Sunday, June 29, 2008
2008 Elk River Float Trip
To save a little money we decided to wake up early for the drive, paddle the river and head straight home. This is a bit of a shame since there are loads of great paddling resources in the area. We rented an Old Town Typhoon Sit-On-Top Kayak for Dylan to paddle. He enjoyed paddling it, once his mother traded the extremely heavy outfitters kayak paddle for her lighter Carlisle Kayak Paddle. Outfitter paddling gear tends toward ruggedness more than comfort or features.
Our outfitter was Big Elk Camp and Canoe. Their store is at the put-in for the 8-mile trip down to Shady Beach Campground in Noel Missouri. Big Elk is open all year long renting canoes, rafts and SOT kayaks. They are pretty easy to find right off Highway 71 and they had a wide selection of kayaking t-shirts and other paddler goodies. We grabbed a cool shirt with an Elk River map on the back (pictures on our Elk River page). You can find contact info for Big Elk Camp & Canoe plus other Elk River outfitters in both Pineville and Noel on our Elk River Float Trips page.
Although we scraped the gravel in a couple places, the water level and flow was enough to ensure an easy trip with no dragging. We even enjoyed temps well below 90, a great gift at the end of June. Sadly, the weather turned to rain about halfway through our voyage. We all arrived absolutely soaked to the bone, but laughing all the way. Dylan paddled quite well. He never flipped the kayak or fell off, but still found enough riffles and obstacles to make it an exciting run.
This part of the Elk River offers clear water, a few scenic bluffs and numerous gravel bars. There are riffles and pools on this float trip, but no dangerous rapids. The water is more cool than cold much like the nearby Illinois River and Spring River.. Another thing that makes Missouri's Elk River similar to Oklahoma's Illinois River is the large amount of weekend paddler traffic. Dodging beer barges presented the main obstacle of the day. We launched around 9am and we shared the waters with hundreds of people. Although we often cringed at the saucy language and consumption patterns of this wild morning crowd... we saw no nudity or violence. Still, we advise trying to visit this river on a weekday during the prime summer months if you want a float trip with more solitude.
In addition to having a large number of canoe liveries the Elk River is a fairly short drive from some other great spots for paddlers in Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma. In fact, our outfitter offered three other tempting float trips on nearby Big Sugar Creek. I really enjoyed paddling this great little river in Southwestern, Missouri and my family liked it, too! We will definately be back soon.