Stream Team has a long, rich history of stewardship, education and advocacy for Missouri streams big and small. As we come across archival information, we’ll share it with you, and we’d love it if you’d do the same for us! Be sure to comment or contact us with your own stories and photos from the past 25 years.
You might think you have float trips down to a science, and perhaps a lot of you do. But in a society that’s more rife with “social media specialists” than “mountain men,” I’d say the world still needs some guides. Like Colin Fletcher, for instance; Have you heard of him? Known as “the grandfather of backpacking,” and revered by adventurers worldwide, his writings were part poetry, part prose and part guidebook. Over the years, I’ve found myself thinking, “It sure would be nice to have a Colin Fletcher figure here in good old Missouri.”
Well guess what: we do! There’s a blog called FLLOG that does much the same thing: beautiful descriptions and pictures of river floats, peppered with comments on gear, logistics and “critter counts.” They’ve logged more than 100 river floats in and around Missouri, and each trip is worth a thorough read. In honor of our upcoming Anniversary Float Trip, the good authors of FLLOG agreed to share past tales of the Current River. Here’s the first one, from an anniversary celebration of their own:
Cedar Grove to Two Rivers
Shannon County, Missouri
Wednesday, September 28 – Thursday, September 29
In celebration of our wedding anniversary, DW and I completed our first overnight kayak trip. After all, what is more romantic than sleeping on a gravel bar? We had spent the previous weekend dragging out all our backpacking gear, which hadn’t been used in almost 6 years, sorting and packing it all into small dry bags. We packed the boats and did a test run on the Meramec near home. Everything seemed to fit well and the boats were well balanced, so we unpacked it all into the car and headed down to the Current River for our first overnight trip with kayaks. We hadn’t floated the Current in nearly 2 years. Back when we only had the canoe we had done a couple week-long trips down to Van Buren, so we are pretty familiar with the Current when it comes to overnight trips. We scheduled a car shuttle from the outfitter at Two Rivers. It was a little pricey, but the drive from Cedar Grove to the take out is over an hour long. Once we got to the access we repacked everything in the kayaks.
DW took the red Perception kayak instead of his regular blue kayak. His blue Perception Montour is very narrow and can’t hold much. The red Perception Prodigy is very wide and there is plenty of room in the front and back to stuff a bunch of gear. My Dagger Axis 10.5 turned out to be nearly perfect for overnight packing. There was plenty of room in the front to slide long things (extra paddle, camp seat and several small bags) and the sealed hull held a lot more than I thought it would. I did have to be careful to balance the front and back of the boat so both ends turned at the same rate. Otherwise the front would turn quickly while the back just sat there. We also bought a bunch more small fabric dry bags. The regular vinyl dry bags are hard to stuff into small spaces (too much friction against the plastic boat) and the fabric ones work well as long as you don’t submerge them in water for a long time.
The biggest hurdle to overnight kayaking is alcohol. You really can’t pack much beer on a kayak and drinking hard alcohol all day can turn into a kayak-flipping disaster. We decided two days at a time was feasible to carry beer. If we did more than two days we would carry hard alcohol and soda and just not drink as much and start drinking late in the day. Of course you could always decided to not drink at all, but that would eliminate most of the challenge!
We launched our boats from Cedar Grove at 11am on Wednesday morning. It was a little later than we wanted to start, but still feasible to make it to our halfway point, Pulltite Spring 18 miles downriver. When we tested our boats at home we did not have all the food & beer packed, so the kayaks were a little more heavy than we anticipated. So now we’re paddling heavy boats 18 miles in 7 hours. Better paddle hard!
Our first stop was at Medlock Spring. Medlock is a small spring that gushes from tiny opening in the rocks and tumbles down to the river. There is also a cave up above the spring opening, but we did not explore as we had 16 miles left to paddle.
Two miles down from Medlock is Welch Spring. Welch Spring is in the top 10 of Missouri’s largest springs and has a powerful flow. The spring gushes out of a cave opening and runs into the river with such force that it overtakes the current of the stream. Welch spring was originally homesteaded in 1855 by Thomas Welch, who then ran a grist mill on the spring until the turn of the 20th century. Then it was bought by Dr. Diehl in 1913. Dr. Diehl built a hospital over an opening in the cave and planned to attract patients suffering from breathing ailments to the healing spring waters and cave vapors. His project never really took off as the roads in the Ozarks were little more than rough trails at the time and it was hard to attract patients to the middle of nowhere. The walls of the hospital building still stand at the edge of the spring. It’s neat to wander around the building and imagine what it would have been like to be treated for consumption in the middle of the wilderness in 1915.
Three miles down from Welch is Akers Ferry. This is the last operational ferry in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. There is also an access and camp store on the left side of the river. The ferry runs during daylight hours and is only $4 per vehicle to cross. It has been in operation for over 50 years but I have only seen it running once so I don’t think it gets too much traffic these days.
Yesterday on the Niangua River, hundreds of volunteers dispersed across the water, in canoes donated by local outfitters. Armed with gloves and litter bags, they picked litter out of tree roots, off of riverbanks, and from wherever else they could see it.
This was the sixth cleanup of Stream Team’s 25th Anniversary Celebration. This was also the ninth year of one man’s vision for a cleaner stream and more connected community.
About ten years ago, Carl Romesburg was fed up with seeing trash on the popular floating and fishing stream he called home–So he took action, founding a cleanup to get his whole community to reclaim the Niangua’s natural beauty.
Declaring, “It’s100% or not at all,” Carl used his vacation time to call a hundred Camden, Dallas and Laclede County groups and businesses for donations and volunteers. Some voiced their support, while others told him he was wasting his time. Some people even said he had lost his mind. “Honestly, that pushed me a little harder,” he says.
That first cleanup started out with 80 volunteers and seven outfitters that donated canoes and shuttle services. It’s a unique arrangement; most other litter pickups require volunteers to bring their own canoe. “It would fail if I didn’t have those outfitters,” Carl says.
The past few years have drawn more than 200 volunteers to the annual cleanup. “We get little kids, 5- and 6-year-olds, up to 85-year-old kids, too,” Carl says. “They show up, we get them on the bus, send them off and then they come back.”
Every piece of the Niangua cleanup puzzle is built out of community support. “A woman, a local river rat who does trash pickup for area campgrounds, gathers all the bags,” Carl says. “She goes and picks up all the trash at each section, brings it to the picnic and puts it in a pile, so everybody can stand out and get your picture taken before we get to eat.” Even the picnic is provided by community donors.
The result is a cleaner river and more connected community. It’s a touching thing to experience, Carl says. “You get a little choked up because you see what happens out there.”
These pictures are from the 5-mile Meramec River float from Sappington Bridge to Meramec State Park, on July 27. The participants are all stream team folks who attended the Meramec Watershed Celebration on the previous day. Most camped the weekend at Meramec State Park. The weather was beautiful and a good time was had by all.
Stream Team #95, the Missouri Whitewater Association, has totally smoked all other hand-drawn maps. But who’s really surprised? The rivers they run boast the most dynamic drops in the state–definitely worth an action-packed illustration.
After finding this poster in VWQM archives (those red spots are water quality monitoring sites), we tracked down the artist to tell us his story.
In 1983, when the poster was drawn, running the rapids on the St. Francis River was a mystery to many boaters. The Missouri Whitewater Association wanted to make safe and accurate information available to all who paddled it, and a poster was the perfect medium.
Jonathan Lehmann, now of Cambium Creative, was in his twenties when the poster’s art was commissioned. “It was partly a labor of love,” he says. Thirty years later, a framed copy still hangs in his office. With lots of whitewater boating experience and an art degree from Washington University, he was uniquely qualified for the assignment. “It helped to paddle the river a few zillion times to know it,” he says.
Jonathan wanted to photograph the river from a plane, but that year, the water was too low to yield useful images. A fluke thunderstorm in August made it possible. “I thought, ‘This is my chance. When is this river ever running in the middle of summer?'” he says. He enlisted his canoe partner and best friend who bankrolled the project, Stan Stoy, to help. “I called Stan’s roommate to convince him to get out of bed early, pass on doing something with his girlfriend that day, and take me in the air,” Jonathan says. He hung over the wing of a two-seater airplane, snapping more than 200 pictures with a 35mm camera.
Zoom in to compare the satellite image with Jonathan’s drawing. You might be surprised at how accurate he gets.
“That was the way to do it–back then, Google Earth didn’t exist,” he says. “Maps from satellite images didn’t get anywhere close to detail we needed.”
Some of his photos are included with the poster to show, in detail, how to tackle certain rapids.
As helpful as the photos and text are, it’s the drawing that really makes this special. Inspired by the whitewater art of cartoonist William Nealy, the illustration is both precise and full of life. After returning from the plane trip, Jonathan put 35mm slides in a projector, and from those images, drew the river in perspective. By then, the instructive text was already written. The project took about nine or ten months from inception to completion, he says. Thirty years later, the work still endures.
Jonathan and MWA have talked about updating and reissuing the map. While the run descriptions are still accurate, some other information could use a refresher. Until then, you can order one of the last few maps from MWA’s website or track them down at REI and other St. Louis-area outfitters.
As told by Larry Cain, who serves as MSTWC president, Northern Ozark Rivers Partnership vice president, and coordinator of Stream Team 1008, the Twin River Rangers.
Our Stream Team Association, Northern Ozark Rivers Partnership was first born at a meeting organized by (president) Burt Stewart at Meramec State Park on October 19, 1996.
Our first Stream Team picnic was held on September 27, 1997 at Meramec State Park, for the main purpose of recognizing 1000 stream teams.
At this time, the association decided to try an annual picnic and regrouped at Meramec State Park on September 26, 1998. It was a cool fall day. Because of the cool temperature, except for a few kids, no one else went in the river. It was then decided that 1999’s picnic would be scheduled for the summer, the fourth Saturday in July, and has been ever since.
As the picnic has grown over the years, our committee has grown also. Most of the picnic is coordinated by our association’s core families.
We have to hand it to VWQM volunteer Herb Overstreet, whose hand-drawn map of Finley Creek really doesn’t hold back. He labels one bank as, “Mined! Oh! No!” He feels similarly when a roadway enters the stream bed. And look at those carefully labeled log jams! So wonderful.
We sure do appreciate Herb’s help with Stream Team throughout the years. Although he’s passed on, some of us are lucky to have our memories of his Finley fishing trips and animated maps to keep the Stream Team spirit rippling onward.
John and Sue and I put our kayaks and canoe in at the “Monastery Bridge” in Douglas County, only a mile or so from Assumption Abbey, a Trappist monastery, and paddled over ten miles downstream to the Highway 95 bridge, just below the Ozark County line.
In addition to enjoying a great day of sun, fun, and good companionship, we were conducting chemical monitoring of the stream at one-mile intervals as part of the State of Missouri’s Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring (VWQM) program. This endeavour provides free training to individuals, enabling them, in the Introductory training, to learn to identify “aquatic macroinvertebrates” (bug larva) as indicators of water quality.
John is a Level 3 monitor, so he provided the “adult supervision” for Sue and me. Our Master Naturalist chapter, based in West Plains, developed an ambitious project in 2010, whereby we would monitor every mile of the 42+ mile, floatable portion of Bryant Creek, from the Vera Cruz MDC (Missouri Conservation Department) access, down to the confluence of Bryant with the North Fork of the White River at Tecumseh.
We divided the stream into four sections, with a team leader responsible for each segment. As my segment was substantially longer than the others, John and Sue graciously lent their help in covering almost 2/3 of the nearly 18-mile stretch.
Early on, we passed a crystalline spring, which issued from a cave on the left hillside, tumbling over mossy rocks down to the creek.
The temperatures rose to nearly 80 during the day, and I only managed to sink my kayak TWICE, an improvement of 33% over last year’s outing, although I DID manage to lose my paddle in the process. Fortunately, John had brought an extra, so I was not left to live in the wilderness, eating lichens, and slowly starving and turning feral.
We sampled twelve sites, and managed to reach the take-out point just as darkness descended. All the data was organized, and submitted electronically to the Missouri Stream Team program, a truly wonderful undertaking, which involves over 4,000 volunteer “stream teams” which clean, monitor, and enjoy Missouri’s beautiful waterways.
A truly great way to spend a day, with good friends, a beautiful stream, and a worthwhile reason to be there.
Can you imagine a piece of the universe more fit for princes and kings?
I’ll trade you ten of your cities for my Bryant Creek, and the pleasures it brings.
Out on the Bryant, on soft summer nights,
Bonfires blaze, to the children’s delight.
They dance ’round the flames, singing songs with their friends,
I wish I was with them again.
Bryant Creek is part of the North Fork of the White River Watershed, and is a lovely place to fish, swim, or float. All water quality data is submitted to the State of Missouri’s Stream Team program, and is also compiled into an ongoing report, complete with data, graphs, bells and whistles.The complete text of the report, through 2012, is given in pdf form at the link below.
How can homeowners restore an overlooked ditch into a community’s point of pride? It just takes a little dedication. Stream Team volunteers Ed Shafer and Beth Skelton recently shared the story of the River des Peres Watershed Coalition with Nine Academy in St. Louis. Check out this video by Dan Sherburne, and share your own stories with urban streams in the comments below!
When you choose a new Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring site, how do you let us know where it is? Do you scan a map and mark it with a highlighter? Print it off of Google Maps and mail it in? Maybe, if you’re savvy, tweet a screenshot to our staff?
Actually, Stream Team doesn’t even have a Twitter account. Yet. But even though we’re a bit behind the times, that’s nothing compared to this next anachronism. In our second edition of the Hand-drawn Maps Series, we’re admiring the handiwork of Delwin Johnson. His pen drawings of Keifer, Coonville and Gravois Creeks came complete with type-written labels. How trendy of him.
You know, the cool thing about typewriters is how they print instantly.
Very cool, Delwin. Very cool.
Do you have a hand-drawn watershed or stream map of your own? Send it to Holly! We’d love to share your creations.