Prairie State Canoeists
A Northeast Illinois Canoe and Kayak Club
Early Spring Southern Missouri Paddles March 14 - March 29, 2020
There was overwhelming interest to join us paddling this year. The weather, water levels, personal issues and Corvid 19, cut this back to 11 different paddlers taking part in all or part of the two weeks.
We had plenty of water this year, a few rainy day hikes and for some, a few soggy paddle trips. Warmer and dryer weather was more common the second week, making paddling more appealing. The paddles ranged from about 6 miles to 18 miles, though many were about 10 miles. Additional information about these paddles, accesses, distances and routings are in the book, "A Paddler's Guide to Missouri." A Missouri Gazetteer is also useful for finding accesses.
As we paddled Missouri's wonderful rivers and as the days passed, spring began in earnest: woodland flowers bloomed, pear and redbud trees too, and later, the first blush of green on the bushes and trees. Osprey, Bald Eagles, Great Blue Herons, turtles, otters and minks became more active and joined us as we paddled making good days even better.
Bryant Creek A few paddlers explored and paddled a section from the Vera Cruz Access earlier. A few paddlers also explored the possibility of paddling way downstream, from Warren Bridge to Tecumseh Access, searching for a place to paddle with so many rivers with high water. The exploration paddle was at about 4,800 cfs.
Several of the low water bridges across Bryant Creek were under water or the roadways nearby were impassible. Rather than long drives and shuttles, we paddled overlapping sections of the Norfork.
Norfork River We paddled various sections from as far upstream as Topaz, a first for this group, and, for the most part, as far downstream as Twin Bridges. High water and a low water bridge with its hydraulics were just downstream from Twin Bridges and were not to be crossed for most of us this year.
The Norfork, like many other rivers, had plenty of water this year. Sometimes we were moving downstream at more than 5 miles an hour without paddling. The gage far downstream at Tecumseh ranged from about 3,000 to 20,000 cfs.
Big Piney River We put in at Simmon's Ford about 2.5 miles upstream of Baptist Camp. The Painted Bluffs are one of the treats on this section. The Dog's Bluff takeout made it an11 mile paddle. The gage, far downstream at Fort Leonard Wood, was about 3500 cfs. a good level, not too pushy, making the rockier chutes more straightforward.
Current River Sections of the Current were closed by the National Park Service when the waters are consider too high. Sometimes, even if the river was open, the Cedargrove low water bridge was often under water making for long shuttles. Under more normal water levels, the upper stretch above Akers resembles a creek. Still, we managed two, one day paddles. The group paddled from Cedargrove Access to Akers; some of the group then continued to Pulltite. We also paddled from Akers to Pulltite. The paddles ranged from about 8 miles to 17 miles. The gage read from 1,200 to 1,600 cfs.
Jack's Fork We began our paddle from just downstream of the Prongs to near Blue Spring Access - about 9 miles. The Mountain View gage was about 550 cfs and falling. The pools, chutes and s-curves were great at this level; the water level made the rock gardens a bit easier too.
We also paddled on our last day this trip. We put in at Buck Hollow and took out at Rymers for an 9.5 mile paddle under blue skies, sun and occasional bouts of gusty wind from the west. The water moved nicely, the chutes had enough room to maneuver around the obstacles. We passed Blue Springs and hiked up to the mouth of Jam Up Cave. A great stretch of river.
2020 Missouri Early Spring Paddles Two weeks of daily paddles does not just happen. Al and Ana and have been making these paddles happen for ten years now. Though Al is stepping back, his experience and advice is still pivotal. Ana gets to be Shuttle Queen again this year, making our paddle plans easier and our paddles safer. Many others also helped on and off the water too.
Tom's knowledge and suggestions help fill in the gaps too. He is also quite able and willing to load several boats on his SUV. His research for our hikes were spot on great treats on high water and rainy days too.
Steve LaPorte co-led these paddles for the first time, and his efforts on and off the water were a great addition. The whole group makes these paddles possible and their efforts are appreciated. Steve has posted 36 photos and commentary of the trip on Prairie State Canoeists Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/852333984822913/.
Looking Ahead 2021 If you have intermediate paddling skills, I hope you consider joining us in 2021. Provisionally, the dates are from Saturday, March 20 to Sunday, March 28, 2021. Expect our first paddle on March 20 and our last paddle no later than March 28. Space is limited, so let us know as soon as possible.
Greg Vitale, Trip Report, April 5, 2020