January in Missouri may be a strange time to take a 3 day self supported paddle trip but it is one of the only times of the year I can enjoy the company of my college student son Pete. The weather report called for over all good weather but cold at night of course and since the current is for the most part a flat-water river it was a good choice, its part of the Ozark scenic river ways and administered by the N.P.S. We put in at tan vat the upper most access on the current and took out at round spring, 30 or so miles away.
The river has a swift current due to the affect of numerous and amazing springs along its length. In its upper reaches it is narrow and twisty with pretty bluffs and much wildlife, and being January we had a near wilderness experience. Our first day was cool and clear and we set up camp on a gravel bar with thankfully a good fire wood supply; the temperature started to drop very quickly and we enjoyed dinner nearly sitting on top of the fire. I did my pyromaniac imitation but it was still a rather chilly evening.
The next morning we awoke to a fairy land of frost and heavy mist on the river. All our paddle gear was frozen solid, wet suits, dry tops, and spray skirts. I built the fire back up and went to filter water for coffee. The filter was frozen too as was the water bottle I placed in the tent that evening. We got a slow start having to thaw our gear before we could put it on. Two Missouri conservation officers stopped on the way down the river in a canoe to enquire on our well being and reported that the temperature was 9 degrees that morning. We appreciated their concern and got on the river shortly after they left.
Our first stop was Welch Spring were we could almost hear the echoes of the past. The history of Welch Spring is rich. It was hospital built over a cave to help people with respiratory problems. The walls remain and are built right in to the side of a bluff, quite amazing. We spent the day paddling on and off with the conservation officers and decided we wanted their jobs! They were on an eagle count and we saw many. We camped near Akers Ferry and had a much warmer night and packed up camp much quicker.
The next stop was cave spring where you can paddle into the cave and see the small formations inside as well as feel the current flowing from the spring. Next stop was Pulltite Spring, the spring is around the back side of a bluff where a pioneer cabin is preserved. Look down stream from Pulltite and you will see fire hydrant spring flowing from a bluff. All of the is quite an experience. Each spring adds greatly to rivers volume as well as the speed of the current and you really start picking up speed after Pulltite. We were off the river at Round Spring be 4.30 pm that evening.
This article does not describe all the sights along this scenic and friendly river and we can all be thankful for the park service protection it is blessed with. There are numerous caves to be explored along the river as well. Ive heard that summer is very crowded so the off season is the way to go for those seeking solitude. ENJOY AND RESPECT!
Many campgrounds and outfitters too numerous to list also primitive and developed N.P.S campgrounds.
From Oklahoma take I-44 to route 19 and straight down.