Single Photos
September 15, 2010
During the past few summers I've kept an eye on the water level reports for the upper Buffalo River. Enough rain will temporarily create good canoeing conditions, and in the summer it's hot enough to swim in the cold mountain water.
I got my wish on July 18. We quickly contacted friends and organized a float. Sunday morning, Chris and Martha, Heath and Fisher, James and Melinda, Stacey, Cliff, Grant  and I drove up to Ponca and rented canoes. I was glad to hear we were putting in at the Ponca low water bridge and would get to float the section to Steele Creek.
The area canoe outfitters and whitewater enthusiasts use an unofficial method for determining water level... they go by the amount of air space between the water and the bottom of the Ponca low water bridge. As we were waiting our turn to launch, I walked over to snap a photo of the bridge and the airspace gauge, which showed around 14 inches of air space.
The float was fun, but I prefer a lot more solitude and a much slower pace. Personally, it was great knowing so much about the surrounding land we were canoeing through. Many times I thought to myself "Hey, I've been up in those woods". I took my point-and-shoot camera and snapped lots of photos. When Grant wanted to climb up on the big boulder in the river below Steele Creek, I liked the idea of getting a picture of him jumping off. It was exactly 6 years and 1 day since I'd taken photos of Cliff at the same boulder. After Grant and I nearly wiped out at a spot where the water forced us into some low-lying limbs, we waited in ambush to get a picture of James and Melinda. To our disappointment, they barely avoided the limbs.
We stopped at the upstream end of Horseshoe Bend, and the boys and I jumped off a 20-foot bluff into a deep hole of water. At the downstream end of the bend, we pulled over where the old river trail comes down to the river on the west side. Chris, Cliff, Grant and I walked up the trail then hung a right to explore the old Harper barn, which sits on top of a 40-foot bluff with a view up the Buffalo.
For the last mile of the float, we endured a heavy rain storm. It's the first time I've ever "not" been bothered by getting soaked by rain. I guess it was because I was doing all the paddling! Grant was up front in the canoe and he was sitting there shivering. The rain continued as we unloaded at Kyle's Landing. We said bye to Chris and Martha, who drove to Jasper to eat at the Ozark Cafe.
To save money, we only had one of our vehicles shuttled - and it was Heath's pickup. Most of us sat in the back of the truck on the drive uphill from Kyle's Landing and then along Hwy 74 back to Ponca. The first half of that 12-mile drive the rain continued to pour. I was sitting in Heath's canoe in the back of the pickup, and got hit with all the strong wind and cold rain. That was an unforgettable experience for sure!