Tag Archives: FLLOG

Lee Kern’s Top Ten Missouri Float Trips

Last week we sang praises of Lee Kern for her killer river guide skills. Now we’re thrilled to give you an exclusive: Lee’s Top 10 Missouri Float Trips. If you’re only going to float ten river stretches in your life, make it these.

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Lee Kern, everybody! Being a total rockstar.
Lee Kern, everybody! Being a total rockstar.

My Top Ten Missouri Float Trips
By Lee Kern

#10 – Meramec River: Onondaga State Park to Sappington Bridge

This section of the Meramec is one of my favorites. With tall bluffs and quiet countryside it makes for a peaceful float that is not far from St. Louis.

#9 – Big Piney River: Slabtown to Ross Bridge

The Big Piney is one of my favorite rivers for fishing. Tall bluffs and swift turns on this section make for an enjoyable float that can be done in one day, but also makes for a great overnight trip. The Big Piney is never crowded and always beautiful.

#8 – Huzzah Creek: Dillard Mill to Hwy. Z

The Huzzah is a popular party float in the summer, but this section is a hidden gem that is only floatable in high water. Lots of obstacles make for a challenging adventure and there is usually a fair amount of wildlife to see.

#7 – Mississippi River: Red Star to Commerce

The Mississippi River is often overlooked by paddlers, but if you are up to the challenge it can be a great time. This section, flowing south from Cape Girardeau, is full of interesting beaches and rocky outcroppings. If the water is low enough you might get to see Commerce Rock, an ancient river map carved by indigenous people a thousand years ago.

Courtois Creek flows into the Huzzah.
Courtois Creek flows into the Huzzah.

#6 – Little Piney Creek: Lane Spring to Newburg

Little Piney Creek is best floated in the spring when the water is up. This narrow stream provides plenty of challenges with tight turns and some fallen trees. It is a very pretty float and a great trout stream if you have the time to fish.

#5 – Courtois Creek: Berryman to Onondaga State Park

The Courtois is another stream that can be crowded in the summer, but a really nice float in the spring. This creek has beautiful scenery and numerous tight turns that can make for a challenging paddle when the water is high.

#4 – North Fork of the White River: Hammond Camp to James Bridge

The North Fork is a jewel of the Ozarks. With numerous springs and clear, cold water, this trip makes for an excellent day on the river, especially in the heat of the summer.

#3 – Meramec River: Short Bend to Woodson K. Woods

When the rest of the Meramec is running out of its banks, head upstream to the very first access on the river. This 25-mile stretch of stream makes for a fast and fun paddle in floodwaters, and there is plenty of scenery along the way.

Lookit this cute little turtle.
Lookit this cute little turtle.

#2 – Jacks Fork River: The Prongs to Alley Mill

The Jacks Fork is one of the most popular rivers in Missouri, and with good reason. Towering bluffs and crystal clear water make for beautiful scenery that you won’t find outside of the Ozarks. The Prongs are only viable when the water is up, but it is one float that should be on every paddler’s list. This section makes for a great two or three day float with excellent fishing.

#1 – Eleven Point River: Cane Bluff to Myrtle

My absolute favorite river in Missouri is the Eleven Point. Swift, clear, shockingly cold water makes it my favorite destination in the hot summer months. Plentiful wildlife, many historic springs and great fishing are the hallmarks of this stream. The Eleven Point can often be trickier paddling than it looks, so it is great fun and a beautiful float in every season.

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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)