Tag Archives: Meramec River

Fit and Healthy on Route 66: Two Sections of the Lower Meramec – Part II

Points of interest on the Lower Meramec River
Points of interest on the Lower Meramec River

It was only a few days after my participation in Operation Clean Stream on the Meramec River that a fellow member of the St. Louis Adventure Group Meetup suggested a float from Sunset Hills to Arnold. Kelly was trying to experience some sections of the Meramec that he had not yet floated and I’d never been on that stretch either so I agreed to join him on September 2, the Friday before Labor Day.

This part of the Meramec would not be everyone’s idea of a great place to paddle because it doesn’t have the fast-moving crystal clear water that many of our Missouri streams are known for but I enjoy large rivers and bodies of water that require a lot of paddling. I don’t mind semi-urbanized areas because I enjoy exploring around bridges and other large scary structures. When I was a kid, on occasions when my Dad would take us boating on Lake of the Ozarks or Table Rock Lake, if he piloted the boat too close to a dam or bridge I would scream and cry. I don’t scream and cry if I get close to a bridge now but I do get a weird kind of thrill from it. I probably would scream and cry if I got too close to a dam – even the little tiny one at Creve Coeur Lake gives me a queasy feeling!

Kelly’s plan was to meet at what would be our takeout point, Arnold City Park, where his neighbor would meet us to kindly help us with our shuttle. Our put-in point was at Minnie Ha Ha Park in Sunset Hills, a 10 mile float by river but only a 10 minute drive from one point to the other. This route is a very efficient way to get in a lot of paddling for a small expenditure of driving time.

090216

On the left is Kelly with our boats at Minnie Ha Ha Park. Since it was a weekday and the holiday weekend had not started yet there were a few people fishing but not much traffic on the river – most of the time we had it to ourselves with only fish, turtles and birds for company. The picture on the right is of George Winter Park, located where the river bulges out in a strange manner as you can see from the map at the top of this article. Kelly explained that much sand and gravel has been and is being mined from the vicinity causing lake-like sections that are a lot of fun to explore.

090216_2

A few times during the day we pulled onto a gravel bar to stretch our legs a bit or eat lunch. There are banks that are too steep or muddy to climb out of the vessel but also plenty of gravel bars that are just right. The picture on the right shows the Hwy. 21 bridge in the distance. This section was toward the end of our float and we’d been paddling against the wind for quite awhile so a little time to sit back and drift while taking pictures was welcome.

090216_3

This last pair of photos shows the remains of the boat ramp at Arnold City Park on the left and the Lemay Ferry Rd. and Hwy. 55 bridges on the right (the Hwy. 55 bridge is the one in the distance). Flood damage has rendered this boat ramp pretty useless to all but small watercraft like ours. If you can’t hand-carry your boat down to the water look for another boat ramp to use. The rocky shoreline was not that easy to disembark from either, I did it without falling on my butt but it was close. My footwear for the day was imitation Crocs – something sturdier would have been safer for scrambling around on the rocks and debris.

Our float took about five hours including a stop for lunch and maybe an extra hour and a half or so for shuttling, loading and unloading. We could have added more padding miles by more thoroughly exploring all the little coves and inlets but we only did a few. If you float this section, a map would be a good idea because the geography can be confusing. There is not a lot of shade along the way so make sure you have plenty of sunscreen! Watch out for jumping Asian carp – I don’t know if there is anything you can do about them but be aware just in case. None hit me or jumped in my boat but a group splashed me pretty good and put a momentary scare into me! The myriad of parks along the Meramec are worth exploring on foot and by bicycle. The natural flood cycle of a river can take things away but it also gives by making some land suitable for recreation rather than development. Enjoy!

Fit and Healthy on Route 66: Two Sections of the Lower Meramec – Part I

The Lower Meramec River, which runs from Sullivan, MO to the Mississippi River, is not one of the most popular sections to paddle. If you enjoy lake paddling or exploring large rivers, you might want to take another look at the Lower Meramec. I paddled two sections recently and enjoyed it tremendously.

On August 27, 2016 I joined some other volunteers to participate in Operation Clean Stream, sponsored by the Open Space Council. On this day there were several locations we could pick from. I brought my own kayak this time so I chose a route that was not serviced by an outfitter.

I checked in at Castlewood State Park in Wildwood and met a great group of people at the put-in point on the beach. This fun and hard-working group of volunteers and I headed downstream toward our eventual takeout point at Green Tree Park in Kirkwood.

Operation Clean Stream put-in point at Castlwood State Park
At the left is my group getting ready to depart from the Castlewood State Park boat ramp. On the right is a sandbar where we stopped to clean up trash. On the shore you can see a couple of land volunteers.

At one point I had to paddle upstream for awhile to go back to that sandbar because I thought I had lost an item there. It turned out I hadn’t lost it but I did learn one thing – it’s pretty easy to paddle upstream (perhaps up to Route 66 State Park?) so it’s possible to go for a solo paddling outing from here without worrying about a shuttle. Just paddle upstream for awhile then downstream again to get back to your vehicle.

Some interesting bridges
On the left is an interesting bridge that appears to have vegetation growing on top. It’s right before the Hwy. 141 bridge. On the right is the 141 bridge and a railroad bridge just beyond it.

aug27_4

Taking photos like those above could be hazardous to your safety if you are not careful! The current is pretty swift here so I probably should have concentrated on steering the kayak. It was pretty awesome to see all the logs stuck in and on the bridge from the Flood of 2015 which was of historic proportions – can you believe the water got that high? This bridge is not far from Simpson Lake, where I participated in flood cleanup in February.

aug27_3

I’m pictured at the left with Eric and Kim. On the right are Simon and Tim at the takeout point at Greentree Park, displaying part of our haul. It’s only about a six mile float from Castlewood State Park to Greentree, but it took us a good part of the day because we stopped a lot for trash. Trying to retrieve trash from a boat in a current will really test your paddling skills – you have to be able to maneuver in and out of tight spots, enter and exit frequently without tipping, be able to approach and dock alongside obstacles safely and have a good idea how far over you can lean to grab something. You’ll exercise different parts of your body than you’re used to – a great workout!

Stay tuned for Part II – Minnie Ha Ha Park in Sunset Hills to Arnold City Park.

Links to more information:

Operation Clean Stream’s September Newsletter with news of the cleanup – Includes news of a matching grant to benefit the Meramec Route 66 Bridge at Route 66 State Park.

My article about the August 14, 2016 cleanup

Here is a photo of my Dad at the cleanup at North Riverfront Park

My article about Castlewood State Park

Fit and Healthy on Route 66: Operation Clean Stream at Ozark Outdoors in Leasburg

finished_leasburg_map

On August 14, 2016 I joined a number of other paddle sports enthusiasts at Ozark Outdoors Riverfront Resort in Leasburg, MO for a day of cleaning trash from the local streams as part of Operation Clean Stream. We had our choice of different route lengths. I selected the 9 mile route which placed me with a few recreational floaters on the Bluffs section of the Meramec River. Other volunteers who opted for shorter routes were taken to put-in points on the Courtois and Huzzah rivers. Ozark Outdoors provided breakfast, trash bags, vessels, paddling gear and transportation. At the end of the day we dropped off our trash and equipment on the beach at the resort. Since I was the only volunteer to choose the long route, I was one of the last if not THE last to finish.

It rained for nearly the entire day, which I didn’t find to be a bad experience at all. My nylon rain poncho eventually soaked through but it was warm enough for me not to get cold and my torso was warmed by my life jacket. The rain was quite soothing and beautiful and it’s nice to see the river in different conditions. Rainy weather proved to be no impediment to picking up trash, in a way it made it a little more pleasant because at least the trash was fairly clean! Every time I stopped to clean up a sandbar I had to bail out the canoe with a Gatorade bottle that I found but that was no big deal. I didn’t bring my phone because it doesn’t hold a charge very well these days so my only photo of the day is of the trash pile (at the end of this article) when I was able to recharge the phone enough to get a picture. The Ozark Outdoors Facebook Page has some photos of the event.

The Bluffs section is very scenic and I recommend it for a great float. I have floated that stretch before but did not use the same outfitter so my put in and take out points were not the same. Ozark Outdoors used land they own for both so I’m not exactly sure where the put-in point is on the map at the beginning of this article. It was at the former site of a resort called The Bluffs which no longer exists.

Ozark Outdoors is practically right across the river from Onondaga Cave State Park. If you’re camping at the park, the resort has a well-stocked store if you need to make a run for more provisions. The resort is large and has a lot of services – cabins, camping, pay showers, ample restrooms, canoe and kayak rental and more. The staff seemed to be organized, friendly and committed to promoting responsible enjoyment of our streams.

ocs_081416
I found the space helmet and the chair, plus three bags of this trash!

There are more water and land based cleanup opportunities on August 27, 2016 – here is more information if you want to get involved!
Operation Clean Stream August 27
Operation Clean Stream 2016 Facebook Page

Fit and Healthy on Route 66 – Castlewood State Park

Castlewood State Park in St. Louis County, Missouri
View from bluff at Castlewood State Park in two different seasons

Castlewood State Park is located along the Meramec River in the southwest portion of St. Louis County between the Manchester and I-44 alignments of Route 66. Parts of the park lay on either side of the Meramec River. The part that lies north of the Meramec River is accessible by car south of the Manchester alignment of Route 66 and includes one of the most scenic views in all of St. Louis County. The photos above were taken from the River Scene Trail.

In the days before air conditioning, one way people used to cope with the heat was by visiting swimming beaches at the numerous rivers in the region. Caves were popular too. Route 66 fans will recognize the names of the fun places “Times Beach”, “Sylvan Beach”, Meramec Caverns”, “Stonydell” and Joplin’s “Lakeside Park”. Fort Bellefontaine County Park was formerly such a destination – the area that is now Castlewood State Park was another.

According to the book “Walks & Rambles in and around St. Louis” by Robert Rubright, the heyday of Castlewood as a resort was from 1915-1950. The swimming beach was washed away by the river in 1945. Some other amenities such as clubhouses, nightclubs and taverns persisted a bit longer. The state of Missouri converted the land to a park in 1979. Signs at the park indicate that while swimming in the Meramec River is not forbidden, it’s not encouraged either and is something to undertake at one’s own risk. Drownings do occur here so be careful.

The River Scene trail is so nice that I have explored very few other areas of the park despite many visits. I need to correct that oversight! There is a steep climb to the top of the bluff but after that the trail is not too difficult because it is mostly flat or downhill. You will have to watch your footing because the trail is rocky in spots and it’s possible to trip on tree roots. Sturdy hiking boots and a walking stick are helpful for safety and comfort. There are multiple scenic overlooks, historic ruins from the resort days and a well-traveled railroad corridor to see along the way. Rail fans will normally get a chance to see a train or two while hiking here and a portion of the trail even goes under the railroad bed in a cool tunnel.

Map of Castlewood State Park in St. Louis County, Missouri

As you can see from this map, the portion of the park that is South of the Meramec River is accessible only by hiking, biking or by horseback. You can take a trail to Castlewood from either West Tyson County Park or Lone Elk County Park.

It’s not shown on this map how it connects but if you take the Stinging Nettle Loop at the base of the bluff, you can follow that trail westward to a portion of the Meramec Greenway, Sherman Beach County Park and the Al Foster Trail which begins in Glencoe. You can also take a side trip on the Rock Hollow Trail, also known as the “Zombie Road”. The Stinging Nettle Loop is great for mountain bikers like me who are pretty much at the beginner level. There are some hills but they are not too high and if you fall you’ll probably land on dirt most of the time. I took a minor fall and didn’t get hurt. More challenging trails that I have not worked up to trying on a bike yet are in the area if you’re up for it. If you are getting the impression that you can spend days or weeks here exploring all the trails that connect near here you are probably right! Bring maps because it can get confusing!

Castlewood State Park official web site

My photos of Castlewood State Park and the nearby Wildlife Rescue Center