Summer is without doubt, my favorite time of year in Missouri. There is always something to do outside and for me, it usually involves water. I’m working on summer plans now and look forward to several float trips with friends and family this year.
I recall the first time I ever went floating and laugh at the memory. As a kid, you know you’ve done something when you walk in the house and your mom and dad ask, “What happened to you!?”
The story begins with my brother and me, along with several friends, going to southern Missouri for a weekend adventure of camping and canoeing. We were all teenagers, and I don’t believe any of us had ever canoed before.
And it showed.
We wanted to get our money’s worth and chose the longest float the outfitter offered. Mistake number one.
Since we had an odd number of people in our group, my brother was forced to endure the float with his little sister and her friend – who felt all three needed a paddle. Mistake number two.
As you can imagine, we did not remain dry for long. But, that was just the beginning. The river we were floating was in its natural state, meaning it was filled with log jams. Even if the other canoes glided through those spots, we would usually get hung up. No big deal, we would just get out and float the canoe through, except for that one shallow swift spot. As my friend and I watched from the bank, my brother managed to free the canoe and jump into it before it shot down the river. Mistake number three.
He managed a face plant/skip across the crossbars when the canoe came to an abrupt stop under his weight. He didn’t try that move again, even though the rest of us were entertained.
When we arrived home from the weekend adventure, I was sunburned and bruised from head to toe and my brother‘s nose and eyes were swollen and bruised. We looked as if we had been in a battle. And I guess we had. We conquered the river together and survived it (and each other!).
I will always remember that first float trip and am happy to say that I’ve come a long way since then. I’ve learned that it’s best to take a shorter float and enjoy it rather than a longer float that becomes work (5 to 8 miles works best for me). Three paddlers in one canoe will not work very well. When in doubt, get out. A river has one direction, go with the flow.
And in case you wondered why I was so bruised, we had the canoe backwards. There really is a front and back and it does matter what direction you face.
So as you make your summer plans, consider taking a float trip this year. Whether it’s your first float trip or your tenth, lasting memories will be made when you enjoy the beautiful rivers in Missouri. Visit www.MissouriCanoe.org to find the right outfitter and river for you.
See you on the river!
Written by Michelle Lambeth, executive director for the Missouri Canoe and Floaters Association.