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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

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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

Float #6: Osage Fork River

11 May

Drynob to Hull Ford

Osage Fork River Map

Osage Fork River
Laclede County, Missouri
Saturday, April 30
14 Miles

On this weekend we traveled to the Fort Leonardwood area for the biannual MVOR caving campout. This is a group of Missouri and Illinois area cavers who gather to camp, cave, float and party in different locations around the state. DW’s family has been involved for many years and that’s how I became introduced to the group. I have been caving a few times, but we usually use the MVOR weekend to float. There are many great rivers in this area, including the Big Piney, Little Piney, Gasconade, Osage Fork, Niangua and Little Niangua. Though both Pineys are a popular choice and well worth exploring, we have done those rivers many times and wanted to try something new. We decided on the Osage Fork due to it’s proximity to the campground and easy shuttle.

Osage Fork River

DW, Jake and Charlie

We were joined on this float by our frequent fellow kayak enthusiast, Charlie and our good friend Jake, who drove up from Nashville, TN. Jake borrowed my old red kayak for the day. I always brag that the red boat is unflippable. I have taken it down the whitewater in the St. Francis river and never flipped it once. Of course Jake had to prove me wrong and fell out when he ran into an obstacle. Unfortunately Charlie and I were ahead of him and missed the entertainment.

Osage Fork River

Small waterfall from the recent rain

Osage Fork River

DW checks out the waterfalls

The weather forecast for the day was all over the place, originally supposed to be warm and partly cloudy with a chance of scattered showers. It turned out to be chilly and overcast, but luckily we didn’t get any rain. All the rivers were still running high or at low flood stage due to all the rain in the previous weeks. The Osage was no exception. The waters were running within the banks, but much higher than normal.

Osage Fork River

Typical scenery along the Osage

Osage Fork River

Charlie plays chicken with some cows

The Osage Fork is a small river similar to the Little Piney and has great fishing. It makes for a leisurely float with typical Missouri farmland scenery, large sycamore trees and a few low bluffs. There were many downed trees across the river, though I don’t know if they were recently felled in high flood water or are a normal occurrence. We never had to portage, but a few spots left only the narrowest of gaps between treetop and bank to squeeze a kayak through. If we were in a canoe we probably would have been scraped out of the boat!

Osage Fork River

Eagles nest high in a sycamore

There is not much to report about this float as we didn’t pass any landmarks or natural areas of interest, but it was fun all the same. We did get to see a pair of bald eagles and their nest. That is the second one we’ve seen this year; a true sign that the eagles are really back in strong numbers!

Critter Count: Herons, Ducks, Turtles, 1 Otter, 2 Bald Eagles and a nest