Float #88: Meramec River

4 Oct

Spanish Claim to Red Horse

F88_Meramec

Meramec River
Franklin County, Missouri
Sunday, September 8
20 Miles

Our first trip back from vacation was one of our favorite floats close to home. We do this 20 mile stretch once or twice a year. The shuttle only takes about 20 minutes and both access points are within 15 minutes of our house, so we get a lot of floating without much driving. Spanish Claim access is not on any maps, but I will tell you that it is located down a dead-end road in Meramec Conservation Area. You will know you’ve found it when you come to a gravel parking lot and an old concrete silo. To get to the river, you must follow a short trail through the woods and across a large gravel bar.

We had planned to wake up early and hit the water by 9am, but the day started out with rain showers. So we slept in another hour and took our time leaving, in hopes that the rain would move out before we started floating. We finally got on the water around 11am, and it was still raining. It didn’t last long and the sky cleared within the first few miles of paddling.

Morning drizzle

Morning drizzle

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The first half of this float has many long, slow pools which make good exercise. Paddling long distances like this can be very relaxing once you find your rhythm. The swish of the paddle, the soft thunk of the skeg, and the constant trickle of the water gliding under the boat all act like a metronome counting out the time. Finding that sweet spot where the kinetic energy of pulling the paddle back propels you forward for the next stroke. I usually fall into a zen-like state, living in the moment, focusing on my breathing, thinking of nothing. When I finally wake from this meditation I find I’ve paddled a couple of miles in no time at all!

Roaring Spring

Roaring Spring

A Bald Eagle eats his catch

A Bald Eagle eats his catch

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About 4 miles past Meramec Caverns there is a spring on the left side of the river. This is Roaring Spring, which flows out from a small cave entrance in a bluff. On this morning there was a light layer of fog where the cold spring water met the river. Just downstream of the spring a Bald Eagle was eating something on the gravel bar. He eyed us warily and then flew off as we approached. As the day wore on the sun came out and it warmed up enough to swim a little bit. We didn’t stop too many times though. No time to dawdle when you’re covering 20 miles in a day.

Flood debris

Flood debris

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Hwy. K bridge

Hwy. K bridge

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As we neared the end of our float we noticed the river has changed course a bit since last year. We had a few floods this spring and the Meramec got pretty high and stayed up for a few days at a time. There is an island above the Hwy. K bridge where the river switched channels. What was the side channel is now the main channel. There was a lot of wood piled on the bank and a boat with a large hole that wasn’t there before.

We arrived at Red Horse access around 6pm. It was a quiet day on the river and we didn’t see too many people. We had a great time as usual and then went home to fall asleep on the couch.

Critter Count: Turtles, Herons, Kingfishers, Hawks, 1 Bald Eagle

Bonus Prize: A Mizzou mini football

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