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Float Trips for All Seasons in Missouri

December 1, 2011

A winter float on the Current River, just downstream from Montauk State Park.

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. The river was up, and the sky was overcast on the first weekend of November when we put eight kayaks in the river at Tan Vat Hole, just outside the park boundary.

By noon, the clouds had parted like the Red Sea and we lunched on a gravel bar under a cobalt blue sky. We shed gloves, wool hats and layers as the temperature rose to 60 degrees. In two days on the river, we saw just one canoe. A submerged log dumped one of our kayaks, but the owner had spare clothing in a dry bag and only his pride was wounded.

The first day, we floated nine miles from Tan Vat to Cedargrove. Belted kingfishers squawked as we entered their territory, and a lone 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 and the occasional flash of a rainbow trout darting over the gravel bottom. 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. We paused to visit 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 that a beaver had built a meticulous stick dam across our path. No problem, we portaged 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.

Our next outing is 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’re floating Dec. 31, and hoping for snow.

Written by Tom Uhlenbrock, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Division of State Parks

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Mike B. permalink
    December 9, 2011 2:48 pm

    We have an annual float trip that we take in December, the second week in December. This annual trip has been going on successfully and consecutively for 30 years. It is nice to know that we aren’t the only ones out there enjoying the crisp clean Ozark air! We are headed out tomorrow morning and I am ready. Enjoy!

  2. April 20, 2012 4:03 pm

    I see you mention the Meramec River in this article and in doing research on the area, I’ve had a few questions come up. I’m hoping you can shed some light on these. I see the river is spelled Meramec and the spring is Maramec. Why the difference in spelling? I have a 1930s postcard called “The Mill at Meramec Springs” and I’m wondering if it’s just a misspelling on the part of the postcard publisher or if the spelling of the spring was changed over time. Also, typically I see the spring singular, but the postcard has it plural. Is there more than one spring? Does the mill still stand? Thank you so much for your time. I appreciate your help.

    • motravelguy permalink*
      April 24, 2012 10:17 am

      This comes from the writer of that post, Tom Uhlenbrock:
      Meramec is a Native American word that has several different spellings. When the Maramec Iron Works was founded in 1826, it was named that way. The private James Foundation owns the spring on the property, called Maramec Spring, and it is the centerpiece of St. James Park. Maramec Spring is the fifth largest in the state, and its cold water allows for trout fishing.
      Maramec Spring is the largest spring on the Meramec River. The river has few other large springs, and is more dependent on runoff for levels that allow floating.
      I searched for the headwaters of the river once and discovered that it actually begins in a few small creeks, with no major springs.
      Hope that helps.

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