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”


One Response to “Float #2: Meramec River”

  1. jenny February 24, 2011 at 5:27 PM #

    I was going to tell you that I want that coozie, but, then I realized it was probably made for you.

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