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Float #142: Courtois Creek

27 Apr

Berryman to Huzzah Conservation Area

F142_Courtois

Courtois Creek
Crawford County, Missouri
Saturday, April 1, 2017
14 Miles
Temperature: 59˚/40˚
Wind: ENE at 8mph
Water Level: 3.5ft. at Steelville gage

Courtois Creek is always a nice spring float. It tends to get pretty shallow in the summer so you have to hit it up when there has been some decent rainfall. It’s been a few years since we did this river and my sister Emily and her family had never paddled it before. We put in at the Berryman access (Hwy. 8 bridge). Since this is a repeat float I’m not going to get into specifics, but if you want more details, check out Float #63.

Courtois Creek

Berryman Access

Courtois Creek

Tree hazard

Henry navigating the tree hazard

Courtois Creek

Emily paddles Stable Maybel

Courtois Creek

As we put on the river the weather was overcast and a little chilly. Emily and I and the kids waited at the put-in while DW and Henry ran shuttle. Henry paddled “Marge the Barge,” his 19′ aluminum canoe with Celia and Silas. A 19′ canoe is quite the vessel to paddle down the tight turns of the Courtois, but they did just fine. There are a few tree hazards on upper section of this float that you have to duck under or portage around. The first one we had to duck under, Silas didn’t quite listen and bonked his head. He finally got the routine down by then end of the trip though.

Portaging the canoe and the kids

Courtois Creek

Marge the Barge on Wheels

Courtois Creek

The sun comes out!

On this trip we saw a fair amount of wildlife. There was a mink scuttling around on the bank at the put-in. Celia thought it was a hedgehog, so she was close, just the wrong side of the globe for hedgehogs. We also saw quite a few deer; a couple of them were swimming across the river. The usual assortment of birds and turtles were in attendance as well. The sun finally came out in the early afternoon, which made for a much nicer float and really brought out the colors of the water.

Henry’s big canoe is quite heavy and nearly impossible to portage easily. He has devised a canoe dolly from some milk crates with wheels that he attaches to the bottom of the canoe to get it from the car to the river. It also works quite well to get over low water bridges. They didn’t have to unload the kids either!

Celia shows off her paddle skills

Courtois Creek

Confluence with the Huzzah

We stopped on a nice gravel bar for lunch and built a small fire to warm up a bit. We stopped once more to let the kids out of the boat to play a bit. Silas tried his luck at peeing in the woods by himself. It was not a complete success and he had to get rinsed off in the river! Eventually we made it to the confluence with the Huzzah and then to our take-out. A 14 mile float is a pretty long trip for a couple toddlers, but Celia and Silas got out of the boat at the end and ran around the parking lot while we loaded up. So I guess they still had energy to burn! It was a good day on the river and nice to get back to the Courtois before the summer crowds.

Critter Count: Hawks, Herons, Kingfishers, Turtles, 1 Mink, 7 Deer.

 

Float #63: Courtois Creek

1 Apr

Berryman to Onondaga State Park

F63_Courtois

Courtois Creek
Crawford Missouri
Saturday, March 9
18 miles

Courtois Creek is a large creek that runs into the Huzzah. Though some sections are floatable year round it is best floated in the spring with ample water. This creek is one of my favorites because of its many tight turns and lots of obstacles. If the water is really up and moving it can be quite challenging. This creek is the site of the only time DW and I have ever flipped our canoe. This year’s trip was not so eventful. The water was up a little bit, but still clear and manageable. The day dawned with rain showers, but by the time we hit the water the sun was shining and the day was looking up.

We drove to Berryman access, which is the Hwy. 8 bridge. There is a small 4×4 trail on the westbound side of the highway that goes under the bridge. It can sometimes be muddy or washed out, so it is best suited to a 4 wheel drive vehicle. My Aunt & Uncle were taking a road trip in the area that day and offered to run shuttle for us. DW and my Uncle ran the car down to Onondaga State Park, which is on the Meramec River. After the Courtois runs into the Huzzah it is a short float to the Meramec and down to Onondaga. It is a neat float because you start out at a small stream that gradually gets bigger with each incoming creek and confluence, until you are on the Meramec.

Courtois Creek

DW bails his boat

Courtois Creek

Courtois Creek

Courtois Creek

A near portage

Courtois Creek

DW rides the ripples

Within the first 2 minutes of floating DW took on some water trying to split the middle between a gravel bar and a tree root. Naturally, I had to photograph him bailing the boat (for blog purposes)! There were many tight spots in the first few miles of creek. We had to portage around a couple of trees that had fallen and just barely squeaked by a large branch blocking 98% of the channel. Then DW broke his paddle in half. It is a wooden paddle that was getting pretty worn by last summer, so it was due to fail. Luckily we had a spare paddle, or he would’ve had a really long day of awkward paddling.

Courtois Creek

Courtois Creek

Courtois Creek

Courtois Creek

Four miles downstream of Hwy. 8 is a low water bridge at Scotia. You can put in here, but there is no legal place to park your vehicle. Unless the water is really high you have to portage over this bridge. After the bridge the creek gets narrow and flows next to some pretty bluffs. Soon after that you cross another low water bridge at Bass Canoe Rental. Bass is the only outfitter on the Courtois and they have a large campground offering just about anything you can think of. It tends to get very busy in the summer and is often full of the young, party crowd, so I tend to avoid the place. I like my float trips and camping to be relaxing most of the time!

Courtois Creek

Courtois Creek

Courtois Creek

Courtois Creek

Courtois Creek

Confluence with the Huzzah

A few miles down from Bass is Huzzah Conservation Area. This conservation area accesses both the Courtois and the Huzzah. There is parking and primitive camping is available September – May. Shortly after the conservation area the Courtois confluences with Huzzah creek. Less than half a mile on the Huzzah you run into the conservation area again, where there is another access and another low water bridge. You can usually float under this bridge unless the water is high.

Courtois Creek

Huzzah access at the conservation area

Courtois Creek

Courtois Creek

Courtois Creek

The bridge at Onondaga

Within a mile the Huzzah confluences with the Meramec River. It is always neat to float from the twisty creek onto the mighty Meramec. Although it’s not so very mighty here, it seems so after creek floating all day! As the day began to darken we paddled the last three miles down to Onondaga State Park where our vehicle was waiting. It was a very enjoyable day. Hopefully the water will stay plentiful this year so we can get some more creek floating under our paddles!

Critter Count: Ducks, Herons, Turtles, Hawks, 2 Bald Eagles.