Massive rains fell overnight almost entirely throughout the Elk River basin, meaning only one thing to me as I woke this morning: it was time to head up the basin to see how close to the source of Big Sugar Creek I could set in.
Flow data indicated that a major event was unfolding, and that the waters were still rising as I prepared to take off towards Seligman, MO around 11:30am.
A pit stop at Creekside Campground demonstrated the scope of the event. The above photo was snapped at the confluence of Big Sugar Creek and Mike’s Creek. Upon seeing this, I was fairly certain the waters would be sufficient to float near Seligman. Not shown in the photo were the approximately 15 people stranded at Creekside Campground by the rapidly rising waters.
Arriving at the Big Sugar Creek access at mile marker 39.12, it was obvious that there was more than enough water. Perhaps too much. So, after much consideration, I decided to float a stream I’ve long desired to explore – Mike’s Creek. Given Mike’s Creek is a lesser stream with a smaller drainage area, while flooded, it wasn’t so badly so like Big Sugar Creek.
Setting in almost 3 miles from the mouth of Mike’s Creek at the intersection of Mike’s Creek Rd and Mike’s Creek, nearest E Hwy, I immediately experienced difficulty. Launching during any sort of flood can be challenging, but it is made especially so when hostile landowners setup obstructions like the barbed wire at this roadside access.
Not long after I launched I noticed a strange, standing-in-front-of-an-open-refrigerator-door-sensation. Despite it being a very warm and muggy day, I would be confronted with these strange but welcome blasts of cool air throughout the trip. I can’t help but wonder if this is a feature of the cavernous nature of the area?
Though a short trip at only 3 miles, and especially considering the speed of the water, it turned out to be perfect. This was due to the frequent scouting required because of numerous obstructions sometimes coupled with blind corners. At one point I found myself hopping from one small island downstream to the next in order to see what was just around the corner.
Then, at the very end of the island hopping in the last mile of my float, I turned a corner that revealed a site that can best be described as a scene out of an Indiana Jones movie. The stream got very narrow and deep, and pushed up against an overhanging bluff about 10 feet above the water’s surface. On top of this bluff were numerous springs forming a continuous line of water pouring over the edge like a waterfall for some 50 feet or more, threatening to swamp my canoe below. At first I navigated the very thin margin of water between the bank and the line of water pouring off of the overhanging bluffs. As this began to prove increasingly difficult, I crossed over the waterfall in a thinner stretch to float under the bluff to avoid the cold, cold water of the overhead spring from filling my canoe any further. This was easily one of the most magnificent scenes I’ve ever witnessed in the Elk River basin.
Not long after leaving the area of the overhanging bluffs I encountered a rapid decrease in water speed just before the E Hwy bridge over Mike’s Creek. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that this was backwater, not from a lake, but from the massive and even further increased waters of Big Sugar Creek!
After very carefully pulling my canoe up the steep left bank of Mike’s creek about 150 yards from the roaring confluence with Big Sugar Creek, my adventure was over but will never be forgotten.
Over the coming week or so, great floating can be had on both Sugar Creeks. If you’ve never been upstream of Noel or Pineville, now is the time!
After gentle but prolonged rainfall the streams have further swollen, providing me with another opportunity to travel even further up the basin towards the source of Big Sugar Creek near Seligman, MO.
I decided to take out where I previously set in a couple weeks ago. But, when I took off, I wasn’t yet sure where I would set in. Using Google’s satellite imaging and Street View I found what appeared to be a good roadside access just west of Seligman. The only question was if there was enough flow to actually set in this high up. That much would have to be decided as I made my way there.
Unfortunately, spotting the creek at regular intervals along the way, I decided some miles before my intended destination that there simply wasn’t enough water to set in anywhere near Seligman. So I settled on a mediocre roadside access at mile marker 39.12, about halfway between Seligman and the take out point. The approximately six miles upstream would have to wait for an even bigger flood.
The first half of the float featured a number of hairpin turns and downed trees that were all successfully navigated. But it was the last half of the float that was the most interesting.
Right after crossing the MO-AR state line some four times (around mile marker 36), the smooth, light-colored rock that usually makes up the creek bed was replaced by a continuous slab of limestone. That slab would break and drop to another slab resting right below it numerous times. Each of these breaks produced a solid line of rapids traversing the entire bed. At around 500 cfs of flow that day the rapids weren’t anything that anyone couldn’t easily handle. However, with twice the flow or more this whitewater might well be quite intimidating. I look forward to finding out in the future!
The day ended on a laborious note when I had to pack my equipment up the 60 degree slope of the roadside access at mile marker 34.35. By the time I lugged my aluminum canoe up the 25 foot embankment I thought I would die. So I guess it’s time to make friends with a creekside landowner somewhere in the area!
After a brief but furious bout of rain, Big Sugar Creek has swollen enough to venture slightly further up the basin than I’ve ever floated before.
The put-in, a roadside access where KK Hwy crosses over the creek just north of Pea Ridge, AR, leaves something to be desired. But it’s not the worst access I’ve ever used. Due to its steep nature, it’s certainly better used to put in rather than take out!
Of my nearly 7 mile float, 5-1/2 miles of it were completely new territory. And what beautiful territory it was! I was especially struck by the number of springs and caves in the first several miles. It also seemed that I was moving faster than expected, as the gradient here must start to pick up steam.
Despite being in uncharted waters, challenges were few. Save for a couple low water bridges, and the portaging they necessitated, it was smooth sailing all day.
It’s official: www.ElkRiverReviews.com has now launched for the general public!
At the moment, only two of 17 categories of businesses/organizations have been populated on the Reviews page: Campgrounds & Outfitters and Liquor Stores. We expect the remaining 15 categories to be populated, continuing in order of priority, in the coming weeks.
Initial development on the rest of the site has already been completed. We’re particularly proud of the Streams pages, so don’t miss out on the wealth of information available there!
This moment is the culmination of nearly five months of work! We hope the public finds it useful when planning and executing their trip to the Elk River basin, and we hope the various businesses/organizations listed here find it beneficial to their bottom line.
If you are a member of the public, you can help support our cause by clicking on an ad whenever you visit and by telling the local businesses you patronize that you found them on ElkRiverReviews.com. If you are a business/organization listed here, you can help support us by checking your listing for inaccuracies, clicking on an ad or by upgrading your listing and/or purchasing ad space for your organization.
Heavy rain in the area the previous day has made for a decent flood on Indian Creek (pictured), which, in turn, floods Elk River below Ginger Blue.
Due to the distribution of rainfall, Little Sugar Creek achieved little more than minor flooding, while Big Sugar Creek only saw a minor increase in flow, getting nowhere close to flood stage.
If only the weather would warm it would be a perfect time to float Little Sugar Creek now, and Indian Creek in a couple days.
ARG!!! The first float-friendly day of the 2013 season arrived today and, due to a sudden and unexpected personal matter, I’m unable to go.
Adding to the frustration is the fact that all streams are up, affording me my pick of where to go.
I can only hope the next float day isn’t far off.
I was shocked and saddened to learn that my friend of 5 or so years, “Big” Jon Mohr, passed away this afternoon.
It was shocking for a couple reasons. First, at 49 years old, he was far too young to go. Secondly, the rumor is that he had been suffering from a terminal illness for some time, a fact I knew nothing of despite having spoken with him recently. Perhaps not wanting to be treated differently, Jon chose to keep this information to himself.
At around 6’4″, it was easy to see how “Big” Jon came by his nickname. Though he needn’t be so towering for such a title because even if he were cut in half, he’d still be the biggest character in any room.
Though I cannot remember the exact moment we met, I do remember very clearly the night we became friends. The night started at Neosho Inn, a local watering hole. Jon was using his inexhaustible supply of charm on a delightful blond at the bar. Given she was the most and only attractive female in the place, I decided to assist Jon in his quest since I wasn’t doing anything else. It wasn’t long before Jon had secured invitations for both of us back to this lovely young woman’s apartment where she assured us she had leftovers from a delicious meal she had prepared earlier in the evening. It turns out she was indeed quite the chef. After the meal with her, Jon and our host’s friend, and then the vodka shots that followed, I remembered that I needed to get up early for work the next day. I could tell our host’s friend was bored, so I suggested that she drive me to my car back at the bar since I rode there with Jon. Moments later our host’s friend and I were out the door. When I saw Jon the next day there was no question a permanent bond had been established.
Over the coming years, Jon and I would go on to participate in a number of activities we both enjoyed (besides proselytizing women). One of those activities was floating. Little did I know it when I met him that I had found another highly experienced floater! So experienced he was that now I had another person to invite on float trips when the water was at dangerous levels (a pastime I greatly enjoy, but shouldn’t). While I’ve heard a great many claims from people about how good they are in a canoe, very few people actually measure up. In fact, in my lifetime I’ve met only a small handful of people I would consider venturing out onto brown, turbulent water with. Jon was definitely one of them.
For all of these reasons and more, I’ll miss my friend “Big” Jon Mohr.
Rest in peace, buddy.
The weather outside might be frightful now…but it won’t be for long.
In fact, I’ve got a feeling that some of the very water produced by last night’s snow, when it melts, will carry my canoe downstream in a matter of days or weeks at most. It’ll just be a matter of getting off work.
Just waiting for that day when it all comes together – a day with high temperatures in the 60′s, mostly sunny and reasonably high wind speeds.