Float #117: Osage Fork

26 Feb

Long Ford to Dry Knob

F117_Osage

Osage Fork River
Laclede County, Missouri
Sunday, February 8
10 Miles

For one glorious weekend in the beginning of February the weather warmed up to nearly 70˚. It was a nice break from the below freezing temps, so we headed west to get in a float trip before the weather turned cold again. We decided to float the Osage Fork, a river that doesn’t get much love with all the other floating options in the area. The Osage is a smaller river that doesn’t boast the grand scenery of the Big Piney or the Niangua, but it is a good option for a winter paddle. We met up with our friend Tommy and his son in their aluminum canoe and our friend Richard in his kayak. Ocoee came along too, but he is getting a little big for sitting in the cockpit of my boat, so I made him ride on the back.

We met up around 10am at the Long Ford access at the Hwy. B bridge. Long Ford is a gravel bar conservation access with a small gravel parking lot. While we waited for Richard to arrive DW cleaned up a bunch of litter and Ocoee did his part by eating some hot dogs he found by a recently used campfire. DW and Tommy ran shuttle down to Dry Knob (Hwy. 32 bridge), which took about 45 minutes round trip. We set off around 11:30 on a gorgeous, sunny day. The water was still very cold, but also very clear. There were a few low spots that the canoe had trouble getting through, but I never had to portage the kayak.

Hwy. B access

Long Ford access

Ocoee is ready to go

Ocoee is ready to go

Osage ForkOsage ForkOsage ForkWe have floated the Osage Fork once before, downstream from Dry Knob. I think this section is much nicer, with more bluffs and tighter turns and ripples. There are several very small springs along this stretch as well. It was very easy to find them in the winter with no vegetation in the way.  One drawback to the Osage is that it has several cow fields that access the river, so you will probably run into some cows on your trip. We did the first time we floated the Osage and we saw several of them this time as well.

Cows watch us warily

Cows watch us warily

Looking down at the river from a spring

Looking down at the river from a spring

Osage ForkOsage Fork

Old iron bridge

Old iron bridge

There was a lot of wildlife out on the river since the weather was so warm. Several turtles had crawled out of the mud to sunbathe and we saw many birds, including hawks and eagles. DW saw a beaver running along the bank and we saw plenty of the chewed tree trunks they had been working on.

DW explores a hole in the wall

DW explores a hole in the wall

Osage Fork

Ocoee rides the back of my boat

Ocoee rides the back of my boat

Osage ForkWe also saw several holes in the bluffs that could have been caves, and one that definitely was a cave, though it didn’t go back too far. There weren’t too many obstacles on this stretch besides the occasional tight turn and one tree that had recently fallen across the channel. DW spent a few minutes trimming back the branches so we had a path through it. However, my boat got spun around at exactly the wrong time and I ended up going backwards through the tree, which is always fun. Ocoee did a good job of riding on the back of my boat and he only fell off once. I made a quick maneuver of the back end to avoid hitting a fallen tree trunk and Ocoee did not move with me. DW was right behind me and scooped him out of the water. Ocoee wasn’t even wet to the skin thanks to his Labrador coat.

Osage ForkOsage Fork

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Osage Fork

Upstream from Dry Knob access

We saw a trio of adult Bald Eagles and one juvenile about half way through our trip and they flew downstream just ahead of us the rest of the way. Around every third bend or so we would see them again. We arrived at our take-out around 4:30, packed up our gear and ran shuttle. By then time we were done with that it was dark and time to make the long trek home. I really enjoyed this stretch of the Osage. It has just enough challenges and scenery to keep it interesting, yet still relaxing and fun. It was a good weekend and a relief to get outdoors in some nice weather. It has been too cold to paddle since then, but we’re hoping things will pick up in March.

Critter Count: Turtles, Ducks, Kingfishers, 1 Juvenile Bald Eagle, 3 Adult Bald Eagles, Hawks, 1 Osprey, 1 Beaver

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