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Weather and River Level
What Worked
Random Thoughts

Paddlers & craft
Al Dooley, 14.5' Prijon Cabria kayak
Bill Walsek, 17' Wenonah Advantage
Steve Grant, 14' Clipper Prospector
Chip Walsh, 16' Old Town Chipewyan


After about a 17-hour drive, Steve and I arrived at Pulltite Campground on the afternoon of Saturday, Oct. 24.  We found Al and Bill already set up on sites 1 and 2. 

Sunday morning, we left the tents set up and headed to Cedar Grove with the boats.  It was an interesting drive to Cedar Grove, one vehicle or the other halting along ridge tops a half-dozen times as we searched for
cellular signals.  I finally got a call through to Windy's Canoe in Eminence and left a message confirming shuttle details.  We left our vehicles at the car park near the Cedar Grove put-in.  Windy's had been very helpful in planning our trip, and they delivered our vehicles to Van Buren a few days later.

Our guide book said it was an 8-hour trip back to Pulltite.  The water flow was several times more than average, so we made the distance in under six hours, including lunch and breaks.  Passing Welch Spring, Pulltite Spring and paddling in a Cave Spring were highlights.  At Welch Spring, 75M gallons per day of water well up from the ground just off the river and flow over a few ledges to join the Current, making it significantly larger.  Signs prohibited walking, swimming or boating there, or I might have tried to pole my boat up there.  We made it back to Pulltite Campground early enough that Steve and I used the remaining daylight to hike a nature trail at Pulltite, and on this Sunday evening we found that the campground was, save for us, completely empty.  Bill and Al used the remaining daylight to listen to the weather radio and put up a tarp.  The rain held off long enough for us to cook and build a fire with the boatload of wood we picked up along the river. 

Steve and I had walked through the entire campground about nightfall, and it was empty.  The sites we were using were the first sites upon entering the campground, so we thought we'd have noticed any vehicles arriving.  But some hours after dark, a group of six women in their twenties came walking out of the campground to use the facility.  We were stunned to find we were not alone, and surprised this group did not match your typical, off-season, campground demographic.  We called the group the Sirens of Pulltite.

We packed up in the rain on Monday morning, but the rain tapered off for most of the paddling day.  The Sirens stopped by to bid us fair paddling, and we headed downriver for Bee's Bluff.  We were almost there, but Steve and Al became inspired to reach Jerktail Landing.  They went out in front of Bill and I and never stopped, though we passed many a fine looking camp site.  As a  result, we covered more miles than planned, which ultimately allowed us to cut at least a day off the planned 5-to-6-day trip. 

It rained pretty much our entire stay at Jerktail Landing.  Steve and I got a big fire going and Steve popped a few baskets of corn for us.  We'd take occasional walks to the fire, but mostly contented ourselves under the tarp, and all got to bed fairly early, with promises to sleep late in the morning, since more rain was predicted. 

And it rained throughout the day on Tuesday.  As planned,  we lingered in tents and under the tarps, hoping for breaks in the rain so we could pack up tents.  I'm not sure we ever got a break in the rain, but we were ready to go by late morning.  We paddled a lovely stretch to Blue Spring with many riverside rock formations and no signs of development until we passed under the only bridge prior to Van Buren.

We paddled 50 yards or so into the tail water of Blue Spring.  There was a 20'-wide, 20-yard long fast flowing tongue of water between us and the Spring, I couldn't judge the depth of the tongue of clear, blueish water, and there were no signs banning boating.  I thought I might be able to pole an empty boat into the Spring and wanted to try it, but I never came back across from the camp site to try it.  I later learned boating is banned in all the major springs, so I guess that was a good thing.

After all the rain, Steve and I impressed Bill and Al by getting a fire going.  The rain slacked off to mist.  Numerous servings of popped corn got served.  The rain let up more, and we stacked the fire in a three-foot tepee.  I laughed at the steam streaming off various garments Bill and Al held by the fire for as long as they dared.  Fire light danced across their faces as fiendish clouds of steam billowed from the clothes they held out and turned to the fire.  Earlier, they had felt a fire wasn't worth the effort, but they took advantage and tried to unsog themselves while doing a strange dance with turning jackets, twisting steam, flames and smoke.

Wednesday promised to be fine paddling weather, but the forecast for Thursday called for pounding rain and 20-35 mph headwind.  Friday was also to be rainy.  All three of my paddling buddies had been cold and wet on the river.  Bill and maybe Al had few dry things left to wear.  Bill had discovered his paddling jacket was not waterproof.  When we confirmed the forecast at lunch on Wednesday, Steve joined Bill and Al in voting to paddle through to Van Buren and get a hotel.

What's wrong with me?  The trip was ending early in a totally rationale decision to forgo paddling in abysmal weather.  Furthermore, there was a strong probability that local rivers would rise and there would be nowhere to paddle, even if we waited out the rain.  And that is the way it turned out.  Yet, I regretted ending the trip early.  We went downriver far too fast, partly due to the elevated levels.  I regret that I didn't spend time exploring a spring, hiking on the bluffs, or poking around a cave.  I don't travel to Missouri often, and I'd have liked to explore a bit more of it. 


Bill proudly displays a Duckhead Sticker at the put-in in Cedar Groove, Missouri.
CCC in Missouri
Steve, on a narrow stretch of the Current near the start.  Steve, on a narrow stretch of the Current near the start
The Current is winding and quickly flowing at three times normal volume
Near Cedar Groove
We soon began encountering the rock-walled bluffs for which the Current is famous.  Note gravel beach in distance, another characteristic of the Current.

Looking into Welch Spring from the river.  The volume of water from the spring make a little rapid.  Signs prohibit boating or swimming in the Spring.
Corner with current
Happy Al.
Happy Al.
Bill on a curve of the Current.  Foliage was a bit past peak, but still colorful.
Bill on a bend of the River
Steve paddles the Chipewyan out of a good-sized cave on the Cedar Groove to Pulltite stretch.  The guide book says this is Cave Spring, known for emanating 32M gallons/day of "beautiful aqua water."  The high surface flow of the Current must have buried the aqua water.
Chipewan exits cave
Bill Walsek took the image at right from inside the Cave.
Bill's Cave Pic
Photo by Bill Walsek
Pulltite Campground.
Steve and I walked to the far end of the empty campground and walked a nature trail there.  The campground was deserted.  Thus we were shocked when a group of 6 women in their 20's emerged to use the facilities near our camp site.  We called them the Sirens, like in "O Brother".  Where'd they come from?
Pulltite Campground
Steve paddles the Clipper out of another cave on the Pulltite to Jerktail Landing stretch.
Out of darkness, Steve paddles the Clipper
More Steve paddling.
Steve paddling
A muckle site.
Scene at a muckle site
Three things I know we will remember: bluffs, gravel beaches and rainy weather. Bluffs and Gravel Beaches
Steve paddling, and a bluff.  Getting repetitive.
Again, Steve paddling
Eddy, boulders, and raindrops; constant companions.
Eddy between boulders
Steve poses under a ledge where we ducked out of the rain.
Champaign bubbles
Tucked under a ledge, out of the rain, to change the camera batteries.
Raining out there
As we approached Van Buren, you can see how much wider the river is.  This picture taken to try and catch a patch of sunlight that briefly illuminated the hillside.
A patch of sun!
Bill's Godzilla pose, amidst his yard sale of gear, illustrates that spending 20 minutes in 60-degree water did affect his judgment.  Bill was taking a picture, the current swept him into a tree limb, and he was in the water before he knew what happened. 
Bill's yardsale

Table of Weather and River Level
Gage Height
(Van Burren)
Partly Cloudy, 38-55 degrees
Rain morning and afternoon, mostly overcast while on the river
Steady Rain, 48 - 55 degrees, little wind
Mostly Cloudy, 50 - 57 degrees
unknown, I was back in Maryland.  BTW Adv.Canoe Co. Site says flood level is 5.0'

seasonal average
n/a n/a 900

What Worked (or not)

Random thoughts:

Last Edit: 11/3/2009