View in a larger map
I had been wanting to go to the Current River for years because I had heard such great things about it but had just not made it happen. Early in the year I decided that this would be the year. I was planning on doing a 3-4 day trip, but this has been a busy summer and ultimately it didn't work out. So, when Kristin had asked when we were doing our annual family trip, I decided we should go to the Current and let her and Laura experience camping on a gravel bar for the first time!
Being that this was quite a bit further Southeast than we usually went I decided we should take Friday off and make it a long weekend. We left our house at about 10:30 Friday, August 10, 2012 and headed toward St. Louis. We turned off of I-70 at Warrenton and headed South toward Johnson's Shut-Ins with a stop at Elephant Rocks State Park.
Elephant Rocks was something I remembered seeing on-line but I did not remember the specifics, but since we were driving right by I thought I would surprise everyone with a stop there. It turned out to be really cool and Colin loved climbing on the granite boulders. You could easily spend a half day or more there, but after an hour and a half we got back on the road for the short drive to the Shut-Ins.
After seeing some YouTube videos of the Shut-Ins I knew Colin would love it. We arrived just after 6:00 and had about an hour and a half to swim until the day use area closed. After getting Colin changed we all headed up the trail under the impression that the water would be cold and the rest of us would just be wading. The water turned out being really warm and I ended up taking a full dip in my clothes...luckily I was wearing my synthetics! Colin had fun climbing up and down the small waterfalls and even went for swims in a couple of the bigger pools. As the sun was beginning to set we headed back to the car and down the road to the campsite.
This park is almost completley new because in late 2005 the nearby Taum Sauk Reservoir failed, flooding the park, and destroying the campground. After reaching a settlement with AmeronUE the state used a portion of the funds to rebuild the park. The campground was relocated down the road away from the flooding danger. It is fortunate that the flood occured during the week and in December. Thankfully no lives were lost. Because it has been recently rebuilt everything at the park is in excellent condition, and well designed. The campsites have large concrete pull-ins and pads for cars or setting up your tent on level "ground." I would highly recomend this park!
After setting up camp and having a quick dinner we headed to the amphitheater for a ranger program and the back to the camp. Colin spent a little time playing his DS and we looked at the stars before going to bed. It got a bit chilly at night but it was a very relaxing day!
The next morning we packed up camp and headed to Akers Ferry on the Current River. We checked in and headed down to the shore to get our canoes. They were very busy and we actually had to wait a bit for them to bring some more. We loaded up our boats; a Nova Craft Prospector 17 and a Coleman Journey 17. I was excited to try out the Prospector as it is the boat I am considering buying. I love my Wilderness Systems Commander 120, but it does not handle as well as I would like on winding rivers.
I had heard how beautiful the Current River was, but on the first day I was not impressed. The scenery was nice, but nothing more than what I'd seen on the Meramec. The river was crowded with partiers and a few families out for a day float. While the weather was nice and I enjoyed paddling it was not the experience I was looking for. We had been looking forward to seeing cave spring, but it was crowded. Around every bend was a group of loud obnoxious people. As we neared the end of our 10.2 mile day that all began to change. We were hailed by the guys pulling canoes from the water at Pulltite. "Akers takes out here!" they said. I proudly replied "We're heading on to Round Spring. See you tomorrow." They told us to have a nice trip and at that point the trip changed!
We had seen a few groups that were obviously planning to stay on the river, some ahead of us, several behind us. This was the first main difference in this river. On all my previous river trips in Missouri I had only seen one couple who had camped on the river, and that was on our last trip of 2011. There was a pair of fathers and sons. There was a large group of 20 somethings...whom we later learned do a 3 day trip together once a year (Good for you guys!). There were also a few couples. We, however, were the only group with a seasoned 4 year old!
I knew I wanted to camp just past Pulltite. It was just over half way, and it was just over 2 hours to sunset. Just enough time to make camp and dinner! So, as we rounded the bend I wondered how many gravel bars lay ahead? How many would be taken? How much daylight would we actually have when we found somewhere?
The first spot we came upon that looked good was at Pulltite Spring. It was occupied. The couple was nice and said there would be plenty of spots ahead. Sure enough, we rounded the next bend and found one of the nicest spots I've camped at yet. It was just past Pulltite Springs and had a small waterfall across and down river. Just loud enough to give a nice ambiance. We setup camp, made Mac and Cheese and Hot Dogs, and then played video games before bed. Kristin opted to try out my new Big Agnes Seedhouse SL1 rather than sleep with us in the "snoring" tent. She said it was nice...I hope to try it out someday ;-p
I was expecting the usual cacophony of wildlife but was surprised at how peaceful it was. Even in the middle of the night the only thing I heard when I got up was a few insects...other than the distant howl of coyotes once in the night. Now this might be simply because we were within walking distance of the Pulltite campground, or it might say something about the health of the ecosystem. I suppose I will have to make some more trips before that can be determined. That being said, it was one of the most peaceful nights on a river I've had...except for being cold. I was not anticipating it getting into the 50's and had brought my Deuter Dreamlite 500. Don't get me wrong, this is a great bad...I am just cold blooded. Seriously, I use a down comforter all year long. This bag is great for those "hot" nights when you need to cover up slightly at 3:00 a.m. but it doesn't work for me at colder temperatures. Good to know!
Sunday morning we work up to a light rain on our tent. I went outside and picked up a few things I didn't want to get too wet and took some video of the river and our campsite. This is by far the best video of the trip and is the opening shot in the video below. The lighting was perfect with the sunrise on the river! Heading back to the tent I decided to let everyone sleep in for another hour and see if the rain passed. The river had been easy so far and I decided we would have no trouble making good time.
Sure enough the rain stopped and we got up around 9:00. I made oatmeal for breakfast and we worked on getting packed up. We were on the river by 10:30 and it had warmed up enough that shorts and a t-shirt were perfect. We paddled the remaining 9 miles only running into a few groups that had camped on the river, and a pair of Kayakers. It was cloudy, less crowded, and much more peaceful. I had seen another side of this river. Take away the crows and though the scenery is still not much different from some of the other rivers in Missouri the river takes on a whole new life. You do begin to notice, and appreciate, the lack of development along the river. I came to realize that to truly get everything out of the Current River you must spend time on it, and spend time on it when others are not. This is an excellent river for long trips, and the outfitters are well equipped to meet your needs.
As we neared the end of the day the rain began to fall lightly once again, though no one complained. We briefly stopped at the upper landing of Round Spring before learning we needed to continue to the lower landing. After another 1/4 mile we arrived about 25 minutes past the 2:00 pickup. Thinking we would have to wait until 4:00 we were pleasantly surprised to find a driver waiting patiently. A short shuttle back to our truck and we were on our way home...once again relaxed and ready for another week.