River Runners

By Joan McKee | photos by Cliff White and Dave Stonner | June 1, 2010
From Xplor: June/July 2010

Discover the wonders of a river from a canoe. Here are some adventures and tips from a 5-mile float down the Meramec River on a sunny, summer afternoon.

Going With The Flow

To paddle a canoe, you need to know how the river flows. The current takes you along the outside bend when the river turns. When the river is straight, the current shoots you down the middle. If you go toward shore where it is shallow, you will be out of the current. One of the best ways to see how current works is to take a swim. You’ll see right away how the river moves you downstream. Also, jumping in is the best way to cool off on a hot day!

Discovering Critters

A net is a must for seeing small aquatic critters up close. A longhandled net can help you capture a toad or frog along the shore. To catch crayfish lurking on the bottom of the stream, carefully place the net behind the critter, then act like you are going to catch it from the front. The crayfish will try to escape your grasp by moving backward into your net. Watch out for the pincers on the big ones!

Fishing Fun

Take some worms—real or plastic (pink is a bass favorite)—and cast near brush or root wads along the shore. If you float next to a tall bluff, try casting around submerged rocks in deep pools. That’s where the big lunkers lie in wait for a snack.

What to Bring

  • Life vest that allows your arms to move so you can paddle and fish
  • Sun screen so you can stay out in the sun all day
  • Polorizing sun glasses so you can see the fish in the water
  • Hat to keep the sun off your face Shoes that will stay on in the current and let you walk on rocks
  • Fishing pole and lures so you can see fish up close
  • Net to catch interesting critters in the water
  • Flashlight for investigating holes along the bank and exploring at night
  • Water goggles or snorkle and mask to see what lives in the water
  • Cooler filled with your favorite snacks and drinks

Exploring the Banks

Most Missouri streams have interesting bluffs, springs, gravel bars and rock shelters that are perfect for exploring. At other places along the river, you might find small openings or holes dug in the mud banks. These may be home to beavers, mink or otters. Paddle up close, and use your flashlight to see what lurks in the dark.

Big Splash

Floating with friends is best, but sometimes parents come in handy—especially if you need a boost into the air. Find a deep swimming hole and a strong adult, and let the splashing begin.

Rock Hounds

Ozark streams have rocky bottoms. In one chute in the Meramec River, geodes—rocks with crystals inside—were lying about 2 feet underwater. The crystals sparkled in the sun. As the fast current flows over rocks, they may erode into strange shapes. Some of these rocks provide shelters for aquatic creatures, like crayfish. When looking for river-bottom dwellers, you might find a rock with a hole in it. Use a piece of string to make a souvenir of your trip—a river-runner necklace.

Get out of the summer heat this summer on one of Missouri’s rivers. This adventure was from Sappington Bridge Access in Crawford County to Meramec State Park. For a list of outfitters to help you plan a trip, go to https://www.missouricanoe.org/directory.html.

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This Issue's Staff

David Besenger
Bonnie Chasteen
Chris Cloyd
Peg Craft
Les Fortenberry
Chris Haefke
Karen Hudson
Regina Knauer
Kevin Lanahan
Joan McKee
Kevin Muenks
Noppadol Paothong
Marci Porter
Mark Raithel
Laura Scheuler
Matt Seek
David Stonner
Nichole LeClair Terrill
Stephanie Thurber
Alicia Weaver
Cliff White
Kipp Woods