Tag Archives: big piney river

Float #143: Big Piney River

11 May

Mineral Springs to Boiling Springs

F129_BigPiney

Big Piney River
Texas County, Missouri
Saturday, April 8, 2017
11 Miles
Temperature: 77˚/44˚
Wind: S at 15mph
Water Level: 4.75ft. at Big Piney gage

The Big Piney river is one of my favorites in Missouri. It’s a pretty river with excellent fishing and is usually not too crowded in the summer. This is a float trip we have done before, so if you want more detail about this stretch read Float #129.

We were joined on this float by our friends Lucas & Kristine and our brother-in-law Henry. Lucas & Kristine don’t float with us often, so it was really nice to be with them on the river. It was a sunny day, although a bit too cold for getting in the water.

Big Piney River

Big Piney River

Early to mid-April is probably my favorite time of year for floating in Missouri. Spring is starting to really get going. There is plenty of water in the rivers. Everything is getting green and the flowers are blooming, but the trees haven’t leafed out yet so you can still see into the woods. This section of the Big Piney has some narrow turns and moves at a nice pace. There are spots where the trees form a tunnel over the river so it feels a bit more like a creek.

Big Piney River

We saw the usual array of wildlife. The turtles were out if full force sunning themselves on logs and rocks. We also saw a beaver. He was on the bank, but slipped into his den before I could grab the camera.

Toward the end of the journey Kristine wanted to try out my kayak, so I let her use my boat and I paddled the canoe with Lucas. She had fun in the kayak and did pretty well. Most women I’ve encountered enjoy paddling a kayak rather than stuck in a canoe with their husband! I enjoyed paddling the canoe and decided I should brush up my canoe skills this summer. It’s been a really long time since I’ve manned the back of the canoe and it will be a nice change of perspective.

Big Piney RiverBig Piney River

This float ends at Boiling Spring, which is a mid-size spring that boils out of the main river channel. I have a mandatory policy of jumping into springs regardless of the air temperature. So even though it was kinda chilly I made the plunge. It felt amazing as always. I tell everyone that’s what keeps me young!

Unfortunately Boiling Springs Resort where we camped was completely destroyed by the historic flooding earlier this May. All of their cabins and facilities were washed away or destroyed. It was an epic amount of high, fast-moving water. I’m sure this river will look quite different for the near future.

Critter Count: Herons, Hawks, Turtles, 1 Beaver

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Float #129: Big Piney River

29 Sep

Mineral Springs to Boiling Spring

F129_BigPiney

Big Piney River
Texas County, Missouri
Saturday, September 5
11 Miles

The Saturday of Memorial Day weekend we met up with a few of our caving friends, our friend Rob and his kids to do a new section on the upper Big Piney River. This section is much smaller than below Boiling Spring and has a more creek-like feel to it. DW, Rob and I headed down on Saturday morning and they dropped me and the kids off at Mineral Springs while they ran shuttle and met up with the rest of our group. I spent some time hanging out at the access with the kids and trying to keep them from getting too bored. When everyone finally arrived we loaded the rest of our gear and hit the water. It was a warm, sunny day with the very earliest signs of fall approaching.

Mineral Springs Access

Mineral Springs Access

Big Piney River

Rob, his boys and Ocoee

Rob, his boys and Ocoee

Big Piney RiverThe water was a little low for my liking at this time of year. We didn’t scrape too much but we would have made a much faster pace with a couple more inches of water. I think this section is probably a lot of fun in the spring when the water is higher. There are many tight bends and scenic creek landscapes. The shallow sections are occasionally broken up by deep pools that appear to be good fishing spots. I didn’t get a chance to try my luck, as DW forgot to pack our fishing poles!

Big Piney RiverBig Piney River

DW coaches Rob's daughter on kayaking technique

DW coaches Rob’s daughter on kayaking technique

Big Piney RiverDW spent most of the trip coaching Rob’s daughter on her paddling and water reading skills. She is 11 or 12, a perfect age to get into paddling longer distances on her own. She did a great job and really rocked it! DW is an excellent teacher as well. Lord knows I don’t have the patience or the skills to translate techniques into words!

There are a few bluffs on this trip, but not as many as you will see on the lower stretches of the Big Piney. We did get to stop at a rope swing and play around there for a while. We saw a fair amount of wildlife, including a deer, the usual assortment of birds, one otter and a pack of hunting beagles.

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Boiling Spring

Boiling Spring

We arrived a Boiling Spring around 4:30 in the afternoon and spent a while jumping into the cold waters. The spring hole is not very large, but it is enough for a few people to stand in together. DW and I took several dips into the refreshing water and I threw the boys in for their own good. The access for Boiling Spring is just around the corner from the spring itself. We packed up our gear and headed home that evening after another enjoyable day on the river.

Critter Count: 1 Deer, 1 Otter, Hawks, Blue Herons, Kingfishers, Turtles, 4 Hunting Beagles

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

 

Float #76 & 77: Big Piney River

11 Jul

Boiling Springs to Ross Bridge

F76_BigPiney

Big Piney River
Texas and Pulaski Counties, Missouri
Saturday, June 29 & Sunday, June 30
30 Miles

One of our good friends, Lucas is getting married in September and since DW was unable to attend his bachelor party we treated him to an overnight trip on the Big Piney river. This was the first overnight trip for Lucas and it is always a pleasure taking someone on their first overnight float. Our friend Greg also joined us and they borrowed two of our kayaks while DW hauled the gear in the canoe. We haven’t been to the Big Piney in many years. Although it is a nice river and we talk about going every year, it seems to never make it into our float plans.

The Big Piney is a beautiful river located just west of Rolla. It flows south to north and empties into the Gasconade River just past Fort Leonardwood. The Big Piney is primarily known for its excellent fishing and scenic bluffs. It is not as popular as some other Ozark streams and thus has less traffic. We saw very few people on our two-day trip, and in the height of summer that is a rarity. Most people who float the Big Piney are locals or people who come back every year for the fishing. The water is a bit slow in some sections, with very long lake-like pools, but other sections move at a nice pace and there are some twisty, narrow turns. No matter which section you float, you’re likely to see some wildlife and scenic bluff views.

We spent Friday night at Boiling Springs campground, just across the road from Boiling Springs access, and woke up (probably a  little too late) to run the long shuttle. It took over an hour to run our car up to the take out. Once we got back to the put in we spent some time arranging our gear and were finally on the water some time after noon. We knew we had to complete 15 miles each day, so we spent a good amount of time paddling the first day. The first day the water was rather slow and there were lots of long, still pools.

Boiling Springs access

Boiling Springs access

A tight turn

A tight turn

F76_03

Falling Springs

Falling Springs

Falling Springs

Falling Springs

In the late afternoon of the first day we came to Falling Springs, on the right bank of the river. The water tumbles down moss-covered boulders into the river. I climbed up around the boulders to get a look at the mouth of spring, as there is a lot of water falling down the hillside. Surprisingly the mouth of the spring is very small. It all gushes out from under a small rock ledge. We spent some time here cooling our ankles before getting back in the boat to paddle on to our halfway point. Farther downstream I noticed an animal swimming across the river, it was a muskrat. I followed him for a while as he tried to elude me by diving underwater, recrossing the stream and occasionally ducking behind a tree root. He didn’t seem too concerned though, he probably thought I was more annoying than threatening.

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Storms approaching

Storms approaching

Our campsite

Our campsite

After we passed Slabtown access we started to look for a gravel bar to camp on. There had been long stretches of river with no gravel bars, so we crossed our fingers hoping to find something suitable before dark. Not long after Slabtown we saw a nice large gravel bar across from a scenic bluff, the best kind of campsite! As we pulled up to the campsite dark clouds moved toward us from behind the bluff. It seemed that rain was imminent, so we immediately grabbed our tents to set them up before the rain. As we pulled our tent from the bag and set it on the ground a few sprinkles hit our arms. We quickly assembled the poles and began to thread them through the tent. BOOM, DOWNPOUR! We struggled to get the tent upright as the wind tried to rip it from our hands. Quickly, find the stakes and pound them into the gravel as the tent rolls over onto its side. Water everywhere. The rain fly is hurriedly assembled, but it’s like trying to wrestle a kite in a gale. It only took one or two minutes to get the tent stabilized and the rain fly attached, but it’s too late. Then tent is full of puddles. Luckily we brought a towel (should have brought two) and I crawled in the tent to sop up the worst of the damage. The rain shower was over as quickly as it had begun. I was able to get the tent floor dried and then we set about getting the rest of our camp put together. We started a fire on the gravel bar and the men gathered more wood and sawed some larger pieces into manageable chunks. Before long we had a respectable blaze going and we all dried out around the fire. The sky that night was completely clear and you could see an impressive amount of stars.

Bridge after Slabtown

Bridge after Slabtown

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Spring branch

Spring branch

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The next morning I awoke to some light sprinkles, but by 8am the sky had cleared a bit and the sun started to come out. Somehow, our tent had dried out completely and there was hardly and dew on the rain fly. Most of the year we’ve had to put the tent away wet because of rain and heavy dew, but not today. I stoked the remnants of the fire and heated some breakfast burritos on the larger logs while we took down our tents and packed everything back in the canoe. By 9:30 we were back on the water. Our first stop was a spring branch on the left side of the river. We didn’t venture up into the spring branch as it looked like a long, deep water walk and it was on private property. The water coming out was very cold and made the river seem like bath water.

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Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

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We saw two Bald Eagles on this trip and one of them stayed in a tree long enough for me to snap a photo. During the afternoon the sky clouded over again and it looked like it could rain, but not anything as heavy as the day before. I kept my kayak skirt and rain jacket handy just in case. Eventually it did start to sprinkle and then it rained for about twenty minutes, but not long or heavy enough to become uncomfortable. The second day of the trip had many more tall bluffs and rocky outcroppings jutting from hillsides. I would recommend floating from Slabtown access downstream as it was a more enjoyable float than Boiling Springs to Slabtown. As we neared the end of our trip, I noticed a tuft of grass moving downriver, then it shot across the river against the current. Intrigued, I paddled closer to find another muskrat. I assume he was carrying the grass across the river to his den. It was very cool to see.

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A muskrat swims with some grass he collected

A muskrat swims with some grass he collected

Ross Bridge

Ross Bridge

We arrived at Ross Bridge access around 4pm. Ross Bridge access is a very primitive access with no concrete boat ramp, just a medium-sized, muddy parking lot. We transferred all the gear from our boats to the car and loaded the boats onto the trailer. We then made the long trek back to Boiling Springs to pick up Greg’s car. We stopped at a Mexican restaurant for dinner and eventually arrived home around 8pm. It was a long weekend and a very good time. DW and I plan to go back and float the sections above and below this one at a later date. Hopefully we will take some time to do some fishing too. This has been a good year for overnight floats and our canoe is getting more use than it has in a long time. Our next float plans are the very upper end of the Current and some more Huzzah adventures.

Critter Count: Blue Herons, Ducks, 2 Bald Eagles, Turtles, 2 Muskrats