Tag Archives: the prongs

Float #98-100: Jacks Fork River

30 Apr

The Prongs to Bay Creek

F98_JacksFork

Jacks Fork River
Texas and Shannon Counties, Missouri
Friday, April 18 – Sunday, April 20
25 Miles

Last summer we floated the Jacks from The Prongs and enjoyed it so much we wanted to come back and do it again, but take our time and do some fishing. This year’s Easter float trip seemed like the perfect opportunity. The water levels were very good and the weather was really beautiful! It has been many years since we have had an Easter float with such sunny, warm weather. Usually it is rainy, cold, or both.

We left our house in the afternoon and drove the two and a half hours to The Prongs access, arriving in the early evening, about an hour and a half before sunset. We planned to float a couple of miles and find a good camping spot. That way we could wake up on the river and not have to pay for a campground site!

Setting off Friday evening

Setting off on Friday evening

Floating under the bridge

Floating under the bridge

A look back at the bridge

A look back at the bridge

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Our first campsite

Our first campsite

The first turn after the access is an old bridge with large culverts to float through. It is easy to float under and provides a nice framing of the river ahead. After the bridge is a fallen tree that spans most of the river. The same tree was there last summer. I thought for sure a flood or a human would have cleared it by now! Since there was more water now than in the summer it was a little easier to float through, but if your skills aren’t up to par I would portage around it. I wiggled my kayak through a narrow space in the middle, while DW scraped past on the far left. After the tree there aren’t any big obstacles, but there are many quick runs with multiple boulders and splashy waves. That’s why this upper section is so much fun!

We saw a lot of wildlife during our short float Friday evening, including a juvenile Bald Eagle and a beaver! As the sun began to set we looked for a good gravel bar to camp. The first one we looked at had too many large rocks to sleep comfortably, but the next gravel bar was perfect. I unpacked and set up the tent while DW collected firewood. We then built a fire and enjoyed a delicious dinner of burritos warmed over the open fire.

The next morning we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast of ham and egg sandwiches before setting off for the day. We were on the river a little after 10am. A couple of bends around the river we stopped for a little bit to fish. DW caught a 12″ smallmouth and I caught a stupid sunfish. That set up the theme for our fishing the rest of the trip. DW reeled in the smallmouth while I was plagued with sunfish. We didn’t catch anything much bigger than that first fish the rest of the weekend.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Fast ripples

Fast ripples

Looking out from a cave

Looking out from a cave

We spent Saturday’s float concentrating on taking it slow and fishing every good spot we came across. Good fishing holes abound on the upper Jacks, there seems to be one around every bend. We also noticed a lot of caves in the surrounding bluffs. This time of year, before the trees leaf out, it is much easier to see all the holes in the hillsides. We came across one cave at river level that was gated, but we could float into the mouth.

Six miles from The Prongs is Hwy. 17 bridge and Buck Hollow access. This access is where most people put on the river. There were several people hanging out at the access and a couple of kayakers just getting on the river. Three miles down from Buck Hollow is Blue Spring. There is a small campground on the right side of the river and the spring is across from it. We saw many springs on this float, most of them just small faucets gushing from the banks.

We also saw a lot of wildlife on the second day, including more Bald Eagles, many deer and a couple of large softshell turtles. Apparently we weren’t the only people who decided Easter weekend was a great time for floating. We came across quite a few canoes on Saturday, many of them doing overnight trips as well.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hwy 17 bridge

Hwy 17 bridge

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Blue Spring

Blue Spring

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We ended our day at Jam Up Cave, a large cave on the right side of the river that is obscured by large boulders. There is an excellent gravel bar across from the cave that is almost always occupied on weekends in the summer. Luckily for us, we were the first to arrive, so we claimed our spot and set up camp. There was already some firewood piled by the fire pit and DW found some more cut logs laying in the woods. With firewood easily secured we spent the rest of the daylight fishing the hole just above the cave. Somehow DW managed to hook a small mussel, something that has never happened to either of us before. As darkness fell we cooked up some chicken and potatoes over the fire while listening to the whip-poor-wills and spring peepers sing.

Preparing camp at Jam Up Cave

Preparing camp at Jam Up Cave

Our campsite at Jam Up Cave

Our campsite at Jam Up Cave

DW caught a mussel

DW caught a mussel

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The next morning we awoke early, ate a quick breakfast of leftovers from dinner the night before, packed camp and were on the river around 9:30. We fished for a bit in the morning, but the wind picked up and made casting difficult so we gradually stopped fishing as we approached the afternoon. DW spent most of the day perfecting his stand-up canoe paddling. He concluded that it is easier to navigate standing, but only if you are sober. A few beers in, you might fall out of that canoe!

Four miles from Jam Up Cave is Rhymers access. The river splits just before the access and if you take the fork on the left you will come across Ebb & Flow Spring. It is a pretty little spring that bubbles from some rocks in the bank. After Rhymers is the Missouri State Teacher’s Assoc. campground, a beautifully maintained campground that is for the use of teachers and their families. It looks like a great place to stay!

The weather was so warm on Sunday that DW and I both took a quick swim on our lunch break. The water was really cold, as can be expected in April. I don’t know that I have ever swam this early in the year, but it sure did feel good!

Ebb & Flow Spring

Ebb & Flow Spring

Missouri State Teachers Camp

Missouri State Teachers Camp

DW SUPs his canoe

DW SUPs his canoe

Another spring

Another spring

Baby turtles

Baby turtles

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As we neared our takeout we fished another couple of bends before taking off the river around 3:30. Bay Creek was a little busy with many canoes taking out. We ended up talking with some of the same people we saw on the Jacks last year! Loading our gear in the truck didn’t take long and we were on the road a little after 4pm.

We had a great time and the Jacks Fork was beautiful, as always. The crystal clear water, spring flowers, abundant wildlife and perfect weather made for one of the best Easter float trips we have had in a while. We don’t have any specific float trips planned in the near future, so we’ll see what the summer brings!

Critter Count: Turtles, Ducks, Geese, Herons, 1 juvenile Bald Eagle, 4 adult Bald Eagles, 7 Deer, 2 Northern Red Snakes, 3 Softshell Turtles, 1 Beaver

Bonus Prizes: 1 nearly new beer koozie, 1 nearly new boat sponge

Advertisements

Float #74 & 75: Jacks Fork River

21 Jun

The Prongs to Alley Spring

F74_JacksFork

Jacks Fork River
Texas and Shannon Counties, Missouri
Saturday, June 8 & Sunday, June 9
31 Miles

The Jacks Fork is one of Missouri’s most beautiful rivers. Though it is only 44 miles long it packs in some of the most scenic bluffs and clearest water in the state. Most of the Jacks Fork above Bay Creek access is too shallow to float in the summer and fall, and it is often flooded in the spring. So it is a good idea to catch it when you can. Since we have been blessed with ample rain this year we were able to float the uppermost section this June, something that was unthinkable during last summer’s drought. We’ve never floated from the South Prong access before (mile marker 0.0). It was well worth the extra half hour of driving. The upper Jacks Fork from The Prongs to Buck Hollow is a small, twisty river that varies between deep, crystal clear pools and fast, boulder-strewn runs. It was a lot of fun and would be worth doing again with more time and a fishing pole!

We woke up very early on Saturday morning and drove the 2.5 hours from our house to Harvey’s Canoe Rental at Alley Spring in Eminence, where we set up a car shuttle (we leave our car at the put-in and they drive it to our take-out). Car shuttle is my preferred method of shuttle, since we only have to unload our gear once and we can move at our own pace. Unfortunately there aren’t many outfitters who do this anymore (something about insurance I guess). We then drove our car to The Prongs access, unloaded our gear and packed everything into the “gear barge,” our trusty Old Town canoe. DW manned the barge while I took my kayak, as usual. There were several other couples loading their canoes for overnight floats, though no one was going as far as us. Right at the access there is a small ledge of rocks that was a little difficult to float over, then around the next bend is a unique bridge that is easily floated under. Around the next bend was our only tricky obstacle, a downed tree that spanned the river. DW wriggled the canoe through it, but it took some time. Since the portage was only about an 8 foot walk on a gravel bar, I took the easy route and carried my kayak around it.

Jacks Fork River

South Prong access

Jacks Fork River

Bridge just after the prongs

Jacks Fork River

Jacks Fork River

The cutest baby turtle

Jacks Fork River

We floated through an area that looked like it had seen tornado damage a few years ago. There were many twisted, broken trees on the hillside. In between the deep pools and enticing fishing holes the river dropped elevation in rocky, rippled sections that were a lot of fun to navigate. It reminded me a bit of the Buffalo River, lots of small boulders and splashy waves. I didn’t find it difficult, but an inexperienced canoeist might have a bit of trouble avoiding all the rocks. I imagine it is even more fun with higher water. When I pulled up to a gravel bar for the first swim of the day, there was the cutest baby turtle sunning on a rock. It was slightly bigger than a quarter, and it stayed put for a few minutes while I snapped a photo before it comically flopped into the shallow water. The river was cold, but not too cold once you submerged the first time. The day was bright and warm, a perfect day for floating.

Jacks Fork River

Jacks Fork River

Jacks Fork River

Hwy. 17 Bridge

Jacks Fork River

We passed quite a few very nice gravel bars and small painted bluffs. Soon we paddled under the Hwy. 17 bridge at Buck Hollow access and our unexplored portion of the Jacks Fork was behind us. It has been 6 or 7 years since we floated from the Buck Hollow access and we only did it once, so this section was almost new to us too. Down from Buck Hollow are a couple of medium size springs and Jam Up cave, a large cave opening that is easily missed if you aren’t looking for it.

Jacks Fork River

Blue Spring

Jacks Fork River

Jacks Fork River

Snake in the debris

Jacks Fork River

Jacks Fork River

A gated cave

Jacks Fork River

Our first stop was Blue Spring, which flowed out from a small cave opening hidden behind a couple of boulders. The people who named Missouri’s springs sure weren’t very creative with their naming. There are 3 Blue Springs I can think of off-hand (this one on the Jacks, one on the Current and one on the Eleven Point) and there may be more. We parked our boats and climbed around the boulders to the spring on the other side. The water was a little cloudy, but definitely blue in color. As we pulled away DW noticed a snake camouflaged in the debris near the spring. Three more miles downriver we came to Jam Up cave and stopped there to poke around.

Jacks Fork River

Jam Up Cave

Jacks Fork River

DW climbs into the mouth of Jam Up Cave

Jacks Fork River

Jacks Fork River

Jam Up cave is easily missed if you aren’t looking for it. It is a huge cave opening, but the view is completely blocked from the river with large boulders. The climb into the cave is relatively short, but difficult. You have to either climb over large rocks or swim through freezing spring water to get inside. If you make it inside without twisting an ankle or busting a knee, you will come to a large spring fed pool with a small waterfall in the back. You can just barely see the waterfall as the light here is greatly diminished by the boulders in the entrance. On our way out of the cave we decided to swim through the water rather than climb back over the rocks. It was shockingly cold and too deep to stand in spots. Once we left the cave the river water felt like a warm bath in comparison.

Four miles down from Jam Up cave is Rhymers access. There were lots of people swimming and camping out on the gravel bar near the access. A mile down from there on the left side of the river is Bunker Hill, a beautiful resort that is exclusively for Missouri’s teachers, their families and friends. If you are a teacher in Missouri, or know one, it is well worth checking out.

A few miles downstream we caught up with a group from SLAG that were floating from Buck Hollow to Alley Spring. We knew the group was going to be on the river ahead of us and figured if we saw them we might hang out or camp with them for the night. The majority of the group was well ahead of the people we caught up with. They invited us to camp with them, wherever they might end up. It was getting close to dusk and we were nearing Bay Creek access, which is 6 miles above Alley Spring. We decided that if we didn’t see the group before Bay Creek we would have to stop for the night so we would have some distance left to paddle the next day. We did catch them setting up camp on a large gravel bar just before Bay Creek. It was nice to see some people we knew, meet new people and have a nice fire we didn’t have to build ourselves. DW and I had paddled 25 miles in one day. I was a little tired, but not sore. We probably could have paddled all the way to Alley Spring if we wanted to! It would definitely be feasible for us to do the whole river in two days if we don’t take too many breaks or spend time fishing.

Jacks Fork River

Jacks Fork River

Jacks Fork River

Jacks Fork River

The next morning we broke camp under an overcast sky and were on the river around 9am. There was rain in the forecast, but with only 6 miles to go we didn’t want to get done too quickly. We fished a bit and didn’t paddle much. DW and I both caught one nice sized small mouth bass and plenty of tiny sun perch. I could see the perch chasing my lure and I would yell at them to go away, since I didn’t want to bother with detaching such a tiny fish! Most of the didn’t listen and hooked themselves anyway. As we rounded the last stretch of the river, dark storm clouds approached from the west. It looked like that rain was going to catch up to us after all. We started to paddle, but it turned out Alley Spring was just around the corner anyway. We reached our take out around 12:30 and quickly packed up our gear before the rain. As we pulled out of the parking area raindrops spattered on our windshield.

Jacks Fork River

Jacks Fork River

Storms approaching

Jacks Fork River

Hwy. 106 Bridge at Alley Spring

If you’ve never been to Alley Spring it is a must-see. It is the most well-known attraction on the Jacks Fork with a beautiful, large spring and an old red mill nearby. It makes for gorgeous pictures in any season and is an excellent place to picnic. We really enjoyed this trip to the Jacks Fork and I am looking forward to spending more time on The Prongs section and maybe catching some nice fish in those big blue pools.

Critter Count: Blue Herons, Kingfishers, Turtles, Snake

Bonus Prize: 1 canoe paddle