Northern Missouri is not well known for it's paddling opportunities (the Ozarks get all the attention), but there are a few places well worth seeing from your canoe or kayak. I've floated the Wyaconda River in northeast Missouri three times before, but always with a partner in an aluminum canoe. This would be the first time solo in a plastic sit-on-top kayak, the Wilderness Systems Ride 135.
I had my daughter shuttle me. We left my car at the take out in La Grange, then she dropped me and the kayak off at the put in, Sunnyside School Conservation Area. The iron bridge here is a landmark, but the name comes from an old school bus that was pushed into the river. Remnants of it can still be seen immediately after the put-in.
The trip can be characterized by three reaches: the prairie, the rocky flats, and the mouth. The prairie section has mud or sand bottom and mature trees. It's very quiet and peaceful. You'd seldom know you were surrounded by agricultural fields, except that occasionally the corn peeks out above the banks.
The sound of traffic on Highway 61 disturbs the peace, and also signals the transition to the second reach. The banks and bottom become more rocky, and a few minor rapids are found. Columnar limestone bluffs are surprising in this part of the country. I'd seen them before, but never noticed the inclusions in them, which appear to be large geodes. Fossils and geodes are frequently found on sandbars in this stretch.
I saw several deer down on the sandbars in this section, as well as a woodchuck. The rocky flats section has many shallow rapids. They are not challenging to run in the traditional sense--they merely challenge you to find a place deep enough to get through without scratching your boat. You will scrape the underside of your boat unless you pick it up and carry it over short sections. There are some sections that require you to get out and pull your boat through the shallows. The gage height was 3.38 and the flow rate was 70, well above the median of 12 (available here: http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv?05496000). This means that most of the time the water is much lower, and more scrapage will occur in the absence of portaging.
There were many damselflies--and dragonflies--flitting about along the way. I was happy to photograph a favorite of mine, the American Rubyspot.
I've seen a softshell turtle scramble down the rocks into the water, and once saw a lizard on the bluff. The rapids end in the mouth reach. The Mississippi River backs into the mouth of the Wyaconda, making it deep and very slow. Sometimes Asian carp will jump out of the water here.
The Route B bridge signals the near-end of the float. A short jaunt down the Mississippi brings you to the riverfront at La Grange, looking pretty rough right now due to the flood of 2008. Note: do not get out on the banks here, as the proverbial Mississippi mud is black, greasy and DEEP.
This float takes about five hours.
There's a Casey's convenience store at the take-out where you can get something cold to drink.
In northeast Missouri, take Highway 61 to LaGrange. Take the Route C exit east to downtown. At the stop sign go straight (stop before you drive into the Mississippi River). Leave your pick-up vehicle here at the take out. Take Route B north to Sunflower Ave. Turn left and go East several miles to the iron bridge, the put-in.