Float #98-100: Jacks Fork River

30 Apr

The Prongs to Bay Creek

F98_JacksFork

Jacks Fork River
Texas and Shannon Counties, Missouri
Friday, April 18 – Sunday, April 20
25 Miles

Last summer we floated the Jacks from The Prongs and enjoyed it so much we wanted to come back and do it again, but take our time and do some fishing. This year’s Easter float trip seemed like the perfect opportunity. The water levels were very good and the weather was really beautiful! It has been many years since we have had an Easter float with such sunny, warm weather. Usually it is rainy, cold, or both.

We left our house in the afternoon and drove the two and a half hours to The Prongs access, arriving in the early evening, about an hour and a half before sunset. We planned to float a couple of miles and find a good camping spot. That way we could wake up on the river and not have to pay for a campground site!

Setting off Friday evening

Setting off on Friday evening

Floating under the bridge

Floating under the bridge

A look back at the bridge

A look back at the bridge

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Our first campsite

Our first campsite

The first turn after the access is an old bridge with large culverts to float through. It is easy to float under and provides a nice framing of the river ahead. After the bridge is a fallen tree that spans most of the river. The same tree was there last summer. I thought for sure a flood or a human would have cleared it by now! Since there was more water now than in the summer it was a little easier to float through, but if your skills aren’t up to par I would portage around it. I wiggled my kayak through a narrow space in the middle, while DW scraped past on the far left. After the tree there aren’t any big obstacles, but there are many quick runs with multiple boulders and splashy waves. That’s why this upper section is so much fun!

We saw a lot of wildlife during our short float Friday evening, including a juvenile Bald Eagle and a beaver! As the sun began to set we looked for a good gravel bar to camp. The first one we looked at had too many large rocks to sleep comfortably, but the next gravel bar was perfect. I unpacked and set up the tent while DW collected firewood. We then built a fire and enjoyed a delicious dinner of burritos warmed over the open fire.

The next morning we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast of ham and egg sandwiches before setting off for the day. We were on the river a little after 10am. A couple of bends around the river we stopped for a little bit to fish. DW caught a 12″ smallmouth and I caught a stupid sunfish. That set up the theme for our fishing the rest of the trip. DW reeled in the smallmouth while I was plagued with sunfish. We didn’t catch anything much bigger than that first fish the rest of the weekend.

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Fast ripples

Fast ripples

Looking out from a cave

Looking out from a cave

We spent Saturday’s float concentrating on taking it slow and fishing every good spot we came across. Good fishing holes abound on the upper Jacks, there seems to be one around every bend. We also noticed a lot of caves in the surrounding bluffs. This time of year, before the trees leaf out, it is much easier to see all the holes in the hillsides. We came across one cave at river level that was gated, but we could float into the mouth.

Six miles from The Prongs is Hwy. 17 bridge and Buck Hollow access. This access is where most people put on the river. There were several people hanging out at the access and a couple of kayakers just getting on the river. Three miles down from Buck Hollow is Blue Spring. There is a small campground on the right side of the river and the spring is across from it. We saw many springs on this float, most of them just small faucets gushing from the banks.

We also saw a lot of wildlife on the second day, including more Bald Eagles, many deer and a couple of large softshell turtles. Apparently we weren’t the only people who decided Easter weekend was a great time for floating. We came across quite a few canoes on Saturday, many of them doing overnight trips as well.

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Hwy 17 bridge

Hwy 17 bridge

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Blue Spring

Blue Spring

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We ended our day at Jam Up Cave, a large cave on the right side of the river that is obscured by large boulders. There is an excellent gravel bar across from the cave that is almost always occupied on weekends in the summer. Luckily for us, we were the first to arrive, so we claimed our spot and set up camp. There was already some firewood piled by the fire pit and DW found some more cut logs laying in the woods. With firewood easily secured we spent the rest of the daylight fishing the hole just above the cave. Somehow DW managed to hook a small mussel, something that has never happened to either of us before. As darkness fell we cooked up some chicken and potatoes over the fire while listening to the whip-poor-wills and spring peepers sing.

Preparing camp at Jam Up Cave

Preparing camp at Jam Up Cave

Our campsite at Jam Up Cave

Our campsite at Jam Up Cave

DW caught a mussel

DW caught a mussel

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The next morning we awoke early, ate a quick breakfast of leftovers from dinner the night before, packed camp and were on the river around 9:30. We fished for a bit in the morning, but the wind picked up and made casting difficult so we gradually stopped fishing as we approached the afternoon. DW spent most of the day perfecting his stand-up canoe paddling. He concluded that it is easier to navigate standing, but only if you are sober. A few beers in, you might fall out of that canoe!

Four miles from Jam Up Cave is Rhymers access. The river splits just before the access and if you take the fork on the left you will come across Ebb & Flow Spring. It is a pretty little spring that bubbles from some rocks in the bank. After Rhymers is the Missouri State Teacher’s Assoc. campground, a beautifully maintained campground that is for the use of teachers and their families. It looks like a great place to stay!

The weather was so warm on Sunday that DW and I both took a quick swim on our lunch break. The water was really cold, as can be expected in April. I don’t know that I have ever swam this early in the year, but it sure did feel good!

Ebb & Flow Spring

Ebb & Flow Spring

Missouri State Teachers Camp

Missouri State Teachers Camp

DW SUPs his canoe

DW SUPs his canoe

Another spring

Another spring

Baby turtles

Baby turtles

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As we neared our takeout we fished another couple of bends before taking off the river around 3:30. Bay Creek was a little busy with many canoes taking out. We ended up talking with some of the same people we saw on the Jacks last year! Loading our gear in the truck didn’t take long and we were on the road a little after 4pm.

We had a great time and the Jacks Fork was beautiful, as always. The crystal clear water, spring flowers, abundant wildlife and perfect weather made for one of the best Easter float trips we have had in a while. We don’t have any specific float trips planned in the near future, so we’ll see what the summer brings!

Critter Count: Turtles, Ducks, Geese, Herons, 1 juvenile Bald Eagle, 4 adult Bald Eagles, 7 Deer, 2 Northern Red Snakes, 3 Softshell Turtles, 1 Beaver

Bonus Prizes: 1 nearly new beer koozie, 1 nearly new boat sponge

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