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

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One Response to “Float #76 & 77: Big Piney River”

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