Archive | November, 2013

Float #92: Meramec River

18 Nov

Onondaga State Park to Sappington Bridge

F92_Meramec

Meramec River
Crawford County, Missouri
Monday, October 21
15 miles

This float was right in the peak of fall color for our area and what better place to enjoy it than the Meramec River. This section of the Meramec has many beautiful bluffs with some swift sections in the beginning and some slower pools near the end. Our good friend Aaron was in town from NYC, visiting relatives and we managed to meet up for a float trip. We drove to the access at Onondaga State Park and dropped our gear. Aaron and I stayed with the boats while our friend Mark helped DW run the shuttle. The day was cool and partly cloudy, but the sun came out a few times to warm us up.

Onondaga access

Onondaga access

Aaron get his riverlegs

Aaron get his riverlegs

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We didn’t see any other boaters that day, which is typical for a Monday. The first five miles of the float go by pretty quickly, as the water is swift in that section. As we floated past a small bluff I noticed a cave gate about 10 feet above the river bank, so I scrambled up to check it out. There was a sign identifying it as Saloon Cave. With a name like that, I imagine the cave must have some pretty nice formations. We also passed Campbell Bridge, which is another access five miles downriver from Onondaga.

Saloon Cave

Saloon Cave

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A hornet nest

A hornet nest

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While gazing upward at one of many tall bluffs I noticed a hornet’s nest in a tree, dangling over the water. I don’t see many of those. Luckily, the hornets were asleep. Around every turn there was another beautiful bluff topped with gorgeous fall foliage. We didn’t make many stops, as it was too cold to swim. On one bend of the river there was a herd of cows on the riverbank. The young ones had some fun running away and the older ones just looked at us and shambled off to the field.

Cows on the river

Cows on the river

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A cave high up in the bluff

A cave high up in the bluff

An old river cabin

An old river cabin

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Sappington bridge

Sappington bridge

One third of the way through the float we passed Blue Springs access. There is a spring here that flows into the river, but it is a bit of a hike up the spring branch to get to it. After Blue Springs the river slows down a lot and there are a few long pools that feel more like lakes. Eventually we reached our take out at Sappington Bridge, just as dusk was starting to fall. It was a nice float, though a bit chilly and we all had a lot of fun.

Critter Count: Herons, Hawks, Kingfishers, Turtles, Cows, 1 Hornet Nest

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Float #91: Mississippi River

8 Nov

Cape Girardeau to Commerce

F91_Mississippi

Mississippi River
Cape Girardeau and Scott counties, Missouri
Sunday, October 6
14 miles

Early in October the Mississippi River was low enough to visit Commerce Rock again. We had first visited the rock in February and had been talking about going again with some other people who hadn’t seen it yet. DW and I were joined by our old friends, Jess and Richard, who both live in Cape Girardeau, but had never seen Commerce Rock out of the water. I did not take photographs of the rock this trip, since we captured it so well the first time. To see those photos and read about Commerce Rock, see Float #62: Mississippi River.

We met up at Red Star access early in the morning. Red Star is just north of the casino in Cape Girardeau. Richard and DW drove to Commerce and dropped our truck at the end, while Jess and I staged the boats and poked around on the shore. The water was a couple feet lower than it had been in February. I remember us thinking back then that we wouldn’t see it that low again for some time, yet here we were with the water even lower. There were some barges operating on the river; we didn’t see any last time. That was a new experience for me. I didn’t think they ran on Sundays, but maybe they were trying to get cargo upriver before the water level dropped any lower. DW and Richard returned after an hour and we were on the river shortly after 9am. There was a good breeze that day and the water was a little choppy. It was a much more difficult paddle than the last Mississippi trip!

Red Star Access

Red Star Access

Red Star Access

Cape Riverwalk

Cape Riverwalk

Cape Bridge

Cape Bridge

Looking back at Cape from a sandbar

Looking back at Cape from a sandbar

Our first stop was a large island just south of the bridge. Richard is one of our caving buddies and he is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to geology and fossils. We decided to walk around on the sandbars and see what we could find. The landscape of the Mississippi is so different from other rivers in Missouri. The sandbars stretch on forever, dotted with isolated pools of water, driftwood, barge debris, iron parts from steamships long gone and the skeletons of huge fish and birds. The sands are constantly shifting to bury new things and unearth the old. We stopped at a couple other sandbars along the way and found many shells of snails and mussels, a pelican skeleton, a large carp skeleton, a large bristle brush (still in good condition) and some old iron. We also found a 12ft. length of barge rope, which we brought home for our dogs. It is now their favorite toy!

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The alien landscape of a Mississippi sandbar

The alien landscape of a Mississippi sandbar

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Beachcombing

Beachcombing

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After we were done beachcombing we paddled on toward Thebes, where there is a railroad bridge that crosses the river and a large outcropping of rocks on the right side of the river. The wind really picked up in this stretch and it was difficult to paddle into it. The water was choppy, but the waves weren’t too high. It definitely could have been worse!

We spent some time exploring the rocks, looking for fossils and other interesting things. We found some nice colored river rocks, a piece of coal and some more old iron. There were also a bunch of fossilized coral on the large bedrock. They make an interesting pattern of small dots. Once it was pointed out we started to see it everywhere. After spending about 40 minutes on the rocks, we got back in our boats and paddled toward Commerce.

A docked dredging operation

A docked dredging operation

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Thebes railroad bridge

Thebes railroad bridge

Exploring the rocks

Exploring the rocks

Fossilized coral

Fossilized coral

Rocks near Thebes

Rocks near Thebes

I was able to find Commerce Rock right away, while DW, Jess and Richard were still poking around on the banks looking for it. I guess I have a good visual memory. The rock was well out of the water this time, and most of the mud had dried up a bit. Last time it was really soupy! I had brought a diagram of the rock with me to find some of the less obvious markings, such as deer tracks and a duck. We spent about an hour here looking at the rock and exploring around it. We climbed up on a large boulder to view the river and we watched a large tugboat push a bunch of barges upriver. It was really interesting to watch him steer the barges around a corner and between the buoys. The channel was really narrow, so it was a very tight fit.

A large tug pushes upstream

A large tug pushes upstream

Richard rides the barge swell

Richard rides the barge swell

After the tug passed us we returned to our boats and paddled the rest of the way to our take out. The tugboat left large waves in its wake that were still churning 10 minutes after it passed us. It was fun to paddle through those. We arrived at Commerce access and climbed up the muddy bank (there is no boat ramp here) with our boats to load them on the truck. After our float we stopped at the local Mexican restaurant for some post-paddle food. It was another excellent day on the river. Even though it was the same stretch of the Mississippi we had done before it almost felt like a completely different float!

Bonus Prizes: 1 large bristle scrub brush, 1 length of barge rope