Tag Archives: Onondage State Park

Float #141: Meramec River

24 Feb

 

Onondaga State Park to Sappington Bridge

F92_Meramec

Meramec River
Crawford County, Missouri
Sunday, February 19, 2017
15 Miles
Temperature: 75˚/35˚
Wind: S at 9mph
Water Level: 2.85ft. at Sullivan gage

Another warm weekend in February means another float trip! This makes 45 miles so far this year. This trip DW and I were joined by my sister Emily, her husband Henry, and their two children Celia and Silas. Celia and Silas are some of my favorite canoe paddling friends. They are both preschool age and love to help their Dad paddle their big aluminum canoe, Marge the Barge. We all met up at Onondaga State Park at 8am and DW and Henry ran the shuttle to our take-out at Sappington Bridge, while Emily and I waited with the kids. Shuttle for this float takes about an hour round-trip. There are two other accesses we pass along the way (Campbell Bridge and Blue Springs) so there are shorter options on this stretch of river, but we enjoy this 15 mile stretch when we have the whole day to paddle.

Meramec River

Meramec River

Henry, Celia, Silas, and their dog Lucas

Meramec River

Celia and Silas paddle Marge the Barge

The Meramec was beautiful and clear, as it always is in winter. The day started out kind of chilly, but a few minutes after we started the sun came out and it warmed up quickly. We spent the day mostly paddling and picking up trash, with a leisurely break for lunch. No one went swimming, on purpose or otherwise. We didn’t see many other paddlers, but there were several motorboats toward the end of the afternoon. Celia and Silas regaled us repeatedly with their knock-knock jokes (they only know two). There wasn’t much wildlife to see beyond the usual birds. It was an uneventful yet pleasant day on the river, just as it should be.

Meramec River

Meramec River

Emily paddles Stable Maybel

Meramec River

Cave in the bluff

Meramec River

Critter Count: Hawks, Herons, Kingfishers, Turtles

Bonus Prizes: A Yeti Tumbler, a Rubbermaid trashcan and a 5 gallon bucket (with lid)

Float #96: Meramec River

2 Apr

Bird’s Nest Park to Onondaga State Park

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Meramec River
Crawford County, Missouri
Sunday, March 30
18 Miles

At the start of every float season DW and I try to develop some general goals of the rivers we want to float in the coming year. Some of these include floating rivers we’ve never visited before or completing a whole river from mile zero to the end. This year we are contemplating finishing the entire Meramec. We have floated most of the river until it gets to St. Louis County, but I looked back over my blog posts and discovered this 18 mile stretch that was missing! Last Sunday was a warm and sunny day, so what better time than now to close up this gap?

This stretch of river is not far from our house, so we both drove to Onondaga State Park and dropped the truck there, then continued on to Bird’s Nest Park. It was a short drive of 12 miles between the two access points. Bird’s Nest Park is right across the river from the private campground of the same name. This is a public access maintained by the county and has no fees. We unloaded our gear and set off by 10am.

Old bridge at Bird's Nest

Old bridge at Bird’s Nest

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Taking a side channel

Taking a side channel

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The day started out chilly but warmed up fast. The weather was very warm in the sun and cold in the shade with a cool breeze. As soon as we hit the water I was ready to peel off a few layers of clothing! We paddled at a steady pace with few breaks. The sun goes down around 7pm this time of year and you never know how long it will actually take to float a new stretch of river. It turned out we could have gone a little slower because we tore through about 2/3 of the trip before lunch! This was our first long float of the year. My arms were tired the first half of the trip, but I soon warmed up and by the end of the trip I felt great!

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Saranac Spring branch

Saranac Spring branch

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We saw a juvenile Bald Eagle flying downstream ahead of us, but he didn’t stick around for a photo. We also saw a deer on the bank who thought he was hiding, but we could see him watching us float past. The turtles were out in full force, their backs still caked in mud, sunbathing on the logs and boulders.

About half way through the trip Saranac Spring flows into the river on the left side. We stomped around here for a few minutes, but the mouth of the spring appeared to be up far up a creek, so we didn’t stay too long. Lunch was taken on a small gravel bar next to a bluff. We stopped for about an hour and then we were off again to tackle the last part of the paddle.

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Turtle pile

Turtle pile

Bridge at Onondaga

Bridge at Onondaga

There are quite a few long, slow pools on this section and at times there was a headwind that made paddling a little more difficult. There are also many oxbows, so sometimes the wind was at our back, which is always nice! Many of the bluffs we passed appeared to have cave openings, but we didn’t have time to check them and see if they were caves or just holes in the rock.

A couple miles before our take out we passed the Huzzah Creek confluence on our right. There were another couple of kayakers with their kids enjoying the day and doing some fishing, which reminds me I need to renew my fishing license. We arrived at Onondaga around 4:30pm, completing our trip in a little over 5 hours of paddle time, not bad for the second trip of the year! We loaded our gear in the truck and headed back to Bird’s Nest to pick up the car and then home. We were back home with ample time to finish some chores, which is always nice for a Sunday float.

April will be busier as the float/camp season ramps up. Hopefully we will start to see some more rain, or we won’t be doing any creek floating this spring!

Critter Count: 1 Juvenile Bald Eagle, Herons, Ducks, Geese, Turtles, 1 Deer

Float #92: Meramec River

18 Nov

Onondaga State Park to Sappington Bridge

F92_Meramec

Meramec River
Crawford County, Missouri
Monday, October 21
15 miles

This float was right in the peak of fall color for our area and what better place to enjoy it than the Meramec River. This section of the Meramec has many beautiful bluffs with some swift sections in the beginning and some slower pools near the end. Our good friend Aaron was in town from NYC, visiting relatives and we managed to meet up for a float trip. We drove to the access at Onondaga State Park and dropped our gear. Aaron and I stayed with the boats while our friend Mark helped DW run the shuttle. The day was cool and partly cloudy, but the sun came out a few times to warm us up.

Onondaga access

Onondaga access

Aaron get his riverlegs

Aaron get his riverlegs

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We didn’t see any other boaters that day, which is typical for a Monday. The first five miles of the float go by pretty quickly, as the water is swift in that section. As we floated past a small bluff I noticed a cave gate about 10 feet above the river bank, so I scrambled up to check it out. There was a sign identifying it as Saloon Cave. With a name like that, I imagine the cave must have some pretty nice formations. We also passed Campbell Bridge, which is another access five miles downriver from Onondaga.

Saloon Cave

Saloon Cave

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A hornet nest

A hornet nest

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While gazing upward at one of many tall bluffs I noticed a hornet’s nest in a tree, dangling over the water. I don’t see many of those. Luckily, the hornets were asleep. Around every turn there was another beautiful bluff topped with gorgeous fall foliage. We didn’t make many stops, as it was too cold to swim. On one bend of the river there was a herd of cows on the riverbank. The young ones had some fun running away and the older ones just looked at us and shambled off to the field.

Cows on the river

Cows on the river

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A cave high up in the bluff

A cave high up in the bluff

An old river cabin

An old river cabin

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Sappington bridge

Sappington bridge

One third of the way through the float we passed Blue Springs access. There is a spring here that flows into the river, but it is a bit of a hike up the spring branch to get to it. After Blue Springs the river slows down a lot and there are a few long pools that feel more like lakes. Eventually we reached our take out at Sappington Bridge, just as dusk was starting to fall. It was a nice float, though a bit chilly and we all had a lot of fun.

Critter Count: Herons, Hawks, Kingfishers, Turtles, Cows, 1 Hornet Nest

Float #63: Courtois Creek

1 Apr

Berryman to Onondaga State Park

F63_Courtois

Courtois Creek
Crawford Missouri
Saturday, March 9
18 miles

Courtois Creek is a large creek that runs into the Huzzah. Though some sections are floatable year round it is best floated in the spring with ample water. This creek is one of my favorites because of its many tight turns and lots of obstacles. If the water is really up and moving it can be quite challenging. This creek is the site of the only time DW and I have ever flipped our canoe. This year’s trip was not so eventful. The water was up a little bit, but still clear and manageable. The day dawned with rain showers, but by the time we hit the water the sun was shining and the day was looking up.

We drove to Berryman access, which is the Hwy. 8 bridge. There is a small 4×4 trail on the westbound side of the highway that goes under the bridge. It can sometimes be muddy or washed out, so it is best suited to a 4 wheel drive vehicle. My Aunt & Uncle were taking a road trip in the area that day and offered to run shuttle for us. DW and my Uncle ran the car down to Onondaga State Park, which is on the Meramec River. After the Courtois runs into the Huzzah it is a short float to the Meramec and down to Onondaga. It is a neat float because you start out at a small stream that gradually gets bigger with each incoming creek and confluence, until you are on the Meramec.

Courtois Creek

DW bails his boat

Courtois Creek

Courtois Creek

Courtois Creek

A near portage

Courtois Creek

DW rides the ripples

Within the first 2 minutes of floating DW took on some water trying to split the middle between a gravel bar and a tree root. Naturally, I had to photograph him bailing the boat (for blog purposes)! There were many tight spots in the first few miles of creek. We had to portage around a couple of trees that had fallen and just barely squeaked by a large branch blocking 98% of the channel. Then DW broke his paddle in half. It is a wooden paddle that was getting pretty worn by last summer, so it was due to fail. Luckily we had a spare paddle, or he would’ve had a really long day of awkward paddling.

Courtois Creek

Courtois Creek

Courtois Creek

Courtois Creek

Four miles downstream of Hwy. 8 is a low water bridge at Scotia. You can put in here, but there is no legal place to park your vehicle. Unless the water is really high you have to portage over this bridge. After the bridge the creek gets narrow and flows next to some pretty bluffs. Soon after that you cross another low water bridge at Bass Canoe Rental. Bass is the only outfitter on the Courtois and they have a large campground offering just about anything you can think of. It tends to get very busy in the summer and is often full of the young, party crowd, so I tend to avoid the place. I like my float trips and camping to be relaxing most of the time!

Courtois Creek

Courtois Creek

Courtois Creek

Courtois Creek

Courtois Creek

Confluence with the Huzzah

A few miles down from Bass is Huzzah Conservation Area. This conservation area accesses both the Courtois and the Huzzah. There is parking and primitive camping is available September – May. Shortly after the conservation area the Courtois confluences with Huzzah creek. Less than half a mile on the Huzzah you run into the conservation area again, where there is another access and another low water bridge. You can usually float under this bridge unless the water is high.

Courtois Creek

Huzzah access at the conservation area

Courtois Creek

Courtois Creek

Courtois Creek

The bridge at Onondaga

Within a mile the Huzzah confluences with the Meramec River. It is always neat to float from the twisty creek onto the mighty Meramec. Although it’s not so very mighty here, it seems so after creek floating all day! As the day began to darken we paddled the last three miles down to Onondaga State Park where our vehicle was waiting. It was a very enjoyable day. Hopefully the water will stay plentiful this year so we can get some more creek floating under our paddles!

Critter Count: Ducks, Herons, Turtles, Hawks, 2 Bald Eagles.

Float #54: Meramec River

2 Oct

Onondaga State Park to Sappington Bridge

Meramec River
Crawford County, Missouri
Sunday, September 23
15 miles

DW and I met up with my sister, Abby for a leisurely 5 mile Sunday float trip from Onondaga to Campbell bridge. However, that all changed when DW returned from running shuttle. DW dropped me at Onondaga with the boats while he and Abby ran shuttle. When they got back DW commented that it was a really long shuttle, almost 1/2 hour each way. “Why was it so long,” I asked. “Is it because you have to back track through Bourbon?” “Bourbon, why would I go through Bourbon to get to Sullivan,” he replied. I then asked him why the hell he went to Sullivan; that’s the wrong bridge! By this time it was almost 2pm and there wasn’t time to rerun the shuttle. We looked at the map and decided we could make the 15 miles before dark if we paddled hard. DW blamed his mistake on lack of sleep, I blamed it on his inattention to detail. After I added this oversight to the list of things I get to poke fun at over the rest of his life, we put our boats in the water and shoved off. We decided to paddle hard until we reached Campbell bridge (the 5 mile mark and our original float plan) and see how much time we made.

Meramec River

Hwy. H Bridge at Onondaga State Park

Meramec River

Meramec River

Meramec River

Meramec River

Meramec River

Campbell Bridge

It was a beautiful day and a beautiful stretch of river. There is a tall limestone bluff around almost every corner. The clear blue sky and a hint of fall color in the leaves made for a perfect day. Too bad we were busy paddling and couldn’t bask in the scenery. We arrived at Campbell bridge in a little over an hour. Since we were making good time we stopped for lunch on a gravel bar soon after. That was our only break.

Meramec River

Meramec River

Meramec River

A heron tries to blend in with the tree

We kept a steady pace of a little over 4 miles an hour. DW and I are used to paddling, but Abby doesn’t do many float trips, so this was a fast pace for her. She kept up with us over the course of the trip and we didn’t really have to slow down for her. She said her arms were very tired afterward! After Campbell bridge are two large campgrounds and outfitters, Riverview Ranch and Blue Springs. After Blue Springs campground is Blue Springs public access. There used to be a low-water bridge here, but it has been removed. You can still see the wooden pilings spanning the river. After Blue Springs the river slows down a bit and there are several long, slow pools all the way to Sappington bridge.

Meramec River

Low-water bridge pilings at Blue Springs

Meramec River

Meramec River

Meramec River

Juvenile Bald Eagle

Meramec River

Sappington Bridge

Abby spotted a Bald Eagle toward the end of the float. It turned out to be a juvenile eagle. His feathers were still changing into adult plumage. Spotting an eagle always makes me happy! We finally reached Sappington bridge and pulled off the water just as the giggers were putting on around dusk. If you are unfamiliar with gigging, it is a popular rural fishing sport done at night. People rig their john boats with lots of flood lights and gig sucker fish from the riverbed. The season lasts through the fall and winter. If you ever have a chance to try it, it’s really difficult and pretty fun. It’s a major weekend social event for many people who live in the middle of nowhere. After the fish are caught they are fried and eaten with vast quantities of cheap beer. The fish don’t taste all that great (they are bottom-feeders), but frying makes anything good!

We loaded all our boats and ran Abby back to her car. We arrived at home around 8pm, exhausted and well exercised. It was still an enjoyable float, a good adventure and good cardio!

Critter Count: Turtles, Herons, Ducks, Osprey, 1 Bald Eagle