Tag Archives: Sappington bridge

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)

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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 #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

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

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DW shows off his mad style

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Charlie

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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

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Green's Cave

meramec river, green's cave

Water flowing from Green's Cave

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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.

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Meramec State Park access #1

meramec river

Hwy. 185 bridge

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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

Float #22: Meramec River

12 Sep

Campbell Bridge to Sappington Bridge

Meramec River
Crawford County, Missouri
Monday, September 5
10 miles

Labor Day is one of those holidays I usually stay away from the rivers due to large crowds and rowdy people. Scott & Megan wanted to do a short float on Monday and since we had no plans and it was a beautiful day we said why not. Most people were headed home by Monday so the river wasn’t crowded. We decided to do a section of the Meramec none of us had done before and we didn’t regret it. This section of the river was lined with tall bluffs and forested banks. The water was very clear and cold. Campbell bridge is right next to Blue Springs Ranch, a campground by the river, in Bourbon, MO. You have to carry your boat down a steep, gravely hill to get to the water and hope you don’t slide all the way in! We put on the river around 11 and the wind had started to pick up by then. The forecast for the day called for winds up to 20 mph, which is a little inconvenient when paddling into the wind. I wouldn’t want to be in a canoe on a windy day; a kayak is a little easier to push down the river. It was actually easier to paddle upstream instead of into the wind, so I’m sure it slowed us down a bit. The upside is to get anywhere on a windy day you have to paddle, which makes it an exercise float and we made good time anyway.

campbell bridge, meramec river

Campbell Bridge access

ducks, meramec river

Ducks chasing the boats

meramec river, kayaking

Just down from the put-in we caught up with a group in a raft on the shore. They had been feeding some bread crumbs to a group of ducks. The ducks saw us approach and assumed we had food too. They chased us around for a few hundred feet. I haven’t ever seen wild ducks get that close to a boat, but I guess these guys had been living the campground life all summer and were used to humans. Other than the ducks, wildlife was kinda sparse on this trip. I think it’s the first trip all year we didn’t see any blue herons.

meramec river bluffs

Bluff along the river

meramec river bluff

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Vultures circle the bluffs

We passed Blue Springs campground and access on the left side of the river, as well as the spring branch the campground is named for. Blue Springs isn’t very big and the water coming in didn’t look much different from a creek, but it was very cold. We soon came upon some picturesque bluffs and it seemed every other bend had a tall bluff on one side. I had never seen so many bluffs in a single float on the Meramec. At the first bluff a group of vultures were circling and flying in and out of a small opening near the top.

meramec river turtle

Turtle sunning on a log

meramec river, kayaking

meramec river, kayaking

There were quite a few turtles sunning themselves on logs and rocks. We saw a large softshell as well as the common river turtles. As the day heated up we shed our outer layers and contemplated a swim. The temperature was in the upper 70s and breezy. I decided to take the plunge anyway. I think it was warmer in the water than out in the wind! I used some turtle logic and sunned myself dry on the bank and it wasn’t so cold after that.

Scott and I switched boats halfway through the trip. He wanted to try mine out. Scott & Megan both have a Wilderness Systems Pamlico kayak. The Pamlico is quick and maneuverable, but the cockpit is very open leaving lots of room for water to get in the boat and there wasn’t much storage area. It reminded me a lot of my old red Perception, a good, affordable beginner boat with no extra frills. Scott’s dog Yadi enjoyed the extra room on the top of my kayak. He could even lay down on the front! When we switched our boats back Yadi stayed in mine for while. He surprised me when he could see the faster water coming and dove into the cockpit before we hit the ripples. A dog that reads water, who knew!

meramec river bluffs

shiba inu, meramec river, kayaking

Yadi test rides my kayak

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Sappington Bridge access

We took off the river in late afternoon at Sappington bridge, a conservation access on Hwy D near Sullivan, MO. We then drove the long back roads to shuttle our stuff back to Scott’s car at the put-in and parted ways. DW and I routed a new back way home from Bourbon. It was a perfect end to the holiday weekend.

Critter Count: Ducks, Kingfishers, Turtles