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Our Current River Adventure Begins! Cedar Grove to Akers Ferry 9/3/2016

September 21, 2016

cedar-grove-to-akers-134It was our first 3 day weekend in quite a while, and we wanted to do something adventurous and memorable. The idea had been discussed to go on a backpacking trip or just car camping somewhere, but we eventually settled on floating and camping overnight on the Current River, down in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. The ONSR is comprised of just over 105 miles of the Current River and about 30 miles of the Jacks Fork River, and it is the first National Park in the United States whose specific purpose is to protect a river system. These clear and cold Ozark waterways are sparkling examples of the natural beauty that exists in Missouri, as well as holding the rugged history of the people that have made these steep and secluding hills their home for generations. Within these two rivers’ flows they also provide us with direct insight into the nature of the water cycle on this planet, and I am grateful for the protection and respect with which we have designated them. Yes, Missouri has a gorgeous and magical National Park, and we were going to take a canoe trip along 27 miles of its prettiest natural offerings. I couldn’t wait!

devils-well-2014-04-27-11-01-07How to get there:

The Ozark National Scenic Riverways is located in southern Missouri, laterally around the center of the state. Eminence, MO is the closest larger town to most points, directly on the Jacks Fork River and southwest of the Current River. You can get there from multiple directions, but if you are coming from the St. Louis area, this is how I get there: Take Interstate 44 west for about 80 miles to St. James, MO. Get off at exit 195 and take Highway 8 south for about 5 miles to Highway 68 south. Turn right on Highway 68 and take it about 22 miles to Salem, MO, where you will take Highway 19 down toward Eminence, and into the Ozark National Scenic Riverways.

cedar-grove-to-akers-047The first section we were floating on the Current River was Cedar Grove to Akers Ferry. It is an 8 mile stretch of river that holds a lot of adventure and beauty, and any outfitter you rent through will likely be shuttling you there. We rented with Carr’s Canoe Rental which is located at Round Spring, on Highway 19 about 16 miles north of Eminence. This is where we were ultimately floating to, so I wanted to have my car at the take out so that we could hit the road once we had said our goodbyes to this precious river. The great staff at Carr’s drove us and our rented canoe up to Cedar Grove, supplying us with the personal flotation devices and paddles and trash bag that every floater should have whenever they are out on any body of water.

To get to Cedar Grove on your own, take Highway 19 south out of Salem, MO about 5 miles to Route K. Make a right on Route K and take it almost 9 miles to Jadwin, MO. Make a right on Route ZZ and take that about 4 miles to the low water bridge where it crosses the Current River. Then transfer your gear to your boat, put some sunblock on, and say a prayer of thanks for the fun you’re about to have!

What you need to know about this section:


This is the uppermost section of the Current River that I have floated, and it is similar to a lot of upper river sections and creeks that you may be familiar with. It is shallow and calm in some spots, but it also has some quick turns and swift current, sometimes with a tree right in the middle of it waiting to roll your boat over and dunk you and all your stuff. When we set off that morning with our loaded down canoe, we negotiated the first couple of turns and made our way around some of the other traffic on the river. Recognizing a noticeable hazardous tree on its side up ahead, we made the choice to get out and walk the canoe. Just too much going on, and we didn’t want to dump all our gear. As we were making our way past the tree, a guy in a canoe behind us came barreling straight into it and instantly swamped his canoe. After helping him to shore and dumping the water he had collected, we carried on, on foot still, around another sudden curve filled with branches from the deep, passing another group on a gravel bar who were pumping water from a canoe they had rolled as well. Danger can happen quickly, so wear your life jacket and don’t be too prideful to get out and walk your boat past the fast and scary parts.

cedar-grove-to-akers-040With it being a narrow section, it can get inundated with river traffic pretty quick. When we were taking off from Cedar Grove a lot of other people were too and that led to a bunch of extra navigation from the get go, avoiding obstacles and other boats. Be mindful of the other floaters around you, being as courteous and patient as possible. Rafts are slow, so canoes are good at passing rafts, and kayaks are better at passing everything. The thing that ties all of our experiences together is that we are all there to enjoy this beautiful river and the nature along it. Remember this when getting frustrated with the people in front of or behind you.

We experienced a couple short runs that had some healthy sized rocks just under the surface that were obscured by the choppy water. You will be rolling right through, seemingly in deep enough current, and BONK…run right into one of these under water obstructions. We prefer aluminum canoes, so that makes it even more dramatic, with all the scraping and churning. I’m sure that variances in river levels throughout the changing seasons and weather can alter each floater’s experience a lot, but always keep a keen eye on that wide and fast channel you are about to shoot through, and look for the nuance in the chaotic waves to avoid surprise boulders.

cedar-grove-to-akers-070What I like about this section:

One of the neatest historical points of interest on the Current River is Welch Hospital. It is the ruins of a small medical institution, built in the early 1900s by Dr. C.H. Diehl. He was convinced that the air and water emrging from the spring there had healing qualities to it, so he created the hospital as a destination for those seeking relief from such ailments as Tuberculosis, Asthma, and other various respiratory conditions. The hospital was not a success, most likely due to its remote location, and after Dr. Diehl’s death in 1940 it became somewhat neglected, standing now as a reminder of the histories that surely color the crests and valleys of the Ozark hills. Something important to note is that you can’t actually get too near the hospital if you just drive there and walk the trail. Welch Spring flows between you and it. To get to see the hospital up close, you HAVE to float this section.

cedar-grove-to-akers-057Welch Spring, which is next to the hospital ruins, is one of the prettiest springs in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. It flows out of the foot of the hill, a wide mouth of blue and gray, heading quickly into the Current River over a plane of diminutive boulders, jagged and slippery under the freezing water. Its average daily discharge is 75 millions gallons of water, seemingly doubling the size of the river at this point. Make sure to stop there to take in the sights and the sounds of this life giving natural mechanism. Besides just the soothing melody of the rushing water, the hypnotic visual quality as it flows out through the spring branch is not only a pleasing experience but can be meditative as well. Surely there is magic here.

cedar-grove-to-akers-054Medlock Spring is also along this section, between Cedar Grove and Welch Spring. Look for it on the right, at the elbow of a left hand turn in the river. It flows in a shallow trickle into the river, splashing down the rocks on the hill from a cave up in the rock face. The first time I floated this section the kids and I stopped across the river from it. Swimming across to go see it, the temperature change was somewhat of a shock, coming through the already cool waters of the Current directly into the frigid outflow of Medlock Spring.

cedar-grove-to-akers-135Another point of interest is the Howell-Maggard Cabin, a restored log cabin that is on the right side of the river just past Welch Spring. Representative of the local history and the people who have inhabited these parts, it was built in the 1850s and then restored in the late 20th century by the National Park Service.  Remote and secluded, it makes you consider the ruggedness it would surely take to live in such a place. Certainly worth the cost to be surrounded with such constant natural beauty, but definitely a step away from the established trappings of our modern American lives.

cedar-grove-to-akers-118This was day one of our extended weekend adventure and we had gotten into our groove, floating down the Current through some of the hairier spots that we would see on this trip. Travelling a bit past Akers Ferry, our night was spent by a fire on a gravel bar with the stars above us, the hills around us, and this beautiful water flowing before us. Not another soul around, immersed in the sanctity and isolation of the Ozark wilds. A constant series of magical moments to be absorbed and remembered forever. And this was just day one.

cedar-grove-to-akers-124To be continued…







Click on this map to get directions:

  1. jimmy810 permalink

    Hey, buddy!

    Great to hear from you! Mind if I continue printing your articles in the Traveler? I think you should still be getting it in the mail each month. If not, please let me know.


    ——— Jimmy Sexton Owner/Publisher

    RIVER HILLS TRAVELER 212 E. Main St. Neosho, MO 64850 TOLL FREE: (800) 874-8423, ext. 1

    Office: (417) 451-3798 FAX: (417) 451-5188 Mobile: (417) 456-0673

  2. jimmy810 permalink

    If we can use the article, can you please send high-res images of the ones you used in it by this time next week?


    ——— Jimmy Sexton Owner/Publisher

    RIVER HILLS TRAVELER 212 E. Main St. Neosho, MO 64850 TOLL FREE: (800) 874-8423, ext. 1

    Office: (417) 451-3798 FAX: (417) 451-5188 Mobile: (417) 456-0673

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