Archive | August, 2011

Float #20: Meramec River

26 Aug

Bruns’ Bridge to Chouteau Claim

meramec river map

Meramec River
Franklin County, Missouri
Saturday, August 20
9 miles

Our two best friends from NYC, Nadia and Aaron, were in town to visit family and stopped by to spend the day with us. We treated them to a day of floating on the Meramec near our house. We borrowed a fourth kayak from a friend and headed out to the river around 11am. DW and I dropped them at Bruns’ Bridge and ran the shuttle. On the way back to the put-in, DW got a phone call that our doberman, Hedwig, was running around at the church 2 miles from our house. So we had to delay the trip by a half hour to go wrangle her and lock her inside. She was just trying to tell us the fence was broken, but I guess she couldn’t chase the car fast enough!

Bruns' bridge meramec river

Nadia at Bruns' bridge access

Bruns' bridge meramec river

The old Bruns' bridge

When we finally returned from our diversion the sun was shining, the water was warm and we could tell a good day was ahead of us. The first 3 miles of this trip are very slow water. The river makes a lazy journey around a large horseshoe that gives its name to the River Round access. The Little Meramec River comes in on the right. It’s really more of a creek, but it can turn into a small river when the spring rains come or when the Meramec is flooded and backed up. On the back side of the horseshoe the river picks up a little bit as it passes River Round access and the next 6 miles are faster water. We spent a lot of time on the first 3 miles with multiple swim breaks and a bunch of litter to pick up.

The first bend of the river round

By the time we passed River Round we were all a few beers deep and having a great time. I think Aaron started flipping his boat around then. He’s very talented at rolling the kayak under, he just doesn’t roll it back upright. The river was full of locals; lots of tubes and small rafts. Everyone was having a fun and lazy day on the late summer water.

As the afternoon wore on the sky clouded over, but it was still warm. We passed the jumping cliff just above Old Cove campground and everyone took a few turns diving in. Old Cove Canoe is a small outfitter and campground between River Round and Chouteau Claim. This stretch of river isn’t as popular with the city crowd as the upper Meramec, so if you’re looking for a little less crowded Meramec float, they are a good choice. A couple of miles from Chouteau Claim we realized we drank all the beer and Nadia flipped her boat for the first time that day, then Aaron flipped his for the third or fourth. We spent some time gathering everything together; lost a paddle for a few minutes then found it and lost one of Nadia’s shoes for good. On the gravel bar where we stopped to regroup there were a pair of pastel pink river shoes. Although they were a little small for her, Nadia didn’t have to go shoeless for the remainder of the trip. We took out at Chouteau Claim in the early evening, piled everything in the truck and headed back to the house for bbq and more beer!

The jumping cliff

Railroad bridge at Chouteau Claim

Critter Count: Blue Herons, Green Herons, Kingfishers, Turtles

Bonus Prizes: A black plastic crate, a pair of pink river shoes

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Float #19: Meramec River

18 Aug

Woodson K. Woods to Scotts Ford

Meramec River
Crawford County, Missouri
Sunday, August 14
9 Miles

This past Sunday was my 30th birthday. I always do a float on or around my birthday and occasionally friends or family join in. This year we had a bbq on Saturday and many of my friends joined in on the float Sunday. The weather was beautiful, highs in the mid 80s and partly cloudy. I have never had such nice weather on my birthday in all my life. I was actually chilly in the morning and evening! We paddled from Woodson K. Woods (Hwy. 8 bridge) to Scotts Ford, taking advantage of our free shuttle from our friend at Adventure Outdoors. DW and I did this float back in April. Read the previous post for more background on this stretch of river.

Woodson K. Woods boat launch

meramec river

Zoe enjoying her float

My youngest sister, Abby and her friend Nicole joined us in a canoe and agreed to take our lab, Zoe along in their boat. Zoe used to go on all our floats back when we only had a canoe and she was a young pup. She is a 75 lb. lab and doesn’t come anywhere near fitting in a kayak, but we try to take her out in a canoe at least once a year. Now that she is getting old she tires easily, thus the snazzy life vest. When she was young she would swim a good 10 miles of every float trip. She thinks she can still do that now, but her body doesn’t agree. She enjoyed her day out and I enjoyed having her along. As soon as we took out she jumped in the car and immediately fell asleep.

meramec springs

Surfing the springs

DW surfing the spring

Maramec Springs

A third of the way into the trip we passed Maramec Springs where the cold water enters the river. We stopped across from the spring for lunch and some swimming. It a nice spot to swim because the warm river water and the cold spring water mix up here and you swim through alternating patches of warm and freezing water.

Just past the spring we saw a blue heron standing on the bank. He used the typical heron reasoning, “if I stand perfectly still you won’t see me.” It didn’t work. We also saw a bald eagle sitting in a sycamore. It was very close to where we had seen the pair of eagles and a nest back in April. We looked for the nest, but didn’t see it. Either it had been dismantled or the foliage was hiding it.

Toward the end of the trip we caught up with the large groups from the outfitter trips, which always seems to happen later in the day. We came across a tricky spot where a downed tree blocked most of the waterway. There were lots of canoes causing much confusion as to which direction to go around the tree. Most of the kayaks had no problem as we were able to float over the trunk of the tree and both our canoes made it as well. One of our kayaks collided with a confused canoeist and tipped her boat, causing her to lose her paddle. The one time we didn’t bring an extra paddle of course! We searched the water and the banks downstream, but never found it. It probably got stuck under a log on the river bottom in the swift water. Luckily someone had found a canoe paddle on the bank earlier and gave it to us to use, otherwise we would have had to tow the boat the remaining few miles. It really sucks to lose a kayak paddle. They are expensive.

The jumping cliff

We took at the Adventure Outdoors parking lot around 6pm. Everyone had a good time and it was an excellent addition to my birthday weekend. Coming up later this month is another possible Meramec float and hopefully we will make it to the Eleven Point before the weather cools down too much!

Critter Count: Turtles, Blue Herons, Green Herons, Kingfishers, 1 Bald Eagle, 1 Northern Water Snake

Bonus Prizes: 1 much-needed canoe paddle, 1 camouflage blanket suitable for the dog

Float # 18: Meramec River

10 Aug

Scotts Ford to Riverview

Meramec River
Crawford County, Missouri
Sunday, July 31
7 Miles

We returned from Colorado hoping the extreme heat would be gone, but that was not the case. Not wanting to spend another day trapped in the air-conditioned indoors we decided to do a Sunday trip on the Meramec. Our friends Charlie and Alex met up with us at Scotts Ford for a 7-mile day float. The water was still very cool despite the preceding month of temperatures in the upper 90s and above.

Looking upriver at Scotts Ford

The first half of this trip was on quick, but calm water. The water level was a little low. If we had been in a canoe we would have scraped a bit in spots, but we found plenty of deep holes for swimming. Just after lunch we spotted a northern water snake crossing the river and we saw another one later in the day. Charlie thought he saw a duck crossing the river, then he said it was a beaver, then it turned out to be someone’s tiny dog!

Richart spring

Richart Spring

Looking down on the river from Richart Spring

Halfway through the trip we came upon Richart Spring on the left side of the river. This spring is very small. There is a little pool just big enough for a couple people to sit in. We spent some time sitting in the cold spring water. Afterward the river water felt comparatively hot! We had not seen many people on the first half, but once we reached the spring we caught up with a huge group of canoeists and we kept passing each other the rest of the way to their take-out.

Rednecks and cows on the river

A couple of miles from the finish we passed a herd of cows standing on the right bank (yuck) and a couple of rednecks washing their camouflage truck on the left bank. I thought it was a perfect Missouri trifecta; cows, rednecks and rivers. Around the bend from there was a tight spot in the river where a couple of downed trees blocked most of the waterway. The large group had stopped there blocking up the bank making it even more tight. It was no problem for us kayakers, but we did get to see some carnage. There was a canoe with a girl sunbathing in a lounge chair while her boyfriend did all the paddling. He couldn’t turn the boat fast enough by himself and ran it sideways into the logs, flipping it over and swamping the boat. We all had a good laugh, I had been waiting for that boat to flip over and luckily I was there to see it. We turned around and rescued some of their gear that was floating downstream. The rest of their group righted the boat and everyone was fine. The large group took out at Indian Springs, a private campground and outfitter. We spent the last mile paddling through very flat water (great fishing, but boring paddling) until our take-out at Riverview. We loaded up the boats and headed home, arriving before dark.

Critter Count: Blue Herons, Green Herons, 2 Northern Water Snakes, Turtles, Snapping Turtles

Bonus Prizes: One regulation size Frisbee in perfect condition (until we got home and our dog put a hole in it)

Float #13-17: Colorado River

8 Aug

Grizzly Creek Rest Area to Two Rivers Park

Colorado River
Garfield County, Colorado
Sunday, July 17 – Thursday July 21
6 Miles

The other floats we did in Colorado were all the same 6 mile stretch of the Colorado river (See the previous post before you read this one). This float was really convenient for the raft owners to shuttle everyone to the put-in and the take-out was walking distance from the campground. Our friends from Colorado Springs owned 4 of the rafts and they set up a trip every day so many people from the NSS camp could get a chance to raft for free. DW played river guide for 3 of the trips and I split my time between paddling and riding the oar raft.

colorado river rafting

The put-in at Grizzly Creek

rafting colorado river glenwood canyon

DW plays river guide

The first day we went out with Brianna and her crew. The Colorado has been running really high this year due to all the heavy snowmelt. The river continued to drop the whole week we were there, so every day we went out was a little different. The first day all the obstacles were underwater, but the waves were pretty big. DW and I took The Pickle the first day. It was really difficult to steer because we have very uneven paddling strength. Every time DW would paddle the boat would spin toward him and my paddling was not enough to counteract his. We both got very wet and I almost swam twice! A third of the way down the river we finally figured it out and the rest of the trip was a lot of fun. Everyone else who took The Pickle the rest of the week had three people and it balanced out much better.

The following day the Colorado Springs crew went out with a large group of people. DW guided his own boat of adventurous paddlers. He has never guided a raft before, but since he knows how to read water and we had done it the day before, that was apparently adequate experience. Right out of the put-in his raft hit a hard eddy line and he and 2 others promptly fell out. They all got back in the raft and the rest of the trip went smoothly, although DW was teased about it the rest of the week. I helped paddle another raft that was overloaded with people. The water was still pretty high so it was a bit nerve-wracking hoping we didn’t hit a wave wrong and flip the boat. We all made it through and had fun.

The third day we went out the water had gone down quite a bit, resulting in smaller waves and a few rocks poking their heads above water. I planned to paddle in one of the rafts, but there were a bunch of new people who really wanted to paddle, so I gave up my spot and rode in an oar raft instead. DW guided a raft again. This time everyone stayed in the boat, but his crew did not listen very well or paddle very hard so he had to do most of the work!

Colorado river from Two Rivers Park

Along this stretch of river there are numerous hot springs that boil up into the water. On a typical July float guides will stop their boats and hang out, but the water was so high during this week all the springs were underwater. The final day we went out with Brianna’s husband Jamie in their oar raft. The water was getting pretty calm and there were no big Class III waves left, but the fallen logs and rocks were making a definite appearance. Even though we did the same stretch over and over, every day was different and we had great fun.

Float #12: Roaring Fork River

5 Aug

Hwy. 133 Bridge to Two Rivers Park

roaring fork river map

Roaring Fork River
Garfield County, Colorado
Sunday, July 17
13 Miles

DW and I spent a glorious 7 days in Glenwood Springs, CO at the National Speleological Society convention (a national group of cavers, for those who don’t know). We don’t go caving all that often, but we really enjoy attending their events as it’s always a fun crowd of outdoor enthusiasts. We have friends in Colorado who frequently go rafting and we met up with plenty of others at the convention who brought their own boats. There are two rivers in Glenwood, the Colorado and the Roaring Fork. Both were running high from heavy snowmelt in the mountains, making for excellent rafting. The Roaring Fork starts in the mountains near Aspen and flows into the Colorado at Glenwood Springs. It’s very popular with fly fishers as well as rafters. The upper sections have some big Class IV & V rapids. The section we did was mostly Class II & III. We did a late afternoon float with our new friends Brianna & Jamie and their 8-year-old son Ben, and a couple of cavers from Alberta, Canada. I went in “The Tulip”, Brianna’s 14′ oar raft with Jamie and Ben and DW and the couple from Canada took “The Pickle”, a small 10′ raft.

roaring fork river hwy 82

Preparing the Tulip for launch

As we drove to the put-in the rain started to come down pretty heavy. Unlike Missouri, Colorado thunderstorms rarely last more than an hour and by the time we hit the water the sky had cleared. The air had cooled off significantly and the combination of cool air and cold water prompted me to put on some rain gear to keep from getting too cold.

roaring fork river

DW pilots The Pickle

mt. sopris, roaring fork river

Mount Sopris

The first part of the trip wound through a picturesque valley. Mount Sopris stayed in our background for a number of miles. Being close to Aspen there were many multi-million dollar homes along the riverbanks. We all agreed that many of them were ridiculously large, but the location was supreme. We didn’t hit may big rapids the first half, the water was somewhat calm, but moving very fast.

roaring fork river

Pickle action

roaring fork river

Red mountains near Glenwood Springs

roaring fork river

We didn’t see many other rafters out as it was late in the day for commercial trips. We did see lots of fly fishers, both along the bank and in oar rafts. I have never seen anyone fly fish from a raft on such swift water. Their flies barely touched the water for a second at a time as they swept by. We didn’t see anyone catch anything on this trip. However we did see a fisherman pull a 5 lb. trout out of the water at the confluence of the Roaring Fork and Colorado later in the week. It made me wish we’d brought our fishing gear!

roaring fork river

roaring fork river

The Pickle heads for the rapids

As we got closer to Glenwood Springs, the houses became smaller and more frequent. The Roaring Fork runs right next to town. During the last third of the trip we hit the big Class III rapids of this section, known as the Cemetery. The water was up pretty high so most of the obstacles were underwater, but the waves were big. DW and the Pickle had a lot of fun hitting every wave they could. Being such a short boat, it is very maneuverable. It is really hard to get photos during a big rapid section, as you have to pay attention to the water and the boat and keep your balance at the same time. The camera lens also gets full of water spots and I don’t have anything dry to wipe it with.

roaring fork river

My dream cabin

We took out at Two Rivers Park on the Colorado river, just down from the confluence. By the time we got back to camp it was 7:30 and time to knock back a few and cook dinner. The rest of the week we floated on the Colorado, which was equally as fun but not quite as pristine as the Roaring Fork.

Critter Count: 1 Osprey

Float #11: Black River

3 Aug

Hwy. K to Hwy. CC

black river map

Black River
Reynolds County, Missouri
Sunday, July 3
7 Miles

We spent the Fourth of July holiday weekend in Cape Girardeau celebrating the birthdays of our friends Jess & Jake. Jake and his girlfriend Sara drove up from Nashville and wanted to do a float while they were here. We thought about the St. Francis river, which is warm and slow for the most part. The Black river is only a half hour west with much nicer water, so we opted for that.

black river hwy k bridge

Hwy K bridge

We put in at the Hwy. K bridge around 2pm. The bridge is a very popular spot for people to hang out on the gravel bar and being a holiday weekend it was pretty crowded. However, since we put in later in the day there weren’t many people on the water, just a lot of people partying on the banks. It was very hot and sunny the first part of the trip so we took many swim breaks. There were lots of nice swimming holes on this section.

black river

Large gravel bars

black river kayak canoe

The boats take a break

The Black river has substantial and plentiful gravel bars along the whole length. None of them in the shade though! A couple hours after we put on the sky started to cloud over and thunderheads formed in the distance. But that means it cooled down a bit too. We brought the old red kayak along and Jess, Jake & Sara took turns paddling it.

black river canoe

Jake & Sara

black river
The best part of the trip was when Sara was paddling the kayak. She had never been in one before, so Jake was giving her all these tips on what to do. We came up to a section with a lot of logs in the water and some technical turns. Jake was so busy telling Sara what to do that he ran the canoe into a log sideways and flipped it over. We all had a good laugh at his expense, Sara especially.

black river

black river

The river starts to back up

This section of river runs into Clearwater lake. When the resevoir is full the water can back up all nearly all the way to Hwy. K. This float only the last two miles were still water. You could definitely tell the difference in water clarity and landscape right away. As we paddled out the last couple miles the sky began to darken and rain was approaching. We got off the river behind another group of paddlers right before the sky opened up. Lucky for us these paddlers were really cool and offered to haul the canoe back to Hwy. K as they had an extra spot on their boat trailer and were headed back there anyway. It couldn’t have worked out better and Jake & Sara didn’t have to wait in the rain. After dropping off at the put-in DW and I headed back home through lots of heavy rain; glad we had Monday off to hang at home.