Jacks Fork

Hey folks,

I had a great float this weekend on the upper Jacks Fork. We were supposed to have a pretty substantial amount of people with us for this trip, but as the rain fell and the temperature dropped our ranks were quickly depleted. By Friday afternoon it was down to my brother Jacob, his wife Jennifer, her best friend Kristy and me. For all you guys that bailed on us- a couple girls that had their nails done had the gonads to roll. You should all be ashamed of yourselves.

We put in at 17 Bridge at about 11:00a.m. Saturday and the water was up (260cfs) but not rolling. With the girls up in the front of the boats and a plethora of overnight gear we were not exactly heavy but we were working on it. Taking that into account we moved at a nice clip and only had to work a little in the deep and wide parts of the river. Dragging was never an issue so the only times I stepped foot out of the boat were at Ebb and Flow spring, Jam Up and a few undisclosed caves…

About 3:00pm we decided to pull off and make camp as we had already passed the halfway point, just below Teacher Camp (Bunker Hill) around 37.067557,-91.545596. We set up well above the normal floodplain. This was an excellent spot with lots of good tree cover and good flat ground made up of that fine crushed rock that is the cat’s pajamas to sleep on. We had pulled the boats up well above the water line but by the time we got camp set up and a fire built, the water was at the back of them and running nicely at a little over 1000cfs.

After pulling the boats on up into camp I changed into some dry clothes. I started to set down and crack a beer but then I heard something, turned around and BAM- a wide trail that ran back up the hill was sitting there running its mouth. I tried to ignore it but then it said something about my mother and it was on…. Long story short, if you are ever on this float take the time to walk this trail. It heads west a couple hundred yards then cuts back east and heads up the hill, levels out and heads west again. Through the trees to the south you will start to see one of my favorite things ever- nothing. No more trees, just sky. I knocked a buzzard off its perch and sat down on the edge for awhile. Right around 37.070074,-91.550392.

The water came up a bit more and then held steady around dark. There was a little shower early Sunday morning but nothing of any consequence. After bacon and eggs we emptied water and extra ice out of coolers, that combined with the food consumed and beer drank the night before made for some good savings on weight, then we broke camp, loaded the boats and pushed off- to awesomness.

I have been floating that river since I was five years old, not once has it been up like that. With lots of gear in the boat and a novice up front I can definitely say it would have been a bad deal to go over. That said it was really no problem making our way down river. On several occasions I had water come over the front and rear of the boat and there were several spots that made me very thankful we did not have a big group of partiers on the river with us. In a little over two hours we reached take out at Ally Springs with paddles only in the water for set up and steering. Good Times.

In conclusion:

I have been down a lot of rivers in the mid west and in my personal opinion there is not one that comes close to rivaling the picturesque scenery, caves, springs and water quality of the upper Jacks Fork.

That said,

  1. Unless the water is up like it was in this instance, I wouldn’t waste your time in a sport kayak. This is more of a sightseeing river than anything.
  2. While it is beautiful, toward the middle of the year it is shallow. I don’t mind so much because of the other perks. But with a lot of gear, expect a lot of walking your boat over shoals.
  3. There are a few places people can drive into. For camp sites I generally avoid these like the plague. But I like things nice and quiet.
  4. If you like to paddle you can make this trip in a day easily, but I recommend seeing the sights and definitely getting some casting in if that floats your boat (no pun intended).
  5. One of my favorite things about this stretch of river is the complete lack of people. I took five days to float it solo last summer and only saw two people- an old man and his grandson that had hiked in to their super top secret fishing spot. I love that!
  6. Take a camera, you won’t regret it.
  7. If you have read this far, work must be pretty boring today.

were on the jacks fork in mid april and the river was low and getting lower. lots of bumps and drags until we got past ally springs. it is a beautiful river and a great float nontheless. sounds like you had a great trip. thanks for the memories your report stirred up. we floated on down to the current and then to big springs where we took out.

about the Current River? You ever float it? What sections? I love the Jacks also!!!

the current from the confluence of jacks fork down to big springs. while the current is a beautiful river, i like the eleven point and jacks fork better–just a bit narrower, just a bit wilder. can’t go wrong with any of them.

Shannon County Rivers
Shawhh, that is generally the story with the upper Jacks Fork through most of the year. The opportune time to float it is fall through early spring. That said- if you have never seen that part of the country when the leaves are turning, do it. Take a camera because I would almost guarantee a picture of the red mill at Ally Springs surrounded by golden leaves and blue water will end up set as your desktop- if not hanging above your mantel. I love that place- my parents actually got married there back in the seventeen hundreds (sorry mom, dad).

As shawhh said- the water level of the Jacks Fork below Ally Springs is never an issue. If I remember right Ally dumps in around eighty million gallons of spring water a day. The water level comes up and temperature drops. Just as it is with the Current, more water equals more people; though not as many as the Current gets.

Yes, I have spent a lot of time on the Current River as well. It is much bigger and faster than the Jacks Fork, especially the Jacks Fork above Ally Spring. The water temperature is much cooler on the Current River due to the incredible amount of spring water that puts into it. This also makes the water level pretty consistent year around, which translates to more people on the river. It has some beautiful scenery, but I think the upper Jack smokes it. Due to the number of people that float the Current as opposed to the Jacks Fork, most think of the Jack as just a tributary to the Current. Thus on the national level, the Current River is considered the jewel of the Ozarks while the Jacks Fork is just a creek that puts into it. That of course, is fine by me. Let the loud, drunk parties go down the Current- I will gladly keep the Jacks Fork all to myself! – and of course fellow paddel.net members.

Thanks for the report
Nicely done report! It sounds like you had a great time, that’s nice to hear.

I’ve known now for many years; women make the best paddling partners. They’re tougher, more likely to be adventurous, less likely to wimp out, and much better smelling.


Nice Report!
We were just down there also and again didn’t do the Jack’s. I’ve done the Buck Hollow through, what’s it called, Fish Creek(?) take out section four times and loved it every single time. That really is a spectacular little river. Jam-Up cave is something else. I still have the Prongs to Buck Hollow on my “to do” list.

Its the logistics (We usually camp at Pulltite or Round Spring which makes for a long shuttle run) and water level that discourages us. Plus, the Current isn’t usually crowded in the off season, weekdays, and in the rain. But I think the Jack’s is prettier. Perhaps I’ve just grown too familiar with the Current and am no longer surprised by its beauty - I’m starting to take it for granted.

You guys have the nicest darned rivers down there in the Ozarks. They really are ideal for paddling. Its really no wonder they were the first Natnl. Protected Scenic Riverways.

Thanks for such a nice report. Feel almost like I was along.

More Stuff, and a rant.
Thank you for the comments folks. It definitely makes it worth writing if a person gets some enjoyment out of it. Would do another one over last weekend but I only did a little day trip with some how should I say it “less seasoned” friends of mine. Long story short, spent a half hour paddling around the next shoal picking up beer and paddles. But I have to say it was entertaining. I spent all day Sunday sailing, finally got my first sunburn of the year… and managed to do well over the boats hull speed. Good times.

Mark- I know right! If I could just find one that would not freak out every time a spider gets on her or a Cotton Mouth comes swimming toward the boat I would be set. I have finally started giving a preliminary speech before I shove off with a new girl in the boat- “Would you rather stay calm and paddle away from the snake or end up in the water with the snake and an overturned boat?” of course I have to throw a little fear factor in after we get going “Oh I have seen them crawl right up paddles before, but that beats the heck out of one falling into your boat from an overhanging branch… Hey watch your head going through this shoal right here.” It’s probably counterproductive, but very enjoyable to watch.

PJC- Maybe your thinking of Buck Hollow down to Bay Creek? Then there is Fish Trap between there and Ally Springs but no one takes out there. Jam up is an awesome sight to behold. It is one of those things that pictures just cannot do justice. When we were in there on our float there was a young doe with her hind quarters eaten shoved under a big rock towards the back. Maybe they need to post a “Beware of big cats” sign. Oh wait, the state still denies (officially) that “they have any evidence of a viable, breeding population of mountain lions in Missouri”. LOL!

If Mountain Lions could speak (in English)… and were not territorial… and females breed year around… and they did what the M.D.C. basically insinuates… so, this is pure fiction-

Patrick - Hey Steve I see you made it back. How was your weekend?

Steve - Oh, it was pretty good. Ran down to Arkansas to see Kelly, turns out she is gonna have cubs again.

Patrick - Congratulations! When are they due?

Steve – Two months. So it looks like I can make one more trip down before she has the litter and then she doesn’t want me around for a year or so cause I’ll eat them.

Patrick- That’s rough- you still have that chick on the side up in western Iowa?

Steve- Yea but I am not too sure about that trip. I mean, crossing I44 to get back and fourth to Arkansas is one thing- but I70 headed to Iowa is a real pain- especially when you tack on the extra three hundred miles.

Patrick- Well, that’s life man. Too bad Missouri says we can’t do anything but just kinda run around up here.

Ohhh man, that one always gets me going.

A Bay Creek tale
Yup, That’s it… just forgot the name of the landing - its been a while. Nice landing though.

Last time I was there we’d had a really odd weather day - hail and wind followed by sun and some heat. All that after the long shuttle. I don’t think we even got on the water much before noon. Pnetters WildernessWebb, Durangoski, Boyscout, and I were the party - I think that was all of us along that day. Everyone else had stayed on the Current. We were slower getting down the river than we’d expected after losing time sitting out the storm. (Near Rymer Spring as I recall)

It was dusk when we saw the first picnic tables and the john at the Bay Creek campground. “Can’t be far to the landing” we thought. Durangoski sped on ahead (he’s a very fast paddler when he wants to be) to get the trailer down to the landing so we didn’t have to do too much loading in the dark.

And we just kept paddling and it just kept getting darker. We’d only planned for a day trip. We were concerned enough that we started taking inventory of what we had along in case we had to spend the night sitting around a fire on the river. WW was kicking himself for not having brought more food.

We started joking about the Donner Party and I think I had them convinced that I was too skinny to make a good meal. We pulled over briefly to check the map - could we have paddled past the landing? Boyscout saw a place where a deer trail led past a tree. We thought that one of us might stand behind the tree until a deer came along and then we could poke it with the Buck 110 we had along and then have dinner. A fine plan. That won’t work - back to plan A, cannibalism.

But it really was getting dark, the river was turning away from the picnic tables we’d passed quite a ways behind, we were all getting a tad impatient for the landing. Better paddle. Faster wouldn’t hurt. The impatience and uncertainty reminded me of an article, a public apology really, I’d read about a fellow who got trapped, stuck between floors in an elevator, and grew impatient and uncertain after about 15 minutes . It was titled “Perhaps I was hasty in resorting to cannibalism.” I shared that as we sped on down the river. That’s one heck of a long meander around the Bay Creek campground.

We pulled in in the last bit of light, stars beginning to appear, just above that little riffle downstream from the Bay Creek landing laughing so hard we almost cried.

Great times to be had on that river…

nice story, Pat!
I’m glad it has a happy ending! I’m rather fond of all youse guys … besides, starvation is S L O W …

& ALL y’alls are too durn skinney fer good eaten’ enyways!

…besides, I seem to remember the Coast Guard rescuing you from a RIVER in ILLINOIS!

If the Coast Guard saw fit to resue a couple of corn-fed Illinois kids SURELY they would have found y’all in Missouri! They carry compasses, ya know!

Yup, never having taken out at Bay Creek (the only Jack’s Fork landing below Buck Hollow I was unfamiliar with) I was certain we were paddling on down to Alley in the dark (LOL)! If you recall, Pat, the first time I took you on the Jack’s we took out at Eminence at dusk; secondary to a late start and a certain Texan’s unfortunate “Spill” from her kayak!

I USED to paddle the Jack’s Fork to Two Rivers quite a bit, being only a little over an hour from home. Unfortunately, now, horse puckey is more common than my beloved smallies I used to fish for on that stretch. That upper river is still really special, though. And Pat, I believe 'ol Boyscout WAS sizing you up for a possible meal, lean meat or not (LOL)! TW

Good times
You know, I remember taking out at Eminence a couple of times, but I don’t recall where we put in. That must have been back when we were still camping at Round Spring. Long time ago it seems…

But we never saw signs of mountain lion kill… that’s really remarkable. I sure do envy lblackburn that. Its comforting to hear about the return of rare wildlife to an area. Gives one hope for the future.

Jack’s Fork this weekend
I really enjoyed your post about the Jack’s Fork. I am actually taking my whole family (8 of us) there for an overnighter on the river - Buck Hollow to Bay Creek. I am thinking of setting up camp somewhere down river of jam-up but up river from Rhymers. Is there a particular gravel bar you recommend we camp? Maybe one you really like more then any others? We are flexible enough to camp on just about any gravel bar but I thought I would ask.

Any other advice is appreciated. Thanks!

jhughes- The best advice I can give for now is go LEFT. I can’t be positive because the water was up but I know that every time the river split we took the left side (unless right was obvious) and it always worked out. After going through a split I always look back up river to check the side I did not take and the vast majority of the time there were trees down on the right side.

If you have kids or inexperienced paddlers along there is a spot you will want to walk the boats through. Last summer the river cut a new path through the woods and it makes for a scary shoal to go down (especially with a full load of gear). Coming to it you will notice a broad dry gravel bar running off to your right- the old river bed. The water runs into a dirt bank and you will start to see some big root wads and the remnants of all the trees they cut out. Use your judgment on this one. It is not as bad as it was last year. I’m just saying……

As far as campsites go, it is just going to depend on what you are looking for. Does a good campsite mean a smooth gravel bar with a view and a good hole of water to swim in? Or is a good site up out of the light flood plane with plenty of cover and lots of flat ground for tents?

Jhughes & PJC

– Last Updated: May-27-10 12:18 PM EST –

Jhughes, there is usually a nice gravel bar river left when you see this bluff in the picture. NOTE, my friend is pointing UP stream in the pic. It is probably about 4-6 miles above Alley. Maybe lblackburn will jump in and tell you if this gravel bar is still there (it has been there for a looooong time, but rivers change!) ALWAYS make a survey of "Escape routes" and have a plan and alternate plan when camping on the Jacks, it can come up very fast. Have fun on the Jack's, I'm headed to the North Fork.

Pat, we put in at Alley Spring a few times when the Rendezvous site was Round Spring. We also did one of my old favorite paddles, Shawnee (Jack's Fork) to Powder Mill Ferry AKA Owl's Bend

Oh, and lblackburn, are you talking about that "New" spot (new in the last few years) where the river makes that left turn and drops a couple feet?

Here's that pic of the Bluff near the gravel bar and a link to some other Jack's Fork pics. WW


gravel bars
Thanks for the advice! I believe I know the spot you speak. My buddy and I went through it last year and we have to “save” 4 young ladies who had a canoe jammed under I tree in that spot. They were ok but if we hadn’t come by they might have been spending the night on the river or walking out, because it was around 5:00pm by that time and I think we were the last ones by!!

My “ideal” camping spot for this trip would be a gravel bar by a larger hole with cliffs for swimming and some fishing to do at dusk and morning. Jam up might be “ideal” with all the water in front of the cave but chances are there will be others camping there plus I know there will be tons of activity there.

Do you know of a specific place we can camp down river of jam up that sounds like that? If not, no problem.

jhuges- Sorry I didn’t get back to you bud, left town early Thursday and where I go- there is not internet :wink:

How did it go?

wildernesswebb- It could be the same place, lots of stumps sticking up throughout the run, fast moving (for the jacks fork) and pretty narrow. Was talking to a guy this weekend that pulled a couple folks canoe off a stump through there last summer.

I think
I know what tricky section you are talking about- I like to call it “chainsaw jungle” because of all the downed trees and rootwads that are in there. It can be real tricky if you are inexperienced- it’s just below Jam Up Cave.

When I was there last month- there were 2 canoes flipped and 3 were lining it on through to be safe. It’s not too hard of a spot, but if the water is up and you are inexperienced it can be a dandy!

Jacks Fork
Just returned from my first trip on the Jacks Fork River. It was beautiful!!! I cannot wait to return. We did a short float trip from Horse Camp (1 or 2 miles downriver from Alley Springs} to Eminence. We floated right to our little cabin we rented. Took about 4.5 hours with stops. I cannot stop thinking about it. Next trip I hope to canoe and camp/fish along the way!

So many sections to float. I also want to try the Current. My parents and brothers will love this place! I think the Ozark National Scenic Riverways will be my new home!!! Just Awesome!