Fall: A Great Season for Floating

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Canoeing and Floating Facilities , floating , rafting / floating , State Parks and State Historic Sites , outdoors , Outdoor Adventure
Year-Round on the River
Author: Tom Uhlenbrock
Veteran floaters who relish solitude may not appreciate my sharing this information, but, hey, Missouri has enough sparkling streams for all of us.

My paddling group has regular spring, fall and winter floats. We look for a cold drink, a hot shower and a warm bed at the end of the day, so we book well in advance to get the prime lodging. In the fall, that’s Montauk State Park, where we get one of the fourplex cabins. Each unit has a full kitchen, two bedrooms, a Murphy bed in the living room and a gas fireplace. Two of the units have hot tubs.

Montauk is home to the springs that start the flow of the Current River which, along with the Jacks Fork River, makes up the Ozark National Scenic Riverways – the nation's first congressionally designated park for the preservation of a wild river system. The sky was overcast on the first weekend of November. We put eight kayaks into the water at Tan Vat Hole, just outside of the park’s boundary.

By noon, the clouds had parted and we found ourselves skimming along the water under a cobalt blue sky. We pull onto a secluded gravel bar and shed gloves, wool hats and layers as the temperature climbed to nearly 60 degrees. Lunch always seems to taste better in a quiet beach at river's edge. Nature lends a big hand in that.

The first day, we floated nine miles from Tan Vat to Cedargrove. Belted kingfishers squawked as we entered their territory. A bald eagle took off from a snag and hop-scotched down-river just ahead of us. The water was so clear you could see suckers on the bottom and the occasional flash of a rainbow trout. Each breeze brought a shower of autumn leaves, which floated like golden boats on the glimmering surface.

The second day was eight miles from Cedargrove to Akers Ferry, passing Welch Spring, which nearly doubles the flow of the river. (Incidentally, Akers Ferry is the last two-car ferry operating in Missouri. It takes you across the Current River on Route K. Also, they are full service float outfitters and operate a very nice camping facility.) Near there, we paused to explore the stone ruins of the old hospital built over the spring’s cave. A couple of us detoured down a side chute, only to discover a beaver had built a meticulous stick-dam across our path. No problem...we portaged our kayaks around, admiring his handiwork.

The lodge at Montauk State Park, one of the state’s popular trout parks, is open only on weekends in the off-season. Because the kitchen closes at 6 p.m. on Friday, and 7 p.m. on Saturdays, we ordered our dinners before heading out in the morning and the kitchen staff had them boxed and ready when we arrived back in the evening. Friday night we had a fried chicken feast in our cabins, with enough leftovers for lunch the next day. Saturday it was sirloins.

If you are into canoeing and kayaking, there is no better time than fall and winter to spend time on the river – there are no crowds. In two days on the river, we saw just one other other paddler, in a canoe.

For our next outing–New Year’s Eve– four couples have reserved the Rock Castle, on a bluff overlooking the Meramec River at Blue Springs Ranch, near Bourbon. We float the stream Dec. 31, hoping for snow. You gotta try it. Whoever says floating is strictly a summer activity — well, they need to get out there and experience it year-round.


  Montauk State Park
The seven springs within Montauk State Park form the headwaters of the Current River. Regular stocking ...

  Montauk State Park Lodging
This park has cabins, fourplex units and motel rooms. There are coin-operated laundries. The park's ...

  Akers Ferry Canoe Rental
Canoe, kayak, inner tube and small raft floats. Facilities include pool, dining, general store, hot ...

  Akers Ferry
This is the last two-car ferry operating in Missouri. The ferry takes you across the Current River on ...

  Blue Springs Ranch
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