Float #69: Meramec River

2 May

Short Bend to Woodson K. Woods

F69_Meramec

Meramec River
Dent & Crawford Counties, Missouri
Saturday, April 20
25 miles

We were scheduled to float a lower section of the Meramec on this Saturday, but a large amount of rain the previous week caused the river to rise out of its banks. Since that trip got cancelled we decided to go all the way upriver where the water level was already falling. We’ve been wanting to do this trip on the upper Meramec for a while, but you need good water levels to float it. At 25 miles we also needed a good full day to paddle. DW and I drove down to our takeout at Woodson K. Woods Conservation Area near Steelville Saturday morning and met up with our friend Mark who ran our shuttle. It was a bit of a drive to get all the way upriver, but very scenic. We arrived at the Hwy. 19 bridge, where the Short Bend access is located and were on the water around 11am.

Meramec River

Short Bend access

Meramec River

Lake spillway

Meramec River

Meramec River

Low water bridge

Even though the water was brown and the air a little chilly, the sun was shining and the countryside was in full spring glory. The water was quick and a little choppy, which is the way we prefer it! We paddled steadily with no breaks, not knowing how long it would take us to go the 25 miles. There are several low water bridge to cross on this float and they are all on the float map (unlike that Huzzah trip). We cam to the first one fairly quickly, but the water was not high enough to float over. Most of the bridges on this float had to be portaged, but I think the water would have been a little scary if it was high enough to float over!

Meramec River

Hwy. M bridge

Meramec River

Meramec River

Meramec River

Approaching the dam

Meramec River

DW runs the dam

13 miles into the trip is a low dam that usually needs to be portaged. There is a tall stone wall jutting out into the water right before the dam. DW went to the right and was able to float over the dam. I went to the left and floated over, but I scraped a little bit on the descent. The dam was a 2 or 3 foot drop when we went over it. It was fun, but not too exciting. A little more water would have been good for this obstacle. After we passed the dam we realized we were making really good time and decided to stop paddling constantly. The water was probably running 3-4 mph on its own and if we kept paddling we’d be done too early.

Meramec River

Fishermen at low water bridge

Meramec River

The laziest flood log

Meramec River

Meramec River

Shortly after the dam we came to another low water bridge where some men were fishing. One of them caught a nice sized bass right as we pulled up. Another fisherman remarked to DW, “Isn’t the water too high to be floating?” DW quipped back that the water was a little too low for his liking since he had to portage all these bridges. A little later we floated past a large log that was riding the current downstream. We thought it must be the laziest flood log, since all its buddies had gone downstream a couple of days earlier. There was a lot of flood debris in the trees bordering the river. Leaves and sticks covered everything a few feet above us. At one point the banks were covered with loose hay. I guess someone’s hay got swept away and deposited along the river for a couple miles. It made everything look a little creepy, like Halloween tinsel!

Meramec River

Meramec River

Meramec River

Eventually we came to the low water bridge at Hwy. U, which is the uppermost place we have floated previous to this trip. That bridge was underwater so we were able to float over it. Everything down from here looked familiar, but the water was much, much lower last time we floated it. We took these last few miles pretty easy and just let the current carry us. We were going to finish this float a couple hours earlier than expected. Unfortunately it was way too cold to swim and most of the gravel bars were underwater, so there was no reason to stop and dawdle.

Meramec River

Meramec River

Meramec River

Hwy. 8 bridge

All too soon, we heard the sound of traffic and knew the bridge was up ahead and our trip was over. We finished it in less than 6 hours without paddling very hard. When you’re floating a new section of river you never really know what you will encounter or how fast the water is. These 25 miles went by quicker and easier than the 20 we did on the Huzzah a few weeks ago, probably because we didn’t have nearly as many portages! It was a great trip and a lot of fun.

Critter Count: Blue Herons, Ducks, Green Herons, Hawks, Turtles

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