Road Trip

Florida to Missouri – May, 2018 We completed our road trip from Florida to Missouri in 10 days. We made it back to Doniphan for Memorial Day weekend. We stayed there two weeks and have now relocated to Springfield where we plan to spend a few weeks.

After Top Sail we visited my dad and stepmom who live east of Birmingham, Alabama. From there we got an early start one morning and made the 5 hour drive to West Memphis, Arkansas where we stayed one night at Tom Sawyer’s RV Park. We paid $35 for a full hookup, gravel pull-thru site with our Good Sam discount.

We have considered staying at Tom Sawyer’s a few times in the past. But usually we get that close to home and find the energy to continue on. Not this day. We were happy to make to the I55 bridge and didn’t care to go another mile.

We were totally whipped and ready to throw in the towel even though it was only noon. We were also very intrigued by several awesome sounding bike paths in the Memphis area, one of which would have allowed us to ride over the Mississippi River. We hoped that after we had lunch and some rest we would be refreshed enough to load the bikes up and go have at least a short ride on one of them.

Unfortunately some storms moved in during the afternoon and ruined that plan. So we made a plan B. Jim has always wanted to visit Memphis’ Bass Pro Shops ever since it opened in the Memphis Pyramid.

From our campsite in West Memphis it was an easy 10 mile drive to reach it. Their parking is under a pretty impressive collection of overpasses. I liked how they framed the downtown skyline.

We have been to many Bass Pro stores but this one was one of their more impressive ones. Here’s Jim trying to decide where to begin.

Once you enter, the glass elevator in the middle of the pyramid is pretty hard to ignore.

You can ride it 28 stories to the top where there is an observation deck and a restaurant. The cost to ride the elevator was $10 per person. We would have paid it except for 2 things: I had forgotten my camera and it was raining pretty hard. We decided to save the experience for another day. Maybe we’ll even spring for dinner at the top someday.

This Bass Pro has the unusual distinction of having a hotel right in it. The screened balconies of more than a dozen rooms can be seen in this photo. I bet it would be a fun place to stay.

We wandered and enjoyed all the usual Bass Pro departments and a few unusual ones. The only thing I needed was a pair of sunglasses as I had made it out of Florida with only one pair and left that pair at my dad’s. But this store doesn’t just sell sunglasses.

They have a department where you can design your own custom pair and they will make it for you in a few minutes. No, I didn’t inquire what the price for that would be. I just held out for the next Walmart.

They had the usual Bass Pro fish ponds but some of these fish were gargantuan.

We wrapped up our tour of the two stories of merchandise without buying a thing. We headed back to camp as the storms where subsiding and wandered along the riverbank a bit. The campground has park benches spread out all along the riverbank and we enjoyed watching the barges go by.

The next morning there was a pretty nice sunrise over the river.

We made the short 3 hour drive to my hometown the next day. We spent the next two weeks working on my family’s river house and enjoying the Current River. They say the snakes are pretty bad this year. This one was right at the bottom of our steps one afternoon.

I don’t remember having so many foggy mornings.

It was just a year ago that we experienced An Epic Flood. My dad and older brother had reinsulated, sheetrocked, and painted over the winter. Jim and I hung the doors and trim and it is now ready for furniture. Fingers crossed that we don’t have to go through that again.

An Epic Flood

May, 2017 – Bonita Springs, Fl to Doniphan, MO In all our plans for leaving Florida we had a date in mind that we hoped to go, May 5th. This was two days after my last day of babysitting and the day our rent was paid through. But we didn’t have any hard commitments that required us to be anywhere.

So we figured when the flip house got done, when Lance got sold, when we’d visited sufficiently with our daughter, and (after we made the offer on our new trailer) when we got everything moved and the Alpenlite sold or ready for storage, then we would leave. This all changed when we learned that our own Current River was forecast to peak well above the highest flood in written history.

My family and I own a lovely little home there in Doniphan, Missouri. I’ve mentioned it briefly a couple times in my posts but it is actually a very special place. My family (my father, Jim and I, my three brothers and their wives, along with the help of other family members) built the home as a tribute to my dear mother. She loved the river and the property she and my father owned for nearly 30 years on its banks and she always dreamed of a home there but died of cancer in 2008 without that dream ever being realized.

We built the house over several years. Much of the work occurred in 2010. We started it that spring and got it roofed and sided by fall. Then we spent the next several years finishing it out as time and money became available.

I didn’t realize how few pictures I had of the house until we faced losing it. But here are some over the course of its construction.

The view from the riverfront. Eventually we extended the deck across the full length of the house and got that last piece of fascia on.

And here is the front which faces the road.

The kitchen cabinets were the last thing put in. My brother built and installed the lowers a couple years ago but just finished and installed the uppers a couple months ago.

So you can see why we were concerned and why we continued to make preparations to leave Florida but with a lot more urgency.

We checked the page on the internet often where they record the water gauge in my hometown. It also forecasts when it will peak and how high it will get. We helplessly watched for several days as both numbers went ever higher, surpassing the initial estimates by many, many feet.

In the meantime we kept very busy. We hired out some work on the flip house that we had intended to complete ourselves, we finalized the purchase of our new camper long distance as the owners were home in Michigan, and we began packing for the move to our new trailer.

There wasn’t much we could do about the house but watch and wait. By the time our family realized the rising water was really a problem there was very little that could be done. The road to the neighborhood floods well before the houses do so even if someone had wanted to go retrieve any property they would have had to make that decision well in advance.

Noone imagined it getting as bad as it did. We have watched the water rise so many times in the past and seen flood forecasts that looked ominous but never got as bad as they predicted. Even if we had been there it is likely we wouldn’t have moved much.

Here is what the page looked like that we kept checking. At this point on April 30th, the river was almost 29 and a half feet above normal. We knew then that it was in the house. At that time they predicted it might go as high as 39.5 feet, which would have pretty much swallowed our house up. You would have only seen a little of the roof above the water if that had come to pass.

So we were quite relieved when it actually crested at ONLY 33.13 feet a day and a half later. This was more than 6 feet over the historic flood of 1904. Our house was one of the newer ones in the neighborhood and we built the floor just above that flood level. Most of our neighbors were several feet lower and many live there full time so we knew their troubles were way worse than ours.

We hoped that the flood water hadn’t reached our ceiling level. If the water reached the ceilings it would double the amount of work required to restore our home. But we had to wait another two days, until May 3rd, before the road was passable so my brother could go assess the damage.

My closest brother lives in Springfield, Missouri so he got down there that afternoon. Here is his initial view when he walked through the front door.

And here was our new kitchen.

He was surprised it was actually hard to tell where the water had reached. There was not an obvious water line. He finally determined it had gotten about 6 feet up the walls. There was a thin layer of silt over every horizontal surface but the vertical surfaces were surprising clean.

My other brothers from Texas showed up that first weekend and together they did the majority of the demo. They cut off and removed the drywall at 6 feet and removed the kitchen cabinets. They saved the uppers and believe they are salvageable but had to throw out the lower cabinets.

One of the biggest issues was finding a place to dispose of the trash. They were relieved when some volunteers showed up with trailers and offered to haul off all the furniture. That was a huge help.

There were no dumpsters available anywhere. They heard of a dump site on Sunday and loaded up a trailer full and hauled it there. That site was soon full. The rest of the debris, they had to throw off the front porch.

While they worked hard on the house, we worked our tails off to get moved into our new 5th wheel and on the road to Missouri. We finally left Florida on Monday, May 8th. And we were never more relieved to see this sign on Thursday, May 11th.

We stayed in Doniphan a week and our good friends, Amy and Terry, generously took a couple days off work to come help. My brother and his wife came back for the weekend. Our friend’s mother, Cindy, lives nearby so she visited almost every day bringing us amazing desserts, actually doing a load of laundry for me, and even taking a couple items we were about to throw away and cleaning them; that quilt hanging on the living room wall and my wedding dress that I had stored there.

We cleaned and continued to sort through what was left, deciding what was worth salvaging and what was a loss. We were able to finally get a dumpster and we moved the mountain of debris in the front yard into it and finished cleaning out the house. I found someone to haul off the appliances. And then we cleaned, and cleaned, and cleaned some more.

We got all that was salvageable into one room so it will make it easier to work in the rest of the house. We are not sure when that work will take place. Primarily we have to reinsulate, redrywall, and install new doors and trim. We may start it this fall or it may wait until next year. But right now we are just letting the house dry out.

The community of Doniphan along with many others along Missouri’s riverways took a real beating this spring. So many suffered so much. Just in our own neighborhood there were more than a half dozen homes severely damaged, all much worse than ours.

A hard working couple next door have an older home that was built several feet lower than ours so the water reached into their rafters. But the worst part was their windows didn’t hold like ours did. So instead of the thin layer of silt we had to deal with, the river deposited 4 inches of slimy, nasty mud in their home. The home of an elderly couple who had lived there as long as I can remember was severely damaged and their kids used the flood as an excuse to finally move them to the city and put what was left of their home up for sale.

We were lucky in so many ways; that the home was built as high as we ever imagined the waters reaching, that every member of our family is in construction and when we choose to rebuild we can, that the water heater and electrical systems still work and the HVAC appears repairable. Mostly that this was our second home so noone was left homeless and we have the option of walking away and catching our breath before deciding how to proceed.

Wisconsin Maritime Museum

Two Rivers & Manitowoc, WI – July, 2016 Our next destination on the shores of Lake Michigan was Manitowoc and its close neighbor, Two Rivers. Our first stop after setting up at the RV park was the Point Beach State Park. The entrance fee we had to pay along with our campsite fee at the state park we had just departed was good at all Wisconsin state parks for the rest of the day. Otherwise we probably wouldn’t have visited Point Beach, but I’m glad we did.

The weather was blustery that day so we only walked along the beach briefly.

The Rawley Point Lighthouse is still very active so this is as close as you can get.

The lodge which now houses a store and nature center was built by the WPA, Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration. As always the stonework was the highlight.

Next we took a walk downtown in Two Rivers marveling at the many beautiful buildings. We especially enjoy the number of stunning churches.

The next day was warm and sunny again and we were excited to get an early start. I was pleased to find that the Lincoln Park Zoo in Manitowoc was free and that it opened at 7am. Zoos are a fun place to take a walk but I have been disappointed in our travels at how expensive most zoos are. So I was not about to pass up a free one.

We arrived about 8am and had the whole place to ourselves for an hour. We only saw one other human, a zookeeper feeding the goats. The zoo was small, as was expected, but we thoroughly enjoyed it.

The way they had everything fenced often made it impossible to get a good shot of some animals. The cougar exhibit had a glass viewing area inside a fake log for the kids. I climbed inside and Jim coaxed this beauty to walk in front of the glass a few times. She (I’m guessing) wouldn’t give me the time of day when I spoke to her but she responded to Jim and followed him back and forth.

I spent 5 minutes trying to get a decent picture of the bald eagle. Between the fencing and the bird that kept turning his back to me, I got nothing. But I walked away to try and spy a red tailed hawk in the next exhibit and the eagle started showing off for Jim, shaking out his wings and practically posing for him. He was able to lean forward and get a shot with his phone that didn’t include the fence.

Our next stop was the highlight of our weekend. The Wisconsin Maritime Museum was $15 and well worth the cost. One major focus of the museum was on the role of submarines in WW2. Manitowoc shipyards were refitted to build subs at the time and they are understandably proud of the way they came through for the war effort.

The submarine crews would come here to pick up their sub, finish their training, and sail down the Mississippi to the ocean. One sub, the USS Cobia, has returned to its place of birth and is on display. A guided tour is included with your admission to the museum.

Below is one of two hatches that the sailors used to enter the sub. They were also the only means of escape. Up to 5 men were expected to climb in there together.

It makes me claustrophobic just thinking about it. They then had to flood the compartment, open the outer hatch, and make their way up a buoy line to the surface with this crude rebreather.

They had to close the hatch behind them so the next group could go. According to our guide this was only attempted once in two hundred feet of water. Remarkably several men did survive the escape.

Understandably much of the tour focused on the 20 some torpedoes on board. I was more impressed with the number of switches, valves, gauges, and buttons. Every man on the ship knew how to operate every gizmo.

The tour was incredibly informative. There are way too many fascinating facts to share here. You can look up much of the info online by googling USS Cobia.

The rest of the museum was equally interesting. They have many great exhibits including a huge room full of beautiful full-sized boats.

We were slightly disappointed that there was not more information on local shipwrecks. There is a new exhibit opening August 12th that appears to cover this deficiency. But what the museum did offer was so much more than we expected.

We visited another free attraction the next day. The Rahr-West Art Museum is housed in this beautiful mansion. We were mostly interested in the architecture but they did have some nice collections that added to the experience.

We enjoyed our visit to this area immensely and felt that it was a real sight-seeing bargain including our campground. We stayed at Stop-n-Dock in Two Rivers. It was a nice small campground in a great location on the river. We got a full hookup site for $21 per night using our Passport America membership.

Round Spring Camp and Cavern

Eminence, MO – July, 2016 The Current River is so long and varied that it’s like having several rivers to choose from. Round Spring is just 12 miles north of Eminence and the river here is a very nice size. It is so much bigger than it is near Montauk where we floated a couple weeks ago and our kayaks often scraped the bottom. But the river is less than half as wide as it is near Van Buren where we went last week.

I made this reservation almost a month ago because this Monday thru Wednesday was the only 3 days I could get an electric site here before we left Missouri. Round Spring is a great campground even though the 6 sites they have with electric and water are in the center and lined up like a parking lot. The fee for these sites is $22 per night.

The spring for which the park was named is a short walk from camp. This picture really doesn’t do it justice. The spring flows into this sinkhole and you can only look down on it from the 15 or so foot bluff around it. Then it flows under a bluff on one side and down to join the river.

There are several great old bridges in the area. This bridge over Sinking Creek is no longer in use. It has some obvious signs of damage. You can see the new metal bridge behind it.

The 9 mile float from Pulltite into Round Spring campground is one of our favorites. Carr’s Canoe Rental will pick you and your kayak up at your campsite and port you to Pulltite for $15 per person, which is extremely reasonable. But we decided to be lazy this trip and not to float.

Instead we found an excellent spot to enjoy the river for a day. Just over that new bridge in the above picture and less than 2 miles from camp is a gravel road to the confluence of Sinking Creek and Current River. It is a free day use area and they have primitive campsites for $5 per night.

Our favorite part of the float from Pulltite to Round Spring is stopping at Sinking Creek anyway. After spending the day floating the frigid waters of the Current the creek water is like a warm bath. It is probably only 10 degrees warmer but it feels amazing.

We spent most of the day sitting in Sinking Creek. Floaters on the river often stopped to enjoy the gravel bar. A father and kids stopped and stacked these rocks.

After a day of fun in the sun we were looking forward to visiting the Round Spring Cavern the next day. On our previous visits the cave was closed for most of the summer due to the White Nose Bat Syndrome. Apparently they determined that the cave was already infected so they reopened it.

They give 3 tours a day and the cost is only $5. What a bargain! It turned out to be a really awesome cave.

Each person carries an electric lantern and the ranger carries a flashlight. These are the only sources of light in the cavern.

It was really fun and challenging to photograph the cave. Of course to compensate for the low light the camera’s shutter stays open longer. The cave formations were good at holding a pose but the people in my shots were not so cooperative.

Since the bats were wiped out the main cave inhabitant is now the salamander. We saw a half dozen of them throughout the tour.

In the very distant past the cave had a much larger inhabitant. There is evidence that giant short faced bears used this cave over 10,000 years ago. There are bear beds, where they have wallowed out an indentation in the clay. And claw marks, this one was authenticated by scientists.

We have been in quite a few caves and we were very impressed with this one, especially for the price.

Jim and I have enjoyed the last two months bumming around our home state, enjoying the clear, cold rivers, and spending time with our family and friends. But we are excited to move on to places we’ve never seen, spend time exploring on our own, and get back into our routines. My next post will be from some place new to us and much cooler.

A Great Weekend and One Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

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.

Two Rivers

Eminence, MO – June, 2016 Both the Current River and the Jack’s Fork are lovely, clear, clean rivers that are very popular for floating. Since the Jack’s Fork joins the Current just outside the little town of Eminence, the town is also very popular with floaters who can arrange to float many miles of either river from this location.

We had originally planned to float on the Jack’s Fork from Alley Spring into our camp in Eminence the first day, a Saturday. But some good friends who visit Eminence regularly explained that was the most crowded float in the area. They suggested a float on the Current River from Two Rivers, just below where the Jack’s Fork joins it, to Powder Mill.

This is the view of the rivers joining at Two Rivers. The Jack’s Fork comes in from the left of the photo and the Current from the right.

two rivers

There is a campground here, a store, and outfitter. They agreed to shuttle our vehicles to the take out for $45 each. It was an 8 mile drive to the put in and a 14 mile drive back to Eminence at the end of the float. For this minor inconvenience we had a beautiful section of the Current practically to ourselves. We did pass a large family on a couple rafts and we saw a few boats, but much of the day it was just our group of nine.

The float was about 7 miles long. The water was wide enough in this section that there were no tricky turns, hard to negotiate root wads, or difficult rapids. It was a lovely peaceful float.  There were lots of tall bluffs.

current

A highlight of the float was when a bald eagle flew directly over our group while we were stopped at a gravel bar. He was only about 30 feet above our heads so we got an amazing view of him as he passed. He flew to the other side of the river and perched high up in a tree. He stayed there until we left but was too far away for us to get a picture of him with our phones.

The next day we chose to float out of our camp in Eminence. We shuttled our own vehicle down to the same place we had put in the day before, Two Rivers. We had a few less people in our party on Sunday and were able to get all the kayaks and people that were floating that day into one vehicle. So we only had to move one truck to the take out before putting on the Jack’s Fork.

We had another beautiful day on another beautiful river. This 8 mile float was more crowded than the previous day’s float but still not terrible. The Jack’s Fork is a smaller river so there were more difficult sections to contend with.

We saw a capsized canoe tangled up in a root wad but some guys got it out as we approached. And there were tales of inexperienced kayakers capsizing in the same spot. But most of the river was fairly easy for anyone with paddling experience.

The Jack’s Fork has plenty of beautiful bluffs.

And rocky overhangs.

Our friend Amy got this awesome panorama with her phone showing most of our group and our rainbow of boats.

Our favorite float on the Jack’s Fork is well upriver of Eminence. Highway 17 bridge north of Mountain View to Rymer’s is the float we recommend most. We hoped to float that section this summer but ran out of days on the calendar. Maybe next year.

One con of Eminence being such a popular town is that it can be hard to find a decent campground or a room when you want. Everyone we spoke to said that Harvey’s Circle B was the best campground but I tried calling them dozens of times and there phone was always busy. I found Arrowhead Campground on an outfitter’s website. It had some bad reviews but most of the complaints were about their bathrooms and cabins.

We had no need for either so I made the reservation. They charge $28 for a full hookup site plus $8 for each adult over the first two. The sites were shady, roomy, and a short walk from the river.

It turned out to be a pretty decent campground. My only complaint was the flies. We fought them all weekend and on the morning of our departure they literally ran us out of camp. I’d consider staying again but take an arsenal of bug spray with me.

Rainy Days

Missouri – May, 2016 We arrived in Missouri in time to spend the week ending on Memorial Day at our family’s home on the Current River. It rained for most of the time that we were there so a good bit of our time was spent watching the river rise and fall. But it was a great place to meet up with friends and family, hang out, and catch up.

The river got low enough one day that we did float it. When the river is high it can be a boring, short float. The water moves so fast and since all the gravel bars are under water there is no place to stop. But we had friends along that made it fun and we found one great little gravel island to hang out on for a while. The river was roaring by us on one side but on the other was a perfect stream that we could cool off in.

That night the sky let loose with another round of storms and the river rose pretty steadily for the next several days. They actually closed the river, or at least barricaded the public accesses to it, over the Memorial weekend. I’m sure that put a kink in a lot of holiday plans.

We were watching the river forecast pretty closely since our camper was parked on its banks. The river would have to get to 13 feet before the camper was in any danger. But our river bank is higher than the yard we have to drive across to get to it. So at 10 feet the water starts backing up into our yard cutting off our exit.

We weren’t terribly concerned because they were forecasting it to top out at 8 feet. But as the days and the rain wore on we got more nervous, especially when the river reached their forecasted height time after time and they would raise the forecast once again.

It finally quit raining but the river rose for another day. It topped out at 11.5 feet. Not sure I want to ever cut it that close again! We got one more dry day and then it was supposed to start raining again. Thankfully that was enough time to let the yard dry out a little so we didn’t make a huge muddy mess pulling the rig out.

At least we had a nice house to enjoy while we watched the rain. My family built an adorable 2 bedroom home several years ago and we all share it as a second home. I enjoyed just puttering around the house. It was nice to have a washer/dryer at my disposal. And I took long luxurious showers and baths enjoying having more than 10 gallons of hot water at a time and the ample sized tub and shower.

We sloshed back and forth between our rig and the house many times a day. Most days there was a stream running through the yard that we had to wade through. We got pretty sick of mud and I literally got sick with a yucky cold. But it was still a great week.

We didn’t have any solid plans until the next weekend so with a few days to kill we headed to one of our favorite rivers that wasn’t flooded. The North Fork of the White River is smack dab in the middle of the state and flows almost straight south for about 20 miles before it runs into Norfolk Lake just north of the Arkansas state line.

It is a very clear, cold river with excellent trout fishing. It was a little high so Jim didn’t bother trying to fish this trip. We absolutely love to kayak this river but since I was fighting a cold and it was a bit on the drizzly side we contented ourselves with driving around visiting some of our favorite places. Since we were there mid-week we only saw a few floaters

There are many beautiful bluffs along the river.

Patrick Bridge is a low water bridge that you can generally float under or if the river is too high you can easily port over it.

One of the special places on this river is Althea Spring. It is a short walk from the river just below Patrick Bridge if you are floating by or can be reached from the parking lot for the Patrick Bridge Access.

After a long, hot float in the summer it is a cool, shady place to explore. The water comes out of a hill with a gentle gurgle then flows toward the river a bit before reaching a small dam built by a private individual who owned the property from 1958 to 1977. It was a domestic power plant.

You can imagine how cold that spring water is. But on a hot, summer day you can usually find people playing in the waterfall. One of the fun things about it is that you can wade across the stream below the fall and climb into the concrete structure on the right and actually get behind the waterfall.

At the end of the day Dawt Mill is a great place to relax and have a beer. On weekdays it is a little slow and they close at 3 but on summer weekends you can hang out on their deck overlooking the river and watch the floaters. Here is a view of it from across the river.

We checked out their campground thinking we might stay there on a future visit. I definitely cannot recommend it. It is very cramped and pricey. I don’t know how we’d get our rig out once we got back there as the road around it was so tight I wasn’t crazy about driving the truck around it. I wouldn’t take a trailer back there period. A small motorhome would probably be OK.

After visiting Dawt we loved our site at Sunburst Ranch Campground more than ever even though it is a little rustic and the bugs are occasionally thick. They charge per person and the rates are higher on weekends. So for our water and electric site we paid $33 per weekday night. It is owned by a very nice, young couple that have always gone out of their way to make us feel welcome.