Float #54: Meramec River

2 Oct

Onondaga State Park to Sappington Bridge

Meramec River
Crawford County, Missouri
Sunday, September 23
15 miles

DW and I met up with my sister, Abby for a leisurely 5 mile Sunday float trip from Onondaga to Campbell bridge. However, that all changed when DW returned from running shuttle. DW dropped me at Onondaga with the boats while he and Abby ran shuttle. When they got back DW commented that it was a really long shuttle, almost 1/2 hour each way. “Why was it so long,” I asked. “Is it because you have to back track through Bourbon?” “Bourbon, why would I go through Bourbon to get to Sullivan,” he replied. I then asked him why the hell he went to Sullivan; that’s the wrong bridge! By this time it was almost 2pm and there wasn’t time to rerun the shuttle. We looked at the map and decided we could make the 15 miles before dark if we paddled hard. DW blamed his mistake on lack of sleep, I blamed it on his inattention to detail. After I added this oversight to the list of things I get to poke fun at over the rest of his life, we put our boats in the water and shoved off. We decided to paddle hard until we reached Campbell bridge (the 5 mile mark and our original float plan) and see how much time we made.

Meramec River

Hwy. H Bridge at Onondaga State Park

Meramec River

Meramec River

Meramec River

Meramec River

Meramec River

Campbell Bridge

It was a beautiful day and a beautiful stretch of river. There is a tall limestone bluff around almost every corner. The clear blue sky and a hint of fall color in the leaves made for a perfect day. Too bad we were busy paddling and couldn’t bask in the scenery. We arrived at Campbell bridge in a little over an hour. Since we were making good time we stopped for lunch on a gravel bar soon after. That was our only break.

Meramec River

Meramec River

Meramec River

A heron tries to blend in with the tree

We kept a steady pace of a little over 4 miles an hour. DW and I are used to paddling, but Abby doesn’t do many float trips, so this was a fast pace for her. She kept up with us over the course of the trip and we didn’t really have to slow down for her. She said her arms were very tired afterward! After Campbell bridge are two large campgrounds and outfitters, Riverview Ranch and Blue Springs. After Blue Springs campground is Blue Springs public access. There used to be a low-water bridge here, but it has been removed. You can still see the wooden pilings spanning the river. After Blue Springs the river slows down a bit and there are several long, slow pools all the way to Sappington bridge.

Meramec River

Low-water bridge pilings at Blue Springs

Meramec River

Meramec River

Meramec River

Juvenile Bald Eagle

Meramec River

Sappington Bridge

Abby spotted a Bald Eagle toward the end of the float. It turned out to be a juvenile eagle. His feathers were still changing into adult plumage. Spotting an eagle always makes me happy! We finally reached Sappington bridge and pulled off the water just as the giggers were putting on around dusk. If you are unfamiliar with gigging, it is a popular rural fishing sport done at night. People rig their john boats with lots of flood lights and gig sucker fish from the riverbed. The season lasts through the fall and winter. If you ever have a chance to try it, it’s really difficult and pretty fun. It’s a major weekend social event for many people who live in the middle of nowhere. After the fish are caught they are fried and eaten with vast quantities of cheap beer. The fish don’t taste all that great (they are bottom-feeders), but frying makes anything good!

We loaded all our boats and ran Abby back to her car. We arrived at home around 8pm, exhausted and well exercised. It was still an enjoyable float, a good adventure and good cardio!

Critter Count: Turtles, Herons, Ducks, Osprey, 1 Bald Eagle

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