Float #55 – 57: Current River

19 Oct

Van Buren to Doniphan

Current River
Carter and Ripley Counties, Missouri
Friday, September 28 – Sunday, September 30
40 miles

DW and I like to do a multi-day float trip every year for our anniversary. This year we decided to float a stretch of the Current that we have never done before. The lower Current river doesn’t get as much traffic for paddlers, though I have heard it can be busy with motorboats in the summer. This stretch of river isn’t as scenic as the upper Current, but we saw plenty of wildlife and the water was just as clear and beautiful as ever.

We started our trip in Van Buren. DW has a family friend that owns a beautiful house on a slough of the river just outside town. We drove down Thursday afternoon and spent the night with them. We were treated to good company and some delicious venison burgers! The next morning we awoke early, packed our boats and carried them down to the slough. We paddled down the slough and onto the river. As soon as we hit the main river channel it started to rain. It continued to rain for the next four and a half hours! I am not usually fazed by a little rain on a float trip, but four hours of downpour were not pleasant. The skies kept teasing. The rain would lighten to a drizzle for a few minutes and then it would come down in a torrent for another half hour. DW finally got out his phone to check the radar. It turns out the only patch of precipitation in 3 counties was centered right over us and it wasn’t moving much faster than we were. I discovered that my rain jacket is really a drizzle jacket. After a couple hours of rain it soaked right through. Somehow rain managed to find its way into my kayak skirt and down my back. We kept paddling through it all to stay warm and not delay our progress. We passed Big Spring during one of the heavier downpours, so I was not able to take any photos. DW saw a river otter in the spring. I only saw the bubbles as he dove under.

Putting in at the slough

Current River

Getting on the river just before the rain

Current River

Current River

Gravel bar clothes drying

Eventually the rain stopped, but the sky never cleared. We stopped on a gravel bar and took off our soaked clothing. DW turned on some music and an impromptu clothes drying dance party ensued. After we warmed up we packed away our wet gear and continued downriver.

Around 3:30pm we came to a couple of campgrounds and accesses that led me to believe we had reached our stopping point for the day. I discovered the next day that we were about 5 miles short. The map for this section of river is not up to date or isn’t as detailed as it should be. We passed many landmarks that weren’t on the map at all. It doesn’t help that the NFS has almost no signage naming any of the campgrounds and accesses along the way. We stopped at many access points only to discover the message board had no details whatsoever that would let you know what access you were at. I’m guessing this section of river just isn’t set up for paddlers.

We pulled over at a flat gravel bar and set up camp. It was so early that we took a short nap before starting a fire and settling in for the evening. As dark fell we roasted potatoes and onions in the fire and ate them with bratwurst, one of my favorite camp meals. The next morning dawned bright and sunny. We dried the heavy dew from our tent, packed our boats and started fishing down the river. Of course there was a big, beautiful gravel bar right around the bend that was much nicer than where we had camped!

Current River

Current River

Current River

Current River

Current River

Current River

Choppy waters

We spent most of the morning fishing. We both caught a few smallmouth bass. DW caught one that was a keeper, but he released it. I caught a couple 10-12 inch bass and lost quite a few lures on trees and rocks! A couple hours into our day we passed the access that we were supposed to stop at the day before. It was the only one that was labeled on the shore and on the map! We made up the time in the afternoon so it was no big deal. We saw a couple of people fishing in john boats, but no paddlers. This trip was one of the most solitary we’ve been on. We stopped at a NFS campground for lunch. I assume it was Gooseneck access, but there was no signage. We passed a cave on the river bank which was also not on the map, so I don’t know the name of it. Shortly after the cave I spotted a group of four river otters eating their lunch. The were hanging out on a tangle of trees in the water eating fish and playing around. They didn’t see me at first, but as soon as I reached for the camera they dove under. I was really close to them and probably could have reached one with my paddle! I’ve never been that close to otters before, so it was a cool experience.

Current River

A cave on the river

Current River

Current River

Current River

We spent the rest of the afternoon trying to figure out where we were. Eventually we came across some people at an access and asked them. The access didn’t have a name, but they told us what road it was on and we were able to locate it on the map. A couple of hours later we passed out of the Scenic River area and began to see cabins and houses along the banks. We stopped at a nice, flat gravel bar that had a pile of dead wood for our evening fire and stopped there for the night. It’s so nice to have a fire again after the long drought and fire ban of the summer. This weekend was the harvest moon and it rose full and bright over the river. We saw a lunar halo as well. There were a handful of gigging boats out that night and we watched them go up and down the river and cheered them on when they gigged a fish.

The next day was overcast and gloomy, but it didn’t rain. We spent most of our time fishing but only caught a couple of fish. We saw a pair of bald eagles on the river. They kept flying ahead of us so I couldn’t get a photo. I also saw a deer on the riverbank. As we got closer to Doniphan the riverbank became clogged with houses. There aren’t quite as many fancy houses near Doniphan as there are in Van Buren, but there were plenty of newly constructed mega-cabins.

Current River

Current River

Current River

Current River

Current River

Current River

Hwy. 160 bridge

Current River

Doniphan access

We arrived at our take-out in the early afternoon, packed up our gear and headed home. It was a good trip, despite the rain and it was fun to do a new section of river. This was the last big float of the year. We will probably do several day trips and short floats near home before winter sets in.

Critter Count: Turtles, Herons, Ducks, Hawks, Osprey, 2 Bald Eagles, 5 River Otters, 1 Deer

Bonus Prize: 1 child-size foam paddle board

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