There are a few of us diehards who refuse to put our kayaks away for the winter. Yeah we have been called crazy but it r3ealoy isn’t that bad. The water is crystal clear and you pretty much have the river to yourself. I cannot stress enough that you have to be prepared for anything that might happen.
I did this particular float about 6 or 7 years ago. I broke rule number one, I went by myself. It wasn’t very smart on my part and I am not very proud of myself. I was on the Bourbeuse River in Missouri. The river had flooded and the temps plummeted below freezing and ice had formed. As the water level dropped the ice had remained creating some beautiful sights.
The water was crystal clear and the beaver were active along with a few otters. In 3 miles I didn’t see another person.
Proper preparation can be the difference between life and death.
Rule number one: DON’T be a Wayne. Never go alone. ALWAYS take a buddy along with you. If you end up in the water it doesn’t take hypothermia long to set in and you need to get dry and warm ASAP! As you are getting out of your wet clothes they can be starting a fire to help the warming process.
Rule number two: Pack dry clothes in a good dry bag along with an emergency blanket. Don’t forget socks, underwear, gloves and boots.
Rule number three: Fill a dry bag with fire starting materials i.e. matches, lighter, good tinder. Make sure you are well versed in starting fire under any conditions.
Rule number four: Pack a first aid kit and signaling device.
Rule number five: ALWAYS tell someone where you are going and what time you plan on returning. If you change your plans make sure they know.
Kayaking can be very rewarding in the winter months as long as you observe the rules, use caution ,and DO NOT take chances. Dress warm. You can always take off layers and place them in an extra dry bag. Winter is one of my favorite times of the year to kayak.
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” – Walden Henry David Thoreau
The definition of nature is the material world, especially as surrounding humankind and existing independently of human activities. It is also defined as the phenomena of the physical world collectively, including plants, animals, the landscape, and other features and products of the earth, as opposed to humans or human creations. One could say that nature is everything.
There is a saying “Stop and smell the roses.” Relax and take time to enjoy or appreciate the beauty of life. Stop stressing out, overthinking or complaining. My version is “Stop and drink of the beauty of nature.”
As spring draws near camping season comes into view. The weekend warriors who live in the cities and suburbs will begin their assault upon the campgrounds. They appear in the parks pulling their 30 foot campers loaded with all the amenities of home. I don’t think this is what Thoreau had in mind when he advocated that people leave their urban and industrialized areas to explore nature. He felt that “modern life” robbed people of their best selfs and that living in harmony with nature was essential. In today’s society the campgrounds are so overpopulated that they are nothing more than smaller communities of which they were trying to leave behind.
In Missouri the rivers and Ozark streams become heavily congested with weekend floaters occupying rafts, inner tubes, kayaks, and boats. Sadly the amount of litter left behind is mind boggling. Thoreau often wrote about the importance of preserving the wilderness and the importance of living in harmony with nature. His ideas are completely lost on the minds of the majority of weekend revelers. One can see the evidence if they float the rivers on Monday morning. Sandbars and gravel bars are littered with aluminum cans, trash, and an occasional tent. It doesn’t have to be this way. If you pack it in pack it out. It is that simple. My motto is is,”Leave it better than you found it.”
We as a whole need to learn to respect Mother Earth and what she has given us. Preserve the magnificent beauty of Mother Earth so that future generations can enjoy it. We don’t know what we have until it is gone.
“I love nature partly because she is not a man, but a retreat from him. None of his institutions control or pervade her. There a different kind of right prevails. In her midst I can be glad with an entire gladness. If this world were all man, I could not stretch myself, I should lose all hope. He is constraint, she is freedom to me. He makes me wish for another world. She makes me content with this.” – Henry David Thoreau’s Journal
“Life is a question and how we live it is our answer.” – Gary Keller
One definition of life according to Merriam Webster: The physical and mental experiences that make up the existence of an individual.
I don’t think it makes any difference if you are born rich or poor, your life will be a product of your decisions. It is a fact that in your early years your decisions will be greatly influenced by your parents. The final decision rests squarely on your shoulders.
“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.” Marcus Aurelius
There are so many that try to achieve happiness through materialistic things. They think that a new 3500 square foot home or $80,000 new vehicle will be their answer to their quest for happiness and in the end happiness is nowhere to be found. We need to change our way of thinking in our pursuit of happiness.
In my humble opinion I believe we should take the time to explore ourselves and get to know what really makes us happy. What you like and don’t like in life. Feed the “likes” and change the “don’t likes”. Happiness starts within our hearts. The seed is there we just have to give it what it needs to grow.
“Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact.” – William James
I know I have heard many people say set your goals high and you will achieve more. I have come to believe that is the wrong decision to make. I think they should be realistic and when we reach them we can set higher goals but within reach.
As we struggle to meet unrealistic goals we start to become depressed. We lose our “belief” and begin to think “is life really worth it.” At this point it is essential to get that “belief ” back in our way of thinking.
Everyone makes bad decisions in their life. We have to learn from these. If we don’t we learn nothing from the experience. We and only we are responsible for our decisions. We also need to take responsibility even for our bad decisions. Quit putting the blame on others.
In closing I would like to say we need to resurrect “common sense” and “respect”. Most importantly we have to learn to love one another.
Note: this is just an opinion of a retired farrier concerning life. It is meant to provoke the minds of those who read it to form their own opinions.
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.
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
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.
I live in southeast Missouri and kayaking has become very popular. On the weekends the area rivers become very crowded with kayakers. I see so many that aren’t wearing life jackets. I myself used to be one of them. One day I just happened to put it on and ended up dumped in class II water and if it wasn’t for my life jacket I would have drowned.
For those of you who don’t know the water classes:
A – Lake water; still
Class I – Easy smooth water, light ruffles, clear passages, occasional sand banks and gentle curves
Class II – Moderate
Class Iii – moderate difficult
Class IV – Difficult
Class V – extremely difficult
Class VI – extraordinarily difficult
Safety devices have a purpose in life and are there to keep you safe.
I know they are cumbersome and can get in the way but they can save your life. There are those in your life that would appreciate you using one.
I have been boating and kayaking for 50 years. Never came close to drowning until that one dreadful day. It wasn’t the first time I had been dumped. Unfortunately when learning something new unplanned things happen due to the lack of experience.
Just keep in mind when you get in that kayak or boat that the decision as to jacket or not could be a life saving decision.
In closing I would like to remind everyone that if you pack it to the river take it home with you. Please don’t leave your trash on the river or lake. Keep our water ways clean.
“The river flows at its own sweet will, but the flood is bound in the two banks. If it were not thus bound, its freedom would be wasted. “-Vinoba Bhave
One of Missouri’s scenic river ways is located in east-central Missouri. The French called it Grande Riviere, we call it Big River. The river is around 145 miles in length. It begins in Iron County near the summit of Johnson Mountain. It flows through Washington State Park’ St. Francois State Park and the Lead Belt mining district before flowing into the Meramec River.
Big River above Washington State Park
Big River has some good fishing and some magnificent scenery. The river holds largemouth, smallmouth, spotted and rock bass. Anglers can also find longear sunfish, bluegill, channel and flathead catfish, redhorse, suckers and drum.
Where the Big River flows through the old Leadbelt mining area there are pipes still visible up and down the river where they were used in the mines. I am not sure what the pipe was used for but I was told they were put in to take oxygen into the mines but I don’t know for sure. The DNR claims that there is some lead contamination and to avoid eating certain fish but I have been eating them for years and I am still alive and I don’t glow in the dark.
Big ‘River above Leadwood access.
I have fished and photographed the Big River on several occasions. I have had some great success casting, tight line and limb lines. The water levels get low in the summer months and it has flooded way out of its banks twice in the last 15 months. It is relatively shallow in most places with some deep holes scattered throughout the river. I generally fish out of my kayak and pull a lot of all nighters during the summer and the peacefulness on the river at 2 am is to die for. The nights are filled with the sounds of frogs, crickets and the occasional slap of a beaver’s tail on the water. The coyotes yip and howl and once in awhile come out onto the gravel bar close enough for you to get a good look at them. This summer two of my high school buddies and myself plan to put in on the Big River and float for 7 days and see how far we get.
Big River near Mammoth access.
“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” – Heraclitus
I hope you found the blog interesting. Thanks for reading. Remember to be kind to one another, share the love and don’t squat with your spurs on.
A year ago I launched the yak on the Bourbeuse River near Union, MO. It was a nice sunny day and by 12:30 pm the temp had climbed to 44 degrees. This was a few weeks after the big flood that hit the area and as you can tell by the pics the river was dropping. I couldn’t believe the destruction on the river caused by the record flood. Some places I didn’t even recognize and this was a stretch of the river I knew well.
One of my dreams has always been to document the river with my camera after a snowfall. I had been hoping for a little more snow but beggars can’t be choosy. Needless to say, I pretty much had the river to myself all day. The water temp was COLD I tells ya. I sure would have hated to turn the yak over that day.
I did manage to have a beaver stop by and visit and a hawk seemed to be following me down the river. (beaver is in pic on left and hawk in pic on right)
It was a great day. Weather was great and the river was very photogenic.
“Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time? That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past nor the shadow of the future.” – Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha