Float #40 & 41: North Fork of the White River

13 Jul

Hammond Camp to James Bridge

North Fork of the White River
Ozark County, Missouri
Friday, June 15 – Saturday, June 16
16 Miles

The North Fork is one of my favorite rivers in Missouri. The abundance of springs along the river make for some of the clearest and coldest water in the state. It’s also in a great location for floating. With the Eleven Point River an hour to the east and Bryant Creek just over the ridge, you could spend a whole week floating on clear, fast waters and swimming in springs. DW and I drove down on a Friday morning, set up camp at Sunburst Ranch, and put our boats on the water at Hammond Camp access (also known as North Fork Recreation Area). It was just the two of us the first day. We floated from Hammond Camp down to Sunburst Ranch, about 10 miles. The second day our friends Jess and Jake joined us and we floated the full 16 miles from Hammond to James Bridge (Hwy. PP).

North Fork

Hammond Camp Access

North Fork

North Fork

Just around the bend from Hammond Camp access is Blue Spring. It seems almost every spring fed river in Missouri has a Blue Spring. This one is a medium size hole near a short bluff. The spring pumps out 7 million gallons of water per day. It’s a popular stop on the trip and a good place for a bracing dip. We all pulled over and spent some time swimming.

North Fork

Blue Spring

North Fork

DW jumps into the Blue

North Fork

North Fork

Jess & Jake

North Fork

North Fork

North Fork

A few miles down from Blue Spring is Rainbow Spring. Formerly known as Double Spring because the flow splits in two around an island and enters the river at two different points. The spring itself is privately owned (those lucky ducks) and you cannot see it from the river. However there is a seepage from a gravel bar between the two spring branches. We first noticed it because the gravel bar is higher than the river, but water was flowing down from the gravel to the river. And boy is that water cold! We dug out a small pool and soaked ourselves for a while.

North Fork

North Fork

North Fork

One of the outlets of Rainbow Spring

North Fork

Sitting in the spring seepage on a gravel bar

North Fork

North Fork

The next landmark on the North Fork is The Falls. The Falls is a rock ledge, about 2 or 3 feet high that crosses the whole river. It makes for a fun little drop and some good rapids. It’s also a great spot to stop and watch other boaters coming through. Most of them make it, but there’s always a few that don’t. Right before The Falls is McKee bridge. You can float under the bridge in low water, but higher water requires a short portage on the right side. The Falls is easily run if you stay to the right center. Go to the left and you’ll hit a bunch of rocks and have to get out of your boat and portage. DW spent some time surfing the rapid and making the oncoming canoeists nervous they would hit him.

North Fork

McKee Bridge

North Fork

DW surfs The Falls

North Fork

A small spring leaks from the hillside

Not long after The Falls is Blair Bridge access and just past that is Sunburst Ranch, our camp site. We parked our boats and went back to camp for a quick beer and a snack. Afterward we shoved off to complete the remaining 5 miles of the float. Two miles down from camp is Patrick bridge, another low water bridge. Patrick bridge is your clue to look on the left for Althea Spring. Althea Spring was privately owned until the 1970s and it was used to provide hydroelectricity to the owner’s home. The small dam is still there and makes a fun, but cold waterfall. We spent some time here playing around and swimming. A swim in a cold spring is great for the body and the soul. I have yet to find anything as refreshing. Maybe a breath of cold mountain air, but we don’t have any of that in Missouri! From Althea Spring we paddled the remaining few miles down to James bridge. James bridge isn’t an official access, but all the locals use it so we do too. DW and Jess ran the shuttle and we got back to camp right before dark. The next day we floated on Bryant Creek, a first for all of us.

North Fork

Patrick Bridge

North Fork

DW in the waterfall at Althea Spring

North Fork

Jake at Althea Spring

North Fork

Althea Spring

North Fork

Althea Spring

North Fork

James Bridge

Critter Count: Blue Herons, Turtles, 2 Mink

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