A Couple Autumn Days in Forest and Stream

Back in October, Steve and I had the pleasure of spending a couple days doing our favorite things in the Missouri Ozarks.  We made our base at our usual, the cabins at Big Spring SP, our last stay here for at least three years as the cabins will be closed for construction.  For our first day, we decided to take care of something that had been on my list for a number of years, to hike the largest official Wilderness Area in the state – the Irish.  Named after the Irish immigrants who settled in this area in the mid nineteenth century, the Irish was visited and pushed for protection by Aldo Leopold himself.  The Irish was finally designated by law as an official wilderness area in 1984 after close to two decades of work by a number of caring people.  This area was virtually cleared of its timber by the early years of the 1900s, but was replanted with its current deciduous hardwood mix by the CCC in the 1930s.

Ozark Bill in the Irish
Ozark Bill in the Irish

Officially listed as 18.4 miles, the Irish Wilderness loop trail is typically tackled with a night or two of backpacking.  Being the athletic super-freaks that we are, Steve and I put down an estimated 22 miles, with some back tracking and assisting a lost backpacker (a GPS unit with topographic map display is quite the asset here), in about 16 hours.  It would have been more enjoyable with a night or two sleeping in the woods and spending more time, but we had other plans in store as well.  The image below is from an overlook of the Eleven Point River at close to the halfway point of the hike.  I will never forget standing here in the late afternoon light with hundreds of ladybird beetles covered the rocks and filled the air.

The Eleven Point
The Eleven Point

Covering 20 miles in a single day does not leave much time for taking photos.  After getting some much appreciated sleep back at the cabin, we arose early to arrive at Richard’s Canoes to be in the water by ~07:30.  We put in at Greer Spring Access (mile 16.6) and had the day to move the ~12 miles to our take out at Whiten Access (mile 27.6).  The Eleven Point offers a perfect mix of slower moving stretches and deep pools mixed with just enough class 2 rapids to keep things interesting.  Make sure to bring along some wet bags if carrying delicate camera or other electronic equipment.  We were offered autumn views like this around nearly every bend.

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Autumn on the Eleven Point

As if the landscape and feelings of being on the river were not enough, the wildlife opportunity are surely the highlights for a float trip like this, assuming you are quite and keep your eyes open.  This White-tailed buck was moving upstream when Steve spotted him.

Swimming Buck
Swimming Buck

Of course the birds will be abundant along any Missouri Ozark stream at any time of year.  We were thrilled to see this Osprey come in to perch nearby as we floated.

Osprey
Osprey

Within a couple of miles from our take-out point, we were presented with our pièce de résistance for the float, two groups of River Otters!  The images below are the first group, a mom and four pups.  These animals were venturing out of their den to play in the day’s last light.

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Three Pups

The pups seemed not too concerned, but mom kept a close eye on the floating log with ugly heads.

Otter Family
Otter Family
Otter Family II
Otter Family II

These guys will turn anything into a toy… 😉

Playing with a Twig...
Playing with a Twig…

I leave you with a sunset from the nearby Big Spring State Park and eternal thanks to those who worked so hard against heavy opposite forces so that, at a minimum, we have what we have today.

The day is almost upon us when canoe travel will consist in paddling up the noisy wake of a motor launch and portaging through the back yard of a summer cottage.  When that day comes canoe travel will be dead, and dead too will be a part of our Americanism…

-Aldo Leopold-

Wild Horizons
Wild Horizons

 

 

 

 

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Nesting Birds of Missouri – Kentucky Warbler

The Kentucky Warbler’s chury, chury, chury can sometimes be difficult to discern from the songs of the Ovenbird or the Carolina Wren.  This warbler builds its nest usually just off the ground, confined within heavy vegetation, and often are parasitized by Brown-headed Cowbird.  This guy was coaxed out with a little playback in a woody thicket near the parking lot at Greer Spring.  Check out the short tail, easily evident in this photo, which is a good field mark for this species.

Kentucky Warbler
Kentucky Warbler

Nesting Birds of Missouri – Hooded Warbler

Weeta-weeta-wee-teo!

The male Hooded Warbler’s song can be heard within the Ozark National Scenic Riverways longer into the heat of the day than many other songbirds.  This guy, singing alongside quite a few other males occupying adjacent territories, was photographed on the Greer Spring Trail this spring.

Hooded Warbler
Hooded Warbler
Hooded Warbler
Hooded Warbler
Hooded Warbler
Hooded Warbler

Nesting Birds of Missouri – Worm-eating Warbler

From Harrison on the Worm-eating Warbler nest: “On the ground, concealed under drifts of leaves, usually protected overhead by shrubs, briars, saplings.  Built of skeletonized leaves; lined with hair moss (Polytrichium), fine grass, hair.  Typically on hillside or bank of ravine.”  As cryptic as the birds themselves, the nest of a Wormy would only be found with the combination of utmost patience and fortune.  If found, it has been reported that one can get quite close to the nest, the female only flushing if touched!

Click here to listen to the Worm-eating Warbler song.

Worm-eating Warbler
Worm-eating Warbler
Worm-eating Warbler
Worm-eating Warbler

Location Spotlight: Turner’s Grist Mill & Spring

Technical details: Canon EOS 50D camera, EF17-40mm f/4L IS USM lens @ 21mm, ISO 160,  f/16, Photomatix-HDR blend of 6-images


Turner’s Mill Spring lies deep in the Missouri Ozarks in Oregon County near the town of Winona.  The mill building and the whole supporting town of Surprise no longer exist; the ~25 foot tall overshot wheel, gears and concrete flume are the only obvious signs this location was ever inhabited.

Technical details: Canon EOS 50D camera, EF17-40mm f/4L IS USM lens @ 17mm, ISO 200,  f/13, 1.3 sec


The immensity of the wheel and gears lying on the creek floor stirs the imagination into dreaming of what it took to get these materials to this rugged area in the middle of the 19th century.  I believe the area was dramatically cut and major roads (for the time) were installed.  The area now has been taken back by the forest and is a beautiful part of the public land of this area that includes the nearby Irish Wilderness, Ozark National Scenic Riverways, Missouri’s second largest spring – Greer Spring, and much more.

Technical details: Canon EOS 50D camera, EF17-40mm f/4L IS USM lens @ 35mm, ISO 160,  f/16, 3.2 sec

How did the town of Surprise get its unusual name?  It was named because of Mr. Turner’s astonishment that the petition he made for a U.S. Post office in his little dream town was approved.  The spring was used to power the area’s grist mill(s) from about 1850 until 1940.  Following the retirement of the mill the town of Surprise rapidly dispersed and Mother Nature quickly took over.  The image above shows the effluent about 500 feet or so from the exit of the spring’s mouth as it escapes down the side of a rather steep hill.

Technical details: Canon EOS 50D camera, EF17-40mm f/4L IS USM lens @ 27mm, ISO 160,  f/14, 1.6 sec

Here you can see the outlet of the spring as it flows at an average rate of 1.5 million gallons per day from the mouth of a cave.  This cave, which is located at the base of a 460 foot bluff is another reason that this area is a must-visit.  The lighting and other circumstances did not allow me to make any good photographs showing this steep bluff, but I look forward to trying to capture this one day.  If you look closely you can see some of the rock and concrete work that was used to shape the flume as well as the metal gate just inside the cave to keep modern knuckleheads from hurting themselves and the natural delicacies that reside within the cave.

Technical details: Canon EOS 50D camera, EF17-40mm f/4L IS USM lens @ 20mm, ISO 160,  f/14, 1/15 sec

A very quick walk following the creek that this spring creates takes you to this location where it empties into the Eleven Point River.  This river is a favorite of fishermen and float trippers and is an example of one of the prime waterways that can be found in the Missouri Ozarks.  The Turner Mill Recreation Area is a high quality habitat where an abundance of spring wildflowers and wildlife reside.  A day or weekend visit to this location is definitely worth the travel and I cannot wait to pay another visit.