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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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

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Float #123: Missouri River

22 May

Big Muddy Wildlife Area to Cooper’s Landing

F123_Missouri

Missouri River
Boone County, Missouri
Saturday, April 25
15 Miles

I have not been able to paddle the past month, due to a shoulder injury sustained at the MWA Whitewater Clininc earlier in April. DW has done a couple of short floats since then and has blogged them for you all! I hope to be back in action in June.

Lee and I met our friend Richard at Cooper’s Landing to drop off a vehicle for our shuttle. Given I’d spent one of my few hour-plus breaks on the Missouri River 340 race here enjoying beer and Thai food, we didn’t pause to scout the take out. We then journeyed west about 30 minutes to the Big Muddy river access. Upon arriving at the access it was quite apparent how it got its name. The road was covered in several inches of slick river mud. Having an all-wheel-drive vehicle was necessary, as the two wheel drive truck we left at the access likely would not have made it close to the river.

There is supposed to be another road in Big Muddy that takes you to Taylor access, but this road was blocked off. So we continued to a parking lot with an overflow ‘pond’ that is an access for fisherman in small boats. The only direct access to the river was down the blocked off road and that looked like quite the muddy portage for our preferences. We unloaded at the parking lot and Lee, being on the ‘injured reserve list’ due to an April white water injury, headed off for a hike and to eventually pick me up at Cooper’s Landing.

Richard and I threw the boats in the pond and paddled across it in a few short minutes and then begin our first and only portage of the trip. We paddled to where Interstate 70 crosses the pond and I guessed this may be the least rough route to travel. I followed some very small critter trail the best I could, clearing somewhat of a path for Richard. By the time the trail made it to a view of the river I was thinking I was following a pack rat path. We eventually made it after 10 minutes of bushwhacking through last season’s dead, dry weeds.

Putting in at Big Muddy

Putting in at Big Muddy

Missouri RiverMissouri RiverMissouri RiverThis was Richard’s first trip on the mighty Missouri River and my first trip in Lee’s 17′ boat. It didn’t take long to remind me I’ve not been in a narrower long boat since the MR340, so I spent a lot of time learning its lines and trying to not fall in. We paddled down past some pretty bluffs on river left and enjoyed them for the better part of an hour. Once those were out of sight we ventured on to Katfish Katie’s, also on river left. With the size of the Missouri River it’s easy to do a 12 – 17 mile trip and see only three bends and sets of views before you are done.

Missouri RiverMissouri RiverMissouri RiverMissouri RiverMissouri River

There was a really nice, long sand bar just down and across the river from Katfish Katy’s campground. We continued down the river and around the bend. On river left was the second and last sand bar of the trip. After chatting with Richard we determined it was best to continue downstream. The reason we didn’t stop at either beautiful sand bar we passed was simply due to the ominous clouds all around us. Though we got lucky and missed getting any significant rain event, it seemed to happen all around us and most of the time we were away from our camp they were getting rained on. We ventured on a couple miles or so to Cooper’s Landing without any weather issues and enjoyed some cold beer and good Thai food!

Float #39: Meramec River

28 Jun

Bruns’ Bridge to Chouteau Claim

Meramec River
Franklin County, Missouri
Sunday, June 3
9 miles

Faced with a warm Sunday full of nothing to do, DW and I decided to do a quick float on the Meramec near home. Unfortunately, our truck is in dire need of a clutch replacement. So now we’re down to one vehicle that can run shuttles. We decided to try a bike shuttle instead. This float is 9 miles long, but the shuttle is less than 4 miles, all on back roads. Perfect for a bike shuttle. DW dropped me and the boats off at the bridge and drove the car to the takeout. He then rode his bike back to the put in (all uphill), locked it to a cable on the old bridge road and we were on our way! This float is a popular one for us, due to its moderate length, proximity to home and short shuttle distance. See Float #20 and Float #1 for more detail on this section of river.

Meramec River

DW at Bruns’ Bridge access

Meramec River

Meramec River

Meramec River

Meramec River

The first few miles of the float are a big oxbow that leads to the River Round access. That’s what gives this longer float a really short shuttle. We saw a few people in motor boats, but no other paddlers until we got to River Round. There is an outfitter on this section of the Meramec, Old Cove Canoe, so we did see a lot of their boats after the main access. They looked to be pretty busy for a Sunday. We saw many people floating in inner-tubes also. The water on this section is perfect for a lazy float if you’ve got some time to kill. The water is pretty deep in the main channel and not too fast or full of obstacles.

We spent most of our time picking up trash and swimming. What had started as a warm, sunny day became cloudy and a bit cooler. DW found an old milk crate that he has since turned into an additional trash receptacle for his kayak. We took out at Chouteau Claim, at the confluence of the Bourbeuse and Meramec. Our gear was barely loaded and strapped down before the rain came in. Lucky for us as we didn’t bring any rain gear. In my experience, the lack of rain gear is the best way to make sure you get rained on!

Critter Count: Turtles, Blue Herons, Green Herons, 1 Coot

Bonus Prize: 1 red milk crate

Float #33: Huzzah Creek

4 Apr

Hwy. Z to Huzzah Conservation Area

Huzzah Creek
Crawford County, Missouri
Monday, March 26
12 Miles

As March drew to a close I was desperate for a day off work to go do something fun. Monday was a good day to do that as my Aunts, Marcia and Libby, and my youngest sister, Abby all had that day off work. Poor DW had to spend the day surrounded by female in-laws, but we’re cool people so he had fun anyway!

The Huzzah is a big creek/small river that runs through Crawford county. There are only 30 miles of the Huzzah suitable for floating and only 13 of those have enough water to float most of the year. The Huzzah gets its name from a garbled spelling of Osage, a prominent native tribe in the area. There are a lot of place names in Missouri that come from Native American names, translated into French, and then into English so that they sound nothing like the original native name!

Just a reminder that although the Huzzah is a beautiful and peaceful float in the off-season, don’t go there on a weekend during the summer. It’s the go-to float for drunk college students. It’s crowded, gross and obnoxious.

huzzah river, hwy z access

Bridge over the Huzzah at Hwy. Z access

huzzah river

Duck or portage?

We put on the river just after noon. My Aunts took the red canoe and Abby took my old red kayak. This was Abby’s first time kayaking and my Aunts’ first trip in a canoe in several years. Abby did pretty good, she didn’t fall out and only got hung up once at the first turn. Marcia and Libby also did well maneuvering the 17ft. canoe around tight turns and tricky log jams. They did a lot of 360˚ turns in the eddys and a lot of giggling when they got through an obstacle. Thus they were the “giggle boat.” At the low water bridge crossing Abby was the only one who ducked the bridge and floated through (go Abby)!

huzzah river

huzzah creek

Spring colors in the forest

huzzah river

huzzah creek

huzzah river

After we passed the Hwy. 8 bridge and Huzzah Valley campground, we went through “The Narrows” of the creek. This is a short, but very pretty section where the water is swift and the creek is spanned with curving sycamore trees. We stopped for lunch on a gravel bar soon after. My family knows how to eat and we always bring too much food. There was plenty of fancy cheese and fresh veggies to pass around after DW and I finished our smoked pork loin and goat cheese wraps. Just because you’re on the river doesn’t mean you have to skimp on the goodies!

There were a lot of turtles out sunning themselves as the day was really warm. We saw both soft shell and hard shell varieties. The air was so warm that I had to go swimming a few times, even though the water was still winter cold! We also saw a Bald Eagle in a tree who had just caught a small fish. He didn’t like the look of us and flew off to finish his dinner before I could snap a photo.

We pulled into the Huzzah Conservation Area before dark and were home around 8:30. It was a long, but fun day. Having hiked Hamilton Hollow on Sunday and then floating Monday made for an exhausting Tuesday back at work!

huzzah river

huzzah river

huzzah river, huzzah conservation area

Huzzah Conservation Area access

 

Critter Count: Turtles, Blue Herons, Geese, Ducks, 1 Bald Eagle (with fish)

Float #7: Meramec River

11 May

Cedar Ford to Woodson K. Woods

Meramec River Map

Meramec River
Crawford County, Missouri
Sunday, May 8
9 Miles

We had spent most of Saturday doing garden chores and various yard work and planned to do the same on Sunday. However, upon waking and stepping outside it was already hot and very sunny. Screw the chores, let’s go floating! DW called his friend who owns Adventure Outdoors along the Meramec River in Steelville. Luckily, he was available to shuttle our boats and that sealed the deal. We quickly gathered our float gear, threw together some food and leftover beers from the previous weekend and hit the road.

sycamore tree meramec river

A sycamore parallels the water

The upper Meramec is a beautiful stretch of river and only an hour from our house, so it is our go-to choice when we want to float somewhere away from the house, but not too far. The water was still high upriver, but not nearly as muddy as it was downriver near our house. We decided to put in at Cedar Ford, which is not always floatable in the lower summer water, and take out at Woodson K. Woods conservation area. Since this was a very impromptu float, we didn’t get on the river till after 1pm. The water was swift enough to make it a lazy day without too much paddling.

Cedar Ford Meramec River

Low water bridge at Cedar Ford

Cedar Ford is not an official access point and there is no parking lot, so it is best to get a shuttle for this float or risk parking your car along the road. The gravel road gets washed out after heavy rain and a 4wd vehicle is usually needed.

bluffs meramec river

Low bluffs near Cedar Ford

meramec river

Fast ripples on the river

The water at the put in was quick and the first couple miles went by swiftly. The upper Meramec is twisty and remote, with many narrow spots and deep swimming holes. We took advantage of the hot day to take plenty of swim breaks. Though not the first swim of the year, it was the first that wasn’t shockingly cold. The water was chilly and a bit murky, but perfect for a hot day. The Meramec is a river with a beautiful color palette that is rivaled only by the Current River. Unfortunately it gets so stirred up by motorboats in the summer that it is unnoticeable. That is why I prefer this river in the off season.

meramec river

The vibrant beauty of the Meramec

gravel bar kayak meramec river

Our lunch stop

We took a late lunch on a large gravel bar. It took a while to find a good spot. With the high water many gravel bars were submerged and the larger ones were in full sun. We compensated with more swimming. This part of the river is heavily lined with trees and low bluffs. There were not many obstacles, but there were many rocks submerged in the high water. We didn’t see much wildlife beyond the normal crowd, but we did catch a glimpse of a brood of baby ducks and their mother. They saw us coming a quickly swam behind a log to hide.

hwy 8 bridge meramec river

Floating under the hwy. 8 bridge

The float was over all too soon. We took out at 5pm and were back home in time to finish those pesky garden chores.

Critter Count: Turtles, Blue Herons, Baby Ducks

Float #2: Meramec River

24 Feb

Spanish Claim to Red Horse

Meramec River
Franklin County, Missouri
Sunday, February 20
20 miles

Two weekends of warm, sunny weather in February means it’s time to hit the river again. This time we did one of our favorite close-to-home floats on the Meramec. Due to few accesses along this stretch, this trip is usually quite peaceful and makes for great wildlife spotting and plenty of bonus prizes (aka various usable items that have been swept downstream).

 

Bluff downriver from Spanish Claim

 

 

A float of 20 miles in one day is a long haul with plenty of paddling. No starting at noon for this one! We put in around 9:30 at Spanish Claim access, which can be reached from the Meramec Conservation Area on Hwy. K. The access is at the dead-end of Spanish Claim Road. I’m not sure about the official name of this access, as it is not labeled on any map. During the past two years this access had a facelift. What was once muddy pit has been transformed into a large gravel parking lot and the trail leading to the river has been cleared and widened for easy walking. There is no boat ramp here, you have to carry your boats about 100 yards from the parking area to the river. However, this makes for a quiet access without motorboat fumes or drunk rednecks.

Around the first bend is Meramec Caverns, a popular tourist attraction featuring a large commercial cave and historic ties to Jesse James. A zip line course was recently added and on summer days you can float underneath people zipping across the river. Another couple of miles downriver there is a cave on the left side of the river which is worth a stop, but be careful to avoid the poison ivy. Just down from the cave is Roaring Spring, a small spring that gushes out from a shelf in the bluff. Look for the kissing sycamores that guard the entrance to the spring. This float features many picturesque bluffs and quiet river bends. No time to stop and stare though; we’ve got to keep paddling if we want to get off the water before dark!

 

Entrance to the cave

Looking at the river from the mouth of the cave

 

 

5 miles from our take out we cross Plum Ford, named for the plum trees that used to grow here. An old roadbed follows the right bank of the river and crosses the water. Plum Ford road dead ends into the river here. Although it looks like a good access, the landowners are notorious asshats who will call the police the minute they see anyone drive down to the river. You can get away with dropping boats on the gravel bar, but don’t even think about parking your vehicle anywhere near here. I have heard rumors you can access from Hwy. P on the opposite side of the ford, but it’s a long, muddy walk down the unmaintained road bed and I’ve never heard of anyone trying it.

 

Bluffs along the river

DW floats ahead

 

Just past Plum Ford we take a break on a large gravel bar that is prime for swimming in hot weather. As the afternoon marches into evening we paddle the last few miles, crossing under the Hwy. K bridge to take out at Red Horse access. Red Horse is just around the bend from where Big Indian Creek flows into the Meramec. The shuttle is only 15 minutes to pick up the other vehicle at the Spanish Claim, which shows just how much the river snakes between the two conservation areas. A long day and another satisfying float!

Critter Count: Turtles, Ducks, Geese, Blue Herons, 1 Bald Eagle

Bonus Prizes: 1 worn canoe paddle, 1 cheap life vest, 1 sassy beer coozie stating “I didn’t say it was your fault, I said I’m going to blame you”, 1 travel mug that says “Grandma”