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Float #150 & #151: North Fork River

21 Sep

Twin Bridges to Patrick Bridge

F150_NorthFork

North Fork of the White River
Ozark County, Missouri
Saturday, July 22 & Sunday, July 23, 2017
18 Miles
Temperature: Saturday 96˚/73˚, Sunday 95˚/73˚
Wind: Saturday SW at 3mph, Sunday SW at 2mph
Water Level: Saturday 2.65, Sunday 2.64 at Tecumseh gage

This post is long overdue! Life has gotten busy and time got away from me. I’ve got a small stack of trip reports to write up from the summer, so here’s to hoping I get to them all in a more timely fashion.

This particular weekend in July was a hot one, as most of this summer has been. We decided to head for a cold river, but having just done the Eleven Point we opted for the North Fork, which is about the same amount of driving and just as cold. It has been a few years since we’ve been there so it was nice to get back. On this trip we were joined by my sister Emily and her family, her friend Taylor and their family, and my best friend Cassie. We drove down early Saturday morning to Twin Bridges access, dropped the gear and then DW and Henry drove the shuttle down to our take out at Patrick Bridge. The North Fork had been hit pretty hard with the flooding in May and many of the public accesses and campgrounds were closed due to the extensive damage. I had a hard time discerning what was and wasn’t closed from the information I could find online, so I called the outfitter at Twin Bridges and they helped me figure it out.

North Fork River

Putting on at Twin Bridges

North Fork River

Marge the Barge

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North Fork River

DW and Ocoee run the low water bridge

North Fork River

Picnic table in a tree. That’s how high the water was in the flood.

North Fork River

The first few hours of paddling were pretty low water. We didn’t have to portage, but it was definitely scraping the boats in many spots (especially the canoes). There are no major springs until you get to Blue Spring, so the water was a bit warmer in this section as well. But it was still very clear and the scenery was beautiful. We saw our first sign of the flooding, a picnic table suspended in a treetop well over our heads. It is so surreal to see where the high water line was and imagine that volume of water moving through the landscape.

North Fork River

Hwy. CC Bridge completely destroyed from flooding.

North Fork River

What is left of the bridge.

North Fork River

Hammond Camp access

The picnic table in the tree was just the tip of the iceberg as far as flood damage on the North Fork. Soon, we arrived at Hammond Camp, an access we have used in previous years. It used to be very wooded and now it is scraped to the bare rocks. The new bridge at Hwy. CC was completely destroyed. The bridge was twisted up and washed just downstream, a massive hunk of broken steel and concrete. It will take many years for this area to recover.

Blue Spring

Henry and Silas take the plunge.

Henry shows off.

North Fork River

Emily and the girls take their turn.

North Fork River

Our camp for the evening.

Our first stop of the day was at Blue Spring, a nice spring hole that bubbles up on the left side of the river. We spent some time relaxing in the cold water, and many of our group jumped off the short rock ledge into the pool. The rest of the day was a nice, relaxing float. About 4 miles past Blue Spring Rainbow Spring enters the river. This is the largest spring on the North Fork, but it is private property and you can’t see the spring boil from the river. The water really turns cold once Rainbow Spring joins the river! We soon found a good site for our overnight camp, a large gravel bar with ample firewood. We set up camp, ate our dinner and enjoyed the evening under the stars. Henry brought his hammock to sleep in, but the only trees to hang it from were directly over the river, so that’s where he slept! Seems pretty damp to me, but he enjoyed it.

North Fork River

North Fork River

McKee Bridge

Cassie runs The Falls.

North Fork River

Destroyed cabins

North Fork River

The next morning dawned bright and hot. We sweated our way through breakfast and packing up camp and were soon headed downstream once again. There were quite a lot of broken trees and scoured gravel banks on this portion of the river. The next landmark is the McKee bridge, which we were able to float under. There are many nice homes along this area. It didn’t look like too many of them were damaged beyond repair from the flood. However, River of Life (an outfitter known for riverside cabins) was very badly damaged. All of their riverside cabins were a tangled mess of debris even though the structures were built high up on stilts. Soon after McKee bridge is The Falls, a small rock ledge that makes for a fun little drop. Everyone made it through without incident and we paddled onward toward our takeout.

North Fork River

North Fork River

A large log jam

North Fork River

Patrick Bridge

North Fork River

Whats left of the pit toilet at Patrick Bridge.

North Fork River

Althea Spring

We arrived at Patrick Bridge access around 4:30pm. This access was also a mess of downed trees and debris. Althea Spring is located a short walk downstream from here. At least, it used to be a short walk. Now it is a jungle of logs and vegetation that will take a lot of chainsaw hours to clear. Althea Spring was such a beautiful area and I hope it will return to it’s former glory.

We enjoyed our trip to the North Fork, though it was sad to see so many of it’s natural areas worse for wear from the flooding. Nature usually bounces back eventually, though the public access areas will take a lot of time and money to recover.

Critter Count: Bald Eagles, ducks, deer, herons, turtles

 

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Float #148 & #149: Eleven Point River

13 Jul

Greer Spring to Riverton

F90_ElevenPoint

Eleven Point River
Oregon County, Missouri
Saturday, July 1 & Sunday, July 2, 2017
19 Miles
Temperature: Saturday 87˚/63˚, Sunday 88˚/61˚
Wind: Saturday W at 4mph, Sunday SW at 4mph
Water Level: Saturday 4.15, Sunday 4.1 at Bardley gage

Independence Day weekend means Eleven Point float trip, so that’s what we did! We originally planned to do a 3 night trip from Cane Bluff to Myrtle, but there was rain in the forecast for Monday and Tuesday and Cane Bluff access was closed due to flood damage. So we just did our reliable standard from Greer to Riverton. This trip was just DW and me and our dog Ocoee. Since we’ve done this trip so many times before I won’t get into too much detail. More extensive trip reports for this section can be found on the blog. Just type Eleven Point in the search bar and they will come up.

We drove down early Saturday morning and set up a car shuttle with Hufstedler’s. The access at Greer was pretty crowded with people doing the same thing we were. After squeezing our boats and gear through the throng we were on the river by 11am. What a beautiful weekend it was!

Eleven Point River

Tree damage from flooding

Eleven Point River

Who wears short shorts?

Eleven Point River

River bank erosion from flooding

The Eleven Point was hit by the same epic flood that swept the rest of the Ozark Riverways back in late April. There was a lot of tree damage, some eroded banks, and the river had changed course or widened in a couple spots.

We started out our day with some fishing and both caught a few. I hooked a nice trout, but he jumped off the line before I got him out of the water. Those pesky trout tend to do that! DW made himself a really short pair of a swimming jorts (those are jean shorts if you don’t know) for the summer. I find them hilarious and he definitely gets some looks from people. One woman told him he was bringing back the 70s in an authentic way.

Eleven Point River

Me in Turner Mill Spring

Eleven Point River

DW jumps off Blackout Rock

We happened to meet a couple people that we’ve seen on the Eleven Point before. This trip is an annual occurrence for many. We paddled with them for a bit and caught up on life and river stories.

Our first stop was Turner Mill as usual. We dipped in the shockingly cold spring while Ocoee looked at us suspiciously and kept his distance. Ocoee is a smart dog with a good memory and he hates cold water and swimming in general (we may have thrown him in a spring or two before). He looks like a lab, but he’s all beagle at heart.

We traveled at a good pace even though we did not paddle much and mostly fished our way downstream. The river was up a little bit from normal and was moving at a good pace. We stopped at Blackout Rock (not the official name) so DW could dive off of it. It is called Blackout Rock because that’s where you finish your jug of liquor and then pass out before you get to camp. This story was told to us (and illustrated too) by the same people we see on the river every Independence day weekend. It’s a good name!

I saw a river otter on this trip. I’ve seen them on the Eleven Point before, but it is still a rare occurrence. This one popped his head up in the middle of the river and was crunching on some crawfish. River otters are fast and skittish, so I was unable to take a photograph. I don’t think I’ve ever been quick enough to catch an otter on camera!

Eleven Point River

The best campsite

Eleven Point River

Sunset on the river

Eleven Point River

Around late afternoon we started looking for a campsite. There had been rumors that some of the best gravel bars for camping had been washed out, but I didn’t find that to be the case. We were able to snag one of the best ones that we’ve camped at before. It’s a nice gravel bar with plenty of shade and firewood. The gravel bar was still mostly there, but the prime camping area had moved a bit from the original location. We had plenty of time to set up camp and chill out before nightfall. We built a nice fire and watched the sun paint the sky over the river as it dipped below the horizon. Soon hundreds of bats started their feeding and were swooping through the sky and zooming through our campground. I like bats because they are fun to watch and they also eat a lot of mosquitoes (mosquitoes like to eat me).

Eleven Point River

DW teases Ocoee at Boze Mill

Eleven Point River

Rockin’ the rapid at Halls Bay

Eleven Point River

Access damage from flooding

The next morning we slept in pretty late and got on the river sometime after 11am. We both had Monday and Tuesday off work for the holiday and it was so relaxing to have nowhere to be and all day to get there! We did some more fishing and swimming as we made our way downstream. We passed Greenbriar float camp, where we have stayed many times. It appeared to be completely washed out. There used to be a landing and some steps on the riverbank as well as a sign and a nice big sycamore tree. Now it is just a jumble of broken trees and mud. I hope they are able to repair it as Greenbriar was the nicest and largest of the float camps.

We stopped at Boze Mill for our mandatory dip in the freezing cold spring water. There were several people there including a couple locals we have talked with before. After a few dips and a chat we walked back to our boats. The spring was pushing out more water than usual and we were able to paddle our boats all the way to the stone wall. DW played around and surfed the wave coming out of the wall. Ocoee was not amused, as you can clearly see by his grumpy dog face. We then went through Halls Bay rapid which was bigger than usual and we were both thoroughly soaked. Some people were hanging out on the bank observing people coming through the rapid (it’s an excellent spot to watch people flip their boat). They said they’ve seen a lot of people wipe out in the rapid that day and were impressed that DW went through it perfectly while standing up! He is a pretty good canoeist (and a show off).

Riverton access came upon us all too quickly and we pulled off the river around 7pm. The access had its share of flood damage too. Some of the retaining walls had fallen in and there was some significant erosion. All the accesses and camping areas on the Eleven Point had been improved a few years ago so it is sad to see all that nice work destroyed. I hope they can get it repaired in a timely manner.

We left the Eleven Point feeling refreshed, rejuvenated and relaxed. It’s our favorite Missouri stream for a good reason!

Critter Count: Hawks, Herons, Turtles, 1 Otter

Float #146 & #147: Jacks Fork River

13 Jul

Buck Hollow to Alley Spring

F147_JacksFork

Jacks Fork River
Shannon County, Missouri
Saturday, June 24 & Sunday, June 25, 2017
24 Miles
Temperature: Saturday 80˚/59˚, Sunday 86˚/56˚
Wind: Saturday NNW at 6mph, Sunday NW at 4mph
Water Level: Saturday 2.9, Sunday 2.8 at Eminence gage

We’ve done quite a few overnight trips on the Jacks Fork, but this one was special because it was the first overnight float trip for my niece (Celia) and nephew (Silas). They’ve been floating with us for a couple years now, but never camped out overnight on the gravel bar. We decided on the Jacks Fork because we had not been there yet this year, it’s a nice trip and my sister had not been floating down there since we were kids. The Jacks Fork and Current River area were our go-to family vacation spot for a number of years.

We paid Harvey’s Canoe Rental to run a car shuttle for us and drove up to Buck Hollow to unload all our gear. It’s a little bit of a walk from the unloading area to the riverside when you have a bunch of gear, but Silas helped carry the lighter stuff while the dogs ran around and Celia spent her time getting in trouble for throwing a fit because she had to wear sunscreen. We finally had everything situated and started paddling around 10:30am.

Jacks Fork River

Ocoee oversees loading the boats

Jacks Fork River

Emily and her trusty steed

Jacks Fork River

Marge the Barge scrapes her way downstream

We usually stick to doing the upper portions of the Jacks Fork in the spring. There are fewer freshwater springs on the upper section, so it needs rainfall to be floatable. This late in the year it was just barely floatable. The kayaks made it through without scraping, but the fully loaded canoes had a bit more trouble. Especially Marge the Barge as she’s a heavy lady to begin with! This was probably the last weekend it was enjoyable for this summer unless we get a good amount of rainfall.

There was a significant flood back in late April/early May of this year that hit the Ozark Riverways pretty hard. It was one of those 500 year floods that happen every couple years or so. A lot of outfitters were wiped out and had to rebuild and the vegetation and riverbanks took quite a beating. We saw a few new scars from landslides, lots of rocks that had been displaced, gravel bars and banks scoured or relocated, and ripped up trees everywhere. There were some trees that had been stripped of all their branches, just a tall pole with a few new leaves starting to grow from the trunk.

Jacks Fork River

A fresh new landslide

A tree stripped of branches

We stopped at Blue Spring for lunch and did some swimming where the spring water enters the river. Blue Spring had not changed much from the flooding, but Jam Up Cave was a bit different. Many of the large rocks and a couple boulders had been washed downstream from the entrance. It’s still jammed up, but not as much as it used to be. We also passed a river hazard warning sign, something I’ve never seen before on the river. There was a big tree trunk across the narrow river channel. I guess it was too big or too submerged to cut out. We walked our boats around it or pushed them over the log without any incident.

Blue Spring

Celia & Emily swimming in the spring water

Jacks Fork River

Two dorks

Celia won

Flood damage

Jam Up Cave

Jacks Fork River

River Hazard Sign

Jacks Fork River

Eh, that’s not much of a hazard

By late afternoon, it was time to find a campsite. Henry was getting pretty tired paddling and scraping that heavy aluminum canoe down the river! With all the flood damage there was plenty of firewood available, but it took a while to find the perfect gravel bar that wasn’t full of large rocks. I paddled ahead and scouted several options. I know from experience that there is always a better site just around the bend! However, this time I found the best one, a large gravel bar across from a bluff with some sand to sleep on. We set up our camp and spent some time fishing while our fire got going. Celia and Silas really wanted to fish, but they have no idea how to cast a pole. DW let them reel his in a few times. He caught a small bluegill and let Silas reel it in. Then he cast the little fish out again so Celia could “catch” it too.

Celia & Silas at camp

Celia being silly

Jacks Fork River

Henry, Silas, Emily & Celia

Jacks Fork River

Safety dog always wears his PFD

After a good night’s sleep we woke up around 8:30am and started packing up while our breakfast burritos warmed on the fire. The kids went swimming within 10 minutes of being awake. One thing I have learned from this trip is you have to do shorter overnight trips with little kids. They are slow and want to stop and swim every 5 minutes!

Jacks Fork River

Ocoee is so excited to be floating

The next day was pleasantly uneventful. We did a little fishing and a lot of swimming. DW saw a snake catching a small bass which was pretty cool. The snake hauled the fish out of the river and drug it up on the bank as it flopped around violently. Never seen that before! We also found two kayak paddles; both the cheap kind, but hey, free paddles! The river was still pretty low in spots all the way to the end. Once Alley Spring comes in the river gets more consistent water levels. We arrived at Alley around 6pm, which is kinda late for a Sunday, but those kids are more into swimming than paddling! The gravel bar at Alley has changed quite a bit. It is not as big as it used to be. The campground was pretty rough too. All the bathrooms were closed and there were only port-a-potties available. The park service has put in a lot of work to get things back to normal, but I imagine repairing all those bathrooms is a large job.

Celia, Silas and their dog Lucas

Jacks Fork River

Jacks Fork River

Twilight on the river

We had an excellent time on this trip. DW and I enjoyed taking our niece and nephew on their first overnight float trip and the kids enjoyed it too. I asked them if they had fun and if they wanted to do it again. Silas gave an enthusiastic “Yes!” and Celia said “Eh, maybe.” She’s a snarky brat like me!

Bonus Prize: 2 kayak paddles

Critter Count: Deer, Hawks, Herons, Turtles, 1 Snake

Float #140: Eleven Point River

24 Feb

Greer to Riverton

F90_ElevenPoint

Eleven Point River
Oregon County, Missouri
Saturday, February 11 – Sunday, February 12, 2017
19 Miles
Temperature: 79˚/50˚, 62˚/36˚
Wind: S at 8mph, N at 10mph
Water Level: 2.8ft. at Bardley gage

The past couple years of blogging I have only been writing trip reports for sections of river I had not previously paddled. However, last year those new trips were pretty infrequent. So for this year I decided to write a trip report for every trip, even if it’s a stretch I’ve done a thousand times. Even though this trip report will not be as extensive as the original report, there is always something different to see. Documenting the weather and water level also gives a good idea of what the river is like at that time of year. So here goes our first repeat trip report!

If you live in the Missouri Ozarks area, you know this February has been unseasonably warm. So warm in fact that DW and I decided to do an overnight float on the Eleven Point, a river we usually reserve for the dog days of summer. We both needed a getaway, but not having time or money for a vacation meant a trip to our favorite Missouri river would have to satisfy our yearning for adventure. Plus, we have never been to the Eleven Point in the winter and we were eager to see how the river would be different without leafy vegetation and hot temperatures. We drove down after work on Friday night and rented a lovely little cabin at Hufstedler’s Canoe Rental. Saturday morning, Mike (owner of Hufstedler’s) shuttled us up to Greer Access. We always enjoy talking with Mike. He is a good person, always fair and friendly, and has extensive knowledge of the Eleven Point river and surrounding area. We were not the only people putting on the river, though we may have been the only ones staying out overnight. Most people appeared to be spending the day fishing.

Eleven Point River

Eleven Point River

A Bald Eagle takes fight

Eleven Point River

A small spring we’ve never noticed before

Eleven Point River

Old chimney at Turner Mill

Eleven Point River

The mill wheel in winter

Eleven Point River

Turner Mill spring

We pushed off from Greer around 9:30am. The water of the Eleven Point is mostly spring fed. The water level was pretty near the levels I’m used to in the summer and the clarity was about the same as well. Being spring fed, the water is a consistent temperature year-round. It actually felt a little warmer since it was closer to the air temperature. The best part of this trip was all the things we noticed along the river that we’ve never seen before, due to being covered by leafy foliage in the summer months. We noticed a small spring along a bluff, lots of old foundations and a chimney at Turner Mill, and many other foundations, old roads, and old rock retaining walls along the banks.

It is tradition for DW and I to take a dip in the spring water at Turner Mill and Boze Mill, regardless of the weather. We did it this time too. It was no more shockingly cold than usual, just took more time to warm back up. It may have been the earliest I’ve ever going swimming in the year! There were a lot of Bald Eagles on the river. We saw a couple of adult birds and 3 or 4 juveniles.

Eleven Point River

Ocoee – portrait of a happy canoe dog

Eleven Point River

Our lunch spot

Eleven Point River

Sitting in the canoe is so exhausting

Eleven Point River

Our campsite

Eleven Point River

Evening at camp

We stopped for lunch at a popular camp spot that is always occupied in the summer. We spent a while laying in the sun and enjoying the nice weather. As we paddled onward, we noticed several gravel bar campsites had a stack of nice, split firewood waiting for someone to use. We stopped at one such campsite for the night. Whoever that good samaritan was, thank you! It made setting up camp so much easier! We gathered a bit of deadwood too and left plenty of split firewood for the next campers. Our campsite was on an elevated gravel bar just past Whitten. It is a popular spot with plenty of flat space for a tent. Someone had fashioned steps into the slope of the gravel bar with logs and pegs, making the gear haul from shore to camp much easier. It was a pretty fancy spot! The moon was full that night and so bright we didn’t need any flashlights to see by. The next morning we slept in a bit, warmed our breakfast burritos over the fire, packed up and put on the river around 10:30am.

Eleven Point River

DW in Boze Mill spring

Eleven Point River

Me in Boze Mill spring

Eleven Point River

Turtle pile

Eleven Point River

Riding the rapid at Halls Bay

Sunday was about 15 degrees cooler than Saturday. We donned our wetsuits to keep warm. Especially for our dip in Boze Mill spring. That spring is always very cold and the wetsuit helped minimize the initial shock. It was still damn cold though. Halls Bay rapid was just about perfect. The wave was at a good, fully soaking height. Ocoee got completely swamped in the front of the canoe and DW took on a few inches of water. Always a fun spot on the Eleven Point. We reached Riverton Access around 1:30pm. On the last bend of the river I was picking up trash and came upon a small bottle of Jack Daniels. It was nearly full to the brim of with a dark yellow liquid. I held it up and asked DW, “Wadda’ ya think, whiskey or pee?” The only way to know is to open it up, lol! It was whiskey, thankfully. Then at the access I found a bottle half full of Mountain Dew. I tried to convince DW to try my signature cocktail of river trash whiskey and Mountain Dew, but he declined. And he calls himself adventurous!

Critter Count: 5 Bald Eagles, Osprey, Hawks, Kingfishers, Herons, Turtles

Bonus Prize: Bottle of Jack Daniels

Float #133 – 135: Buffalo River

8 Apr

Ponca to Hasty

F133_Buffalo

Buffalo River
Newton County, Arkansas
Friday, March 25 – Sunday, March 27
31 Miles

Our annual Easter weekend float trip this year was to the Buffalo River in Arkansas. We try to get to the Buffalo every spring and due to water levels and weather it is a completely different trip every time. This year was perfect! The water level was high enough to cover all the rocks we usually scrape our boats on and the weather was mild with no rain. If you recall last year’s trip, there was a lot of rain and high water, which made for a bit of a white-knuckle experience.

We left our house Thursday afternoon and arrived in Jasper, AR late that evening. We crashed in one of the tiny motels that night and woke up to a bright and crisp morning. Our friend Jake from Nashville met up with us and we all walked over to the Ozark Cafe for an excellent breakfast before running Jake’s van down to the takeout and purchasing a car shuttle for our vehicle from Buffalo River Canoe. We then drove up to Ponca and unloaded all our gear and reorganized everything into our boats. Jake and I paddled our trusty Liquid Logic and Dagger kayaks, while DW and our dog Ocoee manned our Old Town canoe. We pushed off around 11am for a fantastic day on the water.

Buffalo River

Jake is ready to get this trip started

Buffalo River

DW and Ocoee

Buffalo River

Looking out at the river from the mouth of a cave

Buffalo River

Buffalo River

The section between Ponca and Steel Creek has some nice, choppy runs that made for splashy fun at this water level. DW and I couldn’t help but think back to last year’s trip when these fun little splashes were huge, rolling waves. We saw a cave opening in a bluff and pulled over to stick our heads in the entrance. It was a peaceful spot with a nice view of the river from the mouth of the cave.

Buffalo River

DW steers through the ripples at Steel Creek

Buffalo River

Buffalo River

Buffalo River

Buffalo River

The next section of river between Steel Creek and Kyle’s Landing is one of the most popular on the Buffalo. There are many tall bluffs and beautiful scenery around every bend. At the Steel Creek access there is a small shelf rapid that can be kind of tricky for inexperienced paddlers. Jake and I made it through fine, and then we watched DW maneuver the canoe through. Of course he made it look easy!

Buffalo River

Buffalo River

Jim’s Bluff

Buffalo River

Buffalo River

Hemmed In Hollow Falls

Just after Jim’s Bluff there is a hiking trail that leads to Hemmed In Hollow where there is a 225 ft. waterfall (the tallest between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains). The hike is short and not difficult, so it is well worth the stop. It is best to catch the waterfall within a couple days of rainfall, otherwise it is just a drip. We were lucky enough to be there at the right time and there was a nice flow. Every other time I’ve been it was too dry.

Buffalo River

Buffalo River

Buffalo River

Buffalo River

Our campsite Friday night

A few hours after our stop at Hemmed In Hollow we started looking for a campsite. We found a nice one with a big gravel bar across from a large bluff. The gravel bars on the Buffalo tend to have larger stones than gravel bars on Missouri Ozark streams. Thus, we set up our tents at the edge of the forest where there is nice soft soil to sleep on. However, being in the woods means there are more nocturnal creatures roaming around at night, sniffing at your tent! DW and I woke up several times that night to the sound of some four footed beasts rustling around. One instance they were very close and DW had to yell at them to “go on, git” and they stomped off. Ocoee did not prove to be much of a guard dog. He was silent the entire time and soon snuggled up with us. I guess he knew they were bigger than him! In the morning we noticed lots of tracks and spots where the ground had been rooted up, so at least some of those noises we heard were razorback hogs. Exciting (eek)!

Buffalo River

Buffalo River

A small waterfall

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Buffalo River

Buffalo River

The second day of our trip was just as sunny and beautiful as the first. We set out at a leisurely pace, our goal being to stop for the night just past Pruitt access. There wasn’t much to report from the second day other than beautiful, clear water and nice scenery. As it neared evening we started looking for a campsite. Most of the good gravel bars were already occupied, as is usually the case. We finally found a rough looking gravel bar that had plenty of firewood and there was room for our tents in the woods. Luckily there were no piggy visitors this time.

Buffalo River

Buffalo River

Buffalo River

Buffalo River

The bridge at Pruitt

After a peaceful night, we woke up to a chilly, but sunny morning. We knew there was a chance of rain that day and the clouds soon began to roll in. However, we were spared getting wet as the rain held off while we were on the river. We had about 5 or 6 miles to our takeout at Hasty access. A couple miles above Hasty the Little Buffalo confluences with the river. The Little Buffalo is a nice sized creek that can be paddled when there is enough water flowing. Just past the creek we saw a razorback hog carcass on a gravel bar. That’s definitely something I haven’t seen before! It must have died recently because it was still mostly intact and the buzzards and other scavengers hadn’t gotten to it yet.

Buffalo River

Buffalo River

Buffalo River

The Little Buffalo flows into the river

We pulled up to Hasty sometime between noon and one, loaded all our gear back into our vehicles and started the four hour drive toward home. This was probably our best Buffalo River trip yet and I am already looking forward to next year!

Critter Count: Hawks, Ducks, Turtles, Razorback Hogs

Bonus Prize: A Spyderco pocket knife

Float #106 – 108: Eleven Point River

22 Jul

Cane Bluff to Myrtle

F106_ElevenPoint

Eleven Point River
Oregon County, Missouri
Friday, July 4 – Sunday, July 6
39 Miles

July 4th weekend is always crowded on the river, and I prefer my rivers quiet and pristine most of the time. However, I can’t waste a 3-day weekend sitting at home so what better place to be than the Eleven Point. The Eleven Point is rarely crowded since it is so far from any major city and the water is too cold for most people. The weekend turned out to be beautiful with unseasonal cool temperatures and the water was higher than normal due to recent flooding. I almost wish it had been hotter since the water is so cold!

We were joined by our friend Jake from Nashville to float 3 days on the Eleven Point from Cane Bluff (which is above Greer Spring) down to Myrtle (just above the Arkansas state line). Jake’s brother Jess, his girlfriend Kat, and her dog Nellie joined us for the first two days. We camped at Hufstedler’s on Thursday night and had them shuttle our boats up to Cane Bluff and our car down to Myrtle all for a reasonable price. Hufstedler’s is my favorite outfitter on the Eleven Point and we have been going there for well over 10 years. The camping is cheap, the firewood is free, the rental and shuttle prices are reasonable and the owners are pleasant, hardworking people.

Friday morning we woke up early and broke camp while waiting for Jess and Kat to arrive. They pulled in to our camp right on time, so we got all our gear together to ride the shuttle van up to Cane Bluff. We were unloaded and ready to put on the water by 10:30. Earlier in the week the Eleven Point and surrounding areas were hit with a flash flood and the water was still draining, making the river level higher than normal and a little bit murky. I have never been up at Cane Bluff with the water at that level. It was nice because Cane Bluff can be tricky in the summer and fall and you sometimes have to portage low spots. Not this time! We sailed over places that were normally scraping. However, all the new trees in the river made for plenty of new obstacles. All of them were passable, but it did make things tricky for anyone unfamiliar with this river, or canoe skills in general. One of the things I like best about the Eleven Point is that it can be more challenging than it looks, especially when the water is flowing swiftly!

Eleven Point River

Putting in at Cane Bluff

Eleven Point River

Eleven Point River

Eleven Point River

Eleven Point River

DW, Jake and I brought our fishing poles and put them to work as soon as we hit the water. Over the weekend we caught some smallmouth, bluegill, and plenty of trout. I don’t know if the river was recently stocked with trout, but I have never caught that many here before. We each caught a few nice sized rainbow trout and I caught a brown trout. If we hadn’t been in a blue ribbon area we could have kept them! Kat did some fishing as well and caught her share. Poor Nellie (the dog) sniffed a fishing lure and hooked herself, requiring some emergency nose surgery. She was fine as soon as the hook was out and you couldn’t tell anything had happened.

Eleven Point River

Snake suns on a log

Eleven Point River

Greer Spring

Eleven Point River

Hwy 19 Bridge at Greer

Eleven Point River

Jake’s trout

Six miles down from Cane Bluff, Greer Spring enters the river on the right side. Greer Spring turns the Eleven Point from creek to river. The second largest spring in the state, Greer is beautiful and massive. The spring branch is bigger than the river itself where it meets the Eleven Point. At the time of this trip all the springs were higher than normal due to the rains, and Greer was pumping out an impressive amount of water. I had never seen it that high before! Thus, the waters of the Eleven Point were colder than usual, consisting mostly of fresh spring water in a rush southward, not spending much time warming in the sun.

Eleven Point River

Eleven Point River

Yellow Crowned Night Heron

Eleven Point River

Turner Mill Spring

Eleven Point River

Jake in Turner Spring

Eleven Point River

Turner access

Just after Greer Spring branch is Greer access off of Hwy. 19. The best reason to put in at Cane Bluff is to see the change in the river once Greer Spring comes in. If you put in at Greer access you will miss it. The river flows quickly from Greer access, through Mary Decker Shoals (a rocky boulder dash) to Turner Mill Spring and access. At Turner Mill the remnants of the old mill and the spring are on the left side of the river and the campground and access are on the right side of the river. The spring flows out of a cave in the face of a bluff just up the hill from the river. It can be reached from a short hiking trail behind the bathroom. The trail is usually flanked by poison ivy, so tread carefully! Turner Spring was also pumping out an impressive amount of water and DW, Jake and Jess plunged in the flow for some hydrotherapy.

We camped just below Turner Mill on Friday night on a small gravel bar that was quite peaceful (except for all the frogs yelling about which one has the sexiest voice). The men gathered firewood, and Kat and I avoided the ticks and poison ivy while setting up our tents. We enjoyed a nice fire and a good meal that evening while we watched the bejeweled sky. The stars are spectacular on the Eleven Point and we saw several meteorites before hitting the bed sometime around midnight. The next morning we broke camp in a leisurely fashion and were back on the water between 10:30 and 11.

Eleven Point River

The jumping rock

Eleven Point River

Eleven Point River

Boze Mill Spring

Eleven Point River

Another snake

Eleven Point River

Campfire

Our second day on the river was spent much in the same fashion as the first; fishing, swimming and a couple of stops along the way. The next access down from Turner Mill is Whitten. Whitten is often very crowded on the weekends and a popular spot for locals to park their campers and hang out. Between Turner and Whitten is a large rock on the left side of the river that is one of DW’s favorite for diving. Usually the rock is about four feet out of the water and a bit difficult to pull up beside and climb up. This time it was only a couple of feet out of the water and looked so small compared to normal. We stopped here for a bit while everyone took their turns diving into the deep waters. The rest of our day was leisurely up until the last couple of miles. The river slows down somewhat after Turner and there are more long lake-like pools between the swift bends.

We stopped at our favorite spring on the Eleven Point, Boze Mill. There were a lot of people so we didn’t stay long, but we did take our turn dipping into the large spring fed pool. Usually the water coming our of Boze Mill is breathtakingly cold, but it was definitely warmer and cloudier this time. I guess it was pumping out rainwater mixed in with the spring water, still colder than the river though! Right around the bend from Boze Mill is Halls Bay Chute, a class 2 or 3 rapid and the largest drop on the river. When you approach this rapid stay on the left side of the river, as the right is usually shallow and full of rocks. This time the water was so high you could get over the rocks with no problem. I was afraid the water would be high enough to blow out the rapid, making it much less exciting. However it was more fun than usual. The wave at the bottom of the drop was much bigger than normal. A wall of water broke over my boat and filled the cockpit while thoroughly soaking me. Jake was right behind me as we turned into the eddy to bail out our kayaks. Next came Jess and Kat, who filled their canoe with about 6 inches of water but made it through without spilling. DW made it through with a little less water in the canoe. After I bailed my boat I continued downriver behind everyone else and passed Jess & Kat being rescued by a couple of helpful locals in a jon boat. Apparently, they had decided to bail their boat in the worst possible spot, against a tree, and swamped the entire canoe. Luckily with DW and the jon boat’s help they were able to salvage it before the canoe sank entirely. I sprinted downriver to pick up their yard sale (spilled items). Jess & Kat took it in stride and no one was any worse for wear.

Just before we reached Riverton access we came across another swamped canoe being rescued by a jon boat. This one was jammed underwater against a downed tree that had fallen across the main channel. So the lesson here is: swift water + tree = a bad time. Jess and Kat took off the water at Riverton, where we ran into the couple who had been in the other swamped canoe. They were a bit shaken up, as they had been sucked under the tree when their boat capsized. Luckily, everyone was ok, but they didn’t seem interested in floating again any time soon. We said our goodbyes to Jess & Kat and DW, Jake and I headed downstream to find a camping spot for the night. Within the next half hour we came upon a large gravel bar that had washed into the forest with plenty of firewood and flat spots for our tents. Another excellent night of camping was had with a much bigger fire than the previous evening.

Eleven Point River

Eleven Point River

Eleven Point River

Eleven Point River

The fattest turtle

Eleven Point River

The next morning dawned a little bit overcast as we groggily stumbled from our tents. We heated our breakfast and broke camp, getting back on the water around 10. The section of the Eleven Point down from Riverton to Myrtle is much less popular, but worth doing. There are several springs and it is usually a peaceful float. I saw a lot of turtles, some of them soft shell, and many birds. This section is not entirely within the National Scenic Riverway, so there are more signs of civilization and some riverside cabins. We only saw a couple other people the whole day, as almost everyone takes out at Riverton.

Eleven Point River

Morgan Spring

Eleven Point River

Blue Spring

Eleven Point River

Hwy 142 bridge

Eleven Point River

Myrtle access

About nine miles from Riverton is Morgan Spring float camp on the right side of the river. Float camp is used generously as it is literally one campsite with a stone table, fire ring and lantern post. But it is a beautiful spot right on the bank of the spring branch. It is easy to miss if you’re not looking for it, and this time there was a tree blocking the spring branch. We managed to wriggle around it and paddle up the spring branch a little bit. Around the corner from Morgan Spring is Blue Spring (one of many Blue Springs in the state). This Blue Spring is the eighth largest in Missouri and well worth checking out. There is a footpath somewhere on the bank that leads to an overlook, but I don’t know where that is exactly. We usually paddle up the spring branch to check it out. With all the newly fallen trees it was quite a bit of work to get up the spring branch. We sent DW in first. If he could maneuver that fully loaded canoe between branches, so could we in our little kayaks.

After exiting the spring we passed under Hwy. 142 bridge. There is an access just before the bridge on the left side of the river. We stopped on a gravel bar and ate lunch just around the bend. The sky was beginning to get stormy looking and we could hear thunder in the distance. Luckily, the rain missed us and it was soon sunny again as we paddled down to Myrtle. Myrtle access is on the right side of the river, one mile before the Arkansas state line. We pulled off the river around 3:30, loaded our gear and headed back to Riverton to pick up Jake’s van. On our way home we stopped at Stray Dog BBQ & Pizza in Van Buren for some excellent pizza and wings, which is our little tradition for the end of an excellent Eleven Point trip. We all had a great time. Floating the Eleven Point always soothes my soul and I feel quite refreshed after a weekend spent on the chilly spring-fed waters.

Our next major float trip will be in Minnesota as we are headed there for vacation. Out of state floats are always a fun new adventure and Minnesota loves floating as much as Missouri does, so I’m looking forward to it!

Critter Count: Blue Herons, Green Herons, Yellow Crowned Night Herons, Hawks, Snakes, Turtles, Deer, 1 Mink

Float #104 & 105: Big Piney River

26 Jun

Slabtown to Ross Bridge

F104_BigPiney

Big Piney River
Texas and Pulaski Counties, Missouri
Saturday, June 21 & Sunday, June 22
15 Miles

Over the years I’ve noticed that we tend to float a lot of rivers around the same time every year. This is one of those. Last year we floated the Big Piney a week later than we did this year. Two completely different groups of people and two different styles of float trips, but the river calls us back right on schedule every time! This year we did an overnight fishing float with the St. Louis Adventure Group. There were about 12 of us in all, spending two lazy days on the river fishing every hole we meandered past.

We arrived at Slabtown camp on Friday evening. I set up camp while DW and the rest of the drivers ran the shuttle to Ross Bridge access. Slabtown is a National Forest Service campground. It is very small with only 3 sites in a sort of communal setting. There is no water, restroom or trash service; but that also means there is no fee to camp. I last camped at Slabtown many years ago and it looks like the Forest Service has improved it since then. There is now a small parking lot next to the camp so you can unload your gear easier, new fire pits and picnic tables, and the boat ramp looks improved as well. Gone is the walk-in access to the camp, which was up a steep staircase from the boat ramp parking.

We spent Friday evening around the campfire getting to know new people and catching up with some friends we knew from previous SLAG trips. DW and I got to bed a little late and woke up around 8am to find most of the group had already set out an hour before. That’s nothing new for us though, we’re never in a hurry when we’re on river time! Our good friends Tommy and Val usually slack off at the end of the group too, which is one reason we get along so well. It took us a while to get all our gear from camp down to the boats and packed up for the trip. We were on the water just before 10am and it was already so humid and warm that I had to take a swim before I even got into my boat.

Big Piney River

Putting in at Slabtown access

Big Piney River

Big Piney River

Big Piney River

Big Piney River

Right around the corner from Slabtown access is a large gravel bar across from a craggy bluff, which just happens to be where we camped on the river last year. This year’s two-day float is the same stretch we did in one day last year, but when you are fishing things go a lot slower. We started catching fish pretty soon after hitting the water. The Big Piney is a blue ribbon smallmouth area, which means smallmouth bass must be at least 15″ to keep. We didn’t catch anything close to that big, but we did catch a lot of medium-sized smallmouth, goggle eye and bluegill. There were some beautiful bluegill in this stream with such vivid coloring, and a lot of tiny little fish finger size bluegill that were almost the same size as my lure. That didn’t stop them from getting hooked though! Within the first hour of fishing a goggle eye managed to steal my brand new crawdad lure. That was one of three lures I lost over the weekend (I’m really good at losing lures). I lost two more to snags (I’m also really good at catching trees).

Big Piney River

A large dragonfly commandeers my fishing pole

Big Piney River

Lily pads are blooming

Big Piney River

Big Piney River

Big Piney River

Prewett Spring

The Big Piney is a great river with excellent fishing and many tall beautiful bluffs. Everyone always raves about the bluffs on the Jacks Fork (which are great), but the Big Piney has just as good a selection of pine-topped cliffs along the river. Another great thing about the Big Piney is that it isn’t very busy. We only saw a handful of other people the whole weekend. This is probably due to the fact that it is a little farther from the city than the Ozark National Scenic Rivers and there is a lack of outfitters on the Big Piney. There is only one on the upper river and two or three on the lower river. We also didn’t find much trash until we got to the last five miles of the float (which is stretch frequented by the lower river outfitters). The river is mostly surrounded by National Forest, so there aren’t many cabins or other signs of civilization along the way. There are a few springs on the Big Piney. The big spring branch on this stretch is Prewett Spring, which comes into the river on the left side. The head of the spring is a ways up the branch on private property, so I’ve never walked back there to find it. Swimming in the water where the spring flows into the river is good enough! It was very cold, especially compared to the Big Piney water, which is not too cold at all.

The whole first day of this trip there were ominous clouds and the sounds of thunder upstream from us. I was hoping it would never actually catch up to us, but a few miles from our camp we got caught in a downpour. It rained as hard as it possibly could for about 20 minutes and then it was over. Luckily it was a warm rain with no wind, so no harm done. We just paddled through it, though we had to pay extra attention since the huge, fast raindrops obscured the water so you couldn’t read where the obstructions were. We reached the rest of our group camped across from a large bluff, bailed out all the rainwater from our boats and set up our camp. The evening was spent stargazing, watching the spectacular firefly show, and the distant lightning illuminating the thunderheads. It didn’t rain on us again during the trip, but it was never too far away.

Big Piney River

Big Piney River

Our camp on the river

Big Piney River

A rock slide

Big Piney River

Sunday morning dawned bright and clear. We cooked our breakfast over the coals from last night’s fire and broke camp. We were on the water a little earlier than the day before, but we were at the back of the group again (as usual). Within the first couple miles we came upon a hillside that had a few rock slides that looked fairly recent. That’s something you don’t see too often in Missouri. We spent the day fishing and swimming. There was a lull in the fishing around mid-morning when they weren’t biting, but then it picked up again soon after. One noteworthy animal sighting was a box turtle swimming across the river. That’s something we’ve never seen before. He was funny because he saw us and couldn’t pull his head into his shell while swimming, so he was looking a little panicked. He made it across just fine though.

Big Piney River

A box turtle swims across the river

Big Piney River

Big Piney River

Swift water

Big Piney River

Coming up to Ross Bridge

We stopped for lunch on a shaded gravel bar, ate the rest of our food and did some swimming. The last couple miles of the float we spent picking up trash, as there was more trash in that last couple miles than on the whole other part of the float. I did find a nice water gun and a cup koozie. We arrived at our take out around 2:30 and spent about an hour unloading the boats and loading the gear back into the car. It was a very relaxing weekend and I had a lot of fun fishing and spending time on this beautiful stream with good company. When we arrived home we found that the storms had been much worse at our house. We had a maple tree split in half and smash our backyard fence. Lovely to come home to a big mess when all you want to do is unload your gear and ride the couch for the evening. At least it didn’t damage anything more important.

We are planning to spend 4th of July weekend on the Eleven Point with our friend Jake from Nashville. I’m really looking forward to that trip, as the Eleven Point is my favorite stream in Missouri!

Critter Count: Ducks, Turkeys, 1 Bald Eagle, Turtles, Soft Shell Turtles, 1 Box Turtle

Bonus Prizes: 1 cup koozie, 1 water gun