Tag Archives: Big RIver

Float #95: Big River

10 Mar

Blackwell to Washington State Park

F95_BigRiver

Big River
Washington County, Missouri
Sunday, March 9
8 Miles

Well, it has been a long break since DW and I last floated! The winter here has been brutally cold and most of our waterways were frozen over for months. I don’t think we have ever gone this long between trips. Our last float was at the end of December and here it is mid-March as we finally accomplished our first float of 2014. It felt so good to get back on the water and exercise those paddling muscles!

This trip we were joined by our good friend Jake from Nashville. He was in Missouri for a few days and met up with us for a float trip. Unfortunately he neglected to bring his kayak with him (rookie mistake). As a punishment for his oversight we loaned him Stable Mabel, our slowest boat, that we loan out to beginners.

We started our trip by trying to locate Blackwell Conservation area, which apparently is an access that no longer exists. We did find an access just off of Hwy. CC on the right side of the road just past the bridge. The access had some large limestone rocks that are standard MDC issue and there were no signs saying it was private or not to park, so we did. DW and Jake then ran the short shuttle down to Washington State Park to drop a car while I waited with the boats. They were back within 20 minutes. We were on the water by 1pm, perfect timing for a short afternoon float.

Readying our boats at Blackwell access

Readying our boats at the access

Blackwell bridge

Blackwell bridge

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The beginning of the float was slow-moving through a long pool of still water. We passed under the Hwy. CC bridge that replaced the old Blackwell bridge back in 2004. Blackwell is a tiny town that is known in the area for being haunted. The old Blackwell bridge was supposed to be haunted as well. The story is a county judge back in the time of the Civil War would hang people from that bridge. There are many stories floating around of ghost sightings and strange encounters in some of the old town buildings and the cemetery. A quick internet search for Blackwell, Missouri will result with many of these stories.

After we passed the bridge the slow water continued past a large grouping of private camp sites with shelters on the right bank. I imagine this area of the river is crowded on summer weekends with people swimming, fishing and camping. After the private camp the river picked up speed as the channel narrowed and the water went over some ripples.

DW floats through an obstacle, backwards

DW floats through an obstacle, backwards

RR bridge

RR bridge

Hwy 21 bridge

Hwy 21 bridge

We stopped for lunch on a small gravel bar in the middle of the river. There was a sycamore tree blocking most of the main channel, but there was a small area just big enough for a kayak or canoe to clear it. DW floated through it backwards because he always has to take the more difficult path. We spent about an hour over lunch basking in the warm sunlight, sheltered from the chilly breeze that accompanied us most of our float. After lunch we passed under an old railroad bridge and then a mile later we passed under Hwy. 21 bridge. Just after Hwy. 21 there was another access on the left that looked like it might belong to the state park, but it isn’t on the map.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe last mile or two of the trip we floated around a large oxbow as the sun began to get lower in the sky. Most of the way the sun was right in our eyes and the reflection off the water was almost as bright. The temperature started to drop as the shadows became longer. There were a couple more sections with deadwood obstacles that were fun to maneuver and we saw some small patches of ice that were left over from the last freeze.

We arrived at the state park access around 6pm. The boat access gate was closed for the winter so we had to carry our boats back to the main parking lot. We didn’t see anyone else on the river all day, though there were a few people on the banks enjoying the weather. It was a nice float to start the season and DW and I both felt refreshed to get back on the water.

Critter Count: Turtles, Hawks, Ducks, Kingfishers

Bonus Prize: One small, waterlogged air compressor that may or may not be salvageable

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Float #67: Mineral Fork

2 May

Hwy. 47 to Merrill HorseF67_MineralFork

Mineral Fork Creek
Washington County, Missouri
Sunday, March 31
12 miles

DW wrote this guest post. I was sick the day this float trip occurred, so he went by himself with our friends Charlie and Alex.

Continuing with a weekend of creek floating, our friends Charlie and Alex joined me for a leisure Sunday creek float on the Mineral Fork. The Mineral Fork only has one location, Kingston Access, for accessing the creek that is on public property with parking available, so we worked out another arrangement to access the creek at the Highway 47 Bridge. All along the road are no parking signs. This access had a steep carry for the boats while the distance to carry was minimal. This access is used by numerous locals during the summer as a swimming and fishing location. I presume they either only use the easement by the bridge like we did or have permission from Kingston Ranch who owns numerous thousands of acres in northeastern Washington County. The area surrounding the bridge is very well-marked where you will cross the line and start trespassing out of the easement area.

Hwy. 47 bridge

Hwy. 47 bridge

Bluffs along the creek

Bluffs along the creek

F67_03

We put on the river around 11:30am and begin our journey down another new section of water. Previously, we have used Kingston Access to float down to the Big River. This section of the Mineral Fork is quite pretty with a couple impressive bluffs, the beautiful countryside, and the wonderful weather as we traveled downstream. Shortly into our journey we ran into some other folks from the area who also used the Highway 47 bridge access to start their fishing trip courtesy of a friend dropping them off at the put in. Like us, they were surprised to see other kayakers out floating. My memories of this creek are that of fallen trees and a few portages and this trip contained several downed trees that forced some portaging. As is the case so often, just a little bit more water and we would have been able to avoid the portages.

Alex ducks a tree branch

Alex ducks a tree branch

Charlie & Alex portage

Charlie & Alex portage

To the river left side of the bridge that typically creates a portage was a cool spill way that made for a fun little rapid to shoot. This was the first time I’ve been able to run this little rapid and as happens often, I found myself paddling backup to run it again!

Charlie portages a low water bridge

Charlie portages a low water bridge

F67_07

Alex drops into the rapid

Alex drops into the rapid

Charlie's action shot

Charlie’s action shot

After tackling the last of the portages, it wasn’t long before we entered the confluence of the Big River. It’s a good thing I took pictures as my floating partners completely missed the confluence! Fortunately the take out wasn’t upstream as has happened to me before, so we just paddled on down to Merrill Horse Access. One thing that we did notice at the Highway H bridge, which is just upstream from the Merrill Horse Access, were all these orange globes and what looked like owls. The owls had some type of electronic call on them. The best we could figure is the fake owl and orange globes were some type of deterrent for the swallows that typically frequent the bridge for nesting.

Confluence of Mineral Fork and Big River

Confluence of Mineral Fork and Big River

Hwy. H bridge

Hwy. H bridge

It was great to get to go farther up the Mineral Fork and cover an additional 2.3 new river miles. Overall, quite a good way to cap and excellent weekend of creek floating!

Float #64: Big River

1 Apr

Mammoth to Brown’s Ford

F64_Big

Big River
Jefferson County, Missouri
Saturday, March 16
9 miles

This is a repeat of a float we did back in November, so I’m not going to go into great detail about the features of this section. To read more about this float please read Float #58. This time we floated with a small group from St. Louis Adventure Group. Just like the last time we floated this section the day started out pleasant and sunny and got colder and cloudier all day long. We put in at Mammoth access off Hwy. H between Desoto and Richwoods. The river had been flooded the previous week, so there was lots of debris on the banks and mud on the boat ramp.

Big River

Mammoth access

Big River

Big River

Big River

Turkey fly over the river

Most of the trip was spent paddling and trying to stay warm. We met some new people and caught up with John, a SLAG member and Big River enthusiast we have paddled with before. When we stopped for lunch we built a small fire and dried out any damp gear and warmed our toes. Luckily it didn’t rain on us, but it looked like it could have. It doesn’t seem like spring is coming anytime soon! To think that this time last year it was 80 degrees and everything was in bloom. Still, I’d rather have a little longer winter and hope that summer is less brutal than last year (we had drought and record high temps).

Big River

Big River

Big River

Old Hwy. H bridge

Big River

Big River

We got off the river sometime after 4pm and helped to run shuttle back to the put-in. It was a nice float even if it was chilly and we had a good time with the SLAG group.

Critter Count: Hawks, Herons, Turkey

Float #61: Big River

22 Jan

Brown’s Ford to Morse Mill

F61_Big

Big River
Jefferson County, Missouri
Friday, January 11
18 miles

Warm days in January are hard to come by. This particular Friday was set to be a beautiful spring-like day with highs near 70˚, sunny skies and low winds. Not wanting to let the opportunity pass us by, DW and I ditched work and hit the river for some rare January floating. We decided to float a long stretch of the Big River we’ve never done before. This is our fourth Big River float in a row, completing a 50 mile continuous stretch of the river. We woke up at our regular workday time, loaded our gear, ran shuttle and were on the river by 9am. The shuttle for this stretch of river is very short compared to the length of the float. Hooray for oxbows!

Big River

Brown’s Ford access

Big River

Big River

Tornado damage from a few years ago

Big River

A scenic lake spillage waterfall

There is no better feeling than kayaking on a beautiful day when everyone else you know is at work! We only saw one boat that day; a john boat with a couple of fisherman. It would have been a nice day for fishing too, but 18 miles of paddling doesn’t leave much time for that. The water was a little stirred up as we had some rain a few days before, but it was still mostly clear. The next couple days the river rose about 10 feet, as there was a lot of rain on the upper end of the Big River. We were lucky to have timed it just right.

Big River

DW poses with an ice block

Big River

Big River

Big River

Big River

Icebreaker

Although the weather had been warmer the past week, there was still a little ice on some of the bluffs. We only found one chunk of ice on the water. DW practiced his icebreaker kayaking, which is always fun. This stretch of river is very pretty with some nice bluffs and almost no houses. We didn’t pick up much trash either. The long distance between access points probably means this stretch is not frequented as much, and that means less trash!

Big River

Big River

Hwy. Y bridge

Big River

Big River

Redneck water slide

About half way through the float we passed under Hwy. Y bridge. There are several large gravel bars downstream of the bridge that would be suitable for overnight camping if you want to break this trip into two days. There are plenty of slow pools that would be good for fishing on a two-day trip. The water moves pretty well between slow pools, so we kept a good pace and probably could have taken a few more breaks than we did. We saw many birds on this float. There were a lot of hawks out, some herons, turkey, and one bald eagle. We didn’t see any other wildlife, which is normal for a winter float.

Big River

Dry Creek confluence

Big River

Big River

Old Morse Mill bridge

Big River

Morse Mill access

A couple of miles before Morse Mill is Dry Creek on the right. After that you will see the old iron bridge and the access is just around the corner. We reached the end of our trip around 3:30pm with plenty of daylight left. It was a beautiful day, especially for January. Soon after the weather turned bitter cold again. Since then, I’ve been spending my free time doing some hiking while it’s cold and the bugs aren’t out.

We usually start floating more often near the end of February, so it may be a while before we get out again. If you have the opportunity to float on a warm winter day, don’t pass it up! The water is beautiful and it is a rare treat to have the whole river to yourself.

Critter Count: 6 Hawks, 1 Blue Heron, 1 Turkey, Kingfishers, 1 Bald Eagle

Float #60: Big River

21 Dec

Cedar Hill to House Springs

F60_Big

Big River
Jefferson County, Missouri
Saturday, December 15
10 miles

For the first time ever, we have accomplished two floats in December! I don’t know whether to thank global warming or our membership in St. Louis Adventure Group, but they both played a big part in pulling this off. The same organizer that hosted the previous Big River trip scheduled another trip on the next section downriver. The first weekend it was scheduled got rained out. The second weekend our organizer, John was too sick to float. So, DW offered to lead the trip and John ran shuttle for us. It was a very small group, just DW, me and Mike, a SLAGer we just met that day. We met up at Cedar Hill access where we took out last trip. The weather was a little breezy but fairly warm with highs near 60˚, a good day for a float.

Big River, Cedar Hill access

Cedar Hill access

Big River

Waiting to push off at Cedar Hill

Big River

Big River

Big River

We pushed off a little before 10am as the clouds started to break up and the sunshine came through. We chatted with Mike getting to know each other and paddled downriver. This section of the river has fewer houses than the Morse Mill to Cedar Hill section. The first couple miles were long, slow stretches with some small riffles in between. The river then slowed down a lot. There is a rock dam about halfway through this section which makes the river deep and slow for a few miles. Luckily the wind was at our back for the most part. It would not have been a good day to paddle a canoe. I brought my fishing pole and cast a few times before we got on the river, but once we started paddling it was too windy.

Big River

Big River

Big River

Private Dam at Byrnesville

Big River

Big River

Old Byrnesville bridge

We reached the dam just after lunch. You can hear the water tumbling over the rocks as you approach. There is an easy portage all the way to the right of the dam. We spent a little while here admiring the view. I could not find much information about this dam on the internet, but I did learn the dam was built in 1836 from logs and rocks and it still looks much the same today as when it was built. The building on the left bank is the old Byrnesville Mill. The foundation appears to be original, but the mill’s facade has been rebuilt to look more like a residence. It is a very scenic area.

Big River

Big River

Big River

Hwy. W bridge

Big River, House Springs access

House Springs access

After the dam the water speeds up a little bit, but soon slows again. There is another dam near House Springs, after our take out that slows the water. We paddled the last few miles in exercise mode and finished our float by 2:30. It was a very pretty day on the river with the sun and clouds painting a scenic sky and the bright sycamores on the banks. It think this is the last float of the year (unless we get lucky the last weekend of the month). I will be writing a quick retrospective next week to sum up the year. Have a great holiday everyone and I hope Santa leaves you some cool paddling gear in your stocking!

Critter Count: Hawks, Ducks, Kingfishers, Pileated Woodpecker

Bonus Prize: One frisbee

Float #59: Big River

14 Dec

Morse Mill to Cedar Hill

F59_Big

Big River
Jefferson County, Missouri
Saturday, December 1
11 miles

December float trips are hard to come by. Between the unpredictable weather and holiday obligations it’s hard to find a good day on the weekend to hit the river. So when a Big River float trip popped up on our Meetup SLAG (St. Louis Adventure Group) calendar we grabbed the opportunity. This is a section of the Big River we’ve not done before. We usually stay closer to the middle section of the Big River and have never done float trips on the lower section.

We met up with our group on a sunny morning at Morse Mill County Park. Morse Mill is the former site of a mill dating back to the 1800s. It is also known for the Morse Mill Hotel, a haunted hotel with an interesting past. Most of the group drove the short 6 mile shuttle while I and a couple others waited at the put-in with the boats. On this trip there were mostly kayaks and one canoe. Our friends Charlie and Scott (and his dog Yadi) joined us as well as some other SLAG adventurers we’ve floated with before.

Big River, Morse Mill

Morse Mill access

Big River, Morse Mill

The old bridge at Morse Mill

Big River

Big River

A heron rookery in a sycamore tree

At the start of the float the river runs through a residential area that provides a scenic tour of the garages of Jefferson County. After a mile or so it tapers off into farmland. There wasn’t a whole lot of trash on this part of the river. There were some rootwads and fallen tree trunks that had collected bottles and other bits, but not a lot of stuff on the river banks. We found a couple of rubber balls suitable for dog toys in one of the rootwads.

The water was relatively calm. Quite a few nice little ripples followed by stretches of slow water. We didn’t see much wildlife; a hawk, a group of turkeys and some ducks. Someone on the trip saw a bald eagle, but not me.

Big River

Big River

Big River

Big River

As the day progressed the clouds moved in a the wind picked up a little bit. Thankfully, it was mostly at our backs. The landscape is in full winter mode now. The water is clear and full of dark blue and gray colors. The hillsides are brown and gray with bright white sycamore limbs jutting out over the water.

Big River

Approaching the old mill in Cedar Hill

Big River

DW surfs the ripples at Cedar Hill access

We finished our trip at Cedar Hill; taking out at another old mill. There is a nice little chute right before the take-out that was fun to run. We were all loaded up by 4:30 and headed into Cedar Hill to eat at a BBQ place. It was a pleasurable way to spend the day and we added a new section of river to our list! Surprisingly, we have another Big River float with the same group planned for this weekend.

Critter Count: Hawks, Ducks, Turkey

Bonus Prizes: 2 rubber ball dog toys

Float #58: Big River

21 Nov

Mammoth to Brown’s Ford

Big River
Jefferson County, Missouri
Saturday, November 3
9 miles

The Big River is a small river that runs through Washington and Jefferson counties. It is not the most scenic river in our area, but the fishing is great and it’s a beautiful place to enjoy the solitude of the off season. The Big River was discovered in the early 1700s by Frenchman looking for silver and lead mines. They named it the Grande Riviere, meaning beautiful or magnificent. It has since been translated into Big River which is fallacious, for it is not big!

We have not floated on the Big River in a few years. We tend to float the Meramec when we are staying close to home, but this stretch of the Big River is not too far from our house either. Mammoth to Brown’s Ford is one of the more scenic floats on this river. There are several nice bluffs and not many houses or other structures along the banks. My sister Abby joined us on this float. She is expecting a baby girl in January, so this was her last chance at a float trip for a while. We met up at 10am at Mammoth access and I readied the boats and did a little unsuccessful fishing while DW and Abby ran shuttle.

Big RIver

Mammoth Access

Big RIver

Big RIver

Big RIver

Big RIver

The weather for the day was supposed to be sunny with highs in the lower 50s. It did get into the lower 50s, but that was at 11am and then it became overcast and temperatures dropped back into the 40s. We were prepared and dressed for the weather so no one was cold. The water level was probably just a little below normal for this time of year. There were some shallow spots, but no scraping or portaging. There are some downed trees on some of the channels, but nothing difficult to get around. I spent part of the morning fishing, but didn’t get any bites and by the afternoon I was more interested in paddling to stay warm rather than fighting with my fishing pole!

Big RIver

Big RIver

Big RIver

Big RIver

Hwy. H Bridge

Big RIver

Turkey

After lunch we passed Hwy. H bridge which is also Merrill Horse access. There are some interesting bluffs right before the bridge that look a bit like castle towers. We spotted a group of turkey running up the bank. Later in the day we came across another group of turkey as well as a deer, a raccoon and one bald eagle!

Big RIver

Big RIver

Big RIver

Big RIver

Big RIver

Big RIver

Brown’s Ford Access

The remainder of the trip was uneventful. We just enjoyed the solitude of the river and the early winter landscape. The sycamores are really starting to stand out along the river now that most of the leaves are gone. Winter colors are starting to take over the landscape and the atmosphere is getting quiet. We pulled in to Brown’s Ford around 4:30 and loaded our boats. We were back home just before dark. Hopefully we will get one or two more floats before the end of the year!

Critter Count: Ducks, Geese, Herons, Hawks, Turkey, 1 Bald Eagle, 1 Deer, 1 Raccoon