Float #29: Meramec River

17 Nov

Robertsville State Park to Catawissa

Meramec River
Franklin County, Missouri
Saturday, November 5
6.5 Miles

This will most likely be the last float of the year. With colder weather and the demands of hunting season and the holidays it is very difficult to find time to go floating in November and December. So when there is a beautiful day in early November, you grab it and float whatever body of water is most convenient. We joined up with our friends Scott and Megan and our newest float buddy, Mike. We met Mike on the Meramec last winter. He owns property near River Round access and loves the river as much as we do.

We wanted to float a section of the Meramec we’d not done before, so we decided to do Robertsville State Park to Catawissa Conservation Area. Robertsville State Park is a nice access with a typical boat ramp. Catawissa is much more complicated. The conservation area includes several small lakes that used to be gravel pits. In high water these lakes connect to the Meramec river. In low or normal water it requires a short portage (and a bit of mud) to get from the river to the lake. The access it not visible from the river, nor is it marked. The best way to find it is to look for a dry creek bed on the right side of the river between the Hwy. N bridge and the RR bridge. With the help of GPS we found it easily.

meramec river, robertsville state park

Robertsville access

meramec river

meramec river

meramec river, calvey creek

Calvey Creek

Although temperatures were in the upper 60s, the sky was overcast and it never seemed to really warm up. But it was good practice for late winter and early spring floats, a reminder to dig out the winter gear and pack for the colder weather.

Most of the leaves had fallen by this point, but some oaks still clung to their leaves and there were patches of fire red and blazing yellow throughout the wooded banks. The stark white of the sycamore trees lends an otherworldly beauty to the sparse river edge. Our first landmark was Calvey Creek, a sizable creek that enters the river on the right. There is a large grove of young sycamores at the confluence that is quite beautiful. While we were staring at the trees we noticed a Bald Eagle flying down the creek. He settled on a branch by the river and stared back at us as we all snapped photos. It’s really cool to see one so close and not high up in a tree.

meramec river

Bald Eagle at Calvey Creek

meramec river

meramec river

After Calvey Creek we came to Fish Trap Rapid, a swift, rocky spot that stretched across the length of the river. It was splashy and fun, but not challenging. I think it would be a fun spot in moderately high water when the river is flowing fast.

meramec river

Fish Trap Rapid

meramec river

Beautiful autumn sycamores

meramec river

meramec river

meramec river

Memories of summer

The remainder of the float was uneventful. We didn’t see much wildlife. The turtles had mostly gone for the winter and the river was very quiet. This section of river is bordered by a lot of private camp areas and everyone had shut their camps for the winter. We didn’t see any other people on the river or hanging out on the banks.

meramec river

Hwy. N Bridge

meramec river

St. Louis - San Francisco RR Bridge

We finally arrived at the Hwy. N bridge. It confused us at first until we looked at the map. In our heads we thought this bridge should be after the take-out, when it is actually right before it. Once that was settled we noticed the RR bridge was just ahead and we should begin looking for the take-out. We pulled over at the first likely spot and Mike jogged up the creek bed and confirmed it was indeed the right spot. We waited a bit for Scott and Megan to catch back up. They were ahead of us and had passed it up. They had to paddle back up for 10 minutes, but they also got to spend more time on the river! We portaged our boats up to the lake and then tried to find a spot to get back into the boat without getting covered in mud. No luck. The lake is fairly shallow at the edges and it was impossible to get the boat into the water without getting ankle-deep in stinky lake mud.

meramec river

Catawissa access from the river

meramec river, catawissa access

Catawissa access from the lake

We were able to get off the water and run shuttle before dark hit. It’s always sad to have your kayak time cut off by short winter days. However, it’s worth it to get out on the water in the winter, no matter how short the float. Winter turns even the most familiar rivers into new experiences. The deep quiet of the woods brings out the voice of the water. The wildlife is sparse, but eagles sightings are more common. The river clears of the sediment churned up during the summer and changes color to reflect its true nature. Many rivers are far more beautiful in winter than in summer and the Meramec is a prime example.

Critter Count: 1 Bald Eagle

Bonus Prize: 1 life vest (not the cheap orange kind either!)

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One Response to “Float #29: Meramec River”

  1. mike v November 18, 2011 at 8:11 PM #

    From time to time it is my pleasure to meet somebody new
    Who believes in cleaning up the playground as they’re passing through.
    The streams are full of beautiful things, but some things just don’t belong,
    It is good to know that there are people who work to right this wrong.
    Armed with a kayak, paddle and bag and maybe a brew or two,
    They show us all how fun and easy conservation is to do.
    They stand not behind a pulpit nor from a soapbox do they shout,
    Just by living the life they love they show what personal responsibilty is about.
    I will help them any way that I can, be it from the river or the shore,
    Because Lee and DW deserve our admiration, respect and so very much more.

    j michaels

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