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