The River Journal Chapter 20 The Second Leg Begins

 

Back from Dallas and raring to give the River another shot my first stop was to check in with my shuttle friends at the Cotter Trout Dock…..

When I had a chance, I asked the owner if they had the tackle for setting up a “White River Rig”. I had not forgotten the previous nights’ lesson. Those guys shore fishing had done well. It seemed everyone caught fish on their special “white river rigs”.  I hadn’t even gotten a bite. But given my history with any thing that required patience, it wasn’t surprising. The Trout Dock had it all. There was power bait, corn, sinkers and small trout hooks. She sold me the gear and then showed me how to rig up the famous “White River Rig”.

I finally pushed off around noon. The water was warmer but still cold. The air temp was getting fairly hot. The sun was bright with sunburn was a definite threat. The water had continued to drop since early morning. Now we were starting to get into the low water version of the flooded river I dealt with last trip. This ought to be interesting. I checked the dad-burned GPS. Yes, it was working this time. I’d made sure there were freshly charged batteries and the settings had been installed with the help of the factory tech.

The little canoe made its way from the dock to the current. I pulled the starter cord and she kicked right off. Away we went at a whopping three and one half miles per hour. That included help from the current. The last time we left that bay, I think we went to almost 10 miles per hour like it or not. It was quite a difference. But the most significant change was the ability to see more than twenty-five yards. I could actually see the banks and scenery ! Great, I would finally be able to do a little photography. So far shooting had been shut out due to rain and fog.

As we traveled down the river I became aware of a new challenge. Instead of flying three to eight feet above the shoals and big rocks, I was now dodging them. Uh oh, this is not going to be a walk in the park. I was concerned about hitting the composite propeller against the rocks and breaking it in pieces or worse twisting the drive shaft. I wasn’t too worried about dragging the bottom of the canoe on the rocks as I felt it had been built to take that type abuse. (I had no idea the canoe’s age made it’s hull very brittle.) My major concern was twisting the motor off the brackets if I hit it on the rocks.

(Edit note: Months later, as I patched the bottom of the boat I realized the old royalex skin was not able to take that type abuse.)

Oh well, at least I was able to take my time and guide the boat a little better. I would try to be vigilant and read the water. If I read it far enough ahead I should have time to miss whatever was coming up. The trip wasn’t a cruise through a park lake, but it sure was an improvement over the last time down the river. I was actually enjoying learning to read the water. It was much easier at this speed.

I’d been told to watch for the eagles flying around Ranchettes’ Access. Somehow or another I couldn’t quite figure out where I was when I was supposed to be passing the Ranchettes area. The map I was using and my GPS were offering two opinions while my brain offered a third. Amazing ! Here I am with a lap full maps and this high dollar GPS and I can’t figure out where the hell I am. I think I passed the Ranchettes’ Access without ever seeing it. I must have been studying my map too closely or something. But I did see the birds. As I was cruising past a boat load of local fishermen I spotted two Eagles swooping and diving around of a big wooded bluff. They would swoop down close to the river then swing upward with the same pent-up energy of a roller coaster.

The pair were apparently swooping near a nest in the trees along the ridge then frolicking as gliders all along the hills and the river below. I watched them with great anticipation. I was getting closer, my little motor humming along as quiet as possible. Soon one of the big guys swept low across the river, then turned almost straight up as it climbed up and over the ridge on river right. Then it was gone. I turned to watch the other and it had disappeared into the trees on the ridge where I had suspected a nest. No birds. I wasn’t close enough to get a good look. I’d called them to the attention of the fishermen.

I had been quiet excited and shouted over to the other boat “Hey, look at the eagles.” I was proud I had spotted them and they had been sitting there all along and had not seen the big birds. I thought my old eagle eyes were back. The guy who could always spot animals before everybody else was back on his game. I was kind of puffed up about it.

I reached a curve in the river and was surprised to see fifteen or twenty Eagles flying around the ridge and river. Then I saw another ten or so on the river bank just standing around something. Uh, oh. What a fool. Now I was close and my suspicions were becoming reality. Turkey vultures. Dammit! I revved up the little motor and moved down the river as fast as the little boat would carry me. I didn’t dare look back to see if the locals were falling out of the boat laughing. I could just hear them laughing at that old flat lander who didn’t know a buzzard from an eagle. Oh woe is me, I’ve done it again.

There was mercy in the noise of the little engine. Thankfully, I couldn’t hear the laughter at this speed. The redness in my face was not sunburn this time. Oh well, another day, another little adventure.

Next up Buffalo City and a little commentary that’s been a long time in coming.

 

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The River Journal Chapter 19 The End of the First Leg

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The River Journal Chapter 18 The drive home.

The trip was going very well. I stopped in Clinton for coffee and then again somewhere south of Little Rock but mostly just kept the hammer down listening to the XM jazz station. Sometimes XM will play good stuff on bluesville or Bill Wax will have a guest and I get to enjoy whatever blues trivia they kick up. I always check into Bluesville first.

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The River Journal Chapter 17 Norfork, Arkansas end of the first leg.


After the bluff I had to start paying more attention to guiding the little canoe I called “Proud Mary”. The map showed highway 341 crossing the river. The bridge was a tall one. I was surprised at the expense and the expanse. Not long after the 341 would be the town of Norfork and the mouth of the Norfork River.

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The River Journal Chapter 16 Smith’s Island to Shipp’s Ferry..a wonderful day


I was in no hurry as I pushed off from Smith Island. If all went well, the metropolis of Norfork, Arkansas would be my next stop. For the first time I was able to see the bottom of the river. I was shocked to see how shallow it was. Thinking about the “breaks” or rapids I would be traveling through later in the morning I decided to check my depth meter. It looked two feet deep but was at least twice that much. The water was so clear it fooled me big time.  I checked the temperature and it was hold steady at 59 degrees some 33 or more miles from the damn. When you considered the amount of warmer water the Buffalo was contributing it was a little surprising the White could maintain its frigid temperature.
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The River Journal Chapter 15 Hear that Train a comin’

I miss the “Man in Black”.

About two a.m. I heard another old friend. The deep loping sound of giant cams in a big old triple diesel locomotive set up. I had forgotten the tracks ran at rivers edge in this narrow valley. The tree canopy created a great sound chamber. The river had quietened. The water was down and running much slower. The three engines probably were not more than 30 yards away. It sounded as if I was in a small room with the giant engines. It was music to my ears. The loping engines were in neutral, coasting, slowly by the campsite. Continue reading »

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The River Journal Chapter 14 Smith Island


The Buffalo National River passed by quickly. I didn’t get a good look as I had to start navigating the Smith Island chute. With this much water the little canoe  picked up speed as I began the narrowed channel. I remembered Debbie of the Cotter Trout Dock telling me to stay left and go to the far end of the island. There I would see the tents and steps. Continue reading »

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The River Journal Chapter 13 Onward to Smith Island


As the little canoe moved downstream from Buffalo City I looked for the mouth of the Buffalo. As I eased around the first sharp curve in the river there it was.  The Scouts had complained it was a tough quarter to half mile paddle. I believed it. I don’t know how they did it. The water must have been lower when they came up.

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White River Chapter 12 …Buffalo City and the Cub Scouts


When I landed on the Buffalo City boat ramp there were two men and three or four boys milling about. They were part of a Cub Scout Troupe from Houma, Louisiana. One of the Dads was a really nice guy. He came over and remarked on my jacket and how cold it could get and how fast it could happen. About this time the sun was out it was turning hot, very fast. I couldn’t peel the layers fast enough.

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The River Journal Chapter 11 Rim Shoals to Buffalo City the worst is over ?


The worst is over. The sun is warming the air.  The fog had become intermittent. But the clash between the cold river water and hot air would continue to create fog off and on all day. According to my little map it was another seven and a half miles down to Buffalo City and the junction with the famed Buffalo River. At my average rate of travel that day I should be there in a little over an hour. 

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