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

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