Tag Archives: bay creek

Float #98-100: Jacks Fork River

30 Apr

The Prongs to Bay Creek

F98_JacksFork

Jacks Fork River
Texas and Shannon Counties, Missouri
Friday, April 18 – Sunday, April 20
25 Miles

Last summer we floated the Jacks from The Prongs and enjoyed it so much we wanted to come back and do it again, but take our time and do some fishing. This year’s Easter float trip seemed like the perfect opportunity. The water levels were very good and the weather was really beautiful! It has been many years since we have had an Easter float with such sunny, warm weather. Usually it is rainy, cold, or both.

We left our house in the afternoon and drove the two and a half hours to The Prongs access, arriving in the early evening, about an hour and a half before sunset. We planned to float a couple of miles and find a good camping spot. That way we could wake up on the river and not have to pay for a campground site!

Setting off Friday evening

Setting off on Friday evening

Floating under the bridge

Floating under the bridge

A look back at the bridge

A look back at the bridge

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Our first campsite

Our first campsite

The first turn after the access is an old bridge with large culverts to float through. It is easy to float under and provides a nice framing of the river ahead. After the bridge is a fallen tree that spans most of the river. The same tree was there last summer. I thought for sure a flood or a human would have cleared it by now! Since there was more water now than in the summer it was a little easier to float through, but if your skills aren’t up to par I would portage around it. I wiggled my kayak through a narrow space in the middle, while DW scraped past on the far left. After the tree there aren’t any big obstacles, but there are many quick runs with multiple boulders and splashy waves. That’s why this upper section is so much fun!

We saw a lot of wildlife during our short float Friday evening, including a juvenile Bald Eagle and a beaver! As the sun began to set we looked for a good gravel bar to camp. The first one we looked at had too many large rocks to sleep comfortably, but the next gravel bar was perfect. I unpacked and set up the tent while DW collected firewood. We then built a fire and enjoyed a delicious dinner of burritos warmed over the open fire.

The next morning we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast of ham and egg sandwiches before setting off for the day. We were on the river a little after 10am. A couple of bends around the river we stopped for a little bit to fish. DW caught a 12″ smallmouth and I caught a stupid sunfish. That set up the theme for our fishing the rest of the trip. DW reeled in the smallmouth while I was plagued with sunfish. We didn’t catch anything much bigger than that first fish the rest of the weekend.

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Fast ripples

Fast ripples

Looking out from a cave

Looking out from a cave

We spent Saturday’s float concentrating on taking it slow and fishing every good spot we came across. Good fishing holes abound on the upper Jacks, there seems to be one around every bend. We also noticed a lot of caves in the surrounding bluffs. This time of year, before the trees leaf out, it is much easier to see all the holes in the hillsides. We came across one cave at river level that was gated, but we could float into the mouth.

Six miles from The Prongs is Hwy. 17 bridge and Buck Hollow access. This access is where most people put on the river. There were several people hanging out at the access and a couple of kayakers just getting on the river. Three miles down from Buck Hollow is Blue Spring. There is a small campground on the right side of the river and the spring is across from it. We saw many springs on this float, most of them just small faucets gushing from the banks.

We also saw a lot of wildlife on the second day, including more Bald Eagles, many deer and a couple of large softshell turtles. Apparently we weren’t the only people who decided Easter weekend was a great time for floating. We came across quite a few canoes on Saturday, many of them doing overnight trips as well.

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Hwy 17 bridge

Hwy 17 bridge

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Blue Spring

Blue Spring

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We ended our day at Jam Up Cave, a large cave on the right side of the river that is obscured by large boulders. There is an excellent gravel bar across from the cave that is almost always occupied on weekends in the summer. Luckily for us, we were the first to arrive, so we claimed our spot and set up camp. There was already some firewood piled by the fire pit and DW found some more cut logs laying in the woods. With firewood easily secured we spent the rest of the daylight fishing the hole just above the cave. Somehow DW managed to hook a small mussel, something that has never happened to either of us before. As darkness fell we cooked up some chicken and potatoes over the fire while listening to the whip-poor-wills and spring peepers sing.

Preparing camp at Jam Up Cave

Preparing camp at Jam Up Cave

Our campsite at Jam Up Cave

Our campsite at Jam Up Cave

DW caught a mussel

DW caught a mussel

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The next morning we awoke early, ate a quick breakfast of leftovers from dinner the night before, packed camp and were on the river around 9:30. We fished for a bit in the morning, but the wind picked up and made casting difficult so we gradually stopped fishing as we approached the afternoon. DW spent most of the day perfecting his stand-up canoe paddling. He concluded that it is easier to navigate standing, but only if you are sober. A few beers in, you might fall out of that canoe!

Four miles from Jam Up Cave is Rhymers access. The river splits just before the access and if you take the fork on the left you will come across Ebb & Flow Spring. It is a pretty little spring that bubbles from some rocks in the bank. After Rhymers is the Missouri State Teacher’s Assoc. campground, a beautifully maintained campground that is for the use of teachers and their families. It looks like a great place to stay!

The weather was so warm on Sunday that DW and I both took a quick swim on our lunch break. The water was really cold, as can be expected in April. I don’t know that I have ever swam this early in the year, but it sure did feel good!

Ebb & Flow Spring

Ebb & Flow Spring

Missouri State Teachers Camp

Missouri State Teachers Camp

DW SUPs his canoe

DW SUPs his canoe

Another spring

Another spring

Baby turtles

Baby turtles

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As we neared our takeout we fished another couple of bends before taking off the river around 3:30. Bay Creek was a little busy with many canoes taking out. We ended up talking with some of the same people we saw on the Jacks last year! Loading our gear in the truck didn’t take long and we were on the road a little after 4pm.

We had a great time and the Jacks Fork was beautiful, as always. The crystal clear water, spring flowers, abundant wildlife and perfect weather made for one of the best Easter float trips we have had in a while. We don’t have any specific float trips planned in the near future, so we’ll see what the summer brings!

Critter Count: Turtles, Ducks, Geese, Herons, 1 juvenile Bald Eagle, 4 adult Bald Eagles, 7 Deer, 2 Northern Red Snakes, 3 Softshell Turtles, 1 Beaver

Bonus Prizes: 1 nearly new beer koozie, 1 nearly new boat sponge

Float #9: Jacks Fork River

24 Jun

Bay Creek to Eminence

jacks fork river map

Jacks Fork River
Shannon  County, Missouri
Saturday, June 18
12 Miles

The Jacks Fork is one of the beautiful streams in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. Crystal clear waters, towering bluffs and abundant wildlife are all major draws to this river. It’s been a few years since I’ve floated the Jacks. There always seem to be wilder, more remote rivers calling my attention when I am going to drive multiple hours from home. After doing a bunch of close-to-home floats I was ready to drive for a weekend of camping and floating. We organized the trip weeks ahead of time, planning to camp at Bay Creek, a National Forest campground about halfway down the river. We originally wanted to float the upper part of the river, but the water was too low, even for kayaks. So we revised our plan and floated down from Bay Creek for two days.

We arrived at the campground at 6pm Friday night. It’s a good thing we didn’t arrive any later because the campground was almost full. There was only one spot left; the smallest one. We had 9 people in our group throughout the weekend so camping was tight, but we managed. Bay Creek only has 10 sites, all well equipped with fire rings, grills and picnic tables. Half of them are in a meadow right at the river access. The rest of the sites are across a small creek ford and very spread out along a rough gravel road that goes a few miles along the river. It was almost a mile from our site to the only toilet!

It was very humid and warm on Friday night, so we didn’t build a fire, we just hung out in a circle around a citronella candle. Turns out it’s a perfect substitute for a campfire! After dinner and a few beers we hit the tents to get some sleep for tomorrow’s float. About an hour before dawn I was awakened by some rustling outside the tent. I couldn’t see anything, but I knew some animal was messing around in our site. I sent DW out to investigate. I think he was still asleep because he tried to exit the tent through the window and I had to direct him to the door. Eventually he stumbled out to discover some raccoons had broken into our food container and chowed down a bag of Red Hot Riplets (very spicy bbq chips). Joke’s on them because I bet they had asses of fire the next day! DW chased them off a secured the campsite. Right at dawn I heard coyotes howling and yipping just over the ridge. They were very loud, but it only lasted a few seconds. Just after that it started to rain. There was plenty of thunder, but it never rained too hard. It kept up throughout the early morning, so we didn’t get as early of a start as we had planned. About 9am the birds started singing, so I took that as a sign the rain was over and we could get our day started.

bay creek jack forks river

Bluff just above Bay Creek

DW, Charlie and our friend Gregg ran the shuttle down to Eminence while Alex and I prepped the float gear and food for the day. Once they returned we put the kayaks in the water just upstream from our campsite, which was a little over a mile upriver from the Bay Creek access. A few minutes after we put in we came across a rope swing and had to take a swim break. Down at the access we met up with Gregg’s brother, his 11-year-old nephew and his nephew’s friend. They were floating in a 12 ft. whitewater canoe and a 15 ft. canoe. They probably had to do a little more scraping than the kayaks, but it wasn’t too bad. The day was pretty warm, but the sun didn’t come out until after noon.

jacks for river bluff

Bluff down from Bay Creek

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Alex kayaks around the bend

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Swimming stop

We had lots of fun watching the young boys maneuver their canoe around the fast bends. The adults were yelling instructions while the boys simultaneously yelled “I got it. I know how to do this!” Every overhanging tree, bluff and large rock prompted a chorus of “Can we jump off that? Dad lets stop and jump.” Thus we made several swimming stops, which was good for a hot and sunny day.

The halfway point of our trip was Alley Spring, a beautiful and historic spring with a large campground, picnic area and historic mill. It’s well worth a stop if you have never been before. We’ve visited countless times already and when we arrived it was already pushing past 4pm so we only made a brief stop to swim. As soon as we got to Alley we saw large crowds swimming next to the campground, where there is a popular jumping rock. We stopped here for a while as everyone took their turn on the rock. I never jump off things due to a fear of heights that just can’t be reckoned with, but I enjoy watching others have fun. Due to the low water, all the outfitters were putting their customers in at Alley Spring. So the first half of our trip had been exceptionally pleasant with only private boats, fewer people and almost no trash to pick up. After Alley there still weren’t many people on the river as it was late in the afternoon and most of the crowds were already off the river. However there was significantly more trash to pick up, mostly beer cans. Thus we concluded that as a group, boat renters must be awful litterbugs and Bud Light is the choice drink of assholes. We must have picked up at least a 24-pack of Bud Light cans in the last 6 miles of the trip.

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DW and Charlie

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The jumping rock at Alley Spring

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Baby turtle

The remainder of the trip included several more swimming stops, many turtles and a northern water snake sunning itself on a rock. After Alley Spring enters the river the water temperature is much colder. The last two miles of the trip are more populated with houses as you near Eminence and we didn’t see as much wildlife. We finally pulled off the river at 8pm. There was still plenty of light with the summer solstice only a couple of days away. We loaded 4 of the kayaks on our Subaru and headed back to Bay Creek so the rest of the crew could run shuttle for the canoes. By the time they got back it was dark and we worked on cooking dinner and building a small fire. No critters invaded camp that night and we all slept peacefully.

Critter Count: Blue Herons, Green Herons, Turtles, Northern Water Snake