Archive | April, 2013

Float #66: Huzzah Creek

16 Apr

Dillard Mill to Hwy. Z

F65_Huzzah

Huzzah Creek
Crawford County, Missouri
Saturday, March 30
20 miles

I have floated the Huzzah lots of times, but never above Hwy. Z access. Since the water is up a little this spring, DW and I decided to float from the beginning of the Huzzah down to Hwy. Z. This was quite an adventure for such a little float stream. I don’t know anyone who has floated the upper stretches of the Huzzah, and from all the fallen trees, it doesn’t look like many people float it at all. 0.0 access is at the Hwy. 49 bridge. There is a muddy track off the northbound side of the highway that leads to a gravel bar under the bridge. DW and I wanted to get a few extra miles in so we headed upstream to the head of the Huzzah at Dillard Mill. Dillard Mill is a State Historic Site surrounding a red grist mill from the early 20th century. We parked in the main parking lot and carried our boats down to the creek, maybe a quarter of a mile. Dillard Mill is about 2 miles above the Hwy. 49 access. As we floated toward the highway, we came across a couple of groups of locals, hiking along the creek and hanging out. We got some weird looks, so I don’t think they see many kayakers on this part of the creek. We also saw a pack of four dogs roaming the woods. Three of them were very interested in who we were, the fourth was cautious and didn’t approach us.

Huzzah Creek

Hwy. 49 Bridge

Huzzah Creek

Huzzah Creek

Huzzah Creek

An adult Bald Eagle

Huzzah Creek

A juvenile Bald Eagle

The creek was wider than I anticipated on the upper stretch and there were some tall bluffs after we passed under the bridge. The water was plenty deep until we came to an area of farm fields where the creek got very wide and shallow. Our first portage was in this area due to the water only being a few inches deep. Our first wildlife sighting was a pair of owls flying overhead into the woods. At the end of the farmland area we came across two Bald Eagles on the shore. One was an adult and the other a juvenile. The adult just stayed in the tree and watched us. The juvenile kept flying up and down the creek, always keeping us in view, until he settled in the top of a dead tree. We don’t get to see juvenile eagles all that often, so it was a cool experience.

Huzzah Creek

One of many low water bridges

Huzzah Creek

A shallow portage

Huzzah Creek

A log jam portage

Huzzah Creek

Soon we came to a low water bridge. I don’t know which road it was, as it was not on the river map. We floated over 3 or 4 low water bridges that were not on the map. The upper section of the Huzzah map is not very accurate, the mileage is not quite correct and many of the landmarks are not listed. If you are floating this section I would look at Google maps or a gazetteer in addition to the river map. You will have a much better understanding of where you are. After the first low water bridge we had many portages around fallen trees. Most of them were just too shallow to float around. We did come to one really big log jam that blocked the whole creek. That was tricky to carry the boats over because there was no ground under the trees, just deep water, so we had to get out of the boat onto a tree, carry it over and get back in standing on another tree. I don’t think we were on the main channel either. Somehow we had veered off, probably trying to get around another fallen tree. After we portaged the large log jam we saw the main channel on our left.

Huzzah Creek

Hwy. V bridge

Huzzah Creek

Huzzah Creek

Red Bluff campground

Huzzah Creek

Red Bluff

Soon it started to rain, just a sprinkle at first, but it turned into a drizzle that lasted the rest of the float. Luckily it wasn’t too cold and I didn’t get chilled until my rain gear decided to leak near the end of the trip. We paddled under Hwy. V bridge, the only large bridge we passed, and one of the few on the map. Just downstream from Hwy. V is Red Bluff campground. Red Bluff is a forest service campground open from mid-April through mid-October. There are some wood log erosion control barriers on the left side of the creek that signal your approach to the campground. You can access the Huzzah from this camp when it is open, though there is a daily use fee of a couple of dollars per vehicle. Across from the campground is Red Bluff itself. It is a towering bluff colored red by oxidized iron. It is certainly the most scenic bluff along the Huzzah. It would have been nice to spend a little time here if it wasn’t raining!

Huzzah Creek

Huzzah Creek

After Red Bluff we paddled continuously until the end of the trip, trying to stay warm in the rain. We portaged over a couple more low water bridges and passed under a railroad bridge. With the steady rain, it was almost impossible to take any photos that weren’t blurry with moisture on the lens. We finally made it to Hwy. Z access, changed out of our wet clothes and loaded up our gear. We made really good time for a 20 mile float, but my arms and shoulders were pretty fatigued from all the paddling and the portaging. I think if I do more upper creek floats, I’m going to take my old red kayak. My yellow Dagger kayak is much heavier and I grew very tired of lifting it over trees all weekend!

Overall this was a really cool float and one I would gladly do again if the water was a little higher so we didn’t have to portage so much. The weather is starting to warm up a bit, but hopefully the rain keeps coming so we can do more 0.0 float trips!

Critter Count: Dogs, Owls, Bald Eagles, Hawks, Herons, Ducks, Kingfishers

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Float #65: Little Piney Creek

16 Apr

Lane Spring to Newburg

F65_LittlePiney

Little Piney Creek
Phelps County, Missouri
Friday, March 29
13 miles

Every year at Easter DW and I go camping and floating. It’s kind of our kick off to the camping season. Some years it is pleasant and warm, other years it’s really cold. Most every year it rains at some point during the trip. This year we planned to go to the Buffalo River in Arkansas, but that plan got rained out. So we decided to stay closer to home and float some rivers we hadn’t done in a long time. This year we picked the Little Piney and the upper Huzzah. We left our house early in the morning on Good Friday and set up our camp at Hazel Creek Recreation Area near Potosi in Washington county. Hazel Creek is a small forest service campground that serves as a trail head for the Ozark Trail. There are picnic tables, fire rings and lantern posts provided and there is no fee to camp. However there is no trash service and also no bathrooms (not even pit toilets). So bring your shovel! We hastily set up our tent and then continued on to Rolla to meet up with our friend Richard and his son, Mike to float the Little Piney.

The Little Piney is a small stream that is only floatable for about 18 miles. It starts out at Hwy. 63, just south of Rolla and flows into the Gasconade River. The Little Piney is a Blue Ribbon trout stream for the majority of the waterway and White Ribbon on the lower end. We started our trip at Lane Spring (mile 0.0 on float maps), a forest service recreation area and campground with a small spring branch. You can put in above Lane Spring at Yancy Mills which is an access under the Hwy. 63 bridge and maybe a mile or two above Lane Spring. However both of these access points are only usable in good water conditions and best attempted in the spring.

As we ran shuttle from Newburg to Lane Spring we tried to take a shortcut across one of the county roads. However, we soon came upon a small creek that had risen over the road. The water was fast and muddy. Not wanting to take any chances, we turned around and went the longer way on the county highway. We finally got our boats on the water around noon. Right around the first bend we came across a tree blocking the stream. This would be the running theme for the first half of the trip. Not many people float the upper section of this creek so it does not get cleared often. We carried our boats over many such obstacles during the first couple hours of paddling. During one portage I stepped on what appeared to be a solid gravel bar, but was actually quick sand! With a yelp I found myself sunk up to mid calf in wet sand. So much for dry socks! It provided some humor for everyone else though.

Little Piney Creek

Little Piney Creek

DW wiggles under a fallen tree

Little Piney Creek

Low water bridge off Hwy. W

Little Piney Creek

The first few miles of the trip the water was clear and that beautiful milky, turquoise color you only find in Ozark streams. However, we soon passed the creek that had been over the road and it turned the whole stream brown. But at least it gave us some more water to float on! The Piney stayed brown for the rest of the trip. We never saw any rain, the sky was mostly sunny and the weather was pleasant, but I guess it rained heavily somewhere up that creek branch. About three miles down from Lane Spring is a low water bridge. There was enough water for DW and I to float over it in our kayaks. Richard and Mike were in a canoe, so they portaged it.

Little Piney Creek

Little Piney Creek

Little Piney Creek

Little Piney Creek

As the float progressed the portages became fewer and the water more plentiful. There were even a couple of bends with some choppy water. We floated past farmlands and forests and small bluffs topped with pine trees overlooking the creek. There were many birds on this trip, but we didn’t see any eagles this time. We did see an eagle’s nest, but no birds were around.

Little Piney Creek

An eagle’s nest

Little Piney Creek

Fence across the creek

Little Piney Creek

Little Piney Creek

Hwy. T bridge at Newburg

Toward the end of the trip we came across a fence in the creek. It wasn’t all the way across, so there was plenty of room to float over it. I’m not sure if fences across the water are legal on this stream or not. Those rules vary from county to county and stream to stream. Right before you reach Newburg there is a railroad track that runs along the creek. As soon as you see the tracks you are pretty much done. Soon you see the village of Newburg and the Hwy. T bridge and access. We had a great day and enjoyed floating with Richard and his son. The Little Piney is a stream I always enjoy floating or fishing. It is always beautiful, never crowded and there is usually some kind of adventure along the way!

Critter Count: Herons, Ducks, Turtles, Turkey, Hawks, Kingfishers

Float #64: Big River

1 Apr

Mammoth to Brown’s Ford

F64_Big

Big River
Jefferson County, Missouri
Saturday, March 16
9 miles

This is a repeat of a float we did back in November, so I’m not going to go into great detail about the features of this section. To read more about this float please read Float #58. This time we floated with a small group from St. Louis Adventure Group. Just like the last time we floated this section the day started out pleasant and sunny and got colder and cloudier all day long. We put in at Mammoth access off Hwy. H between Desoto and Richwoods. The river had been flooded the previous week, so there was lots of debris on the banks and mud on the boat ramp.

Big River

Mammoth access

Big River

Big River

Big River

Turkey fly over the river

Most of the trip was spent paddling and trying to stay warm. We met some new people and caught up with John, a SLAG member and Big River enthusiast we have paddled with before. When we stopped for lunch we built a small fire and dried out any damp gear and warmed our toes. Luckily it didn’t rain on us, but it looked like it could have. It doesn’t seem like spring is coming anytime soon! To think that this time last year it was 80 degrees and everything was in bloom. Still, I’d rather have a little longer winter and hope that summer is less brutal than last year (we had drought and record high temps).

Big River

Big River

Big River

Old Hwy. H bridge

Big River

Big River

We got off the river sometime after 4pm and helped to run shuttle back to the put-in. It was a nice float even if it was chilly and we had a good time with the SLAG group.

Critter Count: Hawks, Herons, Turkey

Float #63: Courtois Creek

1 Apr

Berryman to Onondaga State Park

F63_Courtois

Courtois Creek
Crawford Missouri
Saturday, March 9
18 miles

Courtois Creek is a large creek that runs into the Huzzah. Though some sections are floatable year round it is best floated in the spring with ample water. This creek is one of my favorites because of its many tight turns and lots of obstacles. If the water is really up and moving it can be quite challenging. This creek is the site of the only time DW and I have ever flipped our canoe. This year’s trip was not so eventful. The water was up a little bit, but still clear and manageable. The day dawned with rain showers, but by the time we hit the water the sun was shining and the day was looking up.

We drove to Berryman access, which is the Hwy. 8 bridge. There is a small 4×4 trail on the westbound side of the highway that goes under the bridge. It can sometimes be muddy or washed out, so it is best suited to a 4 wheel drive vehicle. My Aunt & Uncle were taking a road trip in the area that day and offered to run shuttle for us. DW and my Uncle ran the car down to Onondaga State Park, which is on the Meramec River. After the Courtois runs into the Huzzah it is a short float to the Meramec and down to Onondaga. It is a neat float because you start out at a small stream that gradually gets bigger with each incoming creek and confluence, until you are on the Meramec.

Courtois Creek

DW bails his boat

Courtois Creek

Courtois Creek

Courtois Creek

A near portage

Courtois Creek

DW rides the ripples

Within the first 2 minutes of floating DW took on some water trying to split the middle between a gravel bar and a tree root. Naturally, I had to photograph him bailing the boat (for blog purposes)! There were many tight spots in the first few miles of creek. We had to portage around a couple of trees that had fallen and just barely squeaked by a large branch blocking 98% of the channel. Then DW broke his paddle in half. It is a wooden paddle that was getting pretty worn by last summer, so it was due to fail. Luckily we had a spare paddle, or he would’ve had a really long day of awkward paddling.

Courtois Creek

Courtois Creek

Courtois Creek

Courtois Creek

Four miles downstream of Hwy. 8 is a low water bridge at Scotia. You can put in here, but there is no legal place to park your vehicle. Unless the water is really high you have to portage over this bridge. After the bridge the creek gets narrow and flows next to some pretty bluffs. Soon after that you cross another low water bridge at Bass Canoe Rental. Bass is the only outfitter on the Courtois and they have a large campground offering just about anything you can think of. It tends to get very busy in the summer and is often full of the young, party crowd, so I tend to avoid the place. I like my float trips and camping to be relaxing most of the time!

Courtois Creek

Courtois Creek

Courtois Creek

Courtois Creek

Courtois Creek

Confluence with the Huzzah

A few miles down from Bass is Huzzah Conservation Area. This conservation area accesses both the Courtois and the Huzzah. There is parking and primitive camping is available September – May. Shortly after the conservation area the Courtois confluences with Huzzah creek. Less than half a mile on the Huzzah you run into the conservation area again, where there is another access and another low water bridge. You can usually float under this bridge unless the water is high.

Courtois Creek

Huzzah access at the conservation area

Courtois Creek

Courtois Creek

Courtois Creek

The bridge at Onondaga

Within a mile the Huzzah confluences with the Meramec River. It is always neat to float from the twisty creek onto the mighty Meramec. Although it’s not so very mighty here, it seems so after creek floating all day! As the day began to darken we paddled the last three miles down to Onondaga State Park where our vehicle was waiting. It was a very enjoyable day. Hopefully the water will stay plentiful this year so we can get some more creek floating under our paddles!

Critter Count: Ducks, Herons, Turtles, Hawks, 2 Bald Eagles.