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A Perfect Saturday. Jacks Fork River, Bay Creek to Alley Spring Campground 6/6/2015

June 10, 2015

Jacks Fork Cleanup 079So it was the weekend of the 17th Annual Jacks Fork Cleanup, put on by the legendary Ted and Pat Haviland, down along the Jacks Fork River near Eminence, MO. This is a cleanup that is held every year on the first Saturday in June, and Stream Team volunteers from all over Missouri come down to float different sections of the Jacks Fork, removing garbage as they go. After the float they have a BBQ dinner at the picnic shelter near Alley Mill, and prize drawings for everyone who helped clean the river that day. They also had a couple of the group sites at the Alley Spring Campground reserved for volunteers for Friday and Saturday night, so we loaded up the dogs and the tent, strapped a canoe to the top of the car, and headed down to the Ozark National Scenic Riverways to spend the weekend in one of the prettiest areas in Missouri.

How to get there:

Jacks Fork Cleanup 038(Eminence, MO in the heart of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways is about 3 hours from St. Louis, and you can take various routes to get there. The directions here are from the intersection of Highway 19 and Highway 106, in the middle of Eminence.)

The cleanup was organized into multiple sections that could be floated during the weekend, and we decided we were going to do the section from Bay Creek to the Alley Spring Campground. From the intersection of 19 and 106, take 106 West for about 6 miles, and make a left just before the Jacks Fork River into the Alley Spring Campground. Look for the National Park Service sign. This is where the river access for Alley Spring is. If you continue on 106, crossing the Jacks Fork, Alley Spring and Alley Mill will be on your right. Make sure to visit them while you are in the area.

Jacks Fork Cleanup 041To get to Bay Creek, you continue on 106 past the Alley Spring Campground, cross the Jacks Fork, and drive about 5 miles to County Road 106-425. Make a left onto County Road 106-425, and take that a couple miles down to the river. The section of the Jacks Fork River from Bay Creek to Alley Spring Campground is listed as 7 miles by a couple canoe outfitters.

What I like about this section:

Jacks Fork Cleanup 075Gorgeous. Picturesque. They don’t call the Jacks Fork and the Current River the “Scenic Rivers” because somebody simply trademarked the term. These really are the tops when it comes to floating in Missouri. Wide and shallow in a lot of spots, deep and full in others, with forests along a bank of gravel bars that are continually flanked by impressive bluffs, and crystal clear the entire trip. We have some great rivers to float in Missouri, and I am convinced that these are the most beautiful.

Jacks Fork Cleanup 063Something that I noticed is that the Jacks Fork didn’t seem as cold as the Current River can sometimes be, at least comparing the sections I have floated. These spring fed Ozark streams tend to be chilly, making it perfect for a hot day…but if the clouds have moved in, the water can seem to be too cold at times. The temperature of the water below Bay Creek and down to Alley Spring Campground was just right for cooling off the entire trip, but never too cold. After some discussion with a friend, we surmised that it might be due to the shallowness in a lot of spots, giving the water a chance to warm more in the sunlight.

Jacks Fork Cleanup 068Now I am sure that a lot of people get on this river on Saturdays in the summer months, especially going downstream from the gravel bar at Alley Spring Campground. I know I am hooked, so I can’t blame them. That is why Bay Creek section above Alley Spring is a great option. The same water with most likely a little less traffic. Don’t expect to get the river to yourself, but appreciate that maybe you are on one of the less floated sections, and you just might have only the birds and the fish and the turtles and the snakes and the water as company every so often. Sounds good to me!

Jacks Fork Cleanup 100What you need to know:

The Jacks Fork is a lively river when it wants to be. Where it narrows in spots, it can get a bit tricky and fast. Take your time and pull off to the side and scout your path or jump out and walk the canoe if you are feeling unsure. Anxiety about what you are about to be getting into will only amplify any danger, and nobody likes to chase paddles and coolers and fishing rods down the creek on foot. Remember, you are there to have a fun time.

Jacks Fork Cleanup 098If the majority of your floating experience is on the Meramec or Black Rivers, among others, expect water a bit chillier than you are used to. Not a big deal, but if you jump in without knowing, it might cause you to jump right back out. Pure…clear…chilly spring water.

In dryer months, the water level may be pretty low. Check with your outfitter or the ONSR Park Rangers to determine if the river is at a good height for floating this section. Dragging a lot of the way makes what should be a fun adventure into an exhausting experience that you will never want to do again.

Jacks Fork Cleanup 099I spent some time thinking about how to put into words what I thought really defined this section of the Jacks Fork River, and I found myself coming back to: “It was a perfect section of Ozark stream”. Nothing really stood out because it was all beautiful. A spring fed waterway through a narrow valley cut through the hills of the Ozarks, filled with life and movement and energy. A perfect place to spend a day or longer out in Missouri nature. I am envious of people that get to see this all the time, because the minute we pulled that canoe out of the water for the last time that Saturday, I know that my heart sank having to say goodbye. There is something very special about these rivers, and I can’t wait to float them again. They renew that energy in me that I go to the forest and the streams for. That connection that reminds me that this existence is a pretty wonderful thing to get to experience. Get yourself down to the Ozark National Scenic Riverways and experience it for yourself. And until next time, Jacks Fork, you will be pulling at my heart.

Jacks Fork Cleanup 032To check out some of the other places I have visited in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, click this link.


  1. I am headed down to this area for the first time in about a month and your post just makes me even more anxious!!! I have checked out a lot of your other posts from this area and can’t wait to spend a couple days floating in the rivers and checking out the springs. Your pictures are beautiful! Can’t wait to see it for myself!

    • You will love it. Prettiest area in Missouri, as far as I am concerned. The places you definitely need to see are Klepzig Mill, Rocky Falls, Welsh Spring, Devil’s Well, and of course, Alley Spring and Mill. If you float a section of the Current River, my favorite one is from Cedar Grove to Akers Ferry, and then Pulltite to Round Spring. But they are all very cool. You will have a lot of fun, I’m sure!

  2. Marty permalink

    You will never be disappointed visiting, hiking, camping or floating this part of the Ozarks.

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