2015: Year In Review

30 Dec

2015 had a lot of high water and a lot of floating opportunities. There were the usual floods of spring, and then another dose in June & July, and now it’s flooding again in December! This year I only posted floats that are new to the blog. So out of about 30 float trips, 16 of them were new stretches of river, which is a pretty good amount. This year brought new whitewater adventures, a rotator cuff injury for me, and lots of planning, scouting and paddling to prepare for the National Speleological Society convention in July.

During the week-long convention we met cavers from all over the US and took many of them floating on some of our favorite Missouri rivers. We did 7 float trips in 6 days with an average of about 30 people each trip. It was a great experience and we were stoked that we got to introduce so many new people to the awesome paddling Missouri has to offer.

After the convention we slowed down a bit and spent some recreational time on our favorite rivers (most of those trips were not new). This year was also the first floating year for our dog, Ocoee. He was a very nervous float dog at the beginning of the year, but by the fall he was jumping out of the boat and swimming on his own.

Here’s a look back at 2015.

Float Stats

Number of trips in 2015: 31 (16 of them new trips posted to the blog)

Number of rivers floated: 14

Miles paddled: 342 (184 new river miles)

Best critter sighting: Elk on the Buffalo River in Arkansas

Best Photos

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

Meramec River

Ocoee on the Meramec River

Osage Fork

Ocoee rides the back of my boat on the Osage Fork

Osage Fork

Ice on the Osage Fork

Buffalo River

Elk on the Buffalo River

Buffalo River

Ponca bridge on the Buffalo River

Mulberry River

Jake paddling on the Mulberry River

Mulberry River

Stopping for lunch on the Mulberry River

Missouri River

Dramatic skies on the Missouri River

Gasconade River

Falling Springs shoals on the Gasconade

Gasconade RIver

Flooded waters on the Gasconade

Gasconade River

A beautiful day on the Gasconade

Roubidoux Creek

The cornfields are drowning on Roubidoux Creek

Mississippi River

Citra Ass Down on the Mississippi River

Big Piney River

A perfect day on the Big Piney River

Lady Bird Lake

Congress Bridge on Lady Bird Lake in Austin, TX

Mississippi River

Choppy waters on the Mississippi River

Float #131: Mississippi River

20 Nov

Kimmswick to Truman Access

F131_Mississippi

Mississippi River
Jefferson County, Missouri
Saturday, November 14
18 Miles

This past weekend was quite warm with highs in the upper 60s. DW and I wanted to go floating, since it would be our only chance to get on the water in November. However it was also opening weekend of firearms deer season, so we didn’t want to go anywhere too close to hunting areas. That eliminated most waterways close to our house. So we decided to knock out another section of the Mississippi. We didn’t have anyone going with us, so we drove two vehicles and ran our own shuttle. After dropping one car at Truman Access, we drove up to Kimmswick to put on the river. There is a small public parking area right next to a creek that runs through town and spills into the Mississippi. Normally, this is where you put in to access the river, but the creek was very low so we drove closer to the river and walked our boats down the bank to the water.

Mississippi River

Putting on at Kimmswick

Mississippi River

Mississippi River

Choppy waters

There was a fair number of barges going upriver that day, as well as a variable wind that kicked up some small waves. I enjoy the Mississippi when it is more calm and flat water, but DW likes it choppy. There are quite a few houses on this section of the river, many more than I am used to seeing and most of them quite large. We paddled for about five miles and then took a break on a sandbar to eat some food.

Mississippi River

Mississippi River

Remnants of an old wooden rick rack

Mississippi River

Mississippi River

The next few miles were pretty uneventful. There aren’t many sandbars that looked worth exploring and no gravelbars (where the more interesting stuff usually is). Eventually some hills and bluffs appeared on the Missouri side with some interesting rock formations. There is a large quarry right on the river near Crystal City. It is loud and spews a lot of dust, so you can’t miss it. We also got to see a train roll through. We waved and the conductor blew his horn. Trains are one of the things I’ve never grown out of from childhood (another is poop jokes)!

Mississippi River

A train passes by

Mississippi River

The quarry

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Nearing our take out at Truman Access

Just after the quarry a tugboat was stacking up barges in preparation for moving them upstream. I think that is the first time I’ve seen a tugboat stacking barges. Not long after the quarry we could see the smokestack of Rush Island powerplant in the distance. As we neared our destination another barge pushed upriver. Of course, it threw up some waves, which made turning into the access a bit tricky. You want to face the waves head-on with the nose of your boat pointing into them. Otherwise you risk getting swamped. The combination of a rick rack, barge waves and making a turn into the boat dock was a little dicey. I had to point downriver into the waves, and then make a quick turn and paddle hard to reach the boat ramp before the next set of waves hit me sideways.

We both pulled in safely around 4 hours after we had put on the river. We made pretty good time, but we only took one short break. I still think the section from Truman Access to Ste. Genevieve is the prettiest we’ve done so far on the Mississippi, but it was good to get another section finished. It’s not likely we’ll find time to float in December, but I will be back before the end of the year to do the “year in review” post!

Critter Count: Ducks

 

Float #130: Lady Bird Lake

9 Nov

Lady Bird Lake

F130_LadyBirdLake

Lady Bird Lake
Austin, Texas
Wednesday, October 14
6 Miles

Last month we went down to Texas for a caving event and spent a short 24 hours in Austin. While we were there we made sure to get out on the water. We rented a tandem sit-on-top from one of the waterfront outfitters and paddled Lady Bird Lake along through downtown to the lower dam and back. It was a nice paddle on a bright, warm day. We thought about renting SUP’s, but they were pretty pricey and the two of us could rent one tandem for less than the cost of one SUP! DW and I have never been in a tandem kayak before and I doubt we will make a habit of it. We much prefer to paddle separately!

Lady Bird LakeLady Bird LakeLady Bird LakeLady Bird LakeThe waterfront seems like an area that gets a lot of use from Austin residents. There is a nice walking/biking path all along the lake and several pedestrian bridges across. We saw several people fishing along the bank or in kayaks as well as many people using the trails. There were a couple of access points where people let their dogs swim and play. It was fun to watch the pooches having such a good time! There was one area of the lake that was thick with aquatic weeds that spanned the width of the lake, but it was only a few yards long, and not too difficult to paddle through.

Lady Bird Lake

Congress Bridge

Congress Bridge

The boardwalk

The boardwalk

The dam

The dam

We saw great views of downtown Austin from the lake. The south side of the lake has a bunch of (I presume) expensive condos that look across the lake to downtown. Many of these condos had boat storage along the boardwalk and it looks like the perfect living area for the urban kayaker. We paddled under Congress Bridge, which is home to one of the largest urban bat colonies in the US. We didn’t see any bats (as it was midday), but we sure could smell them! As we approached our turnaround point we circumnavigated a small island and then paddled up near the dam and then turned around to head back to the outfitter’s dock.

Lady Bird LakeLady Bird Lake

Bridge art

Bridge art

Our way back was filled with more excellent views of downtown and a surprise piece of artwork under the bridge! We spent about 3 hours on the water and it was a good bit of exercise and an enjoyable morning. Afterward, we went into the city and ate some tacos before heading out to our caving event.

Critter Count: Turtles, Herons, Egrets, Pigeons, Dogs

Float #129: Big Piney River

29 Sep

Mineral Springs to Boiling Spring

F129_BigPiney

Big Piney River
Texas County, Missouri
Saturday, September 5
11 Miles

The Saturday of Memorial Day weekend we met up with a few of our caving friends, our friend Rob and his kids to do a new section on the upper Big Piney River. This section is much smaller than below Boiling Spring and has a more creek-like feel to it. DW, Rob and I headed down on Saturday morning and they dropped me and the kids off at Mineral Springs while they ran shuttle and met up with the rest of our group. I spent some time hanging out at the access with the kids and trying to keep them from getting too bored. When everyone finally arrived we loaded the rest of our gear and hit the water. It was a warm, sunny day with the very earliest signs of fall approaching.

Mineral Springs Access

Mineral Springs Access

Big Piney River

Rob, his boys and Ocoee

Rob, his boys and Ocoee

Big Piney RiverThe water was a little low for my liking at this time of year. We didn’t scrape too much but we would have made a much faster pace with a couple more inches of water. I think this section is probably a lot of fun in the spring when the water is higher. There are many tight bends and scenic creek landscapes. The shallow sections are occasionally broken up by deep pools that appear to be good fishing spots. I didn’t get a chance to try my luck, as DW forgot to pack our fishing poles!

Big Piney RiverBig Piney River

DW coaches Rob's daughter on kayaking technique

DW coaches Rob’s daughter on kayaking technique

Big Piney RiverDW spent most of the trip coaching Rob’s daughter on her paddling and water reading skills. She is 11 or 12, a perfect age to get into paddling longer distances on her own. She did a great job and really rocked it! DW is an excellent teacher as well. Lord knows I don’t have the patience or the skills to translate techniques into words!

There are a few bluffs on this trip, but not as many as you will see on the lower stretches of the Big Piney. We did get to stop at a rope swing and play around there for a while. We saw a fair amount of wildlife, including a deer, the usual assortment of birds, one otter and a pack of hunting beagles.

Big Piney RiverBig Piney RiverBig Piney River

Boiling Spring

Boiling Spring

We arrived a Boiling Spring around 4:30 in the afternoon and spent a while jumping into the cold waters. The spring hole is not very large, but it is enough for a few people to stand in together. DW and I took several dips into the refreshing water and I threw the boys in for their own good. The access for Boiling Spring is just around the corner from the spring itself. We packed up our gear and headed home that evening after another enjoyable day on the river.

Critter Count: 1 Deer, 1 Otter, Hawks, Blue Herons, Kingfishers, Turtles, 4 Hunting Beagles

Float #128: Mississippi River

4 Sep

Ste. Genevieve to Chester

F128_Mississippi

Mississippi River
Ste. Genevieve County, Missouri and Randolph County, Illinois
Saturday, August 29
14 Miles

It’s been about two months since DW and I have paddled any new stretches of river, and thus two months since my last post. This year I decided that I would stop blogging floats that we do on a regular basis, just so things don’t get repetitive. Since my last post in June we’ve done a couple floats on the Eleven Point, some stuff on the Meramec and a whole week of floats for our National Speleological Society convention, but all of them were sections of rivers that I had posted previously. During the NSS convention DW, Jake and I led seven float trips in six days. We brought all of our canoes and kayaks and borrowed a few from DW’s dad. Every day we for a week we took 15 – 30 of our fellow cavers on a float trip, some of whom had never floated before and many who had never been to Missouri. DW and I learned a lot about what it takes to be a river guide (we even got to use our throw ropes for a couple of rescues) while having a lot of fun and making new friends in the process.

This particular weekend DW and I took his dad, Dan on a birthday float trip on the Mississippi. We were joined by a few of DW and Dan’s old caving friends who live in southern MO & IL. Last year we took Dan on his first Mississippi trip and he liked it so much he wanted to do it again this year. Since we did the section from Rush Island down to Ste. Genevieve previously, we decided to put in at Ste. Genevieve and float down to the next access at Chester, IL. We met up at the Ste. Genevieve/Modoc ferry access at 10am to unload our gear. DW’s mom, Rosie was kind enough to pick us up in Chester so we did not have to run shuttle. The day was overcast, but not rainy and the weather was warm, but not overly hot. There was a slight wind of about 10mph that kicked up a few small ripples on the river. All in all it was a very pleasant day on the big Mississippi.

The ferry boat at Ste. Genevieve

The ferry boat at Ste. Genevieve

Mississippi River

Exploring the sandbar across from the former Ste. Genevieve Marina

Exploring the sandbar across from the former Ste. Genevieve Marina

Sediment layers

Sediment layers

A peaceful campsite

A peaceful campsite

Our first stop was a very large sandbar on the Illinois side, across from the former Ste. Genevieve marina. This sandbar is popular with motorboats and can be full of people on a nice day, but we were the only ones there at the time. We walked around for a while, looking for stuff that washed up, but we didn’t find anything of interest here. However, there is a beautiful camp spot in the cottonwoods that has a great view of the river. It was so peaceful with the wind whispering through the trees that I could have sat down and taken a nap right there. After we finished exploring we hopped back in our boats and saw our first barge traffic of the day as well as a coast guard tug boat doing buoy maintenance. DW took this opportunity to play in the barge waves in the 17′ long kayak.

Mississippi River

Exploring the sandbar across from the Kaskaskia River confluence

Exploring the sandbar across from the Kaskaskia River confluence

Mississippi RiverA few miles later we stopped at another sandbar to explore. This sandbar is near Kaskaskia, IL across from the Kaskasia River confluence. For those that don’t know, Kaskaskia is on the Missouri side of the river, but it is in the state of Illinois. This is because the Mississippi River shifted east during a flood in the 1880s, but the state boundary remained at the old river channel. This sandbar is a good place to look for interesting rocks and old glass and ceramic. We found a lot of pretty pieces of colored glass and rocks. DW and I stomped around in the woods on the sandbar and found a buoy that had washed into the trees and became entangled. There was also a fairly new outhouse that had been washed up and buried deep in the sand. After exploring we ate our lunch of Oberle’s sandwiches (if you are ever in Ste. Genevieve you have to visit Oberle Meat Market, it’s the best) and relaxed while looking out over the river.

Mississippi RiverMississippi RiverMississippi River

A stranded buoy

A stranded buoy

A buried outhouse

A buried outhouse

Kaskaskia is about halfway into our trip, but as we rounded the next bend we could already see the bridge at Chester in the distance. It took almost two hours to reach it, though we didn’t paddle much. Before Chester there is a penitentiary on the Illinois side, which is very obvious with all the big lights and fences. So, that’s probably not a good place to pull over and hang out! It seems strange to have a penitentiary right next to a major river and railroad.

Mississippi RiverMississippi River

First glimpse of the Chester bridge

A glimpse of the Chester bridge

The day continued to be cloudy as we finished our trip, which made for some nice skies, but rather dull photos. The boat ramp at Chester has a little bit of current, but as long as you don’t come in too fast and dock your boat from the side instead of the nose, you’ll be fine. Rosie was waiting for us when we arrived, so we loaded the boats into her truck and made the drive back to Ste. Genevieve for a delicious BBQ dinner.

Late afternoon on the river

Late afternoon on the river

Under the Chester bridge

Under the Chester bridge

The boat ramp at Chester

The boat ramp at Chester

I think this stretch of river was a good float, but not as pretty as the stretch we did from Rush Island to Ste. Genevieve. The sandbar at Kaskaskia was definitely worth a stop though. We enjoyed this float and plan to do the next section down from here next time we’re in the area.

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

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