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North River in Missouri

Trip Overview

Never kayak the North River

I'm going to first state right out that this was Bob's idea. When I suggested we go kayaking, he mentioned the North River, a small tributary to the Mississippi River in northeast Missouri. Bob had paddled it before, putting in at a park and paddling upstream for awhile, then floating back down to the park. I suggested we put in at the same park, but float downstream to a take-out near the mouth of the stream where it joins the Mississippi River.

Bob had forgotten his bottles of water. Fortunately, I had brought two, and gave him one of mine. I also brought a bag of almonds, while Bob had a sandwich and a banana.

The stream looks big from bridge on Highway 61. On the map, the route looked easy. We shuttled our pick-up trucks, leaving Bob's at the take-out. The float started out OK, as expected having to pull our kayaks through occasional shallows. On a rocky substrate pulling is easy (though hard on the underside of plastic kayaks). We saw a great, old, rusty car embedded in the bank.

Downstream a bit, the silver carp began jumping, which was a bit of a surprise. You don't normally see them that far up a small stream. There was a log jam underneath the Highway 61 bridge. As we approached, the water around it absolutely erupted with huge, jumping fish. One hit Bob. One became stranded on top of the logs. Surprising in one who'd never seen them before, Bob developed a radar for these fish. He could see and smell them in the water somehow.

Further downstream the river became very narrow, and we were somewhat trapped by a log jam in front of us. Of course, carp started jumping. One landed inside Bob's kayak. He was not amused. Not much he could do but block it with his feet. He's not much of a fisherman, but I am. So I backed up, waded over to Bob's kayak, grabbed the fish by the tail it and threw it back in the stream. But the slime from Asian carp stinks. Bob's kayak will never smell the same. Bob is a fish magnet. I'm going to bottle up his sweat and sell it. One carp hit me in the leg, but I considered myself lucky.

When a stream loses discharge volume as it goes downstream (because the water seeps into the underlying rock), it's called a losing stream. I don't know if the North River is a losing stream in the geological sense, but it's definitely a loser. The stream got smaller and smaller, and we had to get out frequently to pull our boats through the shallows. But instead of the rocky cobble we'd had earlier, the substrate was deep mud. Hard going. Plus, many spots were blocked by trees. We were reduced to dragging the kayaks over long sand bars. Our stream float had turned into an overland haulage.

By this time, we were getting tired and annoyed. I popped open my bag of almonds and ate a handful. Normally, I love almonds, but these tasted a little stale. I checked the date on the bag: "Best if used by Feb 2011". We were getting low on water too. It was hot, though the cool water helped. Dragging our kayaks through knee-deep mud was exhausting and un-fun. We became filthy, and so did our kayaks. It rained a bit�just enough to make us nervous about a possible thunderstorm � but it was still hot.

The end of the stream just never seemed to come. When we reached the second railroad bridge, I knew we were close. But to our dismay, the stream there was blocked by a huge log jam. I walked a long cottonwood bole to get a better look. An impenetrable mass of trunks and limbs reached at least 50 yards to the bridge, and I couldn't see what lay beyond that. We climbed up the steep bank and over the levee. At that moment there was no more joyous sight than the gravel road that paralleled the train tracks. We recognized this landmark as being a short distance to the take-out. Bob walked to get the truck. I drank the last of my water and poured out the almonds.

To get the kayaks up the steep bank, I tied a strap to the bow of each one and pulled it up. We loaded up the kayaks on Bob's trailer and went to a convenience store, where we each downed a 24-oz bottle of Gatorade. We're never paddling that stream again.

  • Duration: Day Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Advanced
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip

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