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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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!
- Take a camera, you won’t regret it.
- If you have read this far, work must be pretty boring today.