Sunday, 16 December 2018

The Secret to River Discovery

The Secret to River Discovery

When the legendary explorers Lewis and Clark stepped off the banks onto their flotilla of pirogues and keelboats to sail west in 1804, they knew they were leaving behind all signs of civilization.

Isolated fishing CourtoisPhoto: Robyn Areno Ehrmann
Empty stretches of river during the week are perfect for anglers floating the Courtois.

“We were now about to penetrate a country at least two thousand miles in width, on which the foot of civilized man had never trod...” contemplated Meriwether Lewis in 1804. In his imagination he conjured colorful imagery of what they might discover.

You can still experience a similar sense of wonderment to what Lewis and Clark experienced. It awaits every river floater traversing the Courtois, Huzzah and Meramec rivers.

Floating backto campsitePhoto: Robyn Areno Ehrmann
Floating back to your car is a convenient benefit of floating the Courtois.

But, you have to know the secret to unlocking the beauty deep within the heart of Ozark river country.

By departing a day or two after the weekend crowds have thinned out, your river excursion can literally float you back in time to your own “expedition of discovery.”

Floating during the week can be a solitary experience. Fewer floaters venture out on the river during the week. You'll encounter longer stretches of empty water and more chances to view wildlife or fish the bounty of the streams.

With less crowds, you may float silently near groups of aquatic box turtles sunning themselves on a partially sunken tree limb. Wild turkeys inhabit these wilds and are plentiful so keep your eye out for a flock feeding on a river bank. The great horned owl and bald eagle have also been spotted.

Small Mouth BassPhoto: Robyn Areno Ehrmann
Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieu) are plentiful in the Courtois, Huzzah and Meramec rivers.

An abundance of critters inhabit the majestic limestone bluffs, rocky outcroppings and cliffs. Salamanders and snakes lie protected under stones and dark passages. Crawfish make their homes in muddy banks and below the surface small-mouth bass abound. They are one of Missouri's most popular game fish and can keep any angler entertained throughout their float.

Floats on the Courtois river are the most popular since you can float right back to your campsite at Bass' River Resort. With nine different floats available on the Courtois, you can experience a full range of floating challenges and each one presents a completely different experience during the week rather than on the weekend.

Longnose GarPhoto: Robyn Areno Ehrmann
A Missouri Longnose Gar fish (Lepisosteus osseus) glides along the banks of the middle Courtois.

Choose your own adventures on the Courtois:

The Berryman to Blunt Slab float is approximately seven miles for canoes and kayaks. This part of the stream can pose a challenge to the novice in the spring after a good rain when water levels rise transforming the rapids to a Class II status; or it can be a great, leisurely outing for the entire family at normal levels. It's tight and twisty and generally has very few hazards.

Blunts Low Water Bridge to Bass is approximately six miles long. It is one of the nicest parts of the Courtois with large winding gravel bars for riverside picnicking. Herons and other wildlife often frequent the long still pools of crystal clear water. This short duration float is perfect for swimming, fishing and relaxing fun in the sun.

Bass to Scotia, starting at the low water bridge at Bass, this trip is approximately seven and a half miles long. Experience a wilderness-type trip where deep, dark caves are located on the banks of this section of the stream. You'll float through sections of the Mark Twain National Forest and on to the Huzzah Wildlife Area. About 100 yards above Scotia's low water bridge is the confluence of the Huzzah and Courtois.

Isolated Rafting on the CourtoisPhoto: Robyn Areno Ehrmann
Rafts are a stable platform to watch the ever changing river scenery on the Courtois.

Scotia to Onondaga is approximately four to five miles and the stream becomes a little wider. It's called the Huzzah for the next 1.5 miles. As the waters of the combined Courtois and Huzzah, rivers enters the Meramec River the water becomes very deep, slow and wide. In most places you can't see the bottom, but it's an excellent trip for the true fisherman. When you reach Onondaga there's a high water bridge. You'll float under the bridge and take out immediately on your right.

Missouri Aster FlowersPhoto: Robyn Areno Ehrmann
Along the banks of the Courtois wild asters come to bloom in early spring and paint the forest with their vivid colors.

The Huzzah river parallels the Courtois to the west and provides a similar floating experience to the Courtois. For paddlers wanting to avoid sharing the water with throngs of other floaters, Huzzah Creek offers a splendid paddling destination. And you have the option of paddling all the way through to the Meramec river from either the Courtois or Huzzah.

Bass' River Resort has been a popular floating departure point for thousands of adventurers over the years.

But to truly experience a wilderness outing, create your own “Discovery Expedition” by floating the river during the week days after most everyone has already left.

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44th Annual Winter Float Trip

44th Annual Winter Float Trip

It All Started with 16 Crazy Guys and 8 Canoes

As told by original member: Chuck Gilbert

On Saturday, January 20th, 1974, 16 crazy guys from St. Louis decided after closing up Burnham’s Opera House to go on a Winter Float Trip (WFT).

We called up Bob Bass (actually woke him up) and told him we’d be down on Sunday morning to float on the Meramec River and to be ready for us with eight canoes.

We called up Bob Bass (actually woke him up) and told him we’d be down on Sunday morning to float on the Meramec River

From this humble start we have put together 44 winter float trips that have seen everything from a high of 10º with a foot of snow on the ground to this year’s high in the low 80s and everything in between.

On Saturday, February 20th, 52 intrepid souls braved 81º sunny weather on a perfect day to float the Courtois River for the 44th Annual WFT. The Bass' River Resort team took excellent care of this group and served up fabulous fare for both breakfast and dinner.

We started the celebration on Friday night the 18th by saying high to old friends and getting to know some new ones. The bonfire blazed brightly, aerial bombs were set off, cigars were lit, beer and whiskey flowed and the stories, legends, and outright lies started to be told and retold.

On Saturday, the troops rallied and most answered the breakfast bell, stoked the furnaces and got ready for the pick up by the big yellow bus. Once we were delivered safely to our put in on the river, we gathered our gear and claimed our watercraft. Like all flotillas, there were a few launching problems but soon everyone was on the river.

During the float some of the crew took some extra long swigs of grog and made them less than reliable crew members...

Tradition dictates that we stop early and often to caress each worthy gravel bar with our presence and to let the libations flow along with (of course) additional stories, lies and jokes. Around 2PM the official WFT high temperature was announced (81.6º) along with the official river temp (56.6º). Of course everyone was astounded by the summer like temps and the deep blue sky.

During the float some of the crew took some extra long swigs of grog and made them less than reliable crew members and of course some got a little waterlogged in the chilly waters. Towards the end of the day, some rain moved in followed by a thunderstorm and believe it or not, a pea sized hail storm moved through our camp site.

Fortunately, most floaters were off the river and under cover. Everyone took comfort in the wonderful vitals that Stephan & Julie served up. Even Trent Bass lent his hand on making sure our crew we’re well fed.

Nate Gilbert made sure that the shooting range was safely manned. It’s estimated that the shooting crowd burned through over $2,000 in ammo. No animals or humans were hurt or killed in this event. Nate will attempt to organize an actual contest with a real trophy to be given to the “Best Shot”.

New stories, lies and legends were born on this float and everyone is looking forward to being on the 45th WFT scheduled for February 17, 18 & 19 in 2017.

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Canoeing is a great way to enjoy the crystal clear Courtois, Huzzah, and Meramec Rivers. Bass' River Resort offers the finest floating services on Missouri's most popular streams in the Ozarks. We offer canoe trips varying from 6, 7, and 13 mile lengths. Our most popular floats are those floating to and from the campground, which is located right along the Courtois River.

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