Archive | March, 2015

Float #120: Buffalo River

26 Mar

Boxley to Kyle’s Landing

F120_Buffalo

Buffalo River
Newton County, Arkansas
Saturday, March 14
16 Miles

After hanging in camp during the all day rain on Friday, we awoke Saturday determined to paddle. The rain had slowed to an occasional sprinkle. The river was now a muddy brown and had risen to just below the banks. We left camp shortly after breakfast to scout Boxley access, get our car shuttle set up, and purchase some dry firewood. Everything looked good, the water was rocking, but didn’t look too dangerous and we talked to a couple other paddlers getting ready to put in at Boxley. We purchased a car shuttle from Buffalo Outdoor Center in Ponca and headed back to camp to gear up.

We donned our wetsuits (our best purchase this year) and the rest of our water resistant gear, packed a couple beers and headed back to Boxley. There were plenty of rolling waves on the first 6-mile section between Boxley and Ponca and the water was moving quickly. Within the first mile or so we came upon the people we had seen putting in while we were scouting. One of them had lost their boat and was stranded on a small island in the middle of the river. Their paddling companion was just downstream with the runaway boat, so DW towed her down to them. We figured they must have been waiting for someone to come by for a while!

High water at Boxley bridge

High water at Boxley bridge

Buffalo RiverBuffalo River

Waterfall

Waterfalls

The water was a  bit technical and reminded me a lot of the Nantahala in Tennessee. Of course, there is no time to snap photos while paddling the waves, so I was only able to get shots of the calm waters between rapids. Some of the waves were pretty big and one of them went over my head and soaked me completely. Thank goodness I had that wetsuit! My touring paddle was nearly useless for water this fast. It felt like I was just sticking a toothpick in the waves and couldn’t steer as well as I needed to. DW had brought his whitewater paddle and let me use it. What a difference that made! I’m going to make sure I bring my whitewater paddle along for any spring floats from now on.

Ponca bridge

Ponca bridge

Buffalo RiverBuffalo RiverWe soon arrived at Ponca bridge, which we had to portage as the water was not over the bridge, but it was pretty close. There were a lot of people there checking out the river and a few paddlers thinking about putting on. After Ponca bridge the river was much calmer and the few waves we paddled through were not too big. Two miles down from Ponca is Steel Creek campground, so we stopped at our camp to have lunch and warm up a bit. I debated staying at camp because I was a little chilly and tired from the rough water, but the sun poked out of the sky just enough to convince me to continue the rest of the trip. As we put back on the water we encountered some locals who were enjoying the whitewater. They shared some whiskey with us and some good conversation.

Every bluff we passed had numerous waterfalls that were very pretty, but the river was moving so quickly I didn’t have much time to photograph. We soon came to a few more rapids and one nice little drop, where I took on a little bit of water and pulled over to bail. While bailing, another couple paddled up in a tandem kayak with no skirts. They had a look of inexperience about them, so DW talked with them a bit. They asked us where the “hard part” of this section was. As we’ve never paddled this section in high water we didn’t know what they were referring to, but we would soon find out.

There were a few miles between Steel Creek and Kyle’s Landing where around every bend there was a solid line of whitecapped waves. It wasn’t as hard as the Boxley section because the river is wider and there is more room to maneuver and take a different line out of the big waves if needed. I think the waves were just as big though. DW had lots of fun riding the rollers and I did too, though I didn’t hit them quite as hard as he did.

Buffalo RiverBuffalo River

Kyle's Landing

Kyle’s Landing

There were several bluffs along the way that we recognized as we flew past, but everything looked so much different with high water! We soon reached our take out at Kyle’s and pulled off the river with that tired, satisfied feeling you get after a challenging paddle. We had paddled the 8 miles between Steel Creek and Kyle’s in 1 hour and 40 minutes. There was an outfitter waiting to pick up a couple rafts at the access, and he said we were 10 minutes slower than the fastest time he had heard of that day. If I hadn’t stopped to bail my boat we probably would’ve beat that time!

We loaded our gear and changed out of our wet clothes and headed back to camp to a well deserved fire and a hot meal. If we had known it was going to rain that much we would’ve brought our whitewater boats and left the dog at home, but it was pretty entertaining as is. We learned that wetsuits are your best friend and always pack your whitewater paddle in the spring! This was a fun Buffalo trip, despite the rain and I look forward to coming back next spring to do it again.

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Float #119: Buffalo River

25 Mar

Kyle’s Landing to Pruitt

F119_Buffalo

Buffalo River
Newton County, Arkansas
Thursday, March 12
13 Miles

DW and I have been wanting to do a spring trip on the Buffalo for a while, so we took a few days off work and headed down there for a little “spring break” paddling. When we left on Wednesday morning the weather was forecast to be warm, with rain on Thursday night and maybe Friday morning. Instead it started raining Thursday afternoon and didn’t stop until Saturday. So, we got some unexpected whitewater in this trip too (which is covered in the next post). We arrived at Steel Creek campground late Wednesday afternoon and set up camp. There were only a few spots taken, which is a nice change from the usual crowded campgrounds of late spring and early summer. The next day we drove down to Kyle’s Landing and purchased a car shuttle from Buffalo Canoe to drop our car at Pruitt. As we put on the river the sky was partly cloudy, but that didn’t last more than a couple hours before the clouds dominated the sky.

Kyle's Landing

DW and Ocoee ready the boats at Kyle’s Landing

Buffalo RiverBuffalo River

Look at that beautiful water!

Look at that beautiful water!

This is the first time we’ve floated the Buffalo with a decent water level. Usually we are scraping and cursing our way down the river. The water was also that unique milky turquoise color that can only be found in the Ozarks. It was by far the prettiest water I’ve seen in a while. All the sections that we usually scrape over were transformed into fast ripples and waves. Ocoee (our dog) rode the back of my kayak and fell off on the first fast section, but he soon gained his footing and was a champ through the rest of the trip.

Buffalo RiverBuffalo River

Elk on the river bank

Elk on the river bank

The trip went by pretty quickly, as the river was flowing at a good pace, about 3 miles per hour. We paddled past numerous towering bluffs, some with small waterfalls trickling over the edge. There were a few hints of green in the forest with some small plants popping up. Spring is almost ready to bloom! We saw the usual birds and turtles along the way and we also got to see an elk. There are a lot of elk living in the Buffalo river basin, but we don’t often see them as we paddle by, so that was pretty cool.

Buffalo RiverBuffalo RiverA mile or two above our takeout at Pruitt it started to sprinkle on us and that was the beginning of 48 hours of non-stop rain. We took out at Pruitt around 4:30pm, loaded our gear into our car and began the drive back to Steel Creek. We only made it a couple miles before we came to a traffic jam. A tractor-trailer had somehow driven the cab off the shoulder of the road and was blocking traffic both ways. We sat there for about 20 minutes as two tow trucks righted the tractor trailer and cleared the scene. No one was hurt and the truck drove away, slightly bruised. It was a good reminder to take it slow on those super curvy mountain roads! On Friday it rained all day long. We were going to paddle if the rain let up for a bit, but every time it slowed down it would ramp up again a few minutes later. Plus it was kinda chilly and there is nothing I hate more than being wet AND cold. We just milled around camp all day, playing cards, reading and being generally bored. We did paddle on Saturday as the weather was warmer and the river was up quite a bit.

Critter Count: Hawks, Kingfishers, Turtles, 1 Elk

Float #118: Osage Fork

25 Mar

Rader Conservation Access to County Rd. J-687

F118_Osage

Osage Fork River
Webster & Laclede Counties, Missouri
Saturday, March 7
4 Miles

I did not go on this trip, so this post was written and photographed by DW.

We started our day out by evaluating an old dump site on the Osage Fork of the Gasconade for cleanup prior to the upcoming NSS Caving Convention. Once our morning volunteer work was done, Richard and I went in search of a feasible access to the upper Osage Fork. We first scouted the J road bridge at mile marker 9.0 and that was too soft to consider parking, though the water was flowing quite nicely there encouraging the opportunity for upstream access. We continued on J to Morgan and headed down J-687 (Orchid Dr.) to the low water bridge and found that there was no parking near the bridge, but that parking did appear available for a limited number of vehicles just north of the bridge, so we dropped one vehicle off at mile marker 4.3 and continued to Rader Conservation Access to check that out. The access requires you to hand carry the boats and gear down, but is fairly easy to access and only about 20 yards of distance from the parking lot to the river.

The water looked to be flowing nicely at the access so we put on and started our paddle. The upper Osage Fork is much smaller than the lower parts we have done in the past. It is much like a small Ozark creek in nature with a narrow width, clear water, pretty Ozark gravel bottom, and plenty of little twists and turns. As we paddled along we noted a couple of eagles and a heron.

Rader Conservation access

Rader Conservation access

Osage Fork

Ice on the river

Ice on the river

Shortly into the trip we found some iced in coves and played around breaking the ice, an activity I find fun. We broke off some big ice chunks and sent them down river. We did this on a few bends. While Richard was exploring and taking some photographs, I paddled up Panther creek to see what it was like. It was a nice small creek still with decent flow. There was a bluff pocked with a few erosion holes and an animal trail leading to one of them. I paddled back down to find Richard had pushed onward.

Low water bridge at County Rd. 107

Low water bridge at County Rd. 107

Osage Fork

I paddled downstream and found Richard as we reached a low water bridge about an hour into the 4.3 mile float on County Rd. 107 (Auburn Rd.). The water was moving sufficiently to go under the bridge without much issue, albeit it fairly tight fitting with the water levels we had on this day. On the downstream side of the bridge the water constricted through it, making for some fun little waves to go play in. Naturally, I went to play and surf for a while and Richard portaged around the bridge. After a few runs of surfing and wave play, I parked next to the rapid and waited for Richard. For some reason, probably because of my adventurous nature, I took one last run at the rapid and at a poor angle. While I tried to recover my boat from a full flip, I just fell out and swam the boat and myself to shore. Being a 50 degree day I immediately removed as many of my soaking wet layers as possible and started drying them in the sun. While I was having my swimming lesson, Richard was having issues negotiating the portage and also took a swim. So we both had a good laugh and the cold refreshing feeling one gets when taking a dip in a cold Missouri waters. I maintained that refreshing tingle for hours after my swim.

Osage Fork

Access at the J-687 Bridge

Access at the J-687 Bridge

By the time we were getting warmed up from our swim the next low water bridge approached. Richard changed in to dry clothes while I picked up trash, and we then ran our shuttle. While completing the shuttle, we both determined this would be fun to do with more water if a better access can be located above the 28.7 mile marker.

Critter Count: Bald Eagles, Herons, Kingfishers, Turtles