spring is also in a city park, but due to flooding the park was closed that day. We parked our vehicles across the street, hopped the yellow caution tape and carried our boats down to the parking lot (which was underwater). I guess we weren’t quick enough because a city police officer pulled into the park to tell us it was closed. Fortunately, he was very accommodating and let us put our boats on the water provided we didn’t linger too long in the area. After he left we paddled up the flooded banks to the spring, where DW played in the massive boil for a few minutes. Then we turned and headed downstream on the muddy waters.

Nice day for a picnic at Roubidoux Spring

Nice day for a picnic at Roubidoux Spring

Roubidoux CreekRoubidoux CreekThe first two miles of the trip the water was moving quickly and not yet backed up from the Gasconade. We didn’t really do any paddling, just steering. There are a couple of nice bluffs along the way and you can’t really see much of the town or road, even though it is very near the creek. By now, I am getting very tired of the smell of flood mud and I long for the clear, cool streams I am used to! However, it doesn’t look like any respite from this rain is in our foreseeable future for this summer.

Roubidoux Creek

The cornfields are drowning

The cornfields are drowning

Roubidoux CreekWe saw a few herons and hawks along the creek, but there wasn’t much else in the way of wildlife out and about on the water. As we approached the Gasconade the water slowed down a bit. There were many small eddys, boils and whirpools on the edge of the stream where the water washed over submerged debris. This is pretty common on flooded streams and is yet another reason why only paddlers with lots of experience should attempt these trips!

Confluence with the Gasconade

Confluence with the Gasconade

Hwy. 17 Bridge access is mostly underwater

Hwy. 17 Bridge access is mostly underwater

After less than an hour of floating we arrived at our take-out. The access is usually under the Hwy. 17 bridge at the Gasconade river, but that day the entire parking area was underwater and the Roubidoux flowed right up to the access road. I kept tight to the edge of the Roubidoux as I maneuvered to the access. The Gasconade was very high and rising, so I didn’t want to get pulled into that! There were many large logs, trees and debris flying down the stream as it ripped by at quite a speed for what is usually a slow river. We pulled our boats up to the car and drove the couple of miles back to Richard’s vehicle at the springs. Afterward we ate lunch in town and did some more scouting along the flooded Big Piney. Later that evening Richard told us that the Gasconade had risen nearly to the edge of the bridge, many feet above where it was that afternoon!

Critter Count: Herons, Ducks, Hawks

Float #126: Gasconade River

26 Jun

Hazelgreen to Hwy. 133

F126_Gasconade

Gasconade River
Pulaski County, Missouri
Saturday, June 13
9 Miles

This was another Gasconade float trip, scouting in preparation for the NSS Convention. I am finally back to kayaking after my long recovery from a shoulder injury in April. I was a little nervous that I would get too tired or wouldn’t have the strength in my shoulder to maneuver well, but I ended up doing just fine. This was a very pleasant day for a float trip, that started and ended with sunny skies and a few small rain showers in between. We met with our friend Richard at the Hwy. 133 access. The access is at the site of the old Hwy. 133 bridge, which is no longer there. Heading North on Hwy. 133, cross over the Gasconade River and Bear Creek. Immediately after Bear Creek is a small road on the right. Head down that road and it will eventually dead-end at the river. This is not an official access, but is a popular spot for locals and fishermen. There is limited parking on the edges of the road.

Richard loaded his boat onto our car and we left his truck there and drove up to our put-in at Hazelgreen Access. This is an official conservation access at the old Route 66 bridge. I paddled upstream a little bit to get my bearings. Two months off from kayaking seems like a long time when you’re used to paddling most weekends!

Hazelgreen Access

Hazelgreen Access

I-44 bridge

I-44 bridge

Gasconade RiverThis section of the Gasconade ended up being much faster than most of the other sections we’ve done. The water flowed quite nicely and there were a few ripples. The river was still up a little bit from all the rain we keep getting, but the water was not muddy at all. We saw a lot of wildlife on this trip. There were the usual turtles and assortment of birds, as well as a Bald Eagle and a couple of deer.

A heron hunts for fish

A heron hunts for fish

Gasconade RiverGasconade RiverToward the middle of our trip we got a little wet from some rain showers. It was very spotty, and you could see the rain coming and then paddle out from under that particular cloud and be dry again. Thankfully, it was a warm rain on a warm day, so I just got wet and didn’t even bother with my kayak skirt or rain jacket. We eventually stopped for lunch and a swim and checked our progress. We realized we were knocking out the miles pretty quickly so we slowed down a little bit for the last hour or so of our paddle.

A venue of vultures

A venue of vultures

Hwy. 133 bridge

Hwy. 133 bridge

Approaching Hwy. 133 access

Approaching Hwy. 133 access

Sooner than we expected, the Hwy. 133 bridge could be viewed just around the bend. Since it was only about 2pm, we stopped at a gravel bar and swam for a bit. The water felt nice and refreshing, but not too cold. I saw several fish jumping, but I didn’t bring my fishing pole. It would have been a good day for it and we certainly had the time to kill! After about half an hour we returned to our boats and paddled the last half mile to our take out. Now that the sun was out again, there were several families at the access swimming and having a good time. We loaded up our boats into Richard’s truck and drove back to Hazelgreen to pick up our car. The next float trip we did was after yet another round of flooding with high water on rivers everywhere. We did a quick, muddy float on the Roubidoux, which I will post here soon!

Critter Count: Turtles, Kingfishers, Herons, Hawks, 1 Bald Eagle, 2 deer

Float #125: Gasconade River

19 Jun

Mitschele  to Schlicht Springs

F125_Gasconade

Gasconade River
Pulaski County, Missouri
Sunday, May 31
14 Miles

We’ve been doing numerous floats on the Gasconade River in preparation for the upcoming NSS (National Speleological Society) Convention being held in Pulaski County in July. DW and I are leading various float trips throughout the convention, and we’ve been trying to find the best section of Gasconade to float that is close to camp. This was one of my first floats since my shoulder injury in April, though I wasn’t ready to kayak yet so we took the canoe. Turns out it was a very flooded trip! It had been raining most of the week, but it looked like we would get a break on that Sunday, so we headed out to Waynesville and camped at Schlicht Springs Conservation Access on Saturday night with our friend Rob and his daughter. There are two primitive campsites near the parking lot and the only amenity is a pit toilet. A lot of people swing through the access in the evening to look at the river, so this isn’t necessarily a quiet spot, but it is convenient.

Sunday morning our friend Richard met us at the campground and we loaded everything onto our Subaru and headed up to Mitschele Access. This conservation access is under Hwy. 7 bridge. There is a narrow gravel road that looks like it leads to a commercial campground, but just keep going toward the river and you will find yourself there. We unloaded everything under cloudy skies while looking at the swollen river. Just as we were about to pull out into the water we saw several large rafts of debris and large dead trees float downstream. We thought perhaps an upstream creek suddenly broke through, or the river water flushed out a rarely used channel. There was no more debris following that bunch, so we figured it was probably a fluke (fingers crossed).

DW mans the canoe

DW mans the canoe

Gasconade RIverGasconade RIverOnce we were on the water it didn’t feel as fast or high as it looked from the bank. DW, Rob’s daughter, Ocoee (our dog) and I were in the canoe and Rob and Richard were in kayaks. The Gasconade is kind of a wider river to begin with and the flood waters increased its breadth, so there is plenty of room to avoid brush and trees. There is supposed to be a low-water bridge about 4 miles down from the access, but the water was so high we didn’t really notice we had floated over it.

Gasconade RIver

Hwy T bridge

Hwy T bridge

Gasconade RIverIt turned out to be a very cold day for the end of May. The temperature was stuck in the mid 60s, which was much cooler than forecast, and there was a persistent heavy mist that wasn’t quite rain but was very damp nonetheless. The river was moving pretty quickly, even if it didn’t feel all that fast. We soon reached the Hwy. T bridge, which is a little over halfway into the trip. There is a primitive access at Hwy. T under the bridge, but you couldn’t really tell since the water was so high. As we approached our take out there were several small bluffs. We saw a few small springs gushing from openings in the rocks. There wasn’t much wildlife out since it was such a dismal, cold day. We did see a few birds of the usual type, kingfishers, hawks and herons.

Gasconade RIverGasconade RIver

We soon reached our take out at Schlicht Spring Access around 2:30. DW had tied a red flag to a tree at the boat ramp, and it was a good thing he did as the ramp was hard to see in the high water. 14 miles of river in just over 3 hours makes for a quick trip! The river had risen about a foot in the time we were paddling. I stayed at the take out with Rob while Richard and DW ran the shuttle. While we waited many people drove down to look at the high water. A couple of local guys stopped and asked us about our float. I told them where we put in and they asked how long the trip took. When I told them it was about 3 hours one of them said to the other, “See, I told you. Let’s get on the river!”

Critter Count: Kingfishers, Hawks, Herons

Float #124: Gasconade River

19 Jun

Schlicht Springs to Hwy. 17 Bridge

F124_Gasconade

Gasconade River
Pulaski County, Missouri
Tuesday, May 5
10 Miles

Guest post by DW. This is another float DW did without me, as my shoulder was still injured.

I met up with our friend Richard at his home in between the put in and take out about lunch time. As we were loading up we found one of the shuttle vehicles had a very leaky tire. So we quickly detoured to a service shop to get that issue addressed and then were off to drop a vehicle at the Highway 17 bridge, which also marks the confluence of the Roubidoux with the Gasconade. Then we headed to the put in which was about a 10 minute drive north on 17 and then a left on Riverside Road.

We prepared the boats and opted to paddle upstream to see if we could find the Schlicht Spring. I found the non-assuming spring branch after passing it up and going another .1 to .2 miles upstream. I hiked it for a short way and quickly determined this is probably better accessed from the road than hiking up, as it was fairly choked with debris. So we turned our boats downstream and continued our journey. This time of year the pollen has been released from various flora and deposited on the surface of the water, giving an illusion of scummy water. The Gasconade River is known for being a slow paddle with very little dominant current which allows for large areas of the water to be pollen covered. The wind was a good 8-12 miles per hour for a lot of the trip, so some stretches of the river were easier to paddle while others pushed us backwards if we were not paddling. The first few couple miles were easy paddling with some bluffs on river left and pastures on the right. This easy paddling continued until we turned the bend to head south. The first 4-5 miles were mainly long slow pools. I spotted a coyote who seemed startled by our presence. He scurried down the gravel bar and out of sight before the gravel bar terminated into the river.

Putting in at Schlicht Springs access

Putting in at Schlicht Springs access

Gasconade RiverGasconade River

Not far after the coyote disappeared from sight we noticed some heavy machinery on the left clearing a lot of ground. Maybe they are putting in a campground or perhaps just cleaning up the property’s river front. After we passed this construction activity an owl flew down from a tree. With only my cell phone for a camera I was unable to get a good shot or zoom in enough to determine which type of owl it may have been.

Shortly thereafter we approached the first somewhat swift water. There was a bit of a ledge to shoot through and a lot of big rocks on the right that had at some point tumbled down from the bluff above. There was a small spring on river right just after swift water, but appeared to be on private property. We actively started to search for a bubbling spring called Creasy spring that is supposed to be just past this area, but only found Battless Mill Spring also on river right just downstream. At the time we thought Battless Mill Spring may have been Creasy spring until we didn’t find another spring down river. There is a wooden X in the tree at the confluence of Battless Mill Spring where it confluences with the river. It is important to note that most of the Gasconade flows through private property and one should generally stay within the main river channel to avoid any trespassing issues. There are specifically stricter laws on the water ways in Pulaski county than there are for the rest of the state.

Gasconade River

Richard smokes next to a gas can

Richard smokes next to a gas can

Gasconade RiverGasconade River

Falling Springs shoals

Falling Springs shoals

Battless Spring branch

Battless Spring branch

Gasconade River

So about a mile after Battless Mill Spring, we saw a 6”-8” fish jump from the water. Almost immediately after that we noticed what we initially thought to be a catfish or maybe a gar surfacing. Within a few more seconds we got a better view as what most likely was a muskrat trying to board Richard’s kayak with a clump of freshly cut grass in his mouth. I guess once he saw Richard was a human and not a log drifting downstream he spit the grass out, dove down deep and disappeared to resurface somewhere out of our view. The wind switched to our back and we completed our 10 mile journey in 5 hours without stopping for any lunch break or swim breaks.

Critter Count: 1 Coyote, 1 Hawk, 3 Herons, 1 Muskrat, 1 Owl

Float #123: Missouri River

22 May

Big Muddy Wildlife Area to Cooper’s Landing

F123_Missouri

Missouri River
Boone County, Missouri
Saturday, April 25
15 Miles

I have not been able to paddle the past month, due to a shoulder injury sustained at the MWA Whitewater Clininc earlier in April. DW has done a couple of short floats since then and has blogged them for you all! I hope to be back in action in June.

Lee and I met our friend Richard at Cooper’s Landing to drop off a vehicle for our shuttle. Given I’d spent one of my few hour-plus breaks on the Missouri River 340 race here enjoying beer and Thai food, we didn’t pause to scout the take out. We then journeyed west about 30 minutes to the Big Muddy river access. Upon arriving at the access it was quite apparent how it got its name. The road was covered in several inches of slick river mud. Having an all-wheel-drive vehicle was necessary, as the two wheel drive truck we left at the access likely would not have made it close to the river.

There is supposed to be another road in Big Muddy that takes you to Taylor access, but this road was blocked off. So we continued to a parking lot with an overflow ‘pond’ that is an access for fisherman in small boats. The only direct access to the river was down the blocked off road and that looked like quite the muddy portage for our preferences. We unloaded at the parking lot and Lee, being on the ‘injured reserve list’ due to an April white water injury, headed off for a hike and to eventually pick me up at Cooper’s Landing.

Richard and I threw the boats in the pond and paddled across it in a few short minutes and then begin our first and only portage of the trip. We paddled to where Interstate 70 crosses the pond and I guessed this may be the least rough route to travel. I followed some very small critter trail the best I could, clearing somewhat of a path for Richard. By the time the trail made it to a view of the river I was thinking I was following a pack rat path. We eventually made it after 10 minutes of bushwhacking through last season’s dead, dry weeds.

Putting in at Big Muddy

Putting in at Big Muddy

Missouri RiverMissouri RiverMissouri RiverThis was Richard’s first trip on the mighty Missouri River and my first trip in Lee’s 17′ boat. It didn’t take long to remind me I’ve not been in a narrower long boat since the MR340, so I spent a lot of time learning its lines and trying to not fall in. We paddled down past some pretty bluffs on river left and enjoyed them for the better part of an hour. Once those were out of sight we ventured on to Katfish Katie’s, also on river left. With the size of the Missouri River it’s easy to do a 12 – 17 mile trip and see only three bends and sets of views before you are done.

Missouri RiverMissouri RiverMissouri RiverMissouri RiverMissouri River

There was a really nice, long sand bar just down and across the river from Katfish Katy’s campground. We continued down the river and around the bend. On river left was the second and last sand bar of the trip. After chatting with Richard we determined it was best to continue downstream. The reason we didn’t stop at either beautiful sand bar we passed was simply due to the ominous clouds all around us. Though we got lucky and missed getting any significant rain event, it seemed to happen all around us and most of the time we were away from our camp they were getting rained on. We ventured on a couple miles or so to Cooper’s Landing without any weather issues and enjoyed some cold beer and good Thai food!

Float #122: Mulberry River

24 Apr

Turner Bend to Spirit Creek

F122_Mulberry

Mulberry River
Newton County, Arkansas
Saturday, April 4
14 Miles

Saturday morning we awoke to beautiful, sunny weather for another day on the Mulberry. For our second day of floating I paddled Jake’s touring kayak, DW took my whitewater boat and Jake took DW’s whitewater boat. Since my boat had worn me out so much the first day I decided to take the easier boat for the morning. We headed down to Turner Bend to put in where we had taken out the day before. I hung out with the gear while Jake and DW ran shuttle down to Spirit Creek access. Spirit Creek is a 4WD access with space for about two cars to park by the river. Turns out you really do need 4WD and some ground clearance to make it all the way to the river. Jake’s van didn’t make it all the way down, but he was able to turn around and wait for DW to drop our Subaru at the access. There is a much better access at Campbell Cemetery, which is four miles above Spirit Creek. However, if you take out at Campbell you will miss Hell Roaring Falls, which is a nice little drop that can produce a big wave if the water is up.

The bridge at Turner Bend

The bridge at Turner Bend

Mulberry River

DW paddles through some

DW paddles through some gnar

Mulberry RiverBelow Turner Bend the river has more long pools interspersed with big drops. We didn’t see too many other people on this stretch because most people who rent do the upper section of the Mulberry. We did come across some locals who were doing their annual spring float. They talked to us for a while and gave us the scoop on all the rapids ahead of us. We also talked about the best season for floating the Mulberry, which of course is spring. They said the water is usually plentiful from October to May, so winter floats are also an option.

Stopping for lunch on a rock

Stopping for lunch on a rock

Mulberry RiverMulberry RiverMulberry RiverWe stopped for a quick lunch on a large, flat rock just below a good rapid. We finally saw a bit of wildlife on the river now that the sun was out. There were several turtles sunning themselves, and the usual assortment of birds. Shortly after lunch we pulled over and switched boats. I tried out DW’s boat while Jake took his touring kayak again. The Dagger whitewater boat is a little easier to paddle in a straight line, but I didn’t think it was quite as comfortable to sit in. It is a sort of retro design, with no bells or whistles on the seating and the thigh braces are very tight. However, I went through several rapids in it and didn’t flip over, so that’s something. Jake took my camera and got some nice shots of us paddling through. It’s nice to be in front of the camera sometimes instead of always behind it!

It's ME!

It’s ME!

DW shreds it

DW shreds it

Me, DW and Jake at camp

Me, DW and Jake at camp

After passing the Campbell Cemetery access we kept our eyes peeled for Hell Roaring Falls. It is a rock shelf across the river with about a 3 ft. drop. It looks like it could really rock if the water is up a little! We made it over without incident, but got fairly well splashed in the process. Eventually we came to our take-out around 4pm. We spent a little while relaxing and having a beer by the river. Paddling in rapids is hard work! After loading up our boats we made the trek back up the 4WD access road, over rocks and through one pretty big mud puddle. Back at camp we settled in to burn all the firewood we had left and eat a satisfying meal of spaghetti. It was a great weekend and we had a good time on the river. We will definitely be going back to Arkansas next spring!

Critter Count: Turtles, Hawks, Kingfishers

Float #121: Mulberry River

23 Apr

Wolf Pen to Turner Bend

F121_Mulberry

Mulberry River
Newton County, Arkansas
Friday, April 3
16 Miles

Our Easter float trip this year took us back to Arkansas, this time on the Mulberry River. The Mulberry is about an hour south of the Buffalo River and well worth a visit. It doesn’t have the high bluffs that the Buffalo is famous for, but it has the same beautiful turquoise blue water, Ozark Mountain scenery, and many more rapids. The Mulberry is rain dependent, so the best time to float it is in the spring. It is smaller than the Buffalo, but can rise and fall rapidly depending on the precipitation amount. This is a good river if you like a little excitement and is suitable for an intermediate paddler. If you are a beginner you probably want to hone your skills some before tackling the rocky rapids of the Mulberry. You can float it in a whitewater boat or in a small touring kayak. The upper section has more rapids with few slow pools between them, and the lower section has larger drops between longer pools. None of the rapids on the Mulberry are larger than Class II during normal flow.

DW and I took our whitewater kayaks on this trip. Our friend Jake made the 7-hour trek from Nashville to join us and he brought his 13′ touring kayak. We camped at Byrd’s Adventure Center, where we had a nice camp spot with a pavilion right on the river. There are a couple other commercial campgrounds and a few national forest campgrounds along the river as well.

We were supposed to get a thunderstorm Thursday night, but that never happened. We awoke to cloudy skies on Friday morning, loaded all our gear, donned our wetsuits (cause this water is cold!), dropped a vehicle down at Turner Bend, and headed then up to Wolf Pen access.

Putting in at Wolf Pen

Putting in at Wolf Pen

Mulberry RiverMulberry River

This was my first time ever in a whitewater kayak, so I paddled around a bit in the slow pool at the put-in. Hoo-boy is a whitewater kayak different than a touring boat! Every little move you make causes the boat to react. A touring boat is designed to go forward in a straight line with little effort. A whitewater kayak is designed to spin around in a circle with little effort. I found myself fighting with the boat to try and hit the correct line in the swift water. Obviously I have a lot of learning to do before I feel like I’m competent in a whitewater kayak! DW’s whitewater kayak is a different design and much longer and narrower, so it goes straight a little bit easier than mine.

Mulberry RiverMulberry RiverOf course, I don’t have any photos of the rapids because I was too busy trying to get through them to take a picture. We all made it through most of the rapids without incident until we came upon one called Jump Off Rapid. Jump Off Rapid starts off with a boulder garden that then careens straight into a rock wall. That rock wall is where I bit it. While trying to avoid crashing into the wall I flipped over and was underwater for about 4 seconds. 4 seconds is a long time when you are submerged. Whitewater kayaks are very tight and you don’t fall out of the boat right away like you do in a touring kayak. This was my first time upside down, under water. I remember several thoughts going through my head. The first being, “Well, I’m underwater. Hopefully I don’t drown.” Then I wondered why DW hadn’t flipped me back over yet. Then my brain finally wised up and I pulled my kayak skirt off the cockpit and kicked my legs out of the boat. So I experienced what is known as the “wet-exit” which is a good thing to know when you’re in a whitewater boat!

After my little mishap I was pretty tired. It turns out my whitewater kayak might be too heavy for me and it wears me out fairly quickly. Luckily our campground was exactly half way into our trip. We stopped there for lunch and I decided I was too tired to continue the rest of the trip safely. I let Jake take my whitewater boat so he could experience the wet-exit. And he did, twice.

Jake's first flip

Jake’s first flip

Rescue trainees flip a raft

Rescue trainees flip a raft

Mulberry River

Fixer Upper Cabin

Fixer Upper Cabin

DW takes over narration of the second half of this trip, as I was recovering in camp.

After completing a pit stop at camp for food and adult beverages, we left to complete the second half of our trip down the Mulberry. Jake took Lee’s whitewater kayak and promptly took a swim on an eddy line just after a rapid. This left him a bit rattled given he was on a gravel bar just a few hundred yards from camp. He got the water drained from the boat and regained his nerve thus deciding to complete the trip down the river. It had several rapids that were fun to play in and even more shoals as we worked our way down stream to the low water bridge. We opted for going to river right approaching the bridge. Shortly thereafter there was an old house that is on the river and has just been disintegrating for many years.

Mulberry River

Jake's second flip

Jake’s second flip

Mulberry RiverMulberry River

Almost to the end of our trip, we approached Scroiliac Rapid and both made it through, then out of nowhere Jake is swimming again. The easy maneuverability and large rocker of Lee’s boat caught him off guard on another eddy line allowing for another nice April swim! From here we continued on 1.5 miles to Turner’s Bend to complete our day of adventure on the beautiful Mulberry River. We loaded up our gear and headed back to camp where Lee had a nice fire going. We hit the hay pretty early so we could get enough rest to get up and do it again the next day!

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