Archive | February, 2011

Float #2: Meramec River

24 Feb

Spanish Claim to Red Horse

Meramec River
Franklin County, Missouri
Sunday, February 20
20 miles

Two weekends of warm, sunny weather in February means it’s time to hit the river again. This time we did one of our favorite close-to-home floats on the Meramec. Due to few accesses along this stretch, this trip is usually quite peaceful and makes for great wildlife spotting and plenty of bonus prizes (aka various usable items that have been swept downstream).


Bluff downriver from Spanish Claim



A float of 20 miles in one day is a long haul with plenty of paddling. No starting at noon for this one! We put in around 9:30 at Spanish Claim access, which can be reached from the Meramec Conservation Area on Hwy. K. The access is at the dead-end of Spanish Claim Road. I’m not sure about the official name of this access, as it is not labeled on any map. During the past two years this access had a facelift. What was once muddy pit has been transformed into a large gravel parking lot and the trail leading to the river has been cleared and widened for easy walking. There is no boat ramp here, you have to carry your boats about 100 yards from the parking area to the river. However, this makes for a quiet access without motorboat fumes or drunk rednecks.

Around the first bend is Meramec Caverns, a popular tourist attraction featuring a large commercial cave and historic ties to Jesse James. A zip line course was recently added and on summer days you can float underneath people zipping across the river. Another couple of miles downriver there is a cave on the left side of the river which is worth a stop, but be careful to avoid the poison ivy. Just down from the cave is Roaring Spring, a small spring that gushes out from a shelf in the bluff. Look for the kissing sycamores that guard the entrance to the spring. This float features many picturesque bluffs and quiet river bends. No time to stop and stare though; we’ve got to keep paddling if we want to get off the water before dark!


Entrance to the cave

Looking at the river from the mouth of the cave



5 miles from our take out we cross Plum Ford, named for the plum trees that used to grow here. An old roadbed follows the right bank of the river and crosses the water. Plum Ford road dead ends into the river here. Although it looks like a good access, the landowners are notorious asshats who will call the police the minute they see anyone drive down to the river. You can get away with dropping boats on the gravel bar, but don’t even think about parking your vehicle anywhere near here. I have heard rumors you can access from Hwy. P on the opposite side of the ford, but it’s a long, muddy walk down the unmaintained road bed and I’ve never heard of anyone trying it.


Bluffs along the river

DW floats ahead


Just past Plum Ford we take a break on a large gravel bar that is prime for swimming in hot weather. As the afternoon marches into evening we paddle the last few miles, crossing under the Hwy. K bridge to take out at Red Horse access. Red Horse is just around the bend from where Big Indian Creek flows into the Meramec. The shuttle is only 15 minutes to pick up the other vehicle at the Spanish Claim, which shows just how much the river snakes between the two conservation areas. A long day and another satisfying float!

Critter Count: Turtles, Ducks, Geese, Blue Herons, 1 Bald Eagle

Bonus Prizes: 1 worn canoe paddle, 1 cheap life vest, 1 sassy beer coozie stating “I didn’t say it was your fault, I said I’m going to blame you”, 1 travel mug that says “Grandma”

Float #1: Meramec River

24 Feb

Bruns’ Bridge to Chouteau Claim

Meramec River
Franklin County, Missouri
Sunday, February 13
9 miles

After a long, cold winter the first float of the year is finally here! We usually float at least once in January, but this winter has been full of snow, dangerously low temperatures and frozen rivers! The weather finally broke with temps in the mid 50s and lots of sun. We hauled out the boats, scrounged around for our gear, and hit the river.


Downriver from Bruns' Bridge

Snow on the bank

We planned to float from River Round to Robertsville State Park, but the park was still closed from the most recent round of ice and snow. Instead we put in at Bruns’ Bridge and floated to Chouteau Claim. Bruns’ Bridge is an old wrought iron bridge, built in 1888. No longer in use for traffic, this bridge serves as a “locals-only” (aka not official) put in and a popular hangout. Since this is not an official put in there is no boat ramp and the only access is down a muddy, steep and, in our case icy, path.

DW does some ice breaking

Half underwater shot

Ice chunks floating downstream

A swift slide down the path left a coat of mud on the boat and nearly swept me into the water. We finally hit the river around noon and floated down to River Round access where we met up with some other friends who got a late start. It was a beautiful day with snow and ice still covering most of the ground and chunks of ice in the water, but the air was warm and the sun was shining. I cracked open a cold beer and let the water wash away the stress of the workweek. The only other people out on the river were some fishermen in a john boat.


Tree damage from the New Year's Eve tornado

DW surfs a berg

Late afternoon sunlight

After a pleasant lunch on a gravel bar we continued our journey down to Chouteau Claim. Chouteau Claim access is located where the Bourbeuse River meets the Meramec. The boat ramp is located about 50 feet up the Bourbeuse, a fetid, slow-moving, snake infested tributary. The river was mostly frozen, but there was a small path of open water leading up to the ramp. We got off the river just before twilight, loaded up our boats and headed home to prepare for another grueling week until the next float.

Critter Count: 1 Bald Eagle, 2 Deer, Ducks