Hwy. 143 to Sam A. Baker State Park
Iron & Wayne Counties, Missouri
Sunday, July 11
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.
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.
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.
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.
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