Tag Archives: Arkansas

Float #157 & #158: Buffalo River

26 Apr

Boxley to Kyles Landing to Pruitt

F157_Buffalo

Buffalo River
Newton County, Arkansas
Friday, March 30 – Saturday, March 31, 2018
30 Miles
Temperature: Friday 60˚/39˚, Saturday 70˚/42˚
Wind: Friday NW at 7mph, Saturday S at 8mph
Water Level: Friday 5.5, Saturday 4.5 at Ponca gage

It’s the best float trip of the year! Our annual Easter float trip to Arkansas. This year we did the Buffalo and we had really good water levels for our trip. We were joined by our brother-in-law Henry and our friend Richard. We drove down on Thursday evening to Kyle’s Landing campground. It rained all the way there, but stopped as soon as we pulled up to camp. The rain held off for the rest of our stay until Saturday night/Sunday morning. So we got great water runoff from the rain without having to paddle through any rain ourselves! This time we left Ocoee (our dog) at home. He hates Arkansas because it has splashy water (small rapids). He’s not a whitewater fan AT ALL!

Friday morning the water was moving so good that we puttered around camp in the morning and put in at Boxley bridge around noon, knowing the 16 miles down to Kyle’s Landing would go by quickly.

Buffalo River

Boxley bridge access

Buffalo River

DW warms up the Gnar Bar at Boxley

Buffalo River

Buffalo River

Rescuing the Gnar Bar after DW’s flip

Boxley to Ponca is a challenging section of river and not for the inexperienced. If there is enough water to run it, you can be sure there are Class 2+ or Class 3 rapids that range from rolling waves to tight, technical turns. Our friend Richard was a bit out of practice for this level of paddling, so we spent a good amount of time pulling him out of the river! Henry took our Dagger whitewater boat. He seemed to have a great time with it and only flipped a couple times. DW actually flipped the canoe for the second time ever in his long history of paddling. There is one really tight S-turn with a tree, a boulder, a rock wall, and another tree that was super technical. I’m surprised I made it through without flipping myself. The canoe was just a little too long for DW to think that fast and make it through cleanly. He didn’t lose any gear though!

Buffalo River

Waterfalls

Buffalo River

More waterfalls

Buffalo River

Ponca bridge at 0″ airspace

We made it to Ponca bridge (6 miles down) without much more incident. Richard opted to stay at Ponca and wait for us to finish, as he was dead tired at that point. Flipping the boat a lot is very fatiguing! It’s always good to know your limits so you don’t get into a bad situation.

From Ponca we carried on to Kyle’s Landing without much incident. With all the rain in the previous days the waterfalls were everywhere! That’s not something you see too often on the Buffalo and especially not when the sun is shining.

Buffalo River

We got to Kyle’s Landing in the late afternoon and spent time relaxing and stuffing our faces after a hard day of burning calories. The next day we put in at the campground and paddled down to Pruitt.

Buffalo RiverBuffalo River

Henry swims

Buffalo River

Pruitt bridge

The second day of our trip Henry took his touring kayak instead of the whitewater boat and only flipped it a couple times! I was the only person in our group who didn’t flip at all (I’m badass like that, lol)! The section from Kyle’s to Pruitt isn’t as scenic as from Ponca down, so I didn’t take as many photos. The day was warm, but ended up being overcast with some chilly winds by the time we finished up. Saturday night the boys had fun stomping around the trails. Unfortunately I came down with a nasty stomach flu after we got off the river. Puking in camp is NOT FUN! It rained a bit Saturday night and started up with the precipitation again as we packed up and pulled out of camp. I was so glad the rain held off while we were on the river! It was another great trip to Arkansas.

 

 

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2017: Year In Review

29 Dec

2017 was a good year for paddling, even though we seem to be slowing down a bit in the number of miles we do per year. The best part about this year was taking my niece and nephew on their first overnight trips, and getting my sister Emily into kayaking a bit more. We had a stretch of warm weather early in the year and got to paddle the Eleven Point in the winter for the first time. The epic flooding in May tore up many of our Ozark streams and drastically changed parts of familiar rivers. DW did the MR340 this year, though we did not document it on the blog. He came in 9th in the Men’s Solo Kayak division, which is pretty damn good for someone paddling a stock plastic kayak!

Here’s a look back at 2017.

Float Stats

Number of trips in 2017: 16

Number of rivers floated: 10

Miles paddled: 223

Best critter sighting: A snake eating a fish on the Jack’s Fork

Best bonus prize: 2 cheap kayak paddles found on the Jack’s Fork

 

Best Photos

My favorite photo from each trip on the blog this year.

Bourbeuse River

Bourbeuse River

Eleven Point River

Eleven Point River

Meramec River

Meramec River

Courtois River

Courtois River

Big Piney River

Big Piney River

Mulberry River

Mulberry River

Mulberry River

Mulberry River

Jack’s Fork River

Jacks Fork River

Jack’s Fork River

Eleven Point River

Eleven Point River

Eleven Point River

Eleven Point River

North Fork River

North Fork River

Mississippi River

Mississippi River

Current River

Current River

 

Float #145: Mulberry River

24 May

Turner Bend to Beneux Bottom

F145_Mulberry

Mulberry River
Franklin County, Arkansas
Saturday, April 15, 2017
21 Miles
Temperature: 85˚/57˚
Wind: SSE at 6mph
Water Level: 2ft. at Mulberry gage

Our second day on the Mulberry river I took my touring kayak again, Jake took one of the whitewater boats and DW took the canoe. Our dog Ocoee rode in the front of the canoe. He behaved better and felt much safer than the first day on my kayak, but he still wasn’t thrilled about that splashy water!

We put in at Turner Bend where we took out the previous day. The second day was a longer float, taking out at Beneux Bottom, further downriver than we have in previous years. DW and Jake ran the shuttle and I had DW drop a pin on my GPS at the take-out. It is not an official forest service access and is pretty difficult to recognize from the river if you’ve never been before. It was a good thing we marked it, because we totally would have passed it up!

Mulberry River

Putting on at Turner Bend

Mulberry River

DW, Ocoee and the Gnar Bar

Mulberry RiverMulberry River

The second day was just as beautiful as the first. We couldn’t have had better weather for this trip. This section of the Mulberry isn’t as tight and twisty as the upper section and has longer pools between rapids, but the rapids are a bit bigger. I was able to get some decent shots going through couple rapids. There are some good wave trains on this section too. I got completely drenched a few times!

Mulberry River

Mulberry River

I love Arkansas!

We saw a lot of Bald Eagles on this day. Three or four adults and several juveniles. I wasn’t able to get close enough to get any good shots though. Halfway through the day I gave DW the camera to get some photos of me and he proceeded to take so many pictures that he killed the battery. Unfortunately I didn’t have my backup battery with me (of course). The one time we saw an eagle on the bank and got close to it was when the camera was dead!

Mulberry River

Jake’s having a good time

Mulberry River

I’m having a good time too

Mulberry River

Ocoee is tolerating it

Mulberry River

View from a canoe

Mulberry RiverMulberry River

The canoe we took on this trip, “Gnar Bar” is one of our rescue boats that we got from an outfitter we do repairs for. It was too far gone for outfitter use, but we welded it back together enough to get a few more years out of it. DW rigged up a homemade spray deck using an old air mattress, some grommets, and rope. It worked ok to keep out the worst of the water, but would have worked better if there was more gear to keep it from sagging, or more grommets to make it tighter. There were some really good waves and I had to bail my kayak a couple times, so we would have been bailing the canoe on every turn without a spray deck!

We made it to our take-out in early evening, loaded up the boats and went back to camp for another excellent dinner and beer around the campfire. As usual our Easter float trip was one of the best of the year and so much fun! Missouri has a lot of diversity and options for float trips, but between the Buffalo and the Mulberry, Arkansas holds the jewels of the Ozarks!

Critter Count: Turtles, Hawks, Muskrat, Herons, Bald Eagles

Float #144: Mulberry River

24 May

Wolf Pen to Turner Bend

F121_Mulberry

Mulberry River
Franklin County, Arkansas
Friday, April 14, 2017
16 Miles
Temperature: 83˚/60˚
Wind: SSE at 6mph
Water Level: 2.1ft. at Mulberry gage

Every Easter weekend DW and I go floating in Arkansas. We usually alternate between the Buffalo and Mulberry Rivers. This year was the Mulberry’s turn. The Buffalo certainly has the breathtaking scenery and bluffs, but the Mulberry is generally more exciting paddling. This year we were again joined by our friend Jake. He rocked the 7-hour one way drive from Nashville solo. The Mulberry is worth it! We stayed at Byrd’s campground, which has good camping right on the river and an excellent restaurant on-site. It’s nice to not have to cook after a long day of paddling!

We all arrived late Thursday night, set up camp and went to bed pretty promptly. The next morning we awoke early, made breakfast and headed up to our put-in at Wolf Pen.

Mulberry River

Prepping the boats at Wolf Pen

Mulberry RiverMulberry River

I took my Dagger touring kayak on this trip and DW brought both the whitewater kayaks as well as one of our Old Town canoes. This river is great because unless the water is high, it is suitable for almost any human-powered watercraft.

The first day DW and Jake took the whitewater kayaks while I took my touring kayak. We brought Ocoee (our dog) on this trip as I figured the weather would be nice and he could ride on the back of my kayak the first day. I even bought him a snazzy little life jacket as I knew he’d probably fall off in a couple rapids. The rapids on this river aren’t that big, class II at most during normal water levels, and Ocoee rides on the back of my kayak just fine on most of our Missouri streams. This day though, he was not having it. This dog HATES rapids. The very first rapid we encountered he bailed off my boat and refused to get back on. I ended up having to shove him into my cockpit, which is not comfortable for me, as he just barely fits and tries to climb up me every time there is splashy water.

Mulberry RiverMulberry River

Mulberry River

Ocoee stuck in Jump Start rapid

There is an infamous rapid just down from High Bank access called Jump Start. It is where the river flows straight into a rock wall and then makes a 90˚ turn. Last time we floated the Mulberry I was in a whitewater boat and did my first wet exit (where the boat flips upside down and you have to exit, roll over, or drown). So this time, even though I was in my trusty touring kayak, I was determined not to hit that wall again. What makes it doubly tricky is several small boulders and a lot of sleeper rocks as you approach the rock wall. I got hung up on one of the boulders and had to lean into it in order to not flip my boat. Ocoee was not making it easier. I knew I had to get rid of that extra weight to push myself off the boulder, so I threw Ocoee out of the boat into the water, which was all of about 4″ deep. I managed to dislodge my kayak and make the turn without hitting the wall. Ocoee decided he was stuck there in the middle of the river where I threw him out. He wouldn’t come to us and wouldn’t move. There was a couple on the gravel bar watching the action (who wouldn’t, it’s a great spot to watch people eat it). The guy offered to fetch Ocoee out of the stream. As he approached Ocoee decided swimming was a better idea than being grabbed by a stranger. He swam through just fine and continued to be a pain in my ass for the rest of the morning.

We stopped for lunch at our campsite at Byrd’s, which is halfway through the trip to Turner Bend. Neither I nor Ocoee was keen on him continuing the second half of the day in my boat. So I left him at camp, where he slept and chewed his bed in contentment while we continued on without all the doggy drama.

Mulberry River

Rapids

Mulberry River

Jake shreds some gnar

The rest of the day was spent shredding some good gnar on the beautiful turquoise water. We finished up at Turner Bend in the late afternoon and headed back to camp to eat an awesome meal at the campground restaurant and drink some beers around the campfire. No one flipped their boat on the first day!

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

Float #122: Mulberry River

24 Apr

Turner Bend to Spirit Creek

F122_Mulberry

Mulberry River
Newton County, Arkansas
Saturday, April 4
14 Miles

Saturday morning we awoke to beautiful, sunny weather for another day on the Mulberry. For our second day of floating I paddled Jake’s touring kayak, DW took my whitewater boat and Jake took DW’s whitewater boat. Since my boat had worn me out so much the first day I decided to take the easier boat for the morning. We headed down to Turner Bend to put in where we had taken out the day before. I hung out with the gear while Jake and DW ran shuttle down to Spirit Creek access. Spirit Creek is a 4WD access with space for about two cars to park by the river. Turns out you really do need 4WD and some ground clearance to make it all the way to the river. Jake’s van didn’t make it all the way down, but he was able to turn around and wait for DW to drop our Subaru at the access. There is a much better access at Campbell Cemetery, which is four miles above Spirit Creek. However, if you take out at Campbell you will miss Hell Roaring Falls, which is a nice little drop that can produce a big wave if the water is up.

The bridge at Turner Bend

The bridge at Turner Bend

Mulberry River

DW paddles through some

DW paddles through some gnar

Mulberry RiverBelow Turner Bend the river has more long pools interspersed with big drops. We didn’t see too many other people on this stretch because most people who rent do the upper section of the Mulberry. We did come across some locals who were doing their annual spring float. They talked to us for a while and gave us the scoop on all the rapids ahead of us. We also talked about the best season for floating the Mulberry, which of course is spring. They said the water is usually plentiful from October to May, so winter floats are also an option.

Stopping for lunch on a rock

Stopping for lunch on a rock

Mulberry RiverMulberry RiverMulberry RiverWe stopped for a quick lunch on a large, flat rock just below a good rapid. We finally saw a bit of wildlife on the river now that the sun was out. There were several turtles sunning themselves, and the usual assortment of birds. Shortly after lunch we pulled over and switched boats. I tried out DW’s boat while Jake took his touring kayak again. The Dagger whitewater boat is a little easier to paddle in a straight line, but I didn’t think it was quite as comfortable to sit in. It is a sort of retro design, with no bells or whistles on the seating and the thigh braces are very tight. However, I went through several rapids in it and didn’t flip over, so that’s something. Jake took my camera and got some nice shots of us paddling through. It’s nice to be in front of the camera sometimes instead of always behind it!

It's ME!

It’s ME!

DW shreds it

DW shreds it

Me, DW and Jake at camp

Me, DW and Jake at camp

After passing the Campbell Cemetery access we kept our eyes peeled for Hell Roaring Falls. It is a rock shelf across the river with about a 3 ft. drop. It looks like it could really rock if the water is up a little! We made it over without incident, but got fairly well splashed in the process. Eventually we came to our take-out around 4pm. We spent a little while relaxing and having a beer by the river. Paddling in rapids is hard work! After loading up our boats we made the trek back up the 4WD access road, over rocks and through one pretty big mud puddle. Back at camp we settled in to burn all the firewood we had left and eat a satisfying meal of spaghetti. It was a great weekend and we had a good time on the river. We will definitely be going back to Arkansas next spring!

Critter Count: Turtles, Hawks, Kingfishers

Float #121: Mulberry River

23 Apr

Wolf Pen to Turner Bend

F121_Mulberry

Mulberry River
Newton County, Arkansas
Friday, April 3
16 Miles

Our Easter float trip this year took us back to Arkansas, this time on the Mulberry River. The Mulberry is about an hour south of the Buffalo River and well worth a visit. It doesn’t have the high bluffs that the Buffalo is famous for, but it has the same beautiful turquoise blue water, Ozark Mountain scenery, and many more rapids. The Mulberry is rain dependent, so the best time to float it is in the spring. It is smaller than the Buffalo, but can rise and fall rapidly depending on the precipitation amount. This is a good river if you like a little excitement and is suitable for an intermediate paddler. If you are a beginner you probably want to hone your skills some before tackling the rocky rapids of the Mulberry. You can float it in a whitewater boat or in a small touring kayak. The upper section has more rapids with few slow pools between them, and the lower section has larger drops between longer pools. None of the rapids on the Mulberry are larger than Class II during normal flow.

DW and I took our whitewater kayaks on this trip. Our friend Jake made the 7-hour trek from Nashville to join us and he brought his 13′ touring kayak. We camped at Byrd’s Adventure Center, where we had a nice camp spot with a pavilion right on the river. There are a couple other commercial campgrounds and a few national forest campgrounds along the river as well.

We were supposed to get a thunderstorm Thursday night, but that never happened. We awoke to cloudy skies on Friday morning, loaded all our gear, donned our wetsuits (cause this water is cold!), dropped a vehicle down at Turner Bend, and headed then up to Wolf Pen access.

Putting in at Wolf Pen

Putting in at Wolf Pen

Mulberry RiverMulberry River

This was my first time ever in a whitewater kayak, so I paddled around a bit in the slow pool at the put-in. Hoo-boy is a whitewater kayak different than a touring boat! Every little move you make causes the boat to react. A touring boat is designed to go forward in a straight line with little effort. A whitewater kayak is designed to spin around in a circle with little effort. I found myself fighting with the boat to try and hit the correct line in the swift water. Obviously I have a lot of learning to do before I feel like I’m competent in a whitewater kayak! DW’s whitewater kayak is a different design and much longer and narrower, so it goes straight a little bit easier than mine.

Mulberry RiverMulberry RiverOf course, I don’t have any photos of the rapids because I was too busy trying to get through them to take a picture. We all made it through most of the rapids without incident until we came upon one called Jump Off Rapid. Jump Off Rapid starts off with a boulder garden that then careens straight into a rock wall. That rock wall is where I bit it. While trying to avoid crashing into the wall I flipped over and was underwater for about 4 seconds. 4 seconds is a long time when you are submerged. Whitewater kayaks are very tight and you don’t fall out of the boat right away like you do in a touring kayak. This was my first time upside down, under water. I remember several thoughts going through my head. The first being, “Well, I’m underwater. Hopefully I don’t drown.” Then I wondered why DW hadn’t flipped me back over yet. Then my brain finally wised up and I pulled my kayak skirt off the cockpit and kicked my legs out of the boat. So I experienced what is known as the “wet-exit” which is a good thing to know when you’re in a whitewater boat!

After my little mishap I was pretty tired. It turns out my whitewater kayak might be too heavy for me and it wears me out fairly quickly. Luckily our campground was exactly half way into our trip. We stopped there for lunch and I decided I was too tired to continue the rest of the trip safely. I let Jake take my whitewater boat so he could experience the wet-exit. And he did, twice.

Jake's first flip

Jake’s first flip

Rescue trainees flip a raft

Rescue trainees flip a raft

Mulberry River

Fixer Upper Cabin

Fixer Upper Cabin

DW takes over narration of the second half of this trip, as I was recovering in camp.

After completing a pit stop at camp for food and adult beverages, we left to complete the second half of our trip down the Mulberry. Jake took Lee’s whitewater kayak and promptly took a swim on an eddy line just after a rapid. This left him a bit rattled given he was on a gravel bar just a few hundred yards from camp. He got the water drained from the boat and regained his nerve thus deciding to complete the trip down the river. It had several rapids that were fun to play in and even more shoals as we worked our way down stream to the low water bridge. We opted for going to river right approaching the bridge. Shortly thereafter there was an old house that is on the river and has just been disintegrating for many years.

Mulberry River

Jake's second flip

Jake’s second flip

Mulberry RiverMulberry River

Almost to the end of our trip, we approached Scroiliac Rapid and both made it through, then out of nowhere Jake is swimming again. The easy maneuverability and large rocker of Lee’s boat caught him off guard on another eddy line allowing for another nice April swim! From here we continued on 1.5 miles to Turner’s Bend to complete our day of adventure on the beautiful Mulberry River. We loaded up our gear and headed back to camp where Lee had a nice fire going. We hit the hay pretty early so we could get enough rest to get up and do it again the next day!