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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