Tag Archives: North Fork

Float #150 & #151: North Fork River

21 Sep

Twin Bridges to Patrick Bridge

F150_NorthFork

North Fork of the White River
Ozark County, Missouri
Saturday, July 22 & Sunday, July 23, 2017
18 Miles
Temperature: Saturday 96˚/73˚, Sunday 95˚/73˚
Wind: Saturday SW at 3mph, Sunday SW at 2mph
Water Level: Saturday 2.65, Sunday 2.64 at Tecumseh gage

This post is long overdue! Life has gotten busy and time got away from me. I’ve got a small stack of trip reports to write up from the summer, so here’s to hoping I get to them all in a more timely fashion.

This particular weekend in July was a hot one, as most of this summer has been. We decided to head for a cold river, but having just done the Eleven Point we opted for the North Fork, which is about the same amount of driving and just as cold. It has been a few years since we’ve been there so it was nice to get back. On this trip we were joined by my sister Emily and her family, her friend Taylor and their family, and my best friend Cassie. We drove down early Saturday morning to Twin Bridges access, dropped the gear and then DW and Henry drove the shuttle down to our take out at Patrick Bridge. The North Fork had been hit pretty hard with the flooding in May and many of the public accesses and campgrounds were closed due to the extensive damage. I had a hard time discerning what was and wasn’t closed from the information I could find online, so I called the outfitter at Twin Bridges and they helped me figure it out.

North Fork River

Putting on at Twin Bridges

North Fork River

Marge the Barge

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

North Fork River

DW and Ocoee run the low water bridge

North Fork River

Picnic table in a tree. That’s how high the water was in the flood.

North Fork River

The first few hours of paddling were pretty low water. We didn’t have to portage, but it was definitely scraping the boats in many spots (especially the canoes). There are no major springs until you get to Blue Spring, so the water was a bit warmer in this section as well. But it was still very clear and the scenery was beautiful. We saw our first sign of the flooding, a picnic table suspended in a treetop well over our heads. It is so surreal to see where the high water line was and imagine that volume of water moving through the landscape.

North Fork River

Hwy. CC Bridge completely destroyed from flooding.

North Fork River

What is left of the bridge.

North Fork River

Hammond Camp access

The picnic table in the tree was just the tip of the iceberg as far as flood damage on the North Fork. Soon, we arrived at Hammond Camp, an access we have used in previous years. It used to be very wooded and now it is scraped to the bare rocks. The new bridge at Hwy. CC was completely destroyed. The bridge was twisted up and washed just downstream, a massive hunk of broken steel and concrete. It will take many years for this area to recover.

Blue Spring

Henry and Silas take the plunge.

Henry shows off.

North Fork River

Emily and the girls take their turn.

North Fork River

Our camp for the evening.

Our first stop of the day was at Blue Spring, a nice spring hole that bubbles up on the left side of the river. We spent some time relaxing in the cold water, and many of our group jumped off the short rock ledge into the pool. The rest of the day was a nice, relaxing float. About 4 miles past Blue Spring Rainbow Spring enters the river. This is the largest spring on the North Fork, but it is private property and you can’t see the spring boil from the river. The water really turns cold once Rainbow Spring joins the river! We soon found a good site for our overnight camp, a large gravel bar with ample firewood. We set up camp, ate our dinner and enjoyed the evening under the stars. Henry brought his hammock to sleep in, but the only trees to hang it from were directly over the river, so that’s where he slept! Seems pretty damp to me, but he enjoyed it.

North Fork River

North Fork River

McKee Bridge

Cassie runs The Falls.

North Fork River

Destroyed cabins

North Fork River

The next morning dawned bright and hot. We sweated our way through breakfast and packing up camp and were soon headed downstream once again. There were quite a lot of broken trees and scoured gravel banks on this portion of the river. The next landmark is the McKee bridge, which we were able to float under. There are many nice homes along this area. It didn’t look like too many of them were damaged beyond repair from the flood. However, River of Life (an outfitter known for riverside cabins) was very badly damaged. All of their riverside cabins were a tangled mess of debris even though the structures were built high up on stilts. Soon after McKee bridge is The Falls, a small rock ledge that makes for a fun little drop. Everyone made it through without incident and we paddled onward toward our takeout.

North Fork River

North Fork River

A large log jam

North Fork River

Patrick Bridge

North Fork River

Whats left of the pit toilet at Patrick Bridge.

North Fork River

Althea Spring

We arrived at Patrick Bridge access around 4:30pm. This access was also a mess of downed trees and debris. Althea Spring is located a short walk downstream from here. At least, it used to be a short walk. Now it is a jungle of logs and vegetation that will take a lot of chainsaw hours to clear. Althea Spring was such a beautiful area and I hope it will return to it’s former glory.

We enjoyed our trip to the North Fork, though it was sad to see so many of it’s natural areas worse for wear from the flooding. Nature usually bounces back eventually, though the public access areas will take a lot of time and money to recover.

Critter Count: Bald Eagles, ducks, deer, herons, turtles

 

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Float #40 & 41: North Fork of the White River

13 Jul

Hammond Camp to James Bridge

North Fork of the White River
Ozark County, Missouri
Friday, June 15 – Saturday, June 16
16 Miles

The North Fork is one of my favorite rivers in Missouri. The abundance of springs along the river make for some of the clearest and coldest water in the state. It’s also in a great location for floating. With the Eleven Point River an hour to the east and Bryant Creek just over the ridge, you could spend a whole week floating on clear, fast waters and swimming in springs. DW and I drove down on a Friday morning, set up camp at Sunburst Ranch, and put our boats on the water at Hammond Camp access (also known as North Fork Recreation Area). It was just the two of us the first day. We floated from Hammond Camp down to Sunburst Ranch, about 10 miles. The second day our friends Jess and Jake joined us and we floated the full 16 miles from Hammond to James Bridge (Hwy. PP).

North Fork

Hammond Camp Access

North Fork

North Fork

Just around the bend from Hammond Camp access is Blue Spring. It seems almost every spring fed river in Missouri has a Blue Spring. This one is a medium size hole near a short bluff. The spring pumps out 7 million gallons of water per day. It’s a popular stop on the trip and a good place for a bracing dip. We all pulled over and spent some time swimming.

North Fork

Blue Spring

North Fork

DW jumps into the Blue

North Fork

North Fork

Jess & Jake

North Fork

North Fork

North Fork

A few miles down from Blue Spring is Rainbow Spring. Formerly known as Double Spring because the flow splits in two around an island and enters the river at two different points. The spring itself is privately owned (those lucky ducks) and you cannot see it from the river. However there is a seepage from a gravel bar between the two spring branches. We first noticed it because the gravel bar is higher than the river, but water was flowing down from the gravel to the river. And boy is that water cold! We dug out a small pool and soaked ourselves for a while.

North Fork

North Fork

North Fork

One of the outlets of Rainbow Spring

North Fork

Sitting in the spring seepage on a gravel bar

North Fork

North Fork

The next landmark on the North Fork is The Falls. The Falls is a rock ledge, about 2 or 3 feet high that crosses the whole river. It makes for a fun little drop and some good rapids. It’s also a great spot to stop and watch other boaters coming through. Most of them make it, but there’s always a few that don’t. Right before The Falls is McKee bridge. You can float under the bridge in low water, but higher water requires a short portage on the right side. The Falls is easily run if you stay to the right center. Go to the left and you’ll hit a bunch of rocks and have to get out of your boat and portage. DW spent some time surfing the rapid and making the oncoming canoeists nervous they would hit him.

North Fork

McKee Bridge

North Fork

DW surfs The Falls

North Fork

A small spring leaks from the hillside

Not long after The Falls is Blair Bridge access and just past that is Sunburst Ranch, our camp site. We parked our boats and went back to camp for a quick beer and a snack. Afterward we shoved off to complete the remaining 5 miles of the float. Two miles down from camp is Patrick bridge, another low water bridge. Patrick bridge is your clue to look on the left for Althea Spring. Althea Spring was privately owned until the 1970s and it was used to provide hydroelectricity to the owner’s home. The small dam is still there and makes a fun, but cold waterfall. We spent some time here playing around and swimming. A swim in a cold spring is great for the body and the soul. I have yet to find anything as refreshing. Maybe a breath of cold mountain air, but we don’t have any of that in Missouri! From Althea Spring we paddled the remaining few miles down to James bridge. James bridge isn’t an official access, but all the locals use it so we do too. DW and Jess ran the shuttle and we got back to camp right before dark. The next day we floated on Bryant Creek, a first for all of us.

North Fork

Patrick Bridge

North Fork

DW in the waterfall at Althea Spring

North Fork

Jake at Althea Spring

North Fork

Althea Spring

North Fork

Althea Spring

North Fork

James Bridge

Critter Count: Blue Herons, Turtles, 2 Mink

Float #5: North Fork of the White River

28 Apr

Twin Bridges to Sunburst Ranch

North Fork River Map
North Fork of the White River
Ozark County, Missouri
Friday, April 22
17 Miles

Every Easter weekend DW and I go floating. This has been our tradition ever since we bought our first canoe, about 10 years ago. Before we had kayaks the Easter float was our first float of the year, but recently it more likely in the first 5. Some Easters have been cold, some hot, and most of them involve a bit of rain. I recall one Easter float in mid-February when the temps dropped below 20˚ at night, others were in late April and sunny with highs in the 80s. So far, we have never been rained out entirely. This float came close though! Rain was scheduled for the entire weekend, but we hoped for the best and headed down anyway.

North Fork Twin Bridges Panorama

Twin Bridges access

The North Fork of the White River (commonly referred to as just the North Fork) is located in southern Missouri, nearly in Arkansas. It runs into Norfork Lake in Tecumseh, MO. We floated this river for the first time in mid-October of last year and were instantly smitten. This river is about an hour west of the Eleven Point, one of our favorites, and bears many resemblances. The water is crystal clear and fast flowing, with many springs and rapids along the way. However, with the amount of rain we had in the preceding week and another large storm the night before, the water was high, brown and full of debris.

We left early Friday morning and drove to Sunburst Ranch in Dora, MO. Sunburst is a family owned campground and outfitter right along the river. We arrived around 10:30 am and did a quick turn and burn to get a shuttle back upriver to Twin Bridges put in. We had originally planned to do 12 miles with the uncertainty of the forecast, but our shuttle driver said the river was moving so fast we might prefer a longer float. Since we didn’t know if we would get rained out the rest of the weekend we decided a longer trip would be better. I’m glad we did because the water was really fast (by Missouri standards) and we completed 17 miles in 4 hours!

Water flowing from Grey Bat cave

Water flowing from the cave

Tree swallows hunting sign

Hunting sign swallowed by a tree

Grey Bat Cave on North Fork

A Grey Bat cave on the river

We put in just after 11 am. Right around the first few bends was a low water culvert bridge that provided an awesome rapid where I immediately got soaked by a big wave! I had declined to wear my kayak skirt as it is new and hard to get on and off quickly, so I figured I’d get wet at some point. Our first stop was a cave right along the river. We climbed up to the mouth and gawked at the beautiful view of the water crashing down the bluff into the river. I don’t know the name of this cave, but it is one of the few caves in the state that house a Grey Bat habitat and thus was gated (and full of water). The climb back down was dodgy as there were plenty of slippy rocks and poison ivy to avoid.

As we continued our float the water continued to rise and more debris came floating by us. Water was pouring in from every wash, creek and bluff. We saw numerous waterfalls, but were moving too quickly to stop and appreciate them.

Waterfall on North Fork

One of many waterfalls along the river

North Fork River flooding

High water on the North Fork

We stopped for lunch at Hammond Camp, where there is a picnic area and access. The water rose about an inch during the 45 minutes we ate. Before lunch I saw some firewood size logs and branches coming down the river. While we were stopped I started seeing large tree branches about 8 to 10 feet long floating by. Good thing kayaks are so maneuverable, I wouldn’t want to confront one of those with a canoe!

Blue Spring North Fork River

Blue Spring boil

Downriver from Hammond Camp is Blue Spring, a large spring right along the river. It was almost unrecognizable with the high water and the spring was no longer blue. We floated right up to the boil. This spring has a flow of over 7 million gallons per day and is worth a stop. There is usually a nice path around the spring with a lookout area, but the water had covered all of that.

Rainbow spring North Fork

Rainbow Spring

The next spring we came upon was Rainbow Spring. This spring is the one of largest in the state with flows of 137 million gallons in the summer months. The water coming from this spring is the iconic turquoise color of Missouri springs and looks very inviting, but very cold! Unfortunately this spring is private property (lucky bastards) and the boil is not visible from the river.

spring water flood water

Spring water and flood water contrast

The rest of the float went by quickly as there are many rapids downstream from Hammond Camp. We encountered 2 or 3 foot swells in many spots. But that just makes it more fun! It was my favorite kind of water; so fast you don’t have to paddle, but you do have to paddle if you want to stay straight. We did have to portage one low water bridge, which can be floated under in normal water.

Chops on the North Fork

Choppy water is fun

Sunburst Ranch cabin

Our cabin at Sunburst

We pulled off the river at Sunburst in mid afternoon, with plenty of time to hang out and cook dinner before the rain and dark fell. We booked a sleeper cabin in anticipation of the rain and I’m glad we did! The next morning the water was still on the rise and more rain was expected all day. The outfitter did not want to put us on the water due to safety and the thunder started soon after. So we packed up our gear and headed home. We were slightly disappointed the remainder of the weekend was rained out, but we had so much fun on the Friday float that is was worth the long drive.

Critter Count: Turtles, Blue Herons, Green Herons, Ducks