Category Archives: Maps

FLLOG beat us to an Anniversary Float (but now we’re even more excited)

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

Current River
Shannon County, Missouri
Wednesday, September 28 – Thursday, September 29
44 Miles

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.

current river, kayak overnight

current river, cedar grove

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!

current river

current river, medlock spring

medlock spring, current river

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.

current river, welch spring

current river, welch spring

current river

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.

current river, akers ferry

current river, akers ferry

current river, blue heron Continue reading FLLOG beat us to an Anniversary Float (but now we’re even more excited)

We found an exquisite poster of the St. Francis River

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.

St Francis River crop
A few copies of the poster are still available to order from the Missouri Whitewater Association website. Click on the image for an enlargement.

 
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 melded his art skills with his love of whitewater canoeing to create the St. Francis River poster.
Jonathan melded his art skills with his love of whitewater canoeing to create the St. Francis River poster.

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.

This detail from the "Rickety Rack" run shows how to work your boat to the center.
This detail from the “Rickety Rack” run shows how to work your boat to the center.

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.

Mapping out your feelings

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.

IDX 150_Finley Creek_Herb Overstreet site 5
Click for the full-size image. If you can handle that much honesty.

Rarely do maps show this much emotion. (Though they have been known to show some fine detail and typewriter ingenuity.)

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.

For more on Finley Creek:

Early Christian County Mining – a historical account by Wayne Glenn, 2009

Christian County bridges over Finley Creek

Finley Creek watershed overview – Watersheds.org

Floating Finley Creek, mile-by-mile

Hand-drawn stream maps: the typewriter edition!

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.

DJmap630
Keifer Creek
DJmap1229
Coonville Creek

You know, the cool thing about typewriters is how they print instantly.

DJmap1321
Gravois Creek
DJmap2230
Gravois Creek

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.

typewriter photo by Flickr user Cody Geary

Hand-drawn map of Mineral Fork watershed

Missouri Stream Team staff love maps. Maps help us strategize float trips, find the nearest state parks and conservation areas, and even help highlight trash sites. They make sense of the world; for us, that means telling water quality stories happening every day, all over the state.

By the looks of it, you love maps, too. When helping us locate your Stream Team sites, you send in all kinds of data: GPS coordinates, written descriptions, and maps from every source imaginable. Thanks for those. It makes our job easy.

Introducing: the Hand-Drawn Maps series!

While Google Maps rules in ease and accuracy, our favorite maps to look at are the hand-drawn variety, lovingly traced with attention to riffles, runs, and relevant landscape features. No extra lines, no unnecessary details. Just a stream, some roads and a compass rose.

This first example comes from volunteer Tim Harrison, who submitted his Mineral Fork Creek watershed map in the mid-2000s.

Mineral Fork Watershed Map
Stream Team volunteer Tim Harrison drew this map of the Mineral Fork Watershed.

We love the colors, custom mileage and carefully drawn tributaries. It really shows how the topography falls there in Washington County. In the coming months, we’ll share more of our favorite volunteer-submitted maps.

When using your maps for Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring site confirmation, we recommend marking your site with one of these websites and using GPS coordinates. It’s boring, but necessary. When drawing your own maps, we recommend having fun and visiting this article or the Hand-Drawn Maps Association for inspiration!

Do you have a hand-drawn watershed or stream map of your own? Send it to Holly! We’d love to share your creations.

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Learn more about Mineral Fork:

Missouri Canoe’s Big River and Mineral Fork Mile-by-Mile Description

MDC’s Smallmouth bass limit on Big River, Mineral Fork and Joachim Creeks

FLLOG’s Float #67: Mineral Fork