Being born and raised in south central Missouri it’s easy to take for granted what mother nature has to offer that is within arm’s reach of where me and my wife, Faron, live.
If you were to go north of our home a mere 15 minutes we can be on the banks of the beautiful Jacks Fork River. If you go east of our home 45 minutes we can take advantage of some trophy smallmouth bass fishing in the Current River. Take a 30 minute drive south, we can be rainbow trout fishing in the cool waters of the Eleven Point River.
So, what if we go west? Well, it’s a little southwest, and a little longer trip, but still just 1.5 hours away we can be on the deep waters of the Norfork Lake.
With all these opportunities to be on the water, not to mention all the landmarks in between, you would probably agree we should never be bored.
Since the Jacks Fork is the closest, obviously this is where I have spent the most time. As a kid I spent many summers fishing, swimming, camping, etc., with my family, Then as I got older I began dating my now wife, Faron, and we spent many dates walking down the banks of the Jacks Fork River, walking the trails at Alley Springs, or even watching the waters at night light up from the fireworks in the sky during the many Fourth of July celebrations.
Over the years we have been on many float trips as well. Whether it be in canoes, tubes, or rafts we always seem to have a blast.
So, what I thought I would do for you is plan out one of our favorite float trips and give you all a guide so you, too, can enjoy what we have so many times.
First, you will want to put in at the Alley Spring river access. This is just a few miles west of Eminence which is the county seat of Shannon County, Mo. There are many canoe rentals in the Eminence area if you don’t have your own canoe, kayak, or tube. All of them will put you in and pick you up from your destinations.
We like to float to the bridge in Eminence which is just a 3 or 4 hour float, but, we usually stretch it out to 5 or 6 hours because of the many gravel bars along the way that you can stop and swim, have lunch, or just relax and soak up the sun.
You will also want to bring along your fishing gear. This stretch of water offers some really good smallmouth bass fishing, as well as some great tasting goggle-eye. My favorite way to fish the Jacks Fork is throwing a plastic tube-style bait upstream then letting if drift down around the many structures that lie on bottom of the river. Such as rocks, logs, or tree tops.
Smallmouth like to stay up under these to stay hid. This is why when your bait sinks under, they come out hitting it as if it was their last meal. Reeling in a smallmouth or goggle-eye is the most fun of all. Besides, of course, pulling them out of the hot grease ready to put in your belly.
I will usually fish the whole float trip but, if I catch a couple close together, I will paddle back upstream, then drift down two or three times trying to catch a few more. This is where you can stretch the length of your float.
Like I mentioned before, we usually float to the bridge in Eminence. But, the bridge is actually the halfway point to the Two Rivers destination. This is where the Jacks Fork and the Current River meet each other. If you’re looking for an all-day float trip, Two Rivers is the ideal departure spot for you.
Once you have completed your float there are many more exciting things to do in the Eminence area. You can re-visit where you started and go to historic Alley Spring mill. Here you can venture on the many walking trails that border the beautiful cold running waters that come from the gorgeous spring that runs into the Jacks Fork.
You can also visit an old one-room schoolhouse that is in walking distance of the Alley Spring mill. There are several other springs, caves, and landmarks along the riverway. But, if you’re like me and love big game, I suggest an hour or two before sunset go south of Eminence on Highway 19 about 20 minutes and visit the Peck Ranch Conservation Area.
Here you can drive through the ranch and see the majestic elk that roam the area as part of the MDC’s elk restoration project, as well as the many white-tailed deer and wild turkey that also call the ranch home.
As the sign that stands in the courthouse lawn in Eminence says, “You can spend a day or a lifetime in Shannon County.”
There numerous places and things to do that are nature-related here. Faron and I are very fortunate to call this area home. No matter what month of the year there is always something to do in the outdoors right in the palm of our hands.
I urge you to come see what this area has to offer.
By Heath Wood
(Heath Wood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)