Tag Archives: Woodson K. Woods

Float #69: Meramec River

2 May

Short Bend to Woodson K. Woods

F69_Meramec

Meramec River
Dent & Crawford Counties, Missouri
Saturday, April 20
25 miles

We were scheduled to float a lower section of the Meramec on this Saturday, but a large amount of rain the previous week caused the river to rise out of its banks. Since that trip got cancelled we decided to go all the way upriver where the water level was already falling. We’ve been wanting to do this trip on the upper Meramec for a while, but you need good water levels to float it. At 25 miles we also needed a good full day to paddle. DW and I drove down to our takeout at Woodson K. Woods Conservation Area near Steelville Saturday morning and met up with our friend Mark who ran our shuttle. It was a bit of a drive to get all the way upriver, but very scenic. We arrived at the Hwy. 19 bridge, where the Short Bend access is located and were on the water around 11am.

Meramec River

Short Bend access

Meramec River

Lake spillway

Meramec River

Meramec River

Low water bridge

Even though the water was brown and the air a little chilly, the sun was shining and the countryside was in full spring glory. The water was quick and a little choppy, which is the way we prefer it! We paddled steadily with no breaks, not knowing how long it would take us to go the 25 miles. There are several low water bridge to cross on this float and they are all on the float map (unlike that Huzzah trip). We cam to the first one fairly quickly, but the water was not high enough to float over. Most of the bridges on this float had to be portaged, but I think the water would have been a little scary if it was high enough to float over!

Meramec River

Hwy. M bridge

Meramec River

Meramec River

Meramec River

Approaching the dam

Meramec River

DW runs the dam

13 miles into the trip is a low dam that usually needs to be portaged. There is a tall stone wall jutting out into the water right before the dam. DW went to the right and was able to float over the dam. I went to the left and floated over, but I scraped a little bit on the descent. The dam was a 2 or 3 foot drop when we went over it. It was fun, but not too exciting. A little more water would have been good for this obstacle. After we passed the dam we realized we were making really good time and decided to stop paddling constantly. The water was probably running 3-4 mph on its own and if we kept paddling we’d be done too early.

Meramec River

Fishermen at low water bridge

Meramec River

The laziest flood log

Meramec River

Meramec River

Shortly after the dam we came to another low water bridge where some men were fishing. One of them caught a nice sized bass right as we pulled up. Another fisherman remarked to DW, “Isn’t the water too high to be floating?” DW quipped back that the water was a little too low for his liking since he had to portage all these bridges. A little later we floated past a large log that was riding the current downstream. We thought it must be the laziest flood log, since all its buddies had gone downstream a couple of days earlier. There was a lot of flood debris in the trees bordering the river. Leaves and sticks covered everything a few feet above us. At one point the banks were covered with loose hay. I guess someone’s hay got swept away and deposited along the river for a couple miles. It made everything look a little creepy, like Halloween tinsel!

Meramec River

Meramec River

Meramec River

Eventually we came to the low water bridge at Hwy. U, which is the uppermost place we have floated previous to this trip. That bridge was underwater so we were able to float over it. Everything down from here looked familiar, but the water was much, much lower last time we floated it. We took these last few miles pretty easy and just let the current carry us. We were going to finish this float a couple hours earlier than expected. Unfortunately it was way too cold to swim and most of the gravel bars were underwater, so there was no reason to stop and dawdle.

Meramec River

Meramec River

Meramec River

Hwy. 8 bridge

All too soon, we heard the sound of traffic and knew the bridge was up ahead and our trip was over. We finished it in less than 6 hours without paddling very hard. When you’re floating a new section of river you never really know what you will encounter or how fast the water is. These 25 miles went by quicker and easier than the 20 we did on the Huzzah a few weeks ago, probably because we didn’t have nearly as many portages! It was a great trip and a lot of fun.

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

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Float #38: Meramec River

27 Jun

Woodson K. Woods to Scotts Ford

F4_Meramec

Meramec River
Crawford County, Missouri
Sunday, May 13
9 Miles

My youngest sister, Abby recently graduated from university. For her gift we threw her a party and took all her friends on a float trip. I took my kayak and DW took the Paddilac (our canoe) out for its yearly float. We loaned our other kayaks to Abby & her boyfriend and got canoes from Adventure Outdoors for her other friends.

We put in at Woodson K. Woods conservation access and floated down to Adventure Outdoors, which is across the river from Scotts Ford conservation access. This is a float we’ve done many times before, so more detailed descriptions can be found in blog posts, Float #4 and Float #19.

Meramec River

Meramec River

River Monster

Meramec River

We saw some cool wildlife on this float, including a really large snapping turtle sunning itself on a rock. I had never seen a turtle that fat before! We stopped for a while at Maramec Springs to swim and eat lunch. There were some Northern Water Snakes chilling in the vegetation where the spring water meets the river, and a large group of Gar swimming around. Not far after the springs we passed the Bald Eagle nest that I have seen every time I’ve floated this section. This time it had a couple of juvenile eagles in it! That was a really cool sight. I’ve rarely seen juvenile eagles, much less sitting in their nest. We saw a couple of adult eagles near there as well.

Meramec River

Maramec Springs

Meramec River

Eaglets in their nest

Meramec River

The Paddilac on a rare outing

Meramec River

The graduate paddler

We got off the river around 4:30. Everyone had a great time and I don’t think anyone capsized. Abby had fun paddling in DW’s kayak and I was happy that all her friends got to share a fun weekend together.

On a less happy note, this float was the last for our beloved lab, Zoe. She passed away of old age last week. Zoe was a dedicated floating enthusiast and our canoe rarely went anywhere without her. She floated with us on many week-long excursions in the Ozarks, swimming all day and sleeping on the gravel bars at night. She was the only witness to the one time we flipped the canoe (an early spring float on the flooded Courtois). We (and our canoe) will miss her dearly, but we have many wonderful floating memories to share.

Zoe

Critter Count: Turtles, 1 fat Snapping Turtle, Herons, 4 Bald Eagles (2 juvenile), Northern Water Snakes

Float #19: Meramec River

18 Aug

Woodson K. Woods to Scotts Ford

Meramec River
Crawford County, Missouri
Sunday, August 14
9 Miles

This past Sunday was my 30th birthday. I always do a float on or around my birthday and occasionally friends or family join in. This year we had a bbq on Saturday and many of my friends joined in on the float Sunday. The weather was beautiful, highs in the mid 80s and partly cloudy. I have never had such nice weather on my birthday in all my life. I was actually chilly in the morning and evening! We paddled from Woodson K. Woods (Hwy. 8 bridge) to Scotts Ford, taking advantage of our free shuttle from our friend at Adventure Outdoors. DW and I did this float back in April. Read the previous post for more background on this stretch of river.

Woodson K. Woods boat launch

meramec river

Zoe enjoying her float

My youngest sister, Abby and her friend Nicole joined us in a canoe and agreed to take our lab, Zoe along in their boat. Zoe used to go on all our floats back when we only had a canoe and she was a young pup. She is a 75 lb. lab and doesn’t come anywhere near fitting in a kayak, but we try to take her out in a canoe at least once a year. Now that she is getting old she tires easily, thus the snazzy life vest. When she was young she would swim a good 10 miles of every float trip. She thinks she can still do that now, but her body doesn’t agree. She enjoyed her day out and I enjoyed having her along. As soon as we took out she jumped in the car and immediately fell asleep.

meramec springs

Surfing the springs

DW surfing the spring

Maramec Springs

A third of the way into the trip we passed Maramec Springs where the cold water enters the river. We stopped across from the spring for lunch and some swimming. It a nice spot to swim because the warm river water and the cold spring water mix up here and you swim through alternating patches of warm and freezing water.

Just past the spring we saw a blue heron standing on the bank. He used the typical heron reasoning, “if I stand perfectly still you won’t see me.” It didn’t work. We also saw a bald eagle sitting in a sycamore. It was very close to where we had seen the pair of eagles and a nest back in April. We looked for the nest, but didn’t see it. Either it had been dismantled or the foliage was hiding it.

Toward the end of the trip we caught up with the large groups from the outfitter trips, which always seems to happen later in the day. We came across a tricky spot where a downed tree blocked most of the waterway. There were lots of canoes causing much confusion as to which direction to go around the tree. Most of the kayaks had no problem as we were able to float over the trunk of the tree and both our canoes made it as well. One of our kayaks collided with a confused canoeist and tipped her boat, causing her to lose her paddle. The one time we didn’t bring an extra paddle of course! We searched the water and the banks downstream, but never found it. It probably got stuck under a log on the river bottom in the swift water. Luckily someone had found a canoe paddle on the bank earlier and gave it to us to use, otherwise we would have had to tow the boat the remaining few miles. It really sucks to lose a kayak paddle. They are expensive.

The jumping cliff

We took at the Adventure Outdoors parking lot around 6pm. Everyone had a good time and it was an excellent addition to my birthday weekend. Coming up later this month is another possible Meramec float and hopefully we will make it to the Eleven Point before the weather cools down too much!

Critter Count: Turtles, Blue Herons, Green Herons, Kingfishers, 1 Bald Eagle, 1 Northern Water Snake

Bonus Prizes: 1 much-needed canoe paddle, 1 camouflage blanket suitable for the dog

Float #4: Meramec River

15 Apr

Woodson K. Woods to Scotts Ford


Meramec River
Crawford County, Missouri
Saturday, April 9
9 Miles

A Saturday with good weather and no plans leads to an impromptu float trip. The upper Meramec is a beautiful stretch of river located within an hour of my house. With no yak buddies joining us, we grabbed a shuttle from Green’s Canoe Rental just west of Steelville on Hwy. 8.

Preparing the boats at Woodson K. Woods

We put the boats in at Woodson K. Woods Conservation Area. There were a few other boaters in rental canoes ahead of us, so we chatted with some Master Naturalist workshop attendees while we waited for the others to get a head start. Unfortunately, we also found some broken glass bottles at the put in. Don’t bring glass to a river, people! It’s illegal, dangerous and really pisses me off. DW cleaned up the glass, which earned him several thank-you’s from the naturalist crowd.

Bluebells carpet the forest

Not far down from the put in the signs of spring were everywhere. The forested banks were carpeted with bluebells and other early bloomers. Many animals were out enjoying the weather as well.

Spiny Softshell Turtle

Bald Eagle in a nest

Bald Eagle

There were more turtle species out on the river than I had ever seen before. A whole group of spiny softshells were sunbathing on the bank and I also saw one huge snapping turtle straddling a log. We also saw two bald eagles on this trip. One of them was sitting in a nest; a first sighting for us. Unfortunately, the combination of the afternoon sun and my tiny digital camera made it impossible to get a good shot. The eagle didn’t leave the nest no matter how close I approached, but it did give me a couple steely glares! I wonder if the eggs had hatched yet?

One of the highlights of this trip is passing by Maramec Springs, one of the most beautiful spots on the river and home to Missouri’s 5th largest spring. Maramec Springs is also the site of the historic Maramec Iron Works, in operation from 1826 to the 1870s. The Maramec Iron Works played a big part in providing iron for Civil War cannon and gunships built in St. Louis. In 1938 the springs and surrounding area were turned over to the James Foundation, which to this day operates it as a private park open to the public. The Conservation Department also operates a trout park and hatchery on the grounds. This area is well worth a visit, both for the history and the beauty of the springs. Although the name of this park is spelled differently, the pronunciation is the same. The Meramec River has had many different names and spellings throughout history and this is one of the spots where an old spelling remains.

Water level view of Maramec Springs

Maramec Springs

The springs pump out an estimated 100 million gallons of 56˚ water every day. It’s best to do your swimming above the springs because the water gets really cold as soon as you pass the confluence! We did the rest of the float at a leisurely pace, 9 miles being a short day for the two of us.

View from a gravel bar

A perfect day on perfect water

A lackadasical paddle gave us plenty of time to enjoy the excellent weather and the burst of spring foliage. Downriver there are several caves high up in the bluffs and tiny springs flowing out a few feet above the banks. We took out at Scotts Ford, a public access at a low water bridge. Across from Scotts Ford is Adventure Outdoors, another excellent float vendor and fishing guide. We were loaded up and headed home by 5:30, with plenty of daylight to finish some chores before falling asleep on the couch!

Dogwoods on the hillside

Spring Beauty

Critter Count: Turtles, Blue Herons, 2 Bald Eagles, 2 Woodchucks, 1 Beaver or Mink (couldn’t tell as it was swimming across the river)