Archive | July, 2013

Float #79: Huzzah Creek

24 Jul

Hwy. 49 to Red Bluff

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Huzzah Creek
Crawford County, Missouri
Saturday, July 13
8 Miles

We floated this section of the Huzzah back in March when the water was at springtime levels. Since this section of river was so close to our campsite we decided to try it again at summertime water levels. Admittedly, it turned out to be a slog of dragging and portaging but we still had a good time. We put in at the Hwy. 49 bridge access, turning off onto a dirt path on the north side of the highway that leads down to a gravel bar. Joining us on this float were our friend Jake from Nashville, DW’s brother Dustin, and our friends Greg, Charlie, Alex and Scott.

Huzzah Creek

Hwy. 49 bridge access

Huzzah Creek

Huzzah Creek

Me

Huzzah Creek

DW jumps from the bluff

We spent quite a bit of time swimming on the first two miles of the trip. There were a few spots with deep swimming holes and one spot with a rope swing and a small bluff suitable for jumping. After the first couple of miles the portaging really started. There is a section of the creek that is very wide and shallow where we had to walk for a bit. After that the rest of the creek was littered with downed trees and strainers that we were unable to float around. Back in March the water was high enough that we could float over or around most of the debris, but there seemed to be a lot more debris in general this time. The creek did flood a few times between then and now and I think many more trees were washed into the waterway.

Huzzah Creek

Huzzah Creek

Alex dodges a log

Huzzah Creek

Huzzah Creek

Low water bridge

There is one low water bridge on this section and the water was low enough we could float under it instead of having to portage around. We weren’t the only people on the river that day. Some other people from our camp were floating as well, several kayaks and a canoe. I wouldn’t want to be in the canoe at that water level, the kayaks were difficult enough! Charlie, Alex and Scott stayed at the front of the pack, Jake and I were in the middle and DW stayed in the back with Greg and Dustin. Dustin was in the slowest boat to begin with, which he then loaded down with a heavy cooler. Somewhere near the middle of the float he lost a shoe (always wear shoes that attach to your feet) which slowed him down even more since it is more difficult to portage with one shoe! Even so, he was only about 15 minutes behind Jake and me.

Huzzah Creek

Strainers

Huzzah Creek

Huzzah Creek

Approaching Red Bluff campground

Just above the Highway V bridge we came to the spot where the river-wide log jam was in the spring. The log jam had been washed out, so we didn’t have to climb over it. However, the debris just got spread over a longer area so we ended up climbing over it in individual pieces instead of one large obstacle. At one point the creek split around an island. The left channel required ducking under one log and climbing over a couple of others, while the right channel looked easier. Jake took the left and I took the right. Turned out the right was not easier! After the first couple logs, Jake had smooth paddling and actually came out ahead of Charlie, Alex and Scott, who had been in the front of the group. The right channel was nearly a constant portage of downed trees and driftwood choking the channel.

Eventually we arrived at Highway V bridge, two miles above our takeout at Red Bluff. There seemed to be more water down from V and we hardly had to portage at all. We should have put in there, but then we would have missed out on all that exercise and adventure! We all arrived safely back at camp an hour or so before dusk, with a story to tell and some new muscles.

Critter Count: Herons, Hawks, Turtles

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Float #78: Current River

19 Jul

Baptist Camp to Cedar Grove

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Current River
Dent County, Missouri
Friday, July 12
8 Miles

This past weekend we camped near Dillard Mill, east of Salem, with the MVOR caving group. This was a reschedule of the April event that was flooded out. We were blessed with pleasant weather for July, not too hot and no rain. On Friday morning we headed down to the campground, set up our tent and prepared our gear for floating. Our friend Greg met us at the campground. Our camp neighbor, Derrick, had no plans for the day so we invited him to come floating with us since we brought extra boats. He jumped at the chance, so we threw another boat on top of the car and drove down to the Current River. The Current is about an hour drive from where we were camped, but the float was worth the drive. DW and I have never floated above Cedar Grove, so we were eager to get this section under our belts. We dropped Greg’s car at Cedar Grove and drove the short shuttle to Baptist Camp. As we unloaded our gear a large swarm of tube floaters launched into the stream. We would encounter them several times throughout our trip and practiced our turning and dodging skills around them.

Current River

Current River

Current River

Current River

There was just enough water on this section to float easily without scraping or hitting any rocks. A few inches lower and it would have drug a little in some spots. The water was crystal clear and deliciously cold. Almost as cold as spring water and just what I needed on a July day. The Current is so small and creek-like on this upper portion and it was fun to compare it to the float we did last fall on the lower section from Van Buren to Doniphan. Despite the small size of the river it still moved at a good pace. I would love to do this section in high water. That would be a lot of fun! If only the park service didn’t close the river every time it started to get exciting (dang safety precautions).

Current River

Our camp neighbor, Derrick

Current River

Current River

I spent most of the float looking down into the water at all the beautiful fish. There are a lot of smallmouth bass and rainbow trout in this section. We talked to a few fisherman, who said the fish were skittish today and weren’t biting much. This section is just downstream of Montauk State Park, one of Missouri’s trout parks, so this part of the Current is a blue ribbon trout area, which means you can only keep one 18″ trout per day. I’ve never caught a trout that large outside of the stocked trout parks, but a girl can dream.

We passed a few small bluffs and gravel bars that would be excellent for camping. There aren’t any landmarks on this section besides a creek that enters on your right, about 3.5 miles into the trip.

Current River

Current River

Approaching Cedar Grove bridge

All too soon we reached Cedar Grove and our trip was over. DW and Derrick left to run the shuttle while Greg and I made small talk with some people chilling in the river. They were from Desoto, which is about half and hour from where I live. That seems to be a running theme this year, meeting people on the river who live close to me! DW soon arrived with the Subaru and we loaded the boats. People were asking how we were going to fit 4 kayaks on the car. The answer is creative stacking! We have put 5 on top before, but that requires the assistance of a step stool or someone well over 6 feet tall. We all agreed that it was a really nice trip and headed back to camp to enjoy dinner and a night around the bonfire. The next day we would scrape ourselves down the upper Huzzah, a test in portaging skills that not everybody passed.

Critter Count: Blue Herons, Turtles, Ducks

Float #76 & 77: Big Piney River

11 Jul

Boiling Springs to Ross Bridge

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Big Piney River
Texas and Pulaski Counties, Missouri
Saturday, June 29 & Sunday, June 30
30 Miles

One of our good friends, Lucas is getting married in September and since DW was unable to attend his bachelor party we treated him to an overnight trip on the Big Piney river. This was the first overnight trip for Lucas and it is always a pleasure taking someone on their first overnight float. Our friend Greg also joined us and they borrowed two of our kayaks while DW hauled the gear in the canoe. We haven’t been to the Big Piney in many years. Although it is a nice river and we talk about going every year, it seems to never make it into our float plans.

The Big Piney is a beautiful river located just west of Rolla. It flows south to north and empties into the Gasconade River just past Fort Leonardwood. The Big Piney is primarily known for its excellent fishing and scenic bluffs. It is not as popular as some other Ozark streams and thus has less traffic. We saw very few people on our two-day trip, and in the height of summer that is a rarity. Most people who float the Big Piney are locals or people who come back every year for the fishing. The water is a bit slow in some sections, with very long lake-like pools, but other sections move at a nice pace and there are some twisty, narrow turns. No matter which section you float, you’re likely to see some wildlife and scenic bluff views.

We spent Friday night at Boiling Springs campground, just across the road from Boiling Springs access, and woke up (probably a  little too late) to run the long shuttle. It took over an hour to run our car up to the take out. Once we got back to the put in we spent some time arranging our gear and were finally on the water some time after noon. We knew we had to complete 15 miles each day, so we spent a good amount of time paddling the first day. The first day the water was rather slow and there were lots of long, still pools.

Boiling Springs access

Boiling Springs access

A tight turn

A tight turn

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Falling Springs

Falling Springs

Falling Springs

Falling Springs

In the late afternoon of the first day we came to Falling Springs, on the right bank of the river. The water tumbles down moss-covered boulders into the river. I climbed up around the boulders to get a look at the mouth of spring, as there is a lot of water falling down the hillside. Surprisingly the mouth of the spring is very small. It all gushes out from under a small rock ledge. We spent some time here cooling our ankles before getting back in the boat to paddle on to our halfway point. Farther downstream I noticed an animal swimming across the river, it was a muskrat. I followed him for a while as he tried to elude me by diving underwater, recrossing the stream and occasionally ducking behind a tree root. He didn’t seem too concerned though, he probably thought I was more annoying than threatening.

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Storms approaching

Storms approaching

Our campsite

Our campsite

After we passed Slabtown access we started to look for a gravel bar to camp on. There had been long stretches of river with no gravel bars, so we crossed our fingers hoping to find something suitable before dark. Not long after Slabtown we saw a nice large gravel bar across from a scenic bluff, the best kind of campsite! As we pulled up to the campsite dark clouds moved toward us from behind the bluff. It seemed that rain was imminent, so we immediately grabbed our tents to set them up before the rain. As we pulled our tent from the bag and set it on the ground a few sprinkles hit our arms. We quickly assembled the poles and began to thread them through the tent. BOOM, DOWNPOUR! We struggled to get the tent upright as the wind tried to rip it from our hands. Quickly, find the stakes and pound them into the gravel as the tent rolls over onto its side. Water everywhere. The rain fly is hurriedly assembled, but it’s like trying to wrestle a kite in a gale. It only took one or two minutes to get the tent stabilized and the rain fly attached, but it’s too late. Then tent is full of puddles. Luckily we brought a towel (should have brought two) and I crawled in the tent to sop up the worst of the damage. The rain shower was over as quickly as it had begun. I was able to get the tent floor dried and then we set about getting the rest of our camp put together. We started a fire on the gravel bar and the men gathered more wood and sawed some larger pieces into manageable chunks. Before long we had a respectable blaze going and we all dried out around the fire. The sky that night was completely clear and you could see an impressive amount of stars.

Bridge after Slabtown

Bridge after Slabtown

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Spring branch

Spring branch

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The next morning I awoke to some light sprinkles, but by 8am the sky had cleared a bit and the sun started to come out. Somehow, our tent had dried out completely and there was hardly and dew on the rain fly. Most of the year we’ve had to put the tent away wet because of rain and heavy dew, but not today. I stoked the remnants of the fire and heated some breakfast burritos on the larger logs while we took down our tents and packed everything back in the canoe. By 9:30 we were back on the water. Our first stop was a spring branch on the left side of the river. We didn’t venture up into the spring branch as it looked like a long, deep water walk and it was on private property. The water coming out was very cold and made the river seem like bath water.

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Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

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We saw two Bald Eagles on this trip and one of them stayed in a tree long enough for me to snap a photo. During the afternoon the sky clouded over again and it looked like it could rain, but not anything as heavy as the day before. I kept my kayak skirt and rain jacket handy just in case. Eventually it did start to sprinkle and then it rained for about twenty minutes, but not long or heavy enough to become uncomfortable. The second day of the trip had many more tall bluffs and rocky outcroppings jutting from hillsides. I would recommend floating from Slabtown access downstream as it was a more enjoyable float than Boiling Springs to Slabtown. As we neared the end of our trip, I noticed a tuft of grass moving downriver, then it shot across the river against the current. Intrigued, I paddled closer to find another muskrat. I assume he was carrying the grass across the river to his den. It was very cool to see.

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A muskrat swims with some grass he collected

A muskrat swims with some grass he collected

Ross Bridge

Ross Bridge

We arrived at Ross Bridge access around 4pm. Ross Bridge access is a very primitive access with no concrete boat ramp, just a medium-sized, muddy parking lot. We transferred all the gear from our boats to the car and loaded the boats onto the trailer. We then made the long trek back to Boiling Springs to pick up Greg’s car. We stopped at a Mexican restaurant for dinner and eventually arrived home around 8pm. It was a long weekend and a very good time. DW and I plan to go back and float the sections above and below this one at a later date. Hopefully we will take some time to do some fishing too. This has been a good year for overnight floats and our canoe is getting more use than it has in a long time. Our next float plans are the very upper end of the Current and some more Huzzah adventures.

Critter Count: Blue Herons, Ducks, 2 Bald Eagles, Turtles, 2 Muskrats