Friday, July 14, 2017

I used the phrase "Current Events" in the title of this blog post, because it is all about a trip I made with a group of friends, to float the Current River, which has its headwaters in Montauk State Park  ( )
  in southeast Missouri. 

Even though we were not staying within the park boundaries, we stopped at the Montauk Lodge and Cafe ( ), to get refreshed and look around their gift shop.  On their wall, was a large map of the Current River, which helped us get our bearings, as to where we would be floating our kayaks in a few hours. 

Long before it was a state park, the village of Montauk was a destination for area farmers to bring their corn and wheat for milling.  The original village was settled about 1829, and a Civil War battle was fought near the area.  (I could not figure out why that name "Montauk" sounded so familiar to me, until I read that the Missouri Montauk was named after a location in New York state---the eastern most point of Long Island, where I had visited via sailboat with my husband and his family, back in the last century---mystery solved!).  The old mill ceased operation in 1926, at the time when the area was opened as Missouri's fourth state park.  The old mill was rehabilitated by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) in 1935.  It is a two and a half story frame building with a multi-gabled roof and stone foundations.  It has a central tower-like extension above the second story roof.  It is periodically open for tours---one of only four restored mills in the Missouri state park systems that still function, and allow visitors to see corn being ground. 

These days, Montauk is known more for its fishing than its milling.  We saw anglers fishing throughout the park, and we saw plenty of them reeling in a fish!

One reason for the high success rate of landing a trout here, is most likely the trout fish hatchery that is located at Montauk Springs.  The cool waters flowing from the spring are perfect for trout, and these spring waters combine with the water from Pigeon Creek, to form the headwaters of the Current River.  This photo shows Amy, Peggy, Penny, and A.J. taking the self-guided tour to observe the life cycle of the trout.  This tank had some really big fish in it, that were easy for Peggy to photograph!

The Nature Center at Montauk State Park provided a nice photo opportunity to point out that many of the ladies I kayak with have taken the training to become certified Arkansas Master Naturalists ( ) .  The ladies in this photo are associated with the North Central Arkansas chapter of the organization.  It is an added bonus to be able to spend time in the outdoors with folks like Amy and Peggy, who spend hours photographing, identifying, labeling, and posting, the various plants that they encounter, so we can have a greater appreciation for what we are seeing!

After all 12 of us had assembled at our rendezvous point, we drove the short distance to the Cedar Grove low water bridge crossing, where we could relax beside the Current River. 

Because of its easy access and ample parking, Cedar Grove is a popular swimming hole for those who know about it.  There were several folks enjoying the refreshing waters that evening, including a young man snorkeling, and some teenage girls enjoying sunbathing inside their large floating yellow duckie.  (Since a "yellow duckie" is the mascot for our WHOyaker group, I had to overcome my desire to hijack their floating sanctuary, for the purpose of photographing the WHOyaker girls with it!)

When plans were being made for the Current River float trip earlier this year, the Montauk Lodge was already booked up, as were all other cabins in the area.  However, the very helpful folks at the Jadwin Store told about some new cabins that were in the process of being built.  They said there was a possibility they might be finished by July 10, so the River Co-ordinators (RC) for our trip researched that possibility, and made it happen!

Although the owner/builder of the cabins said he was not finished with the landscaping and marketing for his property, he allowed us to stay there, and take advantage of its close location to the section of the Current River where we would be floating.

The owner delighted us when he stopped by to give each one of us a "cozy" beverage can holder, that had been personalized with the WHO-YAKER name!  He said since we were the first group to be guests at his newly-built cabins, he wanted us to have a souvenir of our stay there.  The Current River Cabins have a page on Facebook ( ), where you can message them and see photos of the inside of their rentals.  Their phone number is 417-260-1976.  (By the way, the name "WHO-YAKER" is a spin-off from the name of our hiking group---WHO---which stands for "Women Hiking the Ozarks" )

1964, over 134 miles of the upper course of the Current River and its tributaries were federally protected as the Ozark National Scenic Riverways (shown within purple boundaries on the map).  This represented the first national park in America to protect an entire river SYSTEM.  Their website is   .

We had a delicious supper of grilled burgers, plus a potluck of side dishes brought by each lady.  It was all delicious, so we lingered later outside, just letting our food digest, and telling tall tales about previous adventures the group has had!

Dot brought her ukulele, so it was fun to sing "campfire" songs, even though it was much too warm for an actual campfire!

Even more musical talent was unveiled the next morning, when thanks to Shelley, "the hills were alive, with the sound of music"!

This photo shows the boats are loaded, and we are ready to head out to the river.  We did our own "river shuttle", which means that once the pickup trucks dropped off the kayaks at the starting point, the empty pickup trucks were driven to the take out point and left there.  Then the shuttle driver (Peggy K) brought the pickup drivers back to the starting point, where the rest of us waited with their kayaks.

While we waited at the Cedar Grove starting point, it seemed there was non-stop launching of canoes and kayaks, with one yellow bus after another yellow bus, dropping off dozens of visitors onto the gravel bar launch area.

I took this photo of a young woman starting down the river, because I heard her yell out to her companions, "How do I get this thing to turn around??!!"  (She was headed into the rapids going backwards!)  This would be funny, except that none of them are wearing a life jacket.  It is a RULE in our group---life jackets must be worn when on the water!!

We stopped at Medlock Waterfall to have our lunch.  Lucky for us, a man and woman were there who did not mind to take photos, so several of us handed them our cameras, and they happily obliged!  (You can see the small waterfall in the background)

Where the Medlock Falls flow into the Current River, is a very small little creek, and our 12 kayaks just about took up the entire "floatable" space!

Another stop we made along the way was Welch Spring.  This photo shows the remains of an old hospital that used to be on this site.  (Even though the bars on the openings make you think it was a jail! The bars are there to keep humans from accessing the cave, where endangered bats live).

Welch Spring is accessible by a dirt road, so you do not have to arrive via boat.  The girl in this photo is headed out the path leading to a parking area for cars.

A placard at the site has a sketch of what the hospital used to look like.  This particular location was chosen, because it was believed that the cool air coming out of the cave was beneficial for asthma patients. 

In this photo, Ellen and Peggy K. are peering through the bars, looking at those of us standing up at the back of the old hospital.

Shelley did her best to try to see the cave, but the park service has done a good job of blocking the access!

Beneath this bluff is where Welch Spring gushes out so much water, that it nearly doubles the flow of the Current River where it enters.

Welch Spring is 14 miles from the headwaters of the Current River in Montauk State Park.  The mouth ( or "end") of the Current River flows into the Black River at Pocahontas, Arkansas.  (I just learned through my Master Naturalist training, that from 1899-1902, the Black River was the leading supplier of fresh-water mussels for all of the USA!  The mussel shells were used to make pearl buttons.)  The Black River then flows into the White River, which eventually flows into the Mississippi River, which then flows into the Gulf of Mexico, thereby connecting it with all the oceans of the earth!  This realization, along with a Project Learning Tree training exercise I did about drops of water ( ) made me realize once again the wisdom of Solomon, when he wrote in Ecclesiastes 1:2  "All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full; To the place from which the rivers come, there they return again." 

This photo shows our group arriving at our take-out point---all doing well!  We started with 12 kayakers and ended with 12 kayakers!

It is of interest that one can see the actual ferry at Akers Ferry.  It is a cable ferry, also called a "reaction ferry".  There were several reaction ferries used to cross rivers in the Ozark Mountains, during the first half of the 20th century.  This one is a 48 ft by 18 ft wooden ferry.  There is a bell to ring to signal the ferryman, that someone wants to cross.  The ferry is built with an oar board to use the current power.  Then to make the job easier, the Akers Ferry had an electric motor to scoot the ferry across the river, and another to pump out water from the hull.  Sadly, it was not in operation when we were there, and recent epic flooding earlier in the year, may preclude its re-opening for quite some time.  However, it could be thought of as an "educational demonstration", for future generations to see how things were done in the "olden days"!  So hopefully, the federal administrators of Ozark National Scenic Riverways will facilitate its use sometime in the future. (A full explanation of the structural and operational issues with the ferry, are listed on the NPS website)

As we loaded up the kayaks, and gathered our gear, I was giving thanks to God for a safe float trip, and I had a heart full of gratitude to be able to spend time with such a fine group of ladies----this expedition gave me "MILES OF (river!) SMILES"!!  Tricia