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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nichole LeClair Terrill