Current River Kayak Trip - 2002
Akers Ferry - Two Rivers7/10/02 - 7/13/02
Having been on the Current River three times previously and considering it one of our favorite rivers, our thoughts turned once again to a trip on this beautiful, clear river. On our first trip in September 1988 we put in the Jacks Fork River at Eminence, MO, and floated to where it joins the Current River. From there we enjoyed the Current River until reaching Van Buren, MO, a total river distance of approximately 40 miles. We were amazed at the clarity of the water and the many interesting things to see along the way, as pointed out by the "Ozark Scenic Riverways Guide" map by F.C. Clark. Although promises have been made, this wonderful map is not being published at this time, according to the National Park Service.
Our second trip on the Current was in August 1989 from Baptist Camp to Round Spring, the northern section of the river. Happily we found with this portion of the river even more interesting sites, such as the Cave Spring Cave, into which you can paddle, the beautiful, sparkling Pulltite Spring with its unusual, partially refurbished vertical log cabin, and of course the beautiful Round Spring and its interesting cave tour.
Our third trip was the southern portion of the Current where it broadens into a lazy crawl from Van Buren to Doniphan, MO. Only the northern part of the section is protected under the Ozark Scenic Riverways act. Our relaxing trip in July of 2000 of this southern part of the river almost completed our tour of the Current. Still, we had skipped a section from Round Spring to Two Rivers, where the Jacks Fork meets the Current.
So in July of 2002 we decided to fill that gap and retrace a part of the northern section in a trip from Akers Ferry to Two Rivers, river distance of about 37 miles. The 'great plan' was to fly to Salem, MO, complete with the Folbot kayak and supplies, and be taken to Akers for a launch on Wednesday afternoon, the 10th. The flight to Salem was very smooth and comfortable, despite warnings of approaching weather later that day or on Thursday. Our shuttle from Akers came promptly, and after loading we were off to Akers.
Ah! But Mother Nature had other plans for us! With all of our gear on the bank and kayak out of the bags, rain begin to fall lightly as the assembly process began. Is this time to put on rain gear? Well, maybe.... YES, came quite quickly as the light rain turned to a downpour. Out came the rain panchos and plastic tarp for the gear on the bank. Assembly of the kayak proceeded amid heavy rain, at times, and thunder. You might say I wasn't a 'happy camper' at the time, having put in the front section of the kayak slightly crooked and then taking it back apart. Finally, however, all was put together and it was still raining. Raining with no end in sight. Raining as if it might not stop for forty days and nights!
At this point we decided this wasn't too much fun and retreated to the office at Akers for counsel, securing the keys to their A-frame cabin complete with hot tub. You know, watching it rain from inside a cabin, in a hot tub, while chomping on pistachios and cashews and drinking rum and tonic isn't so bad after all!
Thursday proved a beautiful day, and after a pancake breakfast in a 'real' kitchen, we were able to get in the water at around 10:30 or so. The water was beautiful, but a scenic bluff invited a lunch stop around 12:30. Nell's delicious new dish of chicken in pita bread with mayonaise, mustard and pickle relish, carrots and fruit proved most inviting. Even oatmeal raisin cookies for desert! Several other canoers passed during our repast, probably wishing they would eat as well on the river.
The next very interesting stop was the Cave Spring Cave, inviting us to paddle the kayak into its cavern, dodging boys swimming in the icy water. This was quite a gathering of canoes and sit-on-top kayaks. On down the river we stopped at round Rockhouse Cave, surely a gathering place and shelter for peoples of long ago.
Pulltite Spring, one of the most beautiful on the river, naturally dictated a stop and hike back to the source. At the beginning of the trail we met a man with a small boy of perhaps three or four, who gave us step-by-step instructions on how to get to the spring. Quite a treat from one so small.
Quite near the spring is a partially restored log cabin created from vertical logs, a most interesting structure and probably near the site of one of several mills which existed there in the past. The sparkling, clear waters of Pulltite emerge at a rate of around 20 million gallons per day.
Our first campsite, a nice flat gravel bar, was on the opposite side of the river just downstream and in view of the Pulltite entrance. A sumptuous dinner of pork chops, rice, green beans, and green salad completed the day. Our sleep was enhanced by the gurgle of water from the Fire Hydrant Spring just across the river, part of the Pulltite Spring system and emitting an average of about 2 million gallons per day.
Our first day floating had taken us about 10 miles from Akers. This second day would take us 21 miles of effortless paddling. My, this river does move fairly fast! My estimation was 2.5 to 3.5 miles per hour. As you travel south there are more slow pools between the faster, more narrow sections of river, so speed is not as great. Having camped across from the Little Gem Cave on a previous trip, I decided stopping was a must. This small cave, into which you may walk, is a fully 'live' cave with stalagtites and stalagmites being created as you look. The cool clear water and the constant drips within the cave keep a moist interior. Flashlights inside reveal beautiful, white formations of many sizes and shapes, almost like jewels, on the walls. This is a real treat if floating on this river.
Our next stop was at Round Spring campgrounds for lunch, and once again, as we did on the previous trip, we stopped on the wrong side of the river. (And I'm supposed to be a map reader?) The shuttle people informed us that the campgrounds, park, and cave were slightly downstream on the other side of the river. Hmmmm, so much for close navigation!
At launch the cracked paddle on which I had just moments ago commented, decided to come apart and break. Back to the shore for a repair job. Fortunately only the top of the paddle blade broke, and with a little whittling and shaping with the hunting knife of the shaft, along with drilling a hole in the plastic for the keeper screw, produced a secure fix for our problem. So now onward to the 'real' Round Spring campgrounds.
Trudging up the hill to a picnic table we plopped for another refreshing lunch provided by Nell of deviled ham, crackers, mayonaise, ranch dressing sauce, pickle relish, fruit bowl, and apple juice.
On a visit to the nearby restroom, Nell left her small pack inside and on return it was gone. Apparently someone had found it. A trip to the ranger station renewed trust in humankind and once again shows the quality of persons who frequent our campgrounds and park systems. The person who found it promptly took it to the ranger station, all intact, for the owner to retrieve. A happy ending.
Ominous thunder in the background dictated a hasty exit from our beautiful lunch stop at Round Spring. Although at our backs, the thunder, lightning and heavy rain was traveling faster than our efforts. To the bank for a wait, quickly covering the kayak opening with plastic to keep our gear dry. Looking like dejected monks in our hooded rain parkas, we parked ourselves on a log and sat for the duration of the heavy rain. Eventually the thunderstorm line passed and the rain diminished to light sprinkles with hints of light spots in the sky. Time to move forward, even with occasional, slight rumblings above. This section of the river contains many wonderful bluffs, enhanced just now by shrouding with the after-rain fog. Even in the misty rain the beauty of the bluffs cried out with names such as Bat Cave Bluff, Bee Bluff, and Panther Bluff.
Evidences of rain slowly disappeared as we ended our 21-mile day at a pleasant gravel bar just past Jerktail Landing. Tonight's dinner was stir fry sweet and sour chicken containing pineapple, snow peas, bamboo shoots, green onions, and various spices known only to the cook (grin), all served over rice. The tumbling river made for good sleeping after an eventful day.
The breakfast of eggs, sausage and toast of yesterday gave way to oatmeal and apples with sugar and cinnamon added for flavoring. (We always try to eat very well on the river, you see!) A shove-off at around 10:30 or so put us in the water for a beautiful day and our remaining 5 or so miles to a scheduled pickup at Two Rivers at 2:00. Not far down the river we see the Twin Rocks, which are two enormous house-sized boulders which fell off one of the bluffs ages ago and remain as nature's reminders of topographic change. Before our arrival at Two Rivers other poetic names passed by, as Stillhouse Bluff, Ebb and Flow Spring, and The Big Eddy. Here the smaller Jacks Fork River enters the Current to add to its already clear, spring-fed flow.
We always wonder when unpacking the kayak, as we do at the beginning of a trip, if all of that stuff will fit into the boat. But somehow with pushing, shoving, and using the ends of the boat we can get it all placed. The disassembly went, thankfully, much easier and drier than the assembly did on Wednesday. A leisurely 'Nell' lunch of beef jerky, crackers, gatorade, and delicious mixed dried fruit ensued under the cool shade of a tree at the pickup area.
Then a hike to the supplier at the top of the hill provided a spectacular view of the confluence of the two rivers and a very scenic end to a wonderful trip.