Words Beneath the Rocks

” Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.” – Norman Maclean, “A River Runs Through It And Other Stories”

Maybe what attracts me to the river is the mystery of where it started nd what it has seen on its way to where it is at the very moment it flows by me. There are times I wish it could talk to me about its journey and what it has seen. Now I sound like a silly old man but I think it does the spirit good to be silly once in awhile.

Words of the River

St Francis River in the millstream Gardens Conservation Area near Arcadia, MO.

“They both listened silently to the water, which to them was just not water, but the voice of life, the voice of Being, the voice of perpetual Becoming.”Hermann Hesse

I love sitting along the river and closing my eyes and getting lost in the sounds of the river. Sometimes I wish the river could talk to me. Tell me where it came from, where it has been and what it has seen. It has such a calming effect on the spirit and it soothes the soul. It is my safe place and where I become one with Mother Earth. It is a mystical place and a place of love.

“So don’t you sit upon the shoreline and say you’re satisfied. Choose to chance the rapids and dare to dance the tide.Garth Brooks “The River

Millstream Gardens on an Autumn Day

I headed to Millstream Gardens in Madison County about half way between Fredericktown and Arcadia, Missouri. It is connected to Silver Mines Conservation Area via a trail that runs along the St. Francis River. It’s part of the Mark Twain National Forest. I was to meet a friend and his daughter. We met up around noon. They have a paved trail accessible by wheelchair that goes a mile down the trail to a scenic overlook.

We had a perfect day for a hike. We headed out down the trail. It is an easy hike to the overlook named Cats Paw. Not sure how it got its name but it didn’t disappoint as you an see by the photo below.

We decided to take a trail down to the river. Now this part would be considered hard. Steep and rocky and we had to climb over rocks but it was certainly worth the effort. The scenery was breathtaking. Mother Nature’s beauty at her finest. When they have the kayak races here in the spring the water is usually up quite a bit from the spring rains. I stood there trying to envision the kayakers trying to maneuver their yaks through this swift water around the big boulders that littered the river bed. I think I will lave that up to the professionals.

We didn’t want to leave. It was so peaceful sitting there on the rocks listening to the water rushing past the boulders. We reluctantly started our way back to the parking lot and our vehicles. It is a damn good day when you can share an experience like this with friends. It was a grand day.

Following are a few of the 127 pictures I took. I hope you enjoy them and can feel what we felt being there beside the river. We will definitely be going back for sure. Dogs are allowed but must be kept on a leash.

The Changing of the Leaves

St Francis River in Silver Mines Conservation Area near Fredericktown, MO.

“I hope I can be the autumn leaf, who looked to the sky and lived. And when it was time to leave, gracefully it knew life was a gift.” – Dodinsky

The temp today was supposed to be in the 60s today and if it wasn’t it was close. I was to meet a high school friend and we were going to kick back and enjoy an autumn day. We met up around 10 a.m. both of us needing a “do nothing” day. Silver Mines is the kind of place where one can do that. It offers so much in the way of nature that it is impossible for someone who loves nature to leave without their spirit fully charged.

We had just camped here the week before. We got a lot of rain Sunday night and the river level had came up. The water is usually very clear but today it was stained. The leaves were starting to change to their autumn colors. By this weekend I think they are going to be in their full autumn colors.

There are so many things you can do. Kayaking, fishing, hiking and camping. Daily picnic sites are available. The trails on both sides of the river are rocky and rough. I would rate them as hard. You can make a loop but you have to cross the damn to do so. It can get pretty crowded on the weekends so I limit my visits to the week days where you are pretty much by yourself. Flash floods can be a problem in the spring.

We headed home around 3:30. On the way out I saw the camp ground hosts. They told me the powers that may be notified them that they were going to close the gates November 7 for winter. They have already turned the water off so if you camp in this last week be sure to bring some water with you.

Life and the River

St Francis River in Silver Mines Conservation Area near Fredericktown, MO.

“The river is constantly turning and bending and you never know where it’s going to go and where you wind up. Following the bend in the river and staying on your own path means that you are on the right track. Don’t let anyone deter you from that.”-Eartha Kitt

Life is much like the river. Full of turns and bends leaving us to wonder what’s next and where we are going. We are just along for the ride letting it take us where it may go. As long as we maintain control of our vessel things will work out and we will reach the deep calm waters at the end of the rapids.

A Night of Solitude on the River

It’s 2 am and I am alone on the river. There is no moon and the night sky is black as ink. I hear the crackle of the campfire and the sound of the river as it makes its way across the rocks in the shallow rapids before finding its way into deeper water. Bam! A beaver slaps its tail on the water warning others that there is an intruder in their domain.

Yip! Yip! Yip! I can hear the coyotes on the other side of the river making their way along the river bank. The lightning bugs illuminate the darkness with their blinking tails. As a child they reminded me of airplanes against the night sky with their blinking lights.

The bull frogs had been eerily quiet tonight but the deep bass croak of a bullfrog begins to resonate throughout the river valley followed by the scream of a screech owl.

With the soothing sound of Mother Nature’s symphony I begin to relax and I let my mind wander. I wonder if there was someone camped on this very spot 250 years ago. Perhaps a Native American or a settler. Were they fishing or just passing through? Were they in search of a place to settle or were they making their way to the mighty Mississippi? How much different it must have been. No litter or tires along it’s banks. How clear the water must have been. Were they as mesmerized by the beauty of the river as I am? Did they enjoy the peace and solitude? Were they alone too?

I am brought back to the present by a ruckus behind me. I turn around and in the darkness I could discern five figures in the darkness. It appears to be a mother raccoon and her offspring. She seems to be scolding one of the youngsters. Maybe it had ventured too close to me and she was worried about its safety. They soon moved on in search of food.

I readied my bedroll and crawled inside it as the desire for sleep won over the marvels of the nighttime. I lay looking into the night sky watching for a shooting star but there would be none tonight. The smells of the river were crisp tonight. The smell of the river and the campfire were the most prominent and complimented each other. I begin drifting off playing the days events back in my mind. At the same time I wondered what tomorrow would bring. Would I catch my personal best smallmouth or would it just be a day of photography? As sleep began to overtake me I was one with the river rooted in my safe place. A place of peace and tranquility. A place to recharge my soul and mind and cleanse my spirit. Life is good. I am on the river.

Lazy Day on the Big River

I finally got to float the Big River. First time this year. My school buddy Mark Nelson and I met st the Huddle House in DeSoto for breakfast at 7 a.m.. after a hearty breakfast we headed for the river.

We left Mark’s truck at Merrill Horse conservation area and drove to Mammoth CA. We got the yaks in the water about 8:30 and headed down river to the Merrill Horse Access.

There hadn’t been enough rain to cause the river to rise but the water was stained and not as clear as usual. The water was cooler than I thought it would be with all the hot weather we have had.

Mark chillin’ on the Big River

The fish weren’t cooperating and had apparently ate before we got there. We didn’t really care because it was a beautiful day to be on the river.

Finally the fish got their appetite back. The first four escaped the hook and swam for freedom. I was 0 for 4. Patience finally paid off. I caught a small largemouth.

Then I finally caught a small smallmouth.

I caught a spotted bass then we had to head for the boat ramp.

I fished this stretch a lot last year. It is approximately 5.4 miles. Last year I saw a Bald Eagle 4 times. I was disappointed I didn’t see it this time.

Mark caught about a 10 inch bass and a perch.

“The River is constantly turning and bending and you never know where it’s going to go and where you’ll wind up. Following the bend in the river and staying on your own path means that you are on the right track. Don’t let anyone deter you from that. – Eartha Kitt

River Adventure

It’s 2 am in the morning and you’re camped on the river situated on a gravel bar. It’s a new moon and the stars are shining brightly. Mother Nature is providing the concert tonight as the crickets, tree frogs, and locusts are joined by a bullfrog.

In the distance you hear the “yip”, “yip” of the coyotes. “Bam”! Your heart beats faster and the hair raises up on the back of your neck. You look intensely into the darkness of the river. You shine your flashlight and you see it! A beaver. Bam, he hits the water with his tail to warn the other beavers that they have an intruder.

Suddenly there is something splashing in the direction of your limb line. You shine the area and you see what appears to be a big catfish has hooked itself. Your adrenaline kicks in and you climb into the kayak and eagerly paddle to your line. It breaks the water and you realize it is over 8 pounds. It truly is a great night on the river!

You get back to the gravel bar and make sure your catch is safely restrained in the water. You suddenly have a craving for fish so you decide to try and catch one to cook. You rig a pole to do some tight line fishing from the gravel bar. After 40 minutes without a bite you begin to think you are going to have an MRE for breakfast. Then tap, tap. Something is biting your bait. You wait and then set the hook and real in a nice drum (also known as a stone perch). It is now 4:15 am. You prepare the drum to cook. With nothing to cook it in you go McGyver and make a spit from green tree limbs. Ten minutes on each side and breakfast is served.

As you sit there reflecting on the night you notice the fingers of light start invading the darkness. You feel good. You are at peace with yourself. Yes, life is good.

A Day on the St. Francois River

The St Francois River is a tributary of the Mississippi River. It is 426 miles long and meanders through northeastern Arkansas and southeastern Missouri.

In the springtime they have kayak races on the part that goes through Silver Mines Park. Fishing is fair with a large variety of fish.

They were calling for a high near 70 degrees for today. That was all I needed to hear. I was river bound. I decided to try a new place that I had found. It was on the St Francois River in an area I had never fished.

I really didn’t think the fish would be hitting anything that I had in my tackle box. Just 3 days ago the high for the day was 9 degrees and a front was moving into the area today bringing rain with it. Well that wasn’t enough to stop me. I loaded the yak in the truck and headed out for a day of peace and relaxation.

The air temp was 55 degrees when I got to the river and the water temp was damn cold! It would not be a good day to flip the yak.

The water clarity was clear and water level was normal for this time of year. I didn’t go upstream 20 yards before I had to get out and pull the yak through the riffles. Once through there was a good 300 yard stretch with numerous deep holes and lots of structure and cover for the bass to suspend in. I knew to get them to hit I was going to have to drop my lure right under their nose.

I knew as cold as the water was I was going to have to fish a slow moving lure. This time of the year bass are lethargic and slow to attack the food source. So my choice was a pig and jig and a Charley Brewer slider worm.

The morning really started off slow. Not one single hit in 4 hours. Then a little after one p.m. I got a hit and set the hook. Didn’t appear it was going to be much of a fight then I guess it decided, not today bucko and the fight was on. After about 5 minutes I got it close enough to the boat so I could see it. OMG!!!!! He was big. My heart started beating 200 beats a minute then crap: I forgot the dip net.

Well he dove under the yak and popped up on the other side. With the help of the cold water it tired quickly. I got it up to the yak and I lipped it and put it in the boat.

OMG! What a beauty. I put it on the board and it was a hair over 20 inches. I admired its beauty and returned it to the river. It was a spotted/Kentucky black bass.

I caught two more spotted/Kentucky black bass.

Eleven and a half inches

Thirteen inches

All in all it was a great day. When I pulled out of the river it was 68 degrees. I felt good. I really needed that.

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. It is very much appreciated. Remember to spread the love and be kind to each other.

All photos are property of Double D Acres LLC and May not be reproduced without written consent from me.