Most "underwhelming" trip?

What was your most underwhelming trip you’ve taken?

For me, it was the Spring River in SW MO. The Hawksley guide made the river sound interesting and fun with some nice riffles, some willow jungles, etc.

I got the riffles and the jungles, but the river just did not interest me at all.

While there are paddling venues that I am more excited by, I don’t think I have been been really disappointed by any particular place. I enjoy getting out for some alone time to commune with something larger.

Now a trip that involves paddling partners, the quality/attributes of those “partners” often make or break a trip, regardless of the venue. LOL!



As I’ve found so often,
when under the whelm,
along many a course,
twas myself at the helm,

where disappointment and doubt,
put their clouds to my sky,
where remained many vivid blue wonders,
if I but opened mind’s eye

Although there was that one family trip to the Outer Banks where under cloudless, sweltering August skies, I shepherded five family members in our three canoes across Alligator River wide-open flats. No interesting cypress channels to paddle up, shoreline canopy shade dappled-thin and fleeting in the midday, wildlife sitings scarce, save for the greenhead flies and hornets (the kind with sparrowhawks and sidewinders clinging to their wings) screaming overhead, I guess we weren’t as much underwhelmed as oversweltered. My relations were gracious but bored. Me? Spotting one basking Slider and several stooping ospreys did the trick. Even the ground-sortie practice runs of the F-18s was fairly cool, if not too darn loud. Sometimes ya gotta kick those lemons along down the road before they become sqeezably softened-up for lemonade makin’.

“The Trough” is a standing joke I have with a couple of friends. Annually we camp out at seneca rocks over an extended Easter Weekend and ww boat the likes of seneca creek, hopeville canyon, the cruisers course, cheat narrows, smoke hole, dry branch, glady fork, etc… One year, the water was low and dropping each day, so we ventured over to the south fork of the potomac with the knowledge that we were boating a class 1-2 river but the wv canoeing and kayaking guide stated “this trip is a must for everyone who loves the West Virginia Outdoors.” The guidebook has several lines about “the ledge” and large standing waves. Needless to say, we were underwhelmed by the ww and while the scenery is nice, heck we even spotted an eagle, but we thought the write up was way over done with “the vistas are ever changing and provide spectacular scenery, especially in the spring…” So now after we do a “new to me” run we always jest about how it compares to the trough! I have the deserved reputation of dragging my ww brethren onto flatwater scenic runs, which afterwards they always let me know that it is a “one and done.”

Next time try the uppermost put in on the Buffalo river( quite close to the Spring river), after a heavy rain.
That likely won’t “underwhelm” you.
Good luck.


P.S. Be sure to wear your pfd, and helmet, bag out your canoe, carry a first aid kit, and the gear necessary to set up a haul system.

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Only thing that makes a trip on any water underwhelming is when wildlife does not show itself.

For example last week I launched to go upstream on a river. Once leaving the small oxbow where we launch/recover, there was a juvenile bald eagle alone high in a dead pine tree to greet me. Oh boy, birding will be great today - 7 miles up to the inches deep sandy beaches and back on a beautiful river over the course of four hours there couldn’t have been more than 3 or 4 great blue herons, one cattle egret, and a handful of song birds and amazingly no (zero) kingfishers or osprey. No deer or gators or rare river otters either. Even normally reliable gar and other fish were shy. And, thankfully no serpents falling from trees. All in all a fun paddle & excited to see the juvenile eagle, just a bit underwhelmed when the normal players did not show themselves.

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Great poem and post! The last line sums up many outings, kayaking or hiking, in which I felt blah about the surroundings. Then, LO—suddenly nature tossed me a Gotcha, Caughtcha Napping moment. It could be animal, vegetable, mineral, or cloud; it could be sight or sound or sweet flower scent.

The only time I ever spotted Kelvin-Heimholst clouds occured near the end of a very routine walk from home. I can’t name all the birds, mammals, fish, and lizards that hit the Wake Up! button in my mind.

Now imagine if I were already fully present at all times. The number of fascinating things and events in the natural world has to be much, much more than we can fathom.

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Catch the Spring when its actually up and it won’t either, but it takes a lot of H2O. If the falls at Hardy look like you need to climb down them, take a hard pass. The Buffalo, Big Piney and Mulberry are way more fun in low water.

This was the other Spring River, down by Joplin.

When I was a kid I was introduced to canoeing in Canada on fishing trips, but a lot of my regular paddling was in northern Illinois between Peoria and what are now the most western suburbs of Chicago. It was all corn field back then. I think its safe to say that almost anyone here would agree that a lot of those rivers are underwhelming. Rapids? Riffles? Don’t make me laugh… And back then they were quite polluted as well. The rivers were, however, by far the most interesting thing around. There was some wildlife - herons, owls, carp and bullheads.
The last time I visited one of them the waters were much cleaner and there were skipjacks, frogs, but the most abundant wild life species were silver carp. These are those jumping carp that you may have seen videos of - and they are detestable. If that’s the wildlife, I can live without it.
But what I had forgotten was that where the rivers flowed through larger towns there were remains of the factories and businesses that were originally built to ship and receive their goods from barges and flat boats on the river. The “front” of the stores now face the streets, largely invisible from the water, and the backs are often half buried in stuff that is being stored or forgotten, but paddling past is a bit of a trip back in time - the brick factories with the sky lights and loading cranes, or the remains of their bases, rails leading to the base of these used to haul heavy loads of machinery, coal, whatever, are still there. You can still see, of course, where the barges tied up for loading and the anchor points where they were secured… Its like paddling through an early twentieth century heavily industrialized ghost town. Well actually its not like that, it is that.
Lots of lives were lived in those factories, lots of children raised on their output, lots of people used their products, and it all shipped on the barges and earlier flat boats that loaded right there on those banks… And that can be a bit “whelming” even if the wildlife isn’t. This is our history. Almost every bit of our country, of course, was first accessed from the waters we now paddle. Logging or mining or factories all have left their traces. On the river I live closest to now all the rail road bridges have a section that is geared so that it can be rotated. Those gears are there as the result of a legal battle over shipping. Rail roads were building their bridges low enough to prevent the smokestacks of river boats from passing underneath, thereby cutting river boats out of the shipping competition. The courts, I’m told, mandated the gears so that river traffic would not be impeded, even though the river in question was normally too shallow to allow river boats for most of its distance except during spring high water. And there are still metal rings attached to some of the bluffs where log rafts were tied… There’s all of human history, heck prehistory too, in a given area tied in with all the rivers we paddle. And that can be overwhelming if we dwell on it, even if the rapids and wildlife aren’t.


My grandaughter and I drove a couple of hours to paddle Lake Erie Metropark at the mouth of the Detroit River. It turned out that exploring all the back channels was nowhere near as interesting as it looked on Google Earth. All we saw was miles of an impenetrable Phragmites wall, an invasive species whose pure stands exclude all forms of wildlife. The big water was more interesting but too scary for my granddaughter.

Still, we got to see Journey’s famous South Detroit, aka Ontario, across the way.

If I can get out on the water, I don’t think I have ever had a bad paddling trip.
The closest I can think of was over 20 years ago when my sons were involved in scouting. I got appointed as a canoeing merit badge counselor when we lived in Tucson Arizona. Tucson is not exactly the greatest paddling location in the world. We did several overnight campouts at resevoir that sits almost on the Mexican border. The “lake” was filled with some kind of weed like duckweed, full of moss, and when the kids had to capsize and recover the canoes for part of the merit badge requirements they came out of the water covered in green slime and weeds. I was worried they were going to catch some kind of amoeba disease from the stagnant water. Demonstrating rescues was not fun in the slime. The bright side of this trip was the scoutmaster was a chef for a famous restaurant and he cooked all of the adult leaders the best camping fajitas i have ever had. My son’s friend collected about 20 giant hairy scorpions in a bottle in the first 15 minutes we set up camp. I chose to sleep in my truck bed at that point. In the middle of the night a pack of coyotees roamed through the camp grabbing any kind of food they could find that teenage boys had left lying around. At about three in the morning some immigrants from Mexico ran through the camp chased by immigration officers with guns. The people being chased apologized in Spanish as they were tripping on tent guy-lines and tripping over gear the scouts had left lying around. Driving out of the camping area the next day I got two flat tires on my truck and had to have somebody take me into a tiny town to get the tires patched.


Sounds like “National Lampoon” version of scout camping trip in southern CA. :clown_face:


I have never been on an underwhelming river. Sometimes it rains a lot, sometimes the flow is too high, sometimes boats capsize, but it is never boring. I have been running rivers for 58 years. Sometimes the wrong people can be a challenge, especially on longer trips of say a week.

I hope that green slime washed off easily, yuck. The one time I paddled at Barr Lake, the kayak got greencoated; hosing it off did not suffice. I had to use elbow grease. Then someone told me that Barr originally had been a pristine large prairie pothole, till it was marshaled for storage of raw sewage. That ended, but with no drainage OUT, the water was still nasty decades later.

OK—think I just remembered my Underwhelmed paddle trip! Thanks…I think. :nauseated_face:

BTW, it’s the tiny, pale yellow scorpions sitting underneath rocks that are really dangerous in southern AZ.

It was a while ago. When my kayak trips often were selected by what ladies were going on the paddle. Shamefull I know…This one club paddle was to see dolphins, birds, and other wild life. Those with kayaks were to pay $15 for the “guide”. In the end we launched paddled less than a mile and stopped at the local fort since we arrived at low tide and the creek with the wildlife was dry…errrr muddy. The paddle was at my old fishing ground. I think I knew it better than the guide . And the particular lady in attendance thing didn’t work out. .

I forgot about Barr Lake. When we lived in Denver my oldest son was about 7 -14 years old, when we first arrived I saw an article about Barr lake and eagles that nested there. We made several trips there since it was about a 25 minute drive from my house., and it was great for watching water fowl and eagles. Yes the water was foul, and some of the jets seemed to be maybe 200 ft above the water approaching the airport but we had a good time. There were several families from Cambodia and Laos who fished in the lake all the time. We decided to try fishing a few times and gave our catch to some of the older ladies who hnng around on shore. One day we hooked a monster, I’m not sure what it was sucker, carp, sturgeon … not sure, but it eventually snapped the line and we never got it in the boat (I was personally happy about not trying to get that thing out of the water. We did have some great trips paddling on the Platte, and Chatfield Res. I think my favorite spot was Brainard lake up in the Indian Peaks. Blue Mesa was a really good trip, but quite a drive.