Archive | May, 2014

Float #102: Flat Creek

23 May

Lower Flat Creek to Dry Creek

F102_FlatCreek

Flat Creek
Barry and Stone Counties, Missouri
Saturday, May 17
10 Miles

The second day of our Southwest MO camping trip we headed East about 45 minutes to Flat Creek. This is a beautiful stream that flows into Table Rock Lake. There is swift water, good fishing and lots of wildlife. Even though this creek flows into the lake the water doesn’t back up or slow down too far upstream. DW, Jake and I got help with the shuttle from our caver friend Bobcat. He dropped our gear with Jake and me at the Lower Flat Creek access and helped DW run the car down to the Dry Creek access. Since we don’t know the area we weren’t sure how much water was in the upper creek, so we decided to do the lower section. Once we arrived we saw that there was plenty of water and we could have easily floated down to the access we put in at. I think it would only be a problem in the middle of summer or particularly dry weather.

Lower Flat Creek Access

Lower Flat Creek Access

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Old bridge piling

Old bridge piling

It was another chilly day with highs in the 60s. As we set off the sun came out and warmed things up for about an hour and then the clouds took over again. I wanted to do some fishing on this trip, but my fishing pole had other ideas. I caught every snag possible and the line kept wanting to tangle. It was a bit breezy too, so I eventually gave up and focused on paddling and enjoying the scenery. I enjoyed this float more than the previous day on the Elk River just because the water was faster and it was a bit more scenic. We saw several Bald Eagles along the way, which I always enjoy.

Tight squeeze ahead

Tight squeeze ahead

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Flat Creek has its share of obstacles with a couple tight spots and fallen/overhanging trees. There was one spot that was almost a log jam, but there was just enough space to wriggle between trees. Luckily the water was slower there and didn’t push the boat around. It was a tight entry though and I somehow got turned around and ended up floating through backwards.

Another tight spot almost flipped my boat, but I can still brag that I have never fallen out of my kayak! There was an overhanging tree with a mess of branches on one side and a low hanging trunk on the other side. There was a small space between the two obstacles to float through. I miscalculated just enough to catch the trunk and pin my boat against the tree. The water was flowing swiftly and began to turn my boat sideways. When your boat goes sideways you’re pretty much doomed to get wet. Water started to fill the cockpit and my ass was swamped! However, I was able to gain some leverage against the tree and back my way out of the pinch. I then hobbled over to the bank to bail out. Thankfully I always carry an extra change of clothes in cool weather, so I didn’t stay cold and wet for long.

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County road bridge

County road bridge

After I bailed out we ate lunch on the gravel bar and then proceeded downriver. This creek reminds me a lot of the Huzzah as it is similar in size, but I think the water was prettier and a bit quicker overall. It would make a great spring overnight fishing trip, as you could reasonably do the entire creek in two days. We didn’t see many houses or cabins along the way and only a couple of farms with cows near the river. It was very quiet and peaceful with just enough action to test your skills.

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The creek becomes a lake

The creek becomes a lake

About a mile above the lake the water began to slow down and the creek widened. Our takeout was just after the waterway became deeper and very broad, on an upper finger of the lake. DW and Jake sprinted ahead of me, but I took my time and enjoyed the scenery. The sky was beginning to get very overcast and looked like it might rain, but it did not. The Dry Creek access does not have much parking, maybe room for two or three vehicles and the road is very rough. 4 wheel drive is probably a good idea.

We loaded our boats and headed back to camp after a very enjoyable float. I would definitely recommend Flat Creek if you like small streams and good fishing. The next day we made the long 4 1/2 hour drive back home to unload and catch up on sleep before heading back to work on Monday.

Critter Count: Ducks, Geese, Green Herons, Blue Herons, 2 Adult Bald Eagles, 1 Juvenile Bale Eagle, Turkey, Turtles, Cows

 

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Float #101: Elk River

23 May

Big Bend to River Ranch

F101_Elk

Elk River
McDonald County, Missouri
Friday, May 16
8 Miles

This was an unseasonably cold weekend in May for us Missourians. That didn’t stop us from getting out on the water to float some new rivers. DW, our friend Jake from Nashville and I were in Southwest MO at the biannual MVOR camp event for cavers. Since we had never been this far in the corner of the state we hit some new float territory rather than go caving. The day was partly cloudy with highs in the 60s; pretty chilly for this late in May! The Elk River was about an hour drive from our campground, but it seemed like a good float trip with many vendors to run shuttle. We chose River Ranch Resort because they have an 8 mile float with a $10/boat (weekday rate) shuttle, which is pretty cheap.

We arrived at River Ranch and loaded our boats and gear into their school bus and they dropped us at their private access 8 miles upriver. The Elk River reminded me a lot of the upper/middle Meramec in size and water quality. The water is a pretty blue green and fairly clear. The river was pretty quick in spots and there was some fun, choppy water in several areas.

Jake & DW prepare boats at the put-in

Jake & DW prepare boats at the put-in

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This waterway is made up of several creeks that converge to form the Elk River. Big Sugar Creek is the uppermost portion of the waterway and is later joined by Little Sugar Creek to become the Elk. Indian Creek joins the stream further down and greatly increases the flow of water. All of these creeks are floatable, especially during the spring. It looks like a good place to explore if I’m ever down in the area again.

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Choppy water

Choppy water

The majority of this float was fairly remote with a few riverside cabins and campgrounds along the way. Once we reached the lower portion it became a bit more urban, but not overly so. It looks like the lower portion this river can become pretty crowded and perhaps a little rowdy on summer weekends. There were a lot of campgrounds and riverside bars and clubs when we reached the town of Noel at the end of our trip.

Five miles above Noel is a railroad bridge, followed closely by a low-water concrete bridge. As we passed under the railroad bridge a train made up of a string of engines rumbled overhead. The low-water bridge is a higher out of the water than most. A portage here would only be necessary in flood water.

Train crossing

Train crossing

The concrete bridge

The concrete bridge

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAbout a mile above Noel the river slows down as you approach the dam to Shadow Lake. We took our boats out at River Ranch, which is the last access before the dam. There were some people on the clubhouse deck at River Ranch who were having a good time. I rescued some guy’s hat after his girlfriend threw it in the river, so I got to be someone’s hero for a minute. DW had found an inflatable novelty dice further upstream, which apparently belonged to someone who was partying on the deck. They were overjoyed to have their junk back and we were glad to not have it littered on the water!

Overall it was a good float and a pretty river. I would definitely do it again and explore territory farther upstream. The next day we headed East of our campground to float Flat Creek, which was very enjoyable as well.

Critter Count: Ducks, Geese, Herons, Turtles, Soft Shell Turtles

Bonus Prizes: 1 kid’s minnow net