Van Buren, MO – July, 2016 We have an annual tradition of floating the lower Current River at Van Buren every July with as large a group as we can get together. We skipped that float last year and I missed it. I requested we revisit that tradition this year. Our 4 best friends agreed to join us and we had a really awesome weekend.
There are many, many campgrounds in Van Buren but we have only ever stayed at the Family Campground off M Highway upriver of town. The primary reason for this is that they have an amazing gravel bar that you can drive down to. It is usually busy in the afternoons but about dinner time the crowds disperse and we often serve big meals on our tailgates, build a fire, and hang out in and by the river until late.
For a private river campground this is the least buggy I’ve encountered. Their full hookup sites are $51 per night and are located near the office and pool. They won’t admit it but they are having serious issues with their sewer. If we stay here again we’ll choose an electric only site for $43. We’ll be nearer the river and away from any overflowing sewers. We can then have their honey wagon pump us out or dump at our next campground.
We could consider another campground but once again our choice comes down to location. We want to float into camp and the other campgrounds would require a much longer float. We prefer the less than 5 mile float to this camp.
This is the river where we specifically come for the crowds. It can get pretty crazy but I’ve never experienced anything vulgar or obscene here. It’s just a lot of locals and visitors getting together to float a pretty harmless section of the Current that has lots of big gravel bars. We like to keep this float short in distance and stop often.
We had had a few friendly words with a group of folks in camp and so the night before we floated we walked over and asked if they’d be willing to shuttle one of our trucks back to camp the next morning. Twenty dollars for about 30 minutes of their time seemed reasonable and they agreed.
The outfitters put everyone in at a place called Waymeyer. Several years ago we discovered the Chilton boat ramp a mile upstream and we prefer to put in there. We headed there this time and found the rain the day before had washed out the road. So we had to turn around and put up with the crowds at the regular put in.
Whether we float from the boat ramp or put in here we always stop across the river from Waymeyer and watch the spectacle for a while from a large gravel bar. Tubers outnumber kayakers and canoers here and there are a good number of rafts as well.
On most Saturday mornings there is a continuous stream of people from their shuttles into the water for hours on end. This weekend the water was a little high and it wasn’t quite as busy as usual. In past years I have literally looked down river and not been able to see the water for all the floaters.
Since the water was flowing pretty fast we stopped every chance we got and still made it back a little sooner than normal. My friend’s dog, Odie, has become quite the float companion. He knows how this is done.
Sometimes we like to float from camp down to Big Spring. It can be a peaceful float on a weekday or early Sunday morning.
You know you are about to reach the Big Spring takeout when you see these old bridge piers on either side of the river.
I do not recommend floating the 18 miles below Big Spring. The river gets big and slow and there is a lot of boat traffic.
Don’t miss Big Spring if you visit this area or even pass through. It is one of the 3 largest springs in the US. And it is gorgeous!
Some of my earliest memories are of family trips to this park. There are great little tunnels above the spring that young’uns can crawl through. Or an adult can take pictures from.
As a child we always climbed the steep hill next to the spring.
There are now signs discouraging this and I have to agree it no longer looks like a good idea.
The Big Spring is on the right but there is usually at least a trickle of a waterfall just downstream, on the left in the above photo. This trip the water was flowing so good that it almost stole the show.
After two fun days on the river we were making preparation to leave on Sunday morning. This is when the weekend started going downhill. We were just about packed up when I tried to put one of our living room slides in and got an awful noise about 6 inches in. Jim spent an hour under the slide trying to diagnose the problem. He finally had to disconnect the motor so the brake on it would not prevent him using the hand crank to crank in the slide. Then he had to reconnect the motor so the brake would keep the slide in for our trip. We still weren’t sure what was wrong but at least we could make the trip to our friends’ driveway near Springfield where he could work on it more.
An hour outside of Springfield things really went south. It felt to me like we had suddenly run off the road and hit a soft shoulder. Instead we had lost a tire. Jim saw it roll across the road behind us as he struggled to get our rig safely off the road. We got out to assess the damage.
All 8 lug nuts had been sheared off and the tire damaged the aluminum skirting on the rig, broke the fiberglass rear fender, tore up the insulation under the belly, and bent the rack that caries our kayaks and generator. We assessed the situation and decided instead of using our Good Sam Roadside Assistance to arrange a tow that we would use the one good tire to slowly make the 2 mile drive to the nearest campground. I phoned them to confirm they had room for us and we made it there safely.
Jim looked over the damage some more and decided there was nothing more he could do on a Sunday. So we set up for the night including Jim getting under the slide, disconnecting the motor and hand cranking out the slide. Then we went back to the highway and found our tire, which had a finger size hole in it. At least we had the wheel now.
Long story short, my amazing husband managed to do most of the work himself and get us on the road by noon the next day. He took the wheel to a local tire shop where they put on a new tire. In the meantime, he got the hub off and pounded the lug studs out of it. We got new lug nuts from a local trailer dealer. Then he installed the new tire. The whole ordeal cost us about $175.
We made it to our friends’ drive where Jim hammered out the aluminum skirting and started repairs to the fiberglass and insulation. It will never look perfect again but eventually we will order a new fender skirt and it will look pretty near normal.
Jim also took the motor off the slide and found a missing gear tooth. We had to order a new one and here’s is where the wallet took a real pounding. It cost $800 for a new one! But we got it overnighted and from there it was a quick fix and we were able to get on the road by the next weekend and didn’t have to cancel any of our fun plans.
After 18 months on the road, we are grateful that this is the biggest problem we have encountered. It could have been so much worse. Jim could have lost control or that tire rolling across the road could have caused an accident. We are blessed!
If you are in the Mansfield area I highly recommend the Laura Ingles Wilder RV Park, super nice people, clean park, and under $20 with Passport America for an electric and water site.