Tag Archives: Meramec State Park

Float #97: Meramec River

17 Apr

Blue Springs Creek to Meramec State Park

F97_Meramec

Meramec River
Crawford & Franklin Counties, Missouri
Saturday, April 12
12 Miles

This trip was part of SLAG’s (St. Louis Adventure Group) annual Spring Blossom campout. Every April the group camps at Meramec State Park and does a float trip nearby. Meramec Park is pretty close to our house and a float trip on the Meramec this time of year is always enjoyable. We camped out Friday and Saturday nights in the group camp at the park. The group camps are very nice and a little bit excluded from the main campground. We didn’t take much gear since we were close to home, but we did bring an extra canoe and a kayak for some other group members to use. After an enjoyable Friday night of fun around the campfire we woke up on Saturday morning, grabbed our float gear and headed to Blue Springs access. After a short 20 minute drive we arrived at the put-in, unloaded our gear and everyone drove their vehicles back to the park. They then carpooled back to the access. I waited with the boats along with a few other members of the group. After about an hour everyone else arrived and we set off.

Launching from Blue Springs

Launching from Blue Springs

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A week earlier we had some flash flooding, so the Meramec was still on its way down and a little muddy. The water was much more clear at the put-in than it was down by the park. I thought about bringing my fishing pole, but didn’t and ended up regretting it as it was a beautiful day for fishing. The river was running a little faster than normal and there was a brisk wind at our backs the whole time, so we didn’t have to paddle at all to easily cover the miles. The early signs of spring were evident in the emerald-green grass in the fields and the buds on the trees.

The group stops at Green's Cave

The group stops at Green’s Cave

Green's Cave

Green’s Cave

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe all stopped for a leisurely lunch on a gravel bar in the early afternoon. Our next stop was at Green’s Cave just above the park. Last August we did this same float and camped at the cave overnight. It is always a good place to visit. Green’s Cave is only accessible by river or by hiking the Hamilton Hollow trail. As you approach the cave you will see Hamilton Creek enter the river on your right. The river then splits around a large island and the cave is just behind the island where the river rejoins into one stream. DW and I paddled the channel on the right hand side of the island as there was just enough water to get through. Usually that channel is too shallow to paddle. We parked our boats on the gravel bar and hiked back the trail a little bit. This area is so pretty in the spring when the meadows are green and the brambles have not grown over the trail yet.

Floating past Meramec State Park

Floating past Meramec State Park

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The campground access

The campground access

After we left the cave the sky started to cloud over a bit and water became murkier. The river was much more brown at the park than it had been up at Blue Springs. Most of the group took out at the main boat ramp which is just above the Hwy. 185 bridge. Those of us in the know took out two miles further downriver at the campground boat access, right near our camp. But maybe the joke was on us, because the campground boat ramp was covered in thick, smelly flood mud. There was no way to avoid it and my shoes were covered up to the ankles! Luckily there was a spigot nearby to wash the worst of it off.

We loaded up our boats and drove across the road to our camp. DW and I made beef stew in our dutch oven over the fire, which is always fun when you have a few hours to kill. We crashed out early that night and awoke to the sound of thunder early the next morning. We jumped out of our sleeping bags and hurried to break camp before the rain. We made it with minutes to spare before the rain and lightning came. Fortunately it was a short drive home!

This coming weekend is our annual Easter float trip. We plan to do a couple of days on the Jack’s Fork fishing and taking it slow.

Critter Count: Geese, Ducks, Herons, Turtles

Float #80 & 81: Meramec River

9 Aug

Blue Springs Creek to Meramec State Park

F80_Meramec

Meramec River
Crawford and Franklin Counties, Missouri
Saturday, August 3 & Sunday, August 4
12 Miles

After the strain and excitement of the MR340 it was time to kick back on a relaxing, lazy float trip. Our fellow SLAG member and friend, Ben, organized a short overnight trip on the Meramec near our house. We’ve actually never done an overnight trip on the Meramec because it’s so close to home; we usually just head to our house to sleep. Ben planned to camp at Green’s Cave in the Hamilton Hollow area of the park, which is one of our favorite places, so we decided to join him. We put in at Blue Springs Creek conservation access in Bourbon around 1pm on Saturday. The day started out overcast, but the weather was pleasant and mild. I had forgotten to bring my sunglasses, so the sun was sure to come out, and it did!

Mermec River

Blue Springs Creek access

Meramec River

Meramec River

Fog rises off Blue Springs Creek

Meramec River

I spent most of the day fishing and not much time paddling. I didn’t catch any keepers, but I caught several small bass and the world’s smallest sun perch. He was about the same size as my crawfish lure. We stopped several times to swim and enjoy a lazy day on the river. There were a lot of people on the river that day and a lot of rafts, but since we put in so late we were able to miss most of them.

Meramec River

Meramec River

Meramec River

Before long we passed Sappington Bridge access and it was only a couple of miles from there to Green’s Cave. Green’s Cave is on the right side of the river. Hamilton Hollow creek comes in on the right and then there is a large island and a gravel bar. Just on the other side of the gravel bar you will see a very small creek flowing out of the trees. Follow that creek up into the mouth of Green’s Cave. Please don’t enter the interior of the cave, as all MO caves are closed in an attempt to stop the spread of White Nose Syndrome, a devastating disease infecting bats all across the country.

When we arrived at our camping spot there were several large groups of people swimming. It was after 5pm, so we only had to wait about 20 minutes for everyone to get back in their boats and head to their take out. After that the river was quiet and we didn’t see anyone else. I set about getting our tent put up and other domestic chores while DW and the other guys paddled the canoes across the river to collect firewood. We had two canoes full of wood and we managed to burn it all. One of the guys in our group had a brand new tent he had never set up before. When he took it out of the bag he remarked on the lack of poles included with the tent. The first line of the instructions were to, “thread the poles through the sleeves” so it was definitely supposed to have them! He ended up sleeping on top of the tent and using the rain fly to keep the dew off. Several other people were sleeping on camp rolls near the fire, so he wasn’t alone.

Meramec River

Hauling wood across the river

Meramec River

Sunset on Green’s Bluff

Meramec River

We spent the evening cooking our meals, sharing stories and gazing up at the stars. I went to bed around midnight and slept pretty solidly. The next morning we woke up around 8am and broke camp. I threw some breakfast burritos on the fire and by the time we were packed up breakfast was nice and hot. It was only a few miles from camp to our take out. We took off the river at the lower access in Meramec Park, by the campground. We were home by noon with plenty of time to do chores and gear up for our next excursion: vacation in Asheville, NC. The next few installments of the blog will feature some out-of-state floating and a rafting trip on the Ocoee River!

Critter Count: Turtles, Green Herons, Blue Herons

Float #32: Meramec River

29 Mar

Sappington Bridge to Meramec State Park

Meramec River
Franklin County, Missouri
Saturday, March 10
5 Miles

This was a short float, but a long day of hard work. During February DW and I hiked our favorite trail, Hamilton Hollow. We noticed a lot of trash near the river that we couldn’t pack out ourselves. We decided to come back with canoes and spend the day cleaning up the hollow and then float the trash out. Our friend Rob and his daughter Brianna joined us and our dog Zoe. We started at Sappington Bridge access, floated down to the hollow (near Green’s Cave) and spent a few hours picking up all the trash we could find.

Meramec river

Meramec River

Meramec River

Meramec River

Most of the trash we picked up was washed down during floods. A lot of cans and bottles, some larger buckets and a barrel, a couple tires and many, many laundry detergent bottles. I don’t know why or how laundry detergent bottles get washed down river, but they all seem to end up at the hollow! Zoe did her share too, she found a ragged tennis ball to play with. After we finished the cleanup we loaded the boats and floated our trash barges down to the park.

Meramec River

Meramec River

Meramec River

After Rob and DW ran the shuttle, we loaded up all the trash so DW could take it home, sort it and recycle it. We gathered 28 bags of trash, plus the bigger items you see in the photo. Of all those bags, only 2 of them were trash that could not be recycled! DW and I hiked the Hamilton Hollow trail again this past weekend and it looked so much nicer! Not a piece of trash to be seen along the whole river bottom.

Critter Count: Turtles, Blue Herons, Hawks, Ducks

Bonus Prizes: Feed bucket, Funnel, 1/2 pint of Smirnoff Citrus Vodka (still good!)

Float #30: Meramec River

9 Dec

Sappington Bridge to Meramec State Park

Meramec River
Franklin County, Missouri
Saturday, December 3
7 Miles

Surprise! We managed to go floating in December. This is the first time that’s ever happened. Temperatures topped out at 60˚ The sun was shining when we started, but it quickly clouded over. By the time we finished temperatures were dropping and rain had started to fall. We met up with our friend Charlie at Meramec State Park, dropped a car at the take-out and drove to Sappington Bridge access. I teased DW about taking a swim. I figured if he was going to wear his swim trunks in December he should at least use them properly. He stuck a hand in the water and immediately vetoed my suggestion. The air may have been warm, but that water was COLD!

meramec river, sappington bridge

Sappington bridge access

meramec river

DW shows off his mad style

meramec river

Charlie

meramec river

Winter sky

We put on the river a little before noon. It felt great to get back on the water one more time. There aren’t many warm days in winter that fall on a weekend. Seems like the perfect winter float days are always on a Tuesday when you have to be at work. We saw quite a few turtles sunning themselves on logs. They were easy to miss because they’re all covered in a coat of mud. We saw much more wildlife on this trip than we did in early November. The trees are now completely bare and there is no color in the landscape apart from the sky and the water. There are no more patches of bright color to be found in the woods. Everything is skeletal and stripped down. However, the water is a stunning turquoise blue and you can see straight to the bottom. So different from the Meramec in the summer! All the silt stirred up by motor boats in the summer has sunk back to the bottom leaving the river clean and beautiful.

meramec river, green's cave

Paddling up to Green's Cave

meramec river, green's cave

Green's Cave

meramec river, green's cave

Water flowing from Green's Cave

meramec river, green's cave

The picnic area at Green's Cave

meramec river, green's cave

The boats parked at Green's Cave

meramec river, green's cave

Looking out from Green's Cave entrance

We stopped for a short lunch on a large gravel bar. While there we saw two Bald Eagles. I had spotted a juvenile a few minutes before we stopped. I’m pretty sure we saw the same eagles further down the river later in the afternoon.

Three and a half miles from Sappington Bridge is Green’s cave. Green’s cave is a public cave located within Meramec State Park. It is only accessible by hiking (or bushwhacking in summer) about 5 miles from the Hamilton Hollow area of the park, or by paddling down the river. It is a fairly easy cave with many large formation rooms not too far in. We brought some cave gear with us to explore a bit. However, most public caves in Missouri are closed due to the WNS bat epidemic and so was Green’s as well as most of the caves within the state park. So we just hung out for a while at the picnic area and did not enter the cave.

meramec river

DW wrestles a tent sunk in the river

meramec river

Beaver buffet

After the cave we came upon a few bonus prizes tangled in the brush in the water. First was a half-full gallon of motorboat oil, then we found a crappy old canoe paddle. We surmised that someone had flipped their motorboat. Why else would all this perfectly usable stuff be floating in the brush? Not too much further downriver I saw a scrap of green tent fabric caught up in a rootwad. Upon inspection we found an entire tent, set up with poles included, tangled underwater. There was no way to dislodge it without a sharp knife and potentially flipping the boat. Too bad, because I was really curious as to what could be inside the tent. How did it get there? Did it get washed away in a flood? Did someone leave it unstaked and it blew away? Charlie summed it up by saying, “Somebody had a really bad day!”

Just before we reached the park we spotted 5 Bald Eagles in a group. One of them was a juvenile, which led me to believe that 3 of them were the same eagles we saw earlier in the day. That is the most eagles we’ve seen in a group on the Meramec.

meramec river

Meramec State Park access #1

meramec river

Hwy. 185 bridge

meramec river

DW paddles up to Meramec State Park access #2

We passed the main State Park access on the left side of the river. There is a large parking lot and boat ramp here. We wanted a slightly longer float, so we took out at the second park access two miles downriver. This access is noted on the map, but not advertised within the park. You have to drive all the way to the end, past the main campground and toward the group campground and there is a small access with a gravel ramp. A mile before we took out a cold drizzle started to fall and the temperature dropped. We packed up our gear, ran shuttle and headed back to our house for a hearty beef stew dinner.

Critter Count: Turtles, Herons, Kingfishers, 5 Bald Eagles (1 juvenile)

Bonus Prizes: 1 half-full gallon of motorboat oil, 1 Cheap canoe paddle