Float #49 – 51: Current River

31 Aug

Powder Mill to Big Spring

Current River
Shannon & Carter Counties, Missouri
Friday, August 17 – Sunday, August 19
30 miles

I had been looking forward to this float for weeks and it did not disappoint. This section of the Current is one of my favorites for the beauty of the landscape, the lack of other boaters and the excellent fishing. Two of our best friends who used to live in Missouri joined us for this trip. Jake drove up from Nashville and Aaron flew in from NYC. On Friday morning we loaded the car with 3 kayaks, the canoe and lots of dry bags. We met up at Powder Mill access (also known as Owl’s Bend). Jake and DW ran the shuttle down to Van Buren while Aaron and I sorted gear, packed boats and readied the fishing poles. We set off sometime after noon planning to camp somewhere before Log Yard access. It’s a good thing DW got his practice with the loaded canoe last weekend because there was about 3 times as much gear to haul for this trip. This section of river has almost no obstacles so the only difficulties with the canoe are the wind and trying to paddle all that weight into the perfect fishing hole.

Current River, Powder Mill

Jake, Aaron, DW and the Roo

Current River, Blue Spring

Blue Spring

Current River, Blue Spring

The deep, cerulean water of Blue Spring

Current River, Blue Spring

Blue Spring from the overlook

Current River

Current River

Bald Eagle

Current River

DW and Jake show off their fish

Our first stop was Blue Spring, about 6/10 of a mile downriver from Powder Mill. Blue Spring is a beautiful spring of an impossibly blue color. There are many springs called Blue Spring in Missouri, but this one embodies the name the most successfully. You could stare down into the never-ending, cerulean depth of crystal clear water for ages. Blue Spring can also be reached by two trailheads; one off of Hwy. 110 and another from Powder Mill campground. There is a small lookout at the top of the bluff overlooking the spring hole and branch. We spent some time there marveling at the water and then headed back to the boats. DW and I swam in the confluence of the spring and the river, yelping when we swam through the icy spring waters that were mixing into the river channel. This weekend wasn’t as chilly as the previous weekend on the Eleven Point and the Current’s waters aren’t quite as cold, so we were able to do more swimming.

We stopped at a gravel bar just around the corner from Robert’s Field access. There was a large bluff across from the gravel bar, which is almost always a good fishing spot. While scanning the bluff I spotted a Bald Eagle watching us from a tree high up on the bluff. He hung out for a little bit and then flew up the valley. We all fished the hole under the bluff for a while. Jake and DW both caught some nice small mouth bass. They were legal length to keep, but just barely, so they released the fish back into the river.

Current River

A big Northern Water snake suns on a rock

Current River

Current River

Current River

Our campsite the first night

After we finished fishing that spot it was getting late in the afternoon and time to start looking for a campsite. We probably paddled 3-4 miles until we found the perfect site. Nine times out of ten we find a suitable site, wake up the next morning and paddle, and there will be a much better site just around the bend from where we camped. Not this time though. This was a large, flat gravel bar directly across from a bluff. We unpacked the boats and set up camp in the fading light. This time we brought a small charcoal grill to cook dinner on. After dinner we built a small camp fire in the grill. It was nice to have a fire and it kept us just warm enough. We spent most of the evening stargazing. Since Jake and Aaron both live in cities, they don’t get to see the stars very often. Still, the sky over the Current is not as spectacular as it is over the Eleven Point. Eventually we put out the fire and all headed to bed. The next morning DW and I woke up and the entire river valley was full of thick fog. We couldn’t see much past the tent. Within minutes the sun started to rise and a gentle breeze blew the fog away entirely. Soon Aaron and Jake awoke and we started repacking and ate breakfast. Aaron got to experience pooping in the woods for the first time. Congratulations to him! It sure beats a port-a-potty on the second day of a music festival.

Current River

DW mans the gear barge

Current River

Blue Heron

Current River

Current River

Aaron & DW jumping off a rock

Current River

Current River

Our second day was spent mostly fishing and swimming. We finally got to use the snorkel I bought back in July. It’s been so long since I’ve used a snorkel, it was difficult to remember to breathe while my face was underwater! We all caught some more fish, but nothing worth keeping. Lots of tiny smallmouth bass, some sunfish and goggle eye. We didn’t see hardly any paddlers until we neared Van Buren. There aren’t any outfitters between Two Rivers and Van Buren and anyone we did see was camping overnight like us. We passed Waymeyer access around 5pm and started to look for a gravel bar to camp. Many of the good spots were already taken by other paddlers or people with motor boats. I found one gravel bar that was pretty flat, but the rocks were kind of big. DW thought we could do better, so we kept going. Soon we were nearly in Van Buren, where most of the river bank is private property. I couldn’t believe how many new houses had been built since we last paddled this stretch 5 or 6 years ago. The recession definitely hasn’t hurt the vacation home industry in Van Buren! Eventually we found an island with a flat gravel bar that was secluded from the houses on one side. We took it because there wasn’t going to be anything better! Everyone unpacked their gear and set up camp. As DW and I set up our tent one of the poles cracked. Duct tape to the rescue! We ordered new poles from Eureka when we got home. Eureka has good customer service and will usually replace broken parts, but you have to send the whole tent back to them and it can take almost a month to complete the process. We just don’t have time for that. There is too much camping in the next month to wait!

As we were settling in to camp and getting ready for dinner someone upriver started setting off large fireworks. We walked to the edge of the gravel bar to get a better view. It was a nice show. I guess the fire ban doesn’t apply to them! I think those were the only fireworks I’ve seen this year, since most of the 4th of July festivities were cancelled due to drought. After the show ended we cooked up some bratwurst and chicken and ate dinner around the fire. DW, Jake and Aaron shotgunned some beer for some nostalgic male bonding. It was hilarious to watch. Eventually Aaron and I wandered off to our tents and Jake stayed up to watch DW fall asleep in his chair. The next morning we cooked up some eggs and bacon, packed the boats and drifted downriver toward Van Buren.

Current River

The bridge at Van Buren

Current River

Current River

Jake, DW & Aaron

There are some really deep holes full of big fish right before you get to town. We spent a lot of time fishing there, though we didn’t catch any of those big fish. Suddenly the bright, sunny day clouded over and thunder boomed in the distance. We started to paddle a little more earnestly. By the time we reached the bridge it had started to sprinkle. It rained just enough to make me put on my rain jacket and kayak skirt. Of course as soon as I did, it stopped raining. The larger thunder storms passed to the North of us. DW and I have never floated past Van Buren before. Taking out at Big Spring is only an extra 5 miles downriver. As soon as we got out of town the landscape reverted to wilderness pretty quickly. It is a very pretty section of river and we’re thinking about doing a trip from Van Buren to Doniphan sometime in the future.

Current River

Old bridge pillars at Big Spring Park

Current River

Jake, Aaron, Me & DW at Big Spring take out

Current River, Big Spring

Big Spring

We spent the rest of the trip lazily paddling and fishing. We saw 3 deer crashing through the underbrush on a gravel bar. Soon the take out appeared before us and our trip was at an end. We packed all the gear into the Subaru as the rain started to fall just a little bit. After we were packed we drove to check out the spring the park is named for. Big Spring is one of the 3 largest springs in the United States and one of the largest in the world. It is also the second largest tributary into the Current River. It is a beautiful spot to visit and a really nice park as well. After we checked it out the rain stopped again and we headed over to Stray Dog Pizza & BBQ in Van Buren for a late lunch. We ordered a pulled pork pizza with pineapple and jalapenos as well as some wings and a “dog pile”. A dog pile contains pinto beans, pulled pork, jalapenos and cheese sauce piled on top of corn chips. Delicious! It was a lot of food but we managed to eat all of it, somehow. DW and I didn’t eat dinner that night since we were so full! We drove back to Powder Mill to drop Jake at his truck and then headed home. We had to get up at 4:30 the next morning to get Aaron on his early morning flight back to New York. It was a great trip with great friends. We all had a blast and can’t wait to do it again!

Critter Count: Turtles, Blue Herons, Green Herons, 1 Bald Eagle, 1 Northern Water Snake, 3 Deer.

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