Float #95: Big River

10 Mar

Blackwell to Washington State Park

F95_BigRiver

Big River
Washington County, Missouri
Sunday, March 9
8 Miles

Well, it has been a long break since DW and I last floated! The winter here has been brutally cold and most of our waterways were frozen over for months. I don’t think we have ever gone this long between trips. Our last float was at the end of December and here it is mid-March as we finally accomplished our first float of 2014. It felt so good to get back on the water and exercise those paddling muscles!

This trip we were joined by our good friend Jake from Nashville. He was in Missouri for a few days and met up with us for a float trip. Unfortunately he neglected to bring his kayak with him (rookie mistake). As a punishment for his oversight we loaned him Stable Mabel, our slowest boat, that we loan out to beginners.

We started our trip by trying to locate Blackwell Conservation area, which apparently is an access that no longer exists. We did find an access just off of Hwy. CC on the right side of the road just past the bridge. The access had some large limestone rocks that are standard MDC issue and there were no signs saying it was private or not to park, so we did. DW and Jake then ran the short shuttle down to Washington State Park to drop a car while I waited with the boats. They were back within 20 minutes. We were on the water by 1pm, perfect timing for a short afternoon float.

Readying our boats at Blackwell access

Readying our boats at the access

Blackwell bridge

Blackwell bridge

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The beginning of the float was slow-moving through a long pool of still water. We passed under the Hwy. CC bridge that replaced the old Blackwell bridge back in 2004. Blackwell is a tiny town that is known in the area for being haunted. The old Blackwell bridge was supposed to be haunted as well. The story is a county judge back in the time of the Civil War would hang people from that bridge. There are many stories floating around of ghost sightings and strange encounters in some of the old town buildings and the cemetery. A quick internet search for Blackwell, Missouri will result with many of these stories.

After we passed the bridge the slow water continued past a large grouping of private camp sites with shelters on the right bank. I imagine this area of the river is crowded on summer weekends with people swimming, fishing and camping. After the private camp the river picked up speed as the channel narrowed and the water went over some ripples.

DW floats through an obstacle, backwards

DW floats through an obstacle, backwards

RR bridge

RR bridge

Hwy 21 bridge

Hwy 21 bridge

We stopped for lunch on a small gravel bar in the middle of the river. There was a sycamore tree blocking most of the main channel, but there was a small area just big enough for a kayak or canoe to clear it. DW floated through it backwards because he always has to take the more difficult path. We spent about an hour over lunch basking in the warm sunlight, sheltered from the chilly breeze that accompanied us most of our float. After lunch we passed under an old railroad bridge and then a mile later we passed under Hwy. 21 bridge. Just after Hwy. 21 there was another access on the left that looked like it might belong to the state park, but it isn’t on the map.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe last mile or two of the trip we floated around a large oxbow as the sun began to get lower in the sky. Most of the way the sun was right in our eyes and the reflection off the water was almost as bright. The temperature started to drop as the shadows became longer. There were a couple more sections with deadwood obstacles that were fun to maneuver and we saw some small patches of ice that were left over from the last freeze.

We arrived at the state park access around 6pm. The boat access gate was closed for the winter so we had to carry our boats back to the main parking lot. We didn’t see anyone else on the river all day, though there were a few people on the banks enjoying the weather. It was a nice float to start the season and DW and I both felt refreshed to get back on the water.

Critter Count: Turtles, Hawks, Ducks, Kingfishers

Bonus Prize: One small, waterlogged air compressor that may or may not be salvageable

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