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

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