St. Charles to Columbia Bottoms Conservation Area

Now that the river has come down a bit, I took off on the next segment of the river from St. Charles Frontier Park to the Columbia Bottoms Conservation Area. The conservation area actually sits on the corner of the confluence. They have two ramps, one standard ramp for boaters along the Missouri River side and another Kayak/Canoe ramp that sits past the confluence about 1 mile down on the Mississippi River. K and I took the short trail down to the access point and it was extremely muddy; sink to your calves muddy. So, I decided to take out at the boat ramp. We headed to Frontier Park in St. Charles and got ready to put in. If you get the chance, the Boat House there at the park is a very nice museum showcasing Lewis and Clark’s journey and well worth your time.

The ramp entrance is blocked with a chain, so, vehicles cannot get down to the river. It is, though, very nice for kayaks and canoes. It is well protected and provides calm waters to put in. Usually, there is a small beach area for soft entry, but, the river is still a bit high (no beach!), so I put in at the bottom of the concrete ramp.

It was a mild day and this stretch of the river is hands down the most beautiful I have paddled from Washington to the confluence. Very little industry and I only saw 4 boats out on the river. The solitude and scenery made for a gorgeous trip. Paddling was pretty straight forward during the trip with a couple of exceptions. I came across one buoy that was almost completely submerged. Some tree limbs were caught up on it, so, it was easy to spot. Another buoy was completely submerged and sat just under the surface. I could hear it from quite a ways away, so, stayed clear, but, is certainly something to watch out for when the water is higher than usual.

With the exception of a pair of Great Egrets that K and I spotted at the conservation area, I did not see a lot of wildlife. This was a longer trip than I have taken in the past at 24 miles. It took about 5 hours and definitely gave me a workout!

On these longer trips, I tend to get some pain in my left leg from irritation of the sciatic nerve. I change positions regularly and change up my paddling form to keep different parts of my body engaged. Changing my form works very well to keep my energy level up and from getting too tired. Though it has helped the sciatic nerve issue, it does not eliminate it on these longer trips. My boat has the straight push-pedal type pedals that operate the rudder. I have recently purchased the Smart-Track pedal system for two reasons. One, to relieve some of the sciatic nerve problem, and the other reason is to provide a positive brace to support my stroke. My last boat had a similar system and I liked it a lot. Unfortunately, the mounting plate is too small for my boat. The local outdoor shop gave me a couple of poly- sheets to make my own mounting plate with. Just started working on that today. I’ll let you know how that goes!

All in all a fun trip! I am looking forward to the next trip. I am hoping to paddle from Hermann to Washington, MO next weekend. We’ll see how the weather and the river are doing!

Happy Paddling!

Washington to Weldon Springs

The first paddle in the journey to paddle the length of the Missouri River. That sounds a little overwhelming; let’s just move on!

It was a beautiful day. A and I drove to Weldon Springs in the morning and dropped off his car and we drove my car and the boat to Washington. Even though I am from the St. Louis area, I had never been to Washington; it is a lovely little town. There were probably half a dozen paddlers of kayaks and canoes. Most of them appeared to be heading out to fish. There is a nice wide ramp there with a gravel bank right next to it that made it easy to get under way.

This is a very nice stretch of river. Once under the bridge at Washington, there was very little industry to speak of which made the view all the better. Birds were the main wildlife today. There were probably ten or eleven hawks circling overhead at one point. I don’t believe I have seen that many circling together before. They could have been red-tailed hawks, but, may have been broad-winged. Hmmm, I will have to start paying more attention to that and read up on birds!

A number of geese had found a nice spot to hang out by a nice long stretch of sand, and I spotted four or five egrets and herons along the way.

I averaged 5 mph over the 20 mile paddle. Over the next month or so, I would like to be able to maintain 5 – 6 mph over a 5 hour period, but, this was a pretty good start.

When I took out at Weldon Springs, my car was all ready and where A had left it for me. I was pretty exhausted from the paddle. Hopefully, that will get better the more I paddle!

This week I will try to get the river and weather specs posted and my first draft plan for paddling the Lower Missouri River.

Happy paddling!