I posted awhile back asking for inspiration for new trip ideas and received a lot of helpful information. The Jacks Fork, in particular, stood out as a destination of interest to me. It seems the Ozark region has received an unusual amount of rain recently, which may extend the paddling season for this river. Does anyone, from experience, have any input about what the minimum CFS would be for an enjoyable trip and also which sections are doable at what levels? I’m having a difficult time finding any reliable information.
Consider the Eleven Point as alternative
if you get over there and the Jacks has "run down". American Whitewater does not list a gauge for the Jacks, but the Eleven Point is running at 1350 cfs, and it is seldom too low below the big spring input at Greer.
My guesstimate for the Jack is that if a gauge is at 600 cfs or more, the Jacks will be OK below that gauge. On the USGS gauge pages, you can find a gauge location function that shows maps of the gauge location and surrounding rivers and roads.
Reliable information? On pnet???
Surely you jest.
Oh well, for what it is worth (at least as much as you are paying for it) here goes.
Here is the National Park Service website for the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. Click on the "view park map" icon and you will open a window with a map you can zoom in on like google maps:
The highest practical access that you can put on the Jacks Fork is usually at the "Prongs" where the north and south prong join at County Highway Y due north of Mountain View. As you can see, there are access points at Buck Hollow, Bluff View, Blue Spring, Rymers, Bay Creek, Alley Spring, Eminence, and at the Jacks Fork junction with the Current River at Two Rivers. All of the upper Jacks Fork is wonderfully scenic but my favorite sections are from Highway Y to Buck Hollow ("The Prongs") and from Buck Hollow down to Rymers.
From Rymers down to Alley Spring the river tends to widen and shallow and is often too low to run without hanging up. From the Alley Spring access point down the Jacks Fork is usually always runnable except in very dry years, due to the amount of water Alley Spring dumps in. The stretch from Alley Spring down to Eminence is very nice. Below Eminence water quality suffers some from Eminence waste water and runoff from an enormous horse camp just off the river. I am told that water quality has improved on the stretch from Eminence to Two Rivers but I have not paddled it.
As for required water levels this link should give some clues:
That webpage has links for the USGS gauges on the Jacks Fork situated at Highway 17 north of Mountain View:
at Alley Spring:
and at Eminence:
Obviously, for a trip on the upper Jacks Fork you are going to want to go by the Mountain View gauge. Different folks have a different tolerance for what constitutes acceptable water levels. Personally, I would not run the upper Jacks above Bay Creek without at least 150 cfs or 2.0 feet on that gauge, or more for a loaded boat. The first link I provided has some first hand information from paddlers who have been on those stretches but opinions differ widely as you can see.
Be aware that during periods of rain the upper Jacks Fork can rise very quickly and dramatically sometimes submerging campgrounds, access points, or cars left there so be aware of the weather forecast. If there is any rain on the day you plan to paddle, check the gauge just before you put on. If it is starting to "spike" stay off.
Revised guess. I note that the Jacks
is running about 400 cfs at an intermediate location in its course, while the Eleven Point is running 400++ at Greer. My guess is that 400 is enough for the intermediate portion of the Jacks. For above that, see pblanc’s comments.
you might try calling one of the
outfitters, or purchase a Mo paddling guidebook that would list min. and max. levels.
100-400 cfs doesn’t sound like that much to me (depending on gauge location) but I’ve paddled some creeks as low as 225 cfs before. In those instances the creek channel was very constricted so the water can’t dissipate. Throw in some gradient and you could slide over rocks but Jack’s F. probably doesn’t fit that category- my two cents (from WV and never having paddled Jacks) it’s probably too low.
I last paddled the Prongs on April 27
down to Buck Hollow around midday.
The USGS gauge north of Mountain View was reading right around 175 cfs and 2.2 feet. That was in a pretty rockered boat. Highly rockered boats tend to hang up more readily amidships where they draw more water.
There was sufficient water to negotiate all rapids and shallows without hanging up. More would have been welcome.
Based on that is why I say 150 cfs and 2.0 ft is an absolute minimum for unloaded boats. At that level you might need to drag in a few places especially if you are not that experienced at reading water. If you check out this link you will see that some have run the upper Jacks at levels of 1.5 feet and below which I would regard as too low:
Here is another link that provides some information and personal opinions regarding required water levels that might be helpful:
Are the rapids formed mainly by gravel
bars, as on the Eleven Point, so that the little available water often runs through narrower channels where it is deep enough to pass?
On small creeks and rivers in the GA piedmont, where rapids are usually formed by granite ledges or sills, it takes about 250 cfs to adequately cover a sill so that a boat can float over it. Obviously conditions in Missouri are usually quite different.
The Jacks Fork and Current Rivers (at least the upper current) have gravel-bottomed stream beds. There are few, if any, rock ledges.
There are no rapids of any consequence whatsoever on the Jacks Fork, Current, or Eleven Point rivers.
Looking for rapids, look elsewhere.........
Halls Bay Chute on the Eleven Point, when river flow is well above normal, "might" be considered a low class 2 at best. It takes about 5 to 7 seconds to negotiate.
When those 3 rivers are very high; you are like waste, flushed down a toilet.
Probably the most dangerous thing on any of those 3 is an occasional strainer. They are usually/easily avoided by those with some decent canoeing skills.
All 3 are best paddled on weekdays; you can avoid most of the weekend river dorks(aka drunks), rafts, and innertubes by doing that.
The section of the Jacks Fork to Two Rivers on the Current has many things in common with a leaking sewer.
I'd suggest you avoid it.
My comment are based on over 55 years of paddling on those 3 river; take my comments with a grain of salt.
Semantics. I call those little things on
the Eleven Point “rapids” and you don’t. There it lies.
Bases on 93 years of record keeping:
Daily discharge (cfps)
Median: 736 cfps
Mean: 905 cfps
Most recent reading: 1130 cfps
The Eleven Point "very rarely" hits 1350 cfps.
Greer Spring's average flow is only 300 cfps.
Runoff from heavy rain, and feeder creeks flowing into the narrow/upstream sections can raise the river quickly. But when it meets the wider sections of the river downstream; the river level & cfps drop quite quickly.
Over a period of 30 years I did 50 seven day trips on the Eleven Point river with teenage paddlers.
Had to move to higher ground a total of 1 time.
Has some pretty/rustic country, but doesn't require much more than basic canoeing skills.
Seriously, that section from Eminence to Two Rivers is far from sewage. Sure it has it’s challenges, especially after Eminence but I have floated it 3 times in the past year and think it’s rather enjoyable. Mind you, my floats have all been off season and spending 2 nights camping on the gravel bars.
Honestly, smallmouth don’t lie- if the water was that polluted there would be little if any smallmouth in that section. I find it to be great fishing stream from about 1 mile past Eminence all the way to Two Rivers.
I don’t have 55 years experience paddling those streams, but my experience has put me on them a minimum of 35 times.
My favorite section is from the Prongs to Bay Creek- I too would not recommend paddling that section with less than 100 or CFS. That section also drains as fast as it floods- so usually after a flood, within 2-4 days it is at optimal level.
Government agencies such us Missouri Dept of Conservation, and Missouri Dept of Natural Resources have been studying that section of the Jacks Fork for decades. Little to show except great piles of paper, and little enforcement of regulations.
Major problem are fecal coliform bacteria, and the presence of a horse corral "of sorts" that is capable of corralling approx. 3,000 horses. Is is just up the hill from the Jacks Fork river in Emminence. There is likely waste leakage into the river from a substandard sewer system in Emminence. I seriously doubt there is much of a building code on the books to control the construction of substandard sewer systems on campgrounds, motels, or houses built above & below Emminence.
All kinds of nasty stuff flows downhill into the river below Emminence.
If you are happy paddling that section, by all means do so.
I wouldn't personally encourage anyone to do so myself.
In the past warning signs have been posted in that area. They inform the public they should refrain from body contact with the water. The signs typically get torn down.......
The major problem; a "show me the money", keep the river like it is mentality, shown by those hustling the tourist bucks. Many of the big money makers have the politician's ears. The money flow is more important than the river.........
I’ve rowed and paddled on much dirtier
rivers without harm. I don’t see a reason to avoid the stretch below Eminence based on coliform, but one’s threshold for risk is a subjective matter.
Just Got Home From the Current
Paddled the Jack’s from Bay Creek to Emminence 2 weeks ago. Water was 4’ and 800cfs and it was PERFECT. IMHO, I wouldn’t take a loaded boat below 200cfs and a little over 2’ on the Alley gauge:
On the Jack’ from Alley on down this time of the year it’s busy even during the week. We saw several canoes at accesses on the Current today, but probably only a half dozen on the river with 3 rest/lunch/swimming stops.
Eleven Point is definitely less crowded. Beware of leaving your vehicle at accesses though, better to let an outfitter shuttle you. Lots of “Wildlife” of the human variety in that area.
is one of my favorite rivers. I “float” the upper river in mid to late summer when flows are less than 50 cfs at the Buck Hollow gauge, but I’m doing it for the solitude and the fishing then; there’s no denying it’s work, and I’ll be scraping bottom at best and dragging the canoe at worst in nearly every riffle then. Personally, with a loaded canoe, I think you can do it at 100 cfs, but you’ll still be scraping bottom in some riffles.
From the Prongs to Rymers, the riffles are mostly cobble; rocks just big enough to make dodging them a challenge in lower water levels, but riffles are mostly fairly narrow. From Rymers to Bay Creek the riffles widen and become more gravelly, and this gets even worse from Bay Creek to Alley. In low water conditions you have to drag a canoe a LOT.
Alley to Eminence is a rather short stretch that seems even shorter to me because you run out of the scenic riverways and into a lot of tacky development more than a mile above Eminence. The development continues downstream for a couple miles below Eminence, but then the river’s surroundings become quite nice again. Yes, water quality suffers, but I will say that the average person floating it would never guess it, because the water is still clear and seemingly clean. That’s part of the problem…the locals find it easy to convince themselves the river is fine, because it looks okay to them, so they scoff at those who say the horse crap and other stuff is polluting it.
What al_a said…
I concur 100%.
Easy to say…
How many times have you paddled the section in question?
How many times will you paddle it in the future?
Easy to say, “It’s ok; no problem”.
People polluting the river (any river) to garner tourist bucks is not ok in my book.
But what is the actual risk level?
Our local river has coliform, various levels, all the time, but my polls of paddlers and fishermen indicate that people are not experiencing sickness. Of course, sources of pollution should be controlled or stopped, but whether to stop using a section because of pollution is a subjective decision, not a scientific one.
Well, It’s Sad For Me…
…as it used to be my favorite stretch. Not because it’s the most scenic, but it was the closest and I always hammered the smallies there.
When the “Trailride” was an annual thing, that was o.k. A few horses riding there was ok. Heck, many of my friends own horses and I used to ride frequently years ago. But seeing it change so rapidly all over the allmighty dollar… Also, the fact that only the thoughts of those with the most money to bribe “Officials” have been listened to rubs us paddlers in the area the wrong way.
Do I paddle this stretch now? Rarely, I DO, but only during the winter when the only horses out there are the wild herd. Have I ever been ill? No, but I aint swimming in February. People bathe and swim in pollution without getting ill in 3rd world countries too. Seeing a few profit over damaging our area river is something that turns many of our stomachs, EZ.