The Wild and Scenic Eleven Point River

August, 2018 – Riverton, MO While visiting with family in my hometown of Doniphan several of us decided to take a day and float the nearby Eleven Point. This river is part of the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System. It has been under the protection of the national government since 1968 and therefore there is zero development along its banks and relatively few accesses.

The outfitter, Hufstedler’s, said the simplest float for a group our size would be Whitten back to their location, Riverton. We would park at the takeout and they would haul all of us upriver.

We made a late start at 11am. Then we had an hour’s drive to the outfitter and it took another hour between waiting on their bus and a long ride to the put in. At 1pm the eight of us were finally on the water.

It was a perfect day and very hot. That’s a good thing because the Eleven Point is a very cold, spring fed river.  On this Friday we didn’t have to share it with one single other floater.

We noticed some water flowing into the river below a bluff and several of us got out to explore up the stream and see if we could locate a spring.

The stream got colder and colder the farther we walked. We came across the remains of what I presume was a mill.

When we finally found the origins of the spring it was unimpressive. The water was seeping out of the ground and pooling in a small pond before making its way to the river.

The river is beautiful and clear with plenty of bluffs along its banks.

It was too late in the day to see much wildlife but we did see plenty of turtles. Most of our crew saw a bald eagle. One person swears they saw an armadillo swimming. I wish I could have seen that!

There were lots of wildflowers along the river. These blooms were impossibly tiny, about the size of my pinky nail.

Although our clan is not a stranger to this river, none of us remember ever floating this particular section before. The water was a lot slower than other sections we have floated.

Late in the afternoon we were all paddling steadily towards the end and not particularly interested in the scenery any longer when we passed a sign that said Boze Mill. Noone cared to investigate but just down river we heard a roar of water. We paddled up the resulting stream and found this magical place.

Everyone forgot their fatigue and their rumbling tummies and got out of their kayaks to explore. If you climbed on top of the dam the springwater continued peacefully upstream.

The abandoned mill parts added to the area’s interest.

Everyone agreed it was worth the delay but we finally had to get back in our boats and make the final push. Not far above the takeout were the biggest rapids of the trip. Jim was watching to make sure everyone made it down safely but no one had any trouble navigating them.

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Shortly thereafter we rounded a bend to the most beautiful sight of the day: the bridge that signaled we had made it to the end.

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Although the outfitter claims this is a 7 mile float, my GPS clocked it at over 9. We finally made it back to our trucks at 6pm. While we were taking out we witnessed something you just don’t see every day, a stretch limo hauling a boat. lol

This was an awesome float and everyone agreed they wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Jim would like to come back and do it again so he can fish it more. We’ll just get an earlier start when we do!

Big Hickory

Big Hickory Island, FL – November, 2016 Just 10 miles from our RV resort is a put-in that offers just about everything a kayaker could hope for. We were introduced to Big Hickory when we joined our campground’s kayak club for their first outing of the year. There were two other couples in inflatable tandem kayaks.

It took a few minutes for them to inflate their kayaks on the beach so I threw my boat in the water and met the locals.

Both couples had been here before so once they got in the water we just followed their lead. We paddled along the edge of the mangroves and then over to a beach only accessible from the water.

Just before we landed between the boats we noticed a lot of dolphin activity in the bay so we paddled back out. These dolphins were more active than any I’ve encountered before. I assume there was more than playing going on but I’m not one to speculate on the romantic interactions of others. This pair came up almost under Jim and he got a great shot with his GoPro which tends to give it that fish eye perspective.

The tide was going out so we landed on the bay side of the beach and walked around the point to the beach. I forgot to take my camera on this walk but the beach looked pretty much looked like every other area beach except it was practically deserted. Our new friends said that it will be much more crowded in season (January-March).

There is a large picnic pavilion and a roped off swimming area courtesy of a local community called Pelican Landing. They ferry their residents over for the day as one of the amenities they offer. About half the beach showed signs of improvement and appeared to belong to them although we walked the length of it without being bothered.

After our walk we returned to our boats on the bay side and ate our lunches while watching the dolphins play. Quite a strong wind was now blowing across the bay and out to sea. So we headed back to the take-out. It wasn’t too hard a paddle and we were impressed with how well our friends’ inflatables handled it.

Jim and I returned for a second visit by ourselves a few weeks later to further explore the area. This time Jim brought his fishing gear and we headed under the bridge to explore Estero Bay.

Just on the other side of the bridge we saw dolphins swimming. Jim fished while I tried to get a good shot of them. They never did get very close so this is the best I came up with. If you zoom in there’s one right in the middle.

We then turned right into the mangroves. I puttered along the edges looking for wildlife. None here but I love the trees.

I finally found this beauty.

And this one.

Then we were almost overrun by a flock of pelicans. They are fun to watch.

I love how big a splash they make every time they land.

Big Hickory Island is between Bonita Beach and Lover’s Key State Park. There is a put-in just across the bridge from Dog Beach west of the road. There is plenty of free parking and a short walk to the water. The blue arrow on this map represents the put in. The orange line represents our path on our first outing there and the red was the course we took on our second trip.

We hope to go again soon and plan to spend a full day on that lovely beach.

Mackinac Island & Shipwrecks

St. Ignace to Alpena, MI – August, 2016 I’m pretty sure every person I know that ever visited northern Michigan has told me I just had to see Mackinac Island so there was no question we would be going there. The island sits just to the east of the Mackinac Straits which separate Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas and connect Lake Michigan to Lake Huron. The Mackinac Bridge is an engineering marvel that spans the waterway.

Ferries to the island operate from both St. Ignace on the upper peninsula side of the bridge and Mackinaw City on the lower peninsula. The cheapest of the three ferry operators was the Arnold Mackinac Island Ferry at $18 pp. It was the slowest ferry and a bit like a cattle car but got the job done. We caught the first ferry at 7:15 am and had a leisurely cruise to the island with great views of the bridge. Here one of the other ferries races to pass us and get his passengers to the island first.

Some of the best views of the town are from the boat.

The traditional way to see the island is by bike. If you own a bike bringing it on the ferry at a cost of $8 is the way to go. Renting one at $60 per day was out of the question so we chose to hoof it. Since the island has absolutely no motorized vehicles you only had to share the road with bicycles, horses, and buggies.

We walked around the edge of the island till we reached this great view of Arch Rock.

Then we climbed the stairs to get the opposite view.

We continued our walk through the interior of the island where they have a couple great old cemeteries. This one’s earliest occupant was buried in 1833.

Then we made our way back to town where it was starting to get crowded. People were constantly loading into carriages in Marquette Park below Fort Mackinac.

We had a lovely lunch at Millie’s on Main. It was the perfect place to people watch and cool down from our 5 mile walk. We then took a stroll down Main Street and visited several fudge shops. They each offer free samples of fudge which made for the perfect dessert for me as I’m a huge fudge fan.

We made our way back to the docks to wait for our ferry. We were pleasantly surprised when our afternoon ferry was a little nicer than the morning ferry. The upper deck was furnished with comfy patio furniture and there were less than a dozen passengers.

Mackinac Island is definitely worth seeing. Staying on the island a couple days and bringing your own bike would be the ideal way to visit. We enjoyed the town of St. Ignace where we stayed as well. Tiki RV Park was extremely nice. Our water and electric site was only $16 with our Passport America discount.

We made our way from there down the east side of Michigan’s lower peninsula. We spent a couple days in an electric site at Cheboygan State Park, $28 pn. The highlight of this stop was kayaking a mile south to visit a couple shipwrecks in less than 30 feet of water.

Jim jumped out of his kayak and snorkeled over these huge wrecks. One was the Genesee Chief, a 142 foot schooner, that was scuttled here in 1891 after it was determined she could not be repaired.

There were some huge fish like this sucker. That board was a 2 x 12 so the fish is around 4 feet long.

The visibility around the wrecks was around 50 feet. Jim had a ball and snorkeled back and forth for almost an hour. I didn’t mind staying with the boats as I was just a bit uncomfortable swimming that far from shore. I feel so much more vulnerable snorkeling than I do scuba diving.

Next we spent a rainy weekend in Alpena. This was a great little town with an awesome downtown full of fun shops, beautiful old buildings, and lots of cool art.

The Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center is a free museum devoted to the hundreds of shipwrecks in the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. It was exactly the kind of stuff we were hoping to see at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum, but didn’t. It was also the perfect place to spend a stormy Saturday morning.

We stayed a couple miles south of town where we paid $25 pn for an electric and water site at Thunder Bay RV Park. We had hoped to kayak to some shipwrecks in Thunder Bay but the weather didn’t cooperate and after several days of rain we doubted the visibility would be all that good so we moved along.

Pictured Rocks and Mooching at a Casino

Menominee to Munising, MI – August, 2016 We made our way into Michigan’s upper peninsula and stopped at J.W. Wells State Park. We snagged a lakeside site so our kitchen window looked out over Lake Michigan. It was a lovely place to relax for a couple days.

The next day we hauled the kayaks 20 feet to our beach and set off. We were shocked by how clear the water was. You could see the rocky bottom well after the water was over our heads.

On the left of the pic are some of the lakeside sites just up from ours. The arrow points to where we paddled to, the mouth of Cedar River, two miles away. We took a break on the beach before paddling back.

Jim bought a one day fishing license online for a reasonable $10. He had a few nibbles but finally on the way back he landed this good size bass. It was at least 12 inches. I was close enough to get a picture of his catch before he released it.

Everyone kept saying the sunrises were not to be missed. Each day seemed to dawn overcast and I never was blown away.

The campground was extremely nice and we thoroughly enjoyed our visit. The cost for the electric site was a reasonable $20 a night but we did also pony up $31 for a state park annual pass rather than pay the $8 per day park use fee. We expect to visit enough Michigan State Parks to come out ahead.

We were looking forward to our next stop and I was especially looking forward to saving some money on camping fees. I had read that just outside the town of Munising where we were headed was a casino with free electricity. I was so in.

We arrived before noon and had our pick of the 8 sites. Even though the marked spaces weren’t much bigger than standard parking spaces we were able to hang off the edge of the parking lot and mostly fit even with our slides out. Later that day a tiny Airstream moved in to the right of us and they were the perfect sized neighbor.

The next morning we had lots of neighbors but most cleared out pretty early and the next evening it filled up again. Our intel was correct, the sites were free and there was no registration or restrictions of any kind on their use. Sure it was crowded but we were busy sightseeing all day and I was sure ecstatic to save the $28 per night I would have spent at the next cheapest alternative.

The main draw here was Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, 42 miles of scenic shoreline on Lake Superior. There were also many beautiful waterfalls both in the national park and around Munising. First we visited the waterfalls nearest town. Both were just short walks from their parking areas.

I didn’t even notice the stacked rocks in this photo of Wagner Falls until I got it on the computer.

Next up was Munising Falls.

We also visited Sand Point just outside of town. It was a lovely beach with a view of the adorable East Channel Lighthouse across South Bay on Grand Island.

Then we headed out to explore Pictured Rocks. The most scenic spot that is easily viewed from land is Miners Castle. It is also closest to town so it was very crowded.

There was also a nice view from there of a good stretch of the shoreline. The local outfitters rent kayaks from Miners Beach below and lead trips out to the castle and back.

Next stop was Miners Falls.

It is a long drive between points of interest in this park. It was a 35 mile drive to our next stop, a walk along Twelve Mile Beach. Another 9 miles brought us to the Log Slide overlook where we had this beautiful view of Au Sable Light Station.

I would have loved to hike to it. But it is a 3 mile hike one way from the nearest access point and we had a pretty full day already. We would have come back to do it the next day if it hadn’t been such a long drive.

Our last stop was at Sable Falls 7 miles further.

And a short walk beyond that is a beach covered in beautiful multicolored stones.

From there it was an hour drive back to our parking lot with the free air conditioning. We had every intention of staying a third day and night to kayak either at Sand Point or Miners Beach. Even though the next day was the warmest of our visit it also turned out to be the windiest whipping the water into a frenzy. So we scratched that plan and departed for another adventure.

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.

Montauk State Park

Salem, MO – July, 2016 We enjoyed an awesome 4th of July weekend with family and friends. After the festivities we were looking forward to a few quieter days. We headed to one of our favorite Missouri state parks. Montauk is a beautiful trout park.

It has an old mill that they open for tours a couple times a week.

The source of the Current River is Montauk Springs. The river then flows over 100 miles, growing in size with the addition of water from the many springs along the way. A few years ago Jim and I decided to float every inch of the Current from the state park border to the Arkansas state line during one summer. We divided the river into a series of 13 day floats.

One of the hardest things to accomplish was putting in at the state park border. You are not allowed to float inside the state park and a private individual owns the property immediately following the state park. So our solution was to drop our kayaks off on the side of the road just inside the state park. We scrambled down the steep embankment in the below photo then floated about 150 yards in the forbidden state park waters before reaching its border.

It is only a couple miles to the first commonly used put in, Baptist. The park service does not encourage anyone to float above Baptist so they don’t clear away any trees that might get caught in the stream during flooding. We were told by a fisherman that wades that section, that after recent flooding it is currently unfloatable.

For this visit we decided to float the seven and a half miles from Cedar Grove to Akers Ferry. We hired Jadwin Canoe to shuttle our truck to the takeout for $40. This was more money than we wanted to pay but a fair price for the number of miles involved and cheaper than their competition.

This section has many caves and some drop dead gorgeous bluffs.

We only had one day available to float so even though we knew there was a good chance of some rain that day we decided to go for it. It started drizzling about halfway through the float. Luckily we were able to find this great place to wait it out before it really let loose.

I had some extra layers of clothing with me and we always keep some disposable rain ponchos with us so we stayed pretty comfortable. I was surprised how many people continued to float by during the 2 hour storm despite the lightning. A local couple stopped after a while and it was nice to have someone to visit with and pass the time. Since they had lived in the area their whole lives we learned a lot of interesting local history.

The storm passed and we were finally able to get under way again. A highlight of this particular float is Welch Hospital and Welch Spring. If you don’t know what you are looking for you can easily miss it. You will hear the roar of the spring and you want to stop on the left before the spring water exits into the river. Usually there will be some boats there already.

You can walk over to the remains of the historic hospital. In the early 1900’s a doctor built this room over the mouth of a cave and claimed that the fresh cave air flowing into the room could heal what ailed you.

Walk up the steps for a great view inside the hospital.

Welch Spring flows from under a bluff next to it. You can reach the spring by road and a short hike. You can see that path across the water in the following pic. You are not supposed to wade across to the hospital however and it would be really cold besides.

Jim enjoyed some great fishing on this float. He caught two good sized trout, one at least 14 inches. Unfortunately both times I was too far downriver to get back for a pic. We still had trout in the freezer from Roaring River so we didn’t keep either of them.

A couple miles past Welch Spring is the takeout at Akers Ferry. The Ferry has said “Temporarily Out of Service” for a few years now. The very first time we visited here was the only time I have ever seen it in service.

Montauk is a good sized campground with electric only sites for $24 per night. It is well maintained but they have had some recent flooding so our site was a bit on the muddy side. The park has great cabins, a nice store and restaurant, and plenty of places to walk.

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.

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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.

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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.