If you like dragging a boat over shoals, and enjoy sweat bees, deer files and horseflies, plan your canoe trip after July 4 and before mid-September.
The one advantage to canoeing during these times is that the streams are more temperate and not bone-chilling when you jump in your favorite river or creek.
So if floating during the hot summer is not your bag, the Ozarks has plenty of decent swimming holes. Caution: if in doubt please request owner permission to avoid any issues of trespass.
Beaver Creek: try Jackson Mill below West 76 Highway, or there is a great swimming hole at the Rome Bridge. However, I haven’t been there since the big floods and since the new FEMA bridge was erected.
Bryant Creek: try the Blue Hole just below the Camp Joy Bridge at Vera Cruz. Or, try the Big Rock Hole about one-mile upstream from the East 14 Highway Bridge, on the country road that parallels the river.
There are other good swimming holes down river –– below Rippee Bridge at the Conservation Area, above Monastery Bridge (only when the river is fairly low), Bell Bridge (Highway 95, south of Gentryville), Sycamore Conservation Access, just below Hodgson Mill where the spring branch enters the river.
Hunter Creek, an upper tributary of Bryant Creek: one of the best swimming holes in the Ozarks is offered on this cool, clear stream. The swimming hole is located at the upper Vera Cruz Mo. Conservation Area just below the falls, with a nice shaded stream-side beach for the kiddies to play.
North Fork of the White: Steel Bridge Mo. Conservation Area located on a county road about 4½-miles upstream of Twin Bridges. There is also good swimming at Patrick Bridge, Hwy. H, downriver. At Dawt Mill Bridge, and of course, Tecumseh, which is currently covered with Northfork Lake water.
In fact, as I am writing this column, Bryant Creek is backed at least three-miles from Tecumseh upstream past the Florence Cook Mo. Conservation Access. And the North Fork is still backed up past the old damsite at Dawt Mill.
Big Spring Hole: located on Spring Branch, a tributary of the North Fork and flows beneath one of the Twin Bridges on East 14 Hwy. To reach Big Spring, go north on Hwy. 181 from Twin Bridges and take the county road east to Big Spring Church. This is one of the best swimming holes in the far east end of Douglas County.
There is a pretty good beach and swimming hole at Hammonds Camp Hwy. CC, but good luck getting there. The tall highway bridge is gone, gone, gone! It now rests on the west river bank across from Hammond Camp National Forest Recreation Area. And I believe that the area is still closed to the public.
Of course, all fore-mentioned swimming holes can be accessed by auto on either gravel or paved roads. If you float, maybe you can find your own secret hole that you don’t have to share with anyone.
One note, please do your best to not leave litter. In fact, other than aluminum can barrels provided by the Missouri Department of Conser-vation at their accesses, all trash should be hauled out. And, if you see a mess left by a prior visitor, consider cleaning it up also.
The more litter left discourages private landowners to allow picnics and swimming; and litter taxes the already overwhelmed workers of the Conservation Department.
Remember, these are FREE clear- water, safe swimming areas that are there for your enjoyment and they are chlorine-free!
One problem can be Drunks and Rowdies. Generally, they show up late in the afternoon. They are not a big problem at most of the frequented swimming holes. And, local law enforcement does a decent job of randomly checking these spots, especially on weekends.
In fact, about five or six-years ago, access at the Monastery Bridge had deteriorated so badly few families visited the area. However, several years ago the Monks hired private security, cleaned up the area, installed a restroom, and put up signs warning off irresponsible people. It seems to have worked. Over the last couple of years, I have only observed canoers, fishermen and family pic-nickers and campers enjoying them-selves again at this popular river spot.
Hey, remember when the Monks had a twenty-foot-high suspended walking bridge above Bryant Creek, just above the Monastery Bridge. Lots of belly flops, cannonballs, and a few other stupid things occurred there in the 70s and 80s. I always heard the Monk’s insurance carrier made them take it down. Too bad.
Note: The “Other” Columnists
While traveling, I love to buy the local daily or weekly area newspaper. Not so much to read about the local news issues which can be interesting; but I like to read the local columns to get a flavor for the community.
People in Colorado or Appalachia are different from Ozarkers. But the local columnists talk about the same things that are important to everyone: family relations, church news, local sports teams, local benefits, community pie suppers, and various vacations people experience in new locales sharing their adventures with the local readers.
And this brings me to the reason why I appreciate the local papers in our area, such as the Mansfield Mirror, Mountain Grove Journal, Ozark County Times, and the West Plains Daily Quill, and especially the Douglas County Herald.
Even my own column “Notes From Hunter Creek” appears in some of these papers occasionally. In fact, we are now in discussion with a newspaper in Culpepper, in the Virginia piedmont, where I have family. To my amazement, they apparently would like to run my column in their paper.
And that is what sets these local, usually weekly, newspapers apart. They feature the “news” of all of their local columnists.
Take the Douglas County Herald, for instance. For over 125 years, the Herald has reported local news, including crimes, without sensation-alizing them.
But what makes the Herald somewhat unique and historical, are their vast array of local news columnists.
I read all of the local columns and appreciate all of them, knowing that each column necessitates a certain amount of research and editing before the column is ready for print.
Some are authored with just a hint of opinion such as Keith Moore’s article, “The Snoop;” and “What About This” written by Wayne W. Cipriano.
Some are authored without any opinion, just the family news, such as Veda Bushong’s “The County Line.”
Of course, Mrs. Bushong, who has long been a widow since her husband Benny passed, was a “Pool,” who was raised on Bryant Creek right about where the Douglas County and Ozark County lines intersect. And I am guessing that Veda is one of the Herald’s senior most authors. I know her true age, but as a professed gentleman, I will not tell.
And then there are some of my favorite columnists who are not afraid to voice their strong opinions.
One good example is Carol Boeddeker-Genet, the author of “Dogwood Ramblings.” Carol is a transplanted farmer from the north country, who has adapted well for decades in the Ozark hills.
She reports the local Dogwood happenings and will voice her opinion about almost anything and everything. She spoke in her column last year about the locally divisive issue of bus transportation that engulfed the local Ava School Board in controversy for several months.
Prior to that, I have seen her strong opinions on Obama, the Democrats and the Republican Party. I would venture to say that it has been a long time, if ever, that Mrs. Boeddeker pulled a “Donkey” lever at her local polling ward; which by the way, used to be and may still be her handsome home located in Dogwood. I have always appreciated her honesty.
And then there is Wilda Moses, a former Texas schoolteacher who authors “Champion News.” Not only does she report the local (for me) news about the “important” comings and goings on the Square at Champion, but she also dutifully reports the news of our fine country