Archive | October, 2014

Float #114: Meramec River

31 Oct

Allenton to Castlewood State Park

F114_Meramec

Meramec River
Jefferson & St. Louis Counties, Missouri
Sunday, October 26
15 Miles

We have been busy lately doing other fun things not related to floating and preparing our home and property for winter. October is a beautiful time to be outdoors, but it is also a month of frantic chores to get the garden harvested and the last of the firewood cut and split. The weather this past weekend was beautiful with highs in the 80s, so we figured we better get out on the water while we can. We chose this stretch of the Meramec because we have not done it before, and with this section completed we only have the last 25 miles of the river to float in order to have paddled the entire Meramec River. We were joined by our friend Rob and his twin boys Robbie and Charlie, and our new friend Joe, who had never kayaked before. Another newbie is our new puppy, Ocoee (named after the river in Tennessee), a small lab-mix who is an aspiring float enthusiast. We haven’t had a paddle dog since our old lab, Zoe, passed away two years ago, so it is nice to have a canine companion again!

We met at the Allenton access at 9am and unloaded all the boats. The boys and I stayed behind while DW, Rob and Joe ran shuttle down to Castlewood State Park, which took about an hour. We pushed off shortly after 10am with the sun shining brightly. I took my new boat (Wilderness Systems Tempest, 17′) on this trip and got some good practice leaning into my turns. Unfortunately there isn’t much room in the cockpit for a dog, so DW took Ocoee in his boat.

Meramec River

DW and Ocoee

DW and Ocoee

Big River confluence

Big River confluence

Meramec RiverMeramec RiverEven though this section of river is fairly close to the metro area, the view is mostly forest and hills. Fall colors were in their peak, making for beautiful scenery. About four miles from Allenton, the Big River joins the Meramec. The confluence is on the right side of the river, but it can be easily missed as it comes in on the other side of a large gravel bar. Just before the Big River you will float under the Hwy. W bridge near Eureka and then two miles past the Big River is Hwy. 66 State Park and the I-44 bridge. We stopped for lunch between the interstate bridge and the two railroad bridges just downstream.

Meramec River

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

I-44 Bridge

I-44 Bridge

Floating under I-44

Floating under I-44

Meramec River

RR Bridge

RR Bridge

Another RR bridge

Another RR bridge

The section between Hwy. 66 State Park and Castelwood State Park has a lot of train traffic. We passed under several railroad bridges and tracks ran along the river in several places. I think we saw at least four or five trains pass through. The bridges were especially busy with only minutes between trains crossing the river.

Shortly after lunch Ocoee decided to take his first swim. He hopped off DW’s boat and doggie paddled around in that splashy way that puppies do, before deciding that maybe it was a bad idea and DW came to his rescue and plucked him out of the water.

Meramec RiverMeramec RiverMeramec RiverMeramec RiverWe saw a lot of birds on this trip including Osprey, Hawks and two Bald Eagles. There were a couple of turtles out, but most of them were gone for the winter. As we neared Castlewood park we began to see a lot more people out on the riverbanks and the park trails. We didn’t see any other paddlers though.

Ocoee rides the deck

Ocoee rides the deck

Meramec River

More trains

More trains

Ocoee

Ocoee

We pulled off the river just before sunset, loaded everyone and all the boats in the Subaru and drove back to Allenton to drop everyone at their vehicles. Robbie and Charlie were asleep as soon as their seatbelts were buckled and Ocoee snoozed peacefully in my lap. It was a good day on the water (as usual) and a surprisingly pretty float for being so close to the city!

Critter Count: Blue Herons, Green Herons, Osprey, Hawks, 2 Bald Eagles

Advertisements

Float #113: Niangua River

13 Oct

Moon Valley to Barclay

F113_Niangua

Niangua River
Dallas County, Missouri
Friday, October 3
14 Miles

There is almost nothing better than a good float trip during the week when everyone else is at work. On this particular trip we floated with our friend Jake, from Nashville and our friend Rob. This was our first kayak trip in over a month, as we hadn’t floated at all in September. A busy work schedule and chores around the house sucked up all our time. We don’t get over to the Niangua all that often and we had gotten a decent amount of rain the night before, so we decided to put in above Bennett Spring in the hopes there would be enough water for a decent float. We ran the shuttle and were on the water around 10:30. The sky was overcast and the temperature was chilly. The high temp for the day was sometime around 8am and it kept dropping all day long, making me wish that I had dressed a little warmer. The transition from summer kayaking to winter kayaking happens so quickly and I never manage to bring the correct gear the first couple of fall floats!

We put in at Moon Valley Conservation Access, conveniently located on Moon Valley road. DW had recently purchased a used whitewater boat and was testing it out for the first time. The water at the access was pretty shallow, though there was enough to float. The upper portion of this float all the way to Bennett Spring would have been great with about four more inches of water. As it was, we had lots of sections that were draggy, and we did have to get out and walk just a couple of times, but nothing too bad. DW had it the worst as the whitewater boat did not have enough surface area to glide over the shallows and he got stuck the most often.

Putting in at Moon Valley

Putting in at Moon Valley

Niangua River

Niangua River

Niangua River

The fall colors were just starting to show in the river valley and the leaves were beginning to drift down from the trees. The sun did manage to come out for about an hour, which was really nice. I just wished it would have lasted longer. Soon the clouds drifted back in and we got sprinkled on for a while. We saw a good amount of wildlife on this trip. A deer, a bunch of turkey, two juvenile Bald Eagles and two adult Bald Eagles. We also saw the normal assortment of herons and other birds. We only saw a couple of turtles, I guess it wasn’t a good day for sunning.

Niangua River

Niangua River

Niangua River

Niangua River

The portion of river above Bennett Spring had quite a few small boulder gardens and several tight turns that would have been a lot of fun in higher water. At this level they were more like sleeper gardens, as the overcast sky made it hard to see below the surface of the water and we all ran into a lot of rocks. We all got a lot of good ab exercise in trying to scoot over shallow areas and paddle around small boulders. Soon we reached Bennett Spring, which adds a lot of water to the river and it was smooth paddling from there.

Bennett Spring

Bennett Spring

Two Bald Eagles watch from a tree

Two Bald Eagles watch from a tree

Hwy. 64 bridge

Hwy. 64 bridge

Bennett Conservation access

Bennett Conservation access

There were a fair number of trout fishermen at the mouth of the spring and as we paddled by we noticed two Bald Eagles watching from a Sycamore tree. They didn’t seem to mind all the humans. I think they were waiting for someone to catch a fish for them! We watched them as we floated past and they watched us right back, allowing me to get a couple of good photos. Right after the trout park is highway 64 bridge and then Bennett conservation access is on the left side of the river. After the conservation access we stopped on a gravel bar for lunch and to try to warm up a bit in the feeble sunlight. DW was pretty wet from the waist down, as he didn’t have a properly fitted skirt for his new boat.

Niangua River

DW testing his new whitewater boat

DW testing his new whitewater boat

Niangua River

The next six miles from Bennett to Barclay is a popular trip and we saw quite a few kayakers on the water. We didn’t come upon any obstacles on this section, but it is a pretty float. Toward the end there are a couple of steep hillsides with glades, which stand out quite a bit from the usual forest. Of course the sun came out again quite nicely as we finished the trip! We were finished around 4:30 and headed back to camp. The next day we did the short float from Bennett to Barclay again, as everyone was tired (still drunk) from the night before. It was much warmer and a good day for a casual float.

I also bought a new boat that weekend. A Wilderness Systems Tempest, which is a 17 foot long sea kayak. I hadn’t intended on buying a 17′ boat, but it was a really good deal. I took it out on the short float Saturday and was pleasantly surprised at how well it turned on such a small river. It took a little planning ahead when entering the turns, but it did well and I didn’t fall out! I look forward to taking it out on some bigger rivers and lakes in the future.

Critter Count: 1 Deer, Turkeys, Herons, Kingfishers, Turtles, 2 Juvenile Bald Eagles, 2 Adult Bald Eagles