Stories from Eleven Point
By Steve Halter
Nature’s bond keeps this group floating
This is a story of how the Eleven Point River has bonded a group of guys together from all over the country for many years.
I was blessed to have grown up with an unbelievable group of guys who have always been like family to me. As with most teenagers, after graduating from high school many of us moved off, either to college or the military. Back when we were growing up there was no texting, snapchat, Facebook, or even emails so it was difficult to stay in touch. You pretty much had to catch up at homecoming events or during the holidays, but even then, people couldn’t always make it in. Some of our original group kept up with each other but most of us saw each other at best once a year and then every 5 years at a high school class reunion. In 1997 we had our 10-year class reunion and several of us decided to come in early and take an overnight canoe trip on the Eleven Point River. We put in at Highway 19 bridge at Greer and floated until around dark, camped on a gravel bar and then made our way down to the take out spot at Riverton. Our original crew was comprised of six guys.
Over the last 22 years this event has grown into as many as 20 guys from all over the country (Missouri, Georgia, South Dakota, Louisiana, Kansas, Alaska, etc.). What started as one “overnighter” has turned into a 4-day trip. We all look forward to the comradery and beautiful Eleven Point River. We use all our own canoes and pack them full of supplies and camp on gravel bars. We have our favorite gravel bars, however if someone has claimed that spot already, we ease on down the river. We take what should be a 2-day trip and stretch it to 4 days (Greer to Highway 142 bridge-28 miles). We have a saying when people come flying by paddling as hard as they can, “this is a canoe trip, not a paddling trip!”. We stop quite often and jump off rope swings, check out the caves, hike up to the scenic overlooks, fish, throw the football and frisbee or to just stretch our legs. We usually pull off the river around 5pm and jump back on after a nice big breakfast and after we take down camp. We take the first night and only eat what trout we catch. If you are on that stretch, make sure you obey the rules of the Blue-Ribbon Trout Area; from Greer to Turner Mill access (5.5 miles). Oh, and don’t forget your “Fish Label Maker”; sorry, inside joke.
Most of us are outdoorsman, but for those who are not this is the perfect chance to get out on the best kept secret in the Ozarks. I have floated many streams all over the Ozarks and Eleven Point just happens to be my favorite. The wildlife, terrain, and serenity are spectacular, and it just seems like there is something special about floating through the Irish Wilderness. Over the years on this trip we have experienced a wide variety of nature and even a few “characters”. We have often joked about writing a book with all our stories, but this article will have to do. As with any group of guys, some stories just can’t be told! I keep a journal and here are some highlights from over the years:
The first few years we made some rookie mistakes. Our very first trip no one applied enough sun screen and we got sunburned and didn’t really keep good track of time, so we showed up for our 10-year class reunion with a nice lobster burn and late to the event. Our wives loved that! The next year, some of the guys forgot rain gear so we cut holes in trash bags and used them during a 2-hour downpour; not fun! The fourth year into the trip our favorite rope swing tree that hung over Boze Mills Spring crashed down, so we ended that tradition. Of course, we started another one. If you haven’t been to Boze Mills Spring, you are missing out on a HUGE treat. It is easily accessible from the river or by taking county road 152 off Highway 160, just east of Riverton. By the way, Hufstedler Outfitters is a great place in Riverton for supplies or to shuttle canoers/kayakers/rafters. Riverton’s population sign says something like “Population 5 to 500”. I always laugh at that sign. Our new ritual at Boze Mills Spring was for everyone to take a plunge into the freezing spring and see who can stay in the longest. Polar Bear Don Juan always seems to outlast us all. Diving into that spring even on the hottest and most humid days will absolutely take your breath away!
In 2001 we decided to add a day onto the trip and put in at Cane Bluff, just west of Greer. Although it is a beautiful 7-mile addition, with excellent small mouth fishing, it was not fun at the end of June with canoes packed full of days’ worth of equipment and food. The water was too low, and we pulled our canoes a lot. We haven’t done that stretch since then. That was also the year we woke up one morning only to discover that the racoons drug our bread box into the river and floated it down about 100 yards. Luckily it was air tight and got hung up on a rock, so we were able to retrieve it. The next year was what we called “the year of the titanic”. We got about a quarter of a mile into the trip and one of the canoes had a rather large leak. We didn’t bring any kind of a repair kit, so we tried everything, including melting plastic bottles to try to seal the hole. Duct tape ended up being our solution for the trip. Every year we tease “Ranger Dale” (yeah, we all have nicknames; and of course, a group name-CCRC) because the morning of the trip he is trying to repair the titanic. Our event is the same time of the year each year, which just happens to be around “fireman Roy’s” birthday. Once we realized that, in 2004, we had to throw him a big birthday party which ended up with him being woke up in the early hours of the morning by several of us blowing squawkers around his tent. Boys will be boys! Since we travel through the Irish Wilderness one year we bought dry fit kilts to wear. Some of the guys like them so much they wear them every year.
Over the years we have seen such a variety of wildlife- minks, muskrats, bald eagles, deer, snakes, racoons, possums, etc. There is a certain gravel bar that we stay on which always provides us excellent views of a perching bald eagle. It is an incredible sight. That is the same gravel bar that we hear crazy loud screams in the middle of the night. I suspect it is racoons, but we have often wondered if it is a mountain lion. We haven’t seen a bear, wild hog or mountain lion but we know they are in the area. Grandpa Al has identified their scat! We have also had some pretty good luck trout fishing. Our buddy Gary aka “duck dynasty” caught a 23” rainbow trout. We all thought he should keep it and mount it, but he decided we would just eat it. It tasted great with a little butter and Cavenders seasoning, wrapped in foil over an open fire.
In 2007 we took the short hike up the hill at Horseshoe Bend (mile marker 26.5). There is a shallow cave right off the river (to the left) and a steep path just on the downriver side. If you climb up it there are amazing views. We also took a side trip at mile marker 28.5 and paddled up White Creek, then followed the 15-minute trail to White Creek cave. This cave is huge! I am not sure if it is open these days, but it is worth the side trip. 2008 we saw our worst “injury” of the many years of our trips. Andy aka “the chiropractor”, stepped on a piece of rebar and it went through his foot. We did our best doctoring, but I believe he still has a scar from that incident. Sure, we have had plenty of other bumps and bruises, but all in all we have had a pretty good run on staying safe. That was also the year we had an encounter with one of the “characters” I mentioned earlier in the story. When we arrived at Boze Mills campground we met a lady who was staying at the primitive camp site next to us. We asked where her tent was and she said, “I am sleeping on a bed of pine needles; in my sweat lodge”. The next day she also asked us if the “spirit horse visited our camp site the night before”. Well, ok then…..One year we also encountered a family who had been kicked out of their house and were living in a tent at the same camp ground. At 4 am in the morning they drove through the wooden barriers with their vehicle and started loading up, yelling “we have to go, there are 35 law enforcement agents with warrants for our arrest waiting on us!”. I guess Ranger Dale had mentioned the night before that a couple of our guys were law enforcement agents.
2012 was our biggest group ever, with 20 guys. Over the years our group has grown to include friends and co-workers. Some have meshed well with our group better than others. These days we just stick with our core group of guys, which is about 12-14. We have been doing it for so long now that we had to implement a rule about our kids. Anyone who has a son 21 or older can attend. My son was the first to qualify last year but he couldn’t make it. We are anxiously awaiting all these young pups so they can carry all our stuff, set up camp and cook!
Over the years we have saved several canoers and kayakers (from other groups) from drowning. We typically don’t see many people other than on Saturday but that is when we see a few groups of “day trippers”. Some of these people have never been on the river and are extremely careless. As with any river, you must respect the force of running water into root wads and rocks. I usually carry a rescue rope just in case. Luckily, we have a captain of the fire department, some ex-military guys, law enforcement and a nurse practitioner in our group. We also have some very skilled swimmers and canoers. We also bring our Garmin In Reach Delorme. It is a satellite texting system (no cell service at all on this river), which has an S.O.S. button in case of an emergency.
Most of this story has been about our adventures but allow me to wrap up by telling you some of my favorite spots on this river. Greer Springs is a must! You can walk to the spring or come from the river. I mentioned Cane Bluff area on the upper part of the river. If you go in late spring when there has been plenty of rain, it is a wonderful float. Mary Decker Shoals is a blast and White Creek and Boze Mills is a must visit. Brawley bluff just passed Horseshoe bend is majestic. Having said all of that, my absolute favorite spot on the river is mile marker 33.7, just a short distance down river from Boze Mills Spring. There is a large drop off and it is a great rush with 2 guys in a canoe with 4 days’ worth of supplies. You want to hug the left for the best ride but be careful because you will take on a lot of water. You will know when you are approaching this drop because you will hear rushing water. The last 7 miles of our trip, from 160 bridge to 142 bridge is very peaceful and we rarely see anyone. This is also a great spot to catch smallies. Right before you get to the 142 bridge is a place called the Narrows. It is at mile marker 44.3, just off to the right. There will be a short paddle up the creek to the spring. Blue Springs is the 8th largest spring in Missouri. The area gets its name from a narrow ridge of land between the river and Frederick Creek. www.missouricanoe.org is a great resource for kayaking and canoeing the Eleven Point River.
Nature continues to bring a group of guys together and we all look forward to our big Eleven Point River trip. We hope to see you there some day! Long Live CCRC!