Kayaking In Missouri – The James River

There are so many places to go kayaking in Missouri and the James River is a good place to start.

A Little History

The James River has an interesting past. It has many stories to tell. Some are glorious and some are down and dirty, literally.

While reading up on the James River, I learned that in its pre-dam days as a free-flowing river it was really well-known for its small-mouth bass fishing. From its starting point in Webster County, Missouri it winds its way approximately 130 miles, eventually dumping into the White River. Today it is encompassed by Table Rock Lake at the end of its trail.

The James was a pioneer for float-fishing in the Ozarks. According to my research there was a gentleman by the name of Jim Owens that operated a line of boats and guides on Missouri waters. From what I have read, there are still some remnants from those days in the early 20th century still lingering on the banks.

Camp Yocum, is one such remnant, it was started by a gentleman by the name of Tom Yocum, one of Jim Owens’ guides. On a bluff named “Horse Creek Bluff” there are still cabins from that camp, as of 2018, that represent the authentic Ozarks. Something to look for if you are floating in that area.

The Y-Bridge

The Y-Bridge in Galena, Missouri built in 1927 tells its own story of the James River. This three-way bridge is now closed to automobile traffic, but can be traversed on foot. It was listed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1991.

The bridge tells of a history in the Ozarks, but it also tells a bit of the possible future. The bridge holds a monitoring system maintained by the United States Geological Survey that records data, including data about the water levels. The monitoring system in Galena is the oldest system on the James River.

The data that has been collected over the past 93 years tells an incredible story of how climate change is affecting the river systems. For the first 85 years the James River only topped 30 feet only once. In 1993, it reached a staggering 33.46 feet. Astonishingly since 2008 the river has topped 30 feet 4 times. In 2008 and again in 2017 the river broke records reaching heights of 36 feet both times.

This is very apparent when you visit the Y-Bridge and see the flood debris still clinging the concrete supports of the bridge.

The James River Basin Partnership

The James River Basin Partnership brings me to the down and dirty story of the James River.

The James River Basin Partnership is a grass-roots, non-profit organization dedicated to cleaning, improving and protecting the quality of the springs, streams, rivers and lakes in the James River watershed. The watershed consists of almost a million acres of land in portions of 8 counties.

About 22 years ago the James River experienced a major algae bloom that spanned bank to bank and stretched across 14 miles on the lower James into Table Rock Lake. It was caused by the amount of phosphorus and nitrogen levels in the river. This was the catalyst for forming this organization.

22 years ago the James was placed on the states list of impaired waters because of nutrient loading from all the usual suspects. Between the agriculture in the area, the municipal wastewater and storm water discharges, failing septic systems, etc., the river was in dire straits.

Since its formation they have led many river recovery initiatives. Everything from planting hundreds of trees on hundreds of acres, to working a plan to reduce the nutrient loading to the river basin. Over 2000 volunteers have removed over 83,250 pounds of litter and over 700 tires from the James and one of its largest tributaries the Finley since 2005.

They say they are not done yet and probably never will be. Recovery is a slow process and is fragile. So, while we all enjoy kayaking and fishing in the James river, we should do our part to keep it healthy for the next generation. If you pack it in, then pack it out.

If you are interested, in doing more you can visit the website for the James River Basin Partnership and contribute that way as well. They seem to be a great cause to stand behind. Especially if you enjoy floating clean waters.

Access Points

The James has several access points, so that you can enjoy the river.

Some of the more popular places that I have heard of are Shelvin Rock, Hooten Town, H.L. Kerr and Y-Bridge in Galena. These are the access points that I hear the most about in the Branson area. I personally am looking forward to floating from these access points myself. Definitely on my bucket list for the near future.

There are a couple of outfitters in the area as well that offer rentals and shuttle services. They also offer pre-planned trips in varying lengths.

  • Hooten Town – offers canoe and kayak rentals as well as shuttle services and camping. You can check out their website for prices and services.
  • James River Outfitters in Galena – offers rentals, shuttles and camping. Click on the name to check out their website for more information.

What to Expect

Expect beautiful scenery, clear water, good fishing and an amazing adventure. The James River is considered a class I stream with very few hazards to navigate. That makes it a good one for beginners or those that just like to meander.

During season, I am sure you should expect people. While it is not the most popular river in Missouri for floating, it is gaining popularity. Water levels can vary due to lack of rains in the area. So, you may want to check levels before you plan your trip.

There are several apps you can download on your phone to check river levels. When I asked what everyone on my Facebook group used, the American Whitewater app was a popular one. There is also one called the River App. I will have to download one and let you know my thoughts.

You can also check on the NOAA-National Weather Service website.

Tributaries

The James River has a few tributaries along its path. As it makes its way from Webster County to Branson and the Table Rock Lake several rivers and creeks join it on its journey.

The major tributaries are Pierson Creek, Wilson Creek, Finley Creek, Crane Creek and Flat Creek.

Final Thoughts

Like I said earlier, I cannot wait to float the James. It is rich in history and has several options for floating. I have also been told that there are several eagles nest along the river. Definitely taking a camera with me when I go.

A lot of the locals here float the James and I have seen a ton of pictures and read a few stories. If you have any experiences on the James please share in the comments below. Join me on Facebook at Kayaking Adventures and share your pictures and fun.

Kayaking in Missouri can certainly be a grand adventure and there a lot of rivers to explore. The James is just one of many. Come back and check out my take on some of the others in the future.

Thanks for spending some time here and I hope to hear from you in the comments.

Until Next Time!

Kayaking in Branson – Lake Taneycomo Part 2

Have you tried Kayaking in Branson, Missouri?

Have you been on Lake Taneycomo?

This is the story of my first outing in the tiny red boat in 2020, but you can check out more information about kayaking in Missouri in my previous post “Kayaking in Missouri” and in my post “Kayaking in Branson-Lake Taneycomo”.

From the Shepherd of Hills Hatchery

I finally got to take the little red boat out on the water. First trip of 2020!

With everything going on in the world today, unfortunately, no one is immune to the social distancing, and craziness that is surrounding us. With that being said, thank goodness they have opened up the waterways and we can get out and enjoy nature.

So yesterday, July 18, 2020, I got to finally get the kayak out and get down to the lake. It was such a wet spring that the water has been pretty high, so I was really hesitant to go out on my own. Finally, yesterday I decided to bite the bullet and go.

So, I had my husband help me load up the kayak into the back of the truck and take me down to the Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery. There is a public access boat ramp there, with room to get out of the way of the boats and ready your gear.

It is a beautiful put-in location for kayakers.

I got there at around 10:30 am and the fog was still heavy on the water. Taneycomo is a cold lake, so with the heat in the air and the amount of humidity, the fog was thick.

I love how the fog plays on the water. It’s like watching a beautiful dance. Although, it is not without its challenges.

What Gear Did I Take

As you can see in the photos, I had my Ascend Dry Bag, which I put in a towel, my camera and my phone. I always take my phone for two reasons.

1. For emergencies

2. For the camera.

I also carry my digital camera, which is a Nikon D80 with my 300 mm lens. I love to take photos.

I also had a small cooler bag with water and some trail mix. Gotta have snacks and have to stay hydrated. It was about 91 degrees outside and sunny, after the fog rolled off. Forgot the sunscreen though.

Had 1 fishing pole and my small tackle box. Just in case I felt the urge to do a little fishing.

What did I wear?

Well, since it was a very hot and humid day, I wore a simple pair of denim shorts and a cotton, sleeveless shirt. I also had on a ball cap to keep the sun off my face a bit. I had on my water shoes and of course, my Ascend life vest of PFD.

Into The Water We Go!

After I got everything situated into the kayak, I moved it into the water and settled into the boat. Fortunately my husband stuck around long enough to help me cast off.

The water is still a bit high, and was flowing pretty good from the dam. They have been running the turbines, so the current was moving pretty good.

Lift Off! Once I was away from the shore, I was moving pretty good down stream. It took me a minute to get my kayak seat, and the fog was a bit intimidating. The big thing with putting in at the dam, is the fishermen. That happens to be the trophy area for the big trout, so I could hear the boats coming upstream, but I couldn’t see them.

Anyway, once I realized how fast I was moving, I kind of got bummed. I wanted to take pictures and by the time I managed to get to my camera safely, I was past a lot of the beautiful scenery in that area of the lake. Just means I will have to take the trip again.

Anyway, I managed to get myself going, and I really didn’t have to do a whole lot of paddling due to the current. Mostly just keeping myself away from trees and boats.

Taneycomo Wildlife

Lake Taneycomo is full of wildlife. It is home to Canadian Geese, mallard ducks, bald eagles, king fishers, blue herons and many more bird species. Not to mention the many species of fish.

On this trip I encountered numerous Canadian geese in groups along the shoreline. I happened upon a mamma mallard and her clutch of babies. I had a hummingbird zip around me for a moment, which was kind of fun. Then the highlight of the trip was the bald eagle that flew over my head. Course, I could not get to my camera fast enough to get a shot of that one. The experience was very cool though.

Halfway Mark

As I made my way downstream, there are several dock systems along the way at the many lakeside resorts and camps. I past Point Royale, Lilly’s Landing, and several others that I didn’t know existed.

My only sketchy part on the river was when I encountered the Fall Creek inlet. The water was moving pretty fast and there is a rather large rock at the entrance to Fall creek, right before you get to the big set of docks. I imagine that it is usually out of the water when the water is lower. As it was, it was pretty turbulent, then combined with passing motor boats, it was kind of hairy when I bumped into the rock.

The next real public access is Cooper Creek and I figure that is about the halfway point. It took me about 1 1/2 hours to get to that point on the lake.

Now if you stay to the right side of the lake, across from Cooper Creek there are 2 waterfalls to watch out for. They are kind of hidden by the trees, but spectacular.

Almost There!

The water flow seems to slow down quite a bit once you get past Coopr Creek. The boat traffic picked up considerably and there were several kayaks that joined me at Cooper Creek. They quickly passed me up, and I was good with that. I was in no hurry.

On the left-hand side of the lake you will encounter an island before you get to the 65 bridge. They call it monkey island, although I have not seen any monkeys, LOL. It does give you a nice reprieve from the boats though.

Then you will go under the 65 bridge, then next is the train trestle that carries the Branson Scenic Train. To your left there is the public boat ramp for the city of Branson. Scotty’s Trout Dock is there as well, and they are under great new ownership. In the future they look to add a kayak ramp, as well as kayak rentals and shuttles.

Next in line is the Branson Lakeside Campground and the Branson Landing. 3 hours on the lake and I pulled out at Scotty’s. Called the husband and had an ice cream while I waited.

The End of a Wonderful Trip

My first trip out on Taneycomo this year was great. The weather was hot, but the lake is cold, so you get a nice breeze off of it now and then. The boaters are crazy, but manageable.

If you are looking to extend your float a bit, directly across from Scotty’s Trout Dock is Turckey Creek. It is a great little side adventure. I passed on this trip, but maybe next time.

Next time I will remember my sun screen. Gotta a little sun, LOL. New tan lines!

If you get a chance to float Lake Taneycomo, I would love to hear about it. I would love to see your photos. I love Taneycomo. The water is crystal clear, and full of fish. It makes for a great float on a hot day.

Share your thoughts below and join me on Facebook!

The Best Dry Bags for Kayaking – 2020

Dry Bags, Oh the options are endless it seems.

In this post we are going to review the best dry bags for kayaking in 2020.

I personally have an Ascend Dry Bag and really like it, but we are going to look at some other brands on the market and see where they rate. You can also check out my previous post about the Ascend bags here.

EGO TPU Tactical Dry Gear Bag

Mother Nature Has Met Her Match!

That was the first line I encountered when researching this bag series. I say series, because the EGO TPU Tactical Dry Gear Bag comes in 3 basic sizes. The sizes are 30 liters, 55 liters, and 100 liters. These are duffel style bags which is different from the vertical design of most dry bags.

Made from the latest in dry bag technology, TPU fabric is strong, abrasion resistant, and is resistant to cold weather cracking. It is stronger, more flexible, and lighter-weight than PVC material.

All three sizes of the EGO bags sport molle loop strapping, g-hook closure systems and a zippered, roll top closure. They each have contoured shoulder straps and the 100 liter comes with a removable backpack strap system.

Inspired by artillery camouflage netting, these bags are pretty sporty looking.
<Click the photo for the latest price>

Some key features are:

  • Made of high-performance TPU fabric
  • Water-proof and resistant to abrasion
  • Zippered, roll-top design
  • RF welded seams
  • Zip-close pockets and molle straps
  • Top and side carry straps, removable shoulder strap
  • Cool Kryptek camo finish

I personally love the duffel style of this bag. I think it adds an easy storage option for kayaks. I also think it makes it very versatile.

Earth Pak – Waterproof Dry Bag

As of the writing of this post the Earth-Pak waterproof bag was one of the best-sellers on Amazon. Check price at Amazon <Here>

These bags were produced by two guys looking to bring quality, durable gear to those that love the outdoors. They started with the 2 smaller bags in their line and have grown over the years. Made of 500D PVC material, these bags are great for all outdoor activities.

The Earth Pak line of bags are relatively in-expensive and have a multitude of color options as well as size options. They range in size from 10 L to 55 L and come in about 8 colors.

The 10 and 20 L bags come with a 24-42 inch shoulder strap while the 30 to 55 L bags come with a backpack strap, sternum strap and the new 55 L models sports a waist strap to further relieve the stress of carrying the weight.

Key Points for this bag are:

  • 500D PVC material
  • Roll-top nylon strap closure
  • Shoulder Strap on the 10L and 20L bags for easy carriage
  • Backpack style straps on larger bags with sternum strap for extra support
  • Includes an IPX certified waterproof phone case when purchased at Amazon

Based on the reviews that I read here are some Pros and Cons on these bags.

Pros

  • When closed properly, waterproof
  • Easy to handle, and carry with the shoulder strap
  • Great for all outdoor activities such as kayaking, boating, camping, hiking, SUP, etc.

Cons

  • Some folks had trouble with the strap not holding up and coming loose from the bag
  • One review had an issue with the bag not holding air, which concerned them about it being waterproof

Over-all most people really liked this product, so it is understandable why it is a best-seller.

Unigear Dry Bag

This is another brand of dry bag that had over 1000 reviews on Amazon and rated a 4.7 on the scale. Check the price on Amazon <here>

This dry bag is made of 500D PVC material and is designed with the standard roll top type closure. They come in several sizes ranging from 2L to 40L.

Unigear has been around serving campers and hikers worldwide since 2014. Their bags are made with love and integrity. These bags are suited for all outdoor activities, whether you are planning a trip to the beach or kayaking down the nearest river.

They are waterproof, light-weight, durable and come in enough sizes to suit your needs.

Some key points are:

  • Waterproof
  • Made of 500D PVC material
  • Anti-leak, anti-tear, anti-abrasion for long-lasting durability
  • Welded seams
  • Singe strap on 2L-20L bags, backpack straps on larger bags
  • Double sewing around connection points of straps for extra durability
  • Floats
  • 6 sizes and 10 colors to choose from

The fact that you can get this bag in a 2L size just makes me happy. What a perfect size for keys, phones, cameras, etc.

MARCHWAY Floating Waterproof Dry Bag

So, this bag was again a top seller on Amazon and I found it on several top lists throughout the web. Check out the latest Amazon price <here>

The Marchway bag is made of rip stop tarpaulin, which makes it light-weight, compact and durable. They boast of sturdy welded seams and claim they are rip, tear and puncture resistant.

The Marchway bag is available in sizes from 5L – 40L. The 5L and 10L come with one adjustable shoulder strap, while the 20L and 30L come with 2 adjustable, detachable straps and the 40L comes with 2 backpack straps that are not detachable. They also sport about 12 colors to choose from.

Some key features are:

  • Made of the Highest Quality 500D Tarpaulin
  • Simple roll down closure
  • Waterproof, as long as the bag is not totally submerged for a period of time
  • Thermo welded construction
  • Detachable and adjustable straps
  • Will float if closed properly

So the Marchway bags are a great option for all outdoor activities. All the reviews I read were good and folks really like the bag and felt they were a great value and they fit their needs

Luck route Dry Bag – Waterproof Backpack

Okay, so I have shown you a duffel style, some traditional styles and now a backpack. This Luck Route dry bag – backpack has all the qualities of the other dry bags, but it also has the extra pockets of a backpack. Now the exterior pockets are not waterproof, but depending on what you want to put in them you could use a zip lock baggie to help with that.

This is a 20L bag and is made of the 500D PVC material that is very common in dry bags. Providing you with durable, anti-tear, waterproof security for your belongings.

The big difference with this bag and the others is the extra compartments and pockets. Included on the 20L bag is a side bottle foldable pocket with a zipper. Inside the bag for double protection is a pocket for your mobile device. It has inner and outer d-rings, the extra d-ring is not for your straps.

It also has an outer front pocket with a zipper and velco, inside there is also an all-size touch screen, reflective cell phone pouch bag. The yellow bag also has a reflective cover on the front pocket for visibility.
<Click the photo for latest pricing>

Key Features are:

  • Made with 500D PVC material
  • extra D-ring and pockets
  • comes in 2 colors (black and high vis yellow)
  • Waterproof and durable
  • Easy to carry with backpack straps

This backpack dry bag would be great for anyone who wants to go kayaking, hiking, camping or even just walking to class at college. It would easily carry a small laptop and protect it from the rain.

Things to Think About

A few things I want you to consider when choosing a dry bag are:

  1. What are you putting in it? This is going to determine what size or capacity yo are going to need. Also, it may determine if you need more than one.
  2. What activities are you using it for? Are you getting it to go camping, kayaking, boating or to haul your laptop to class? This could help you decide if you want a duffel style or backpack style, or if a traditional style will suit your needs just fine.
  3. Ease of Use, you want to be able to get into easily, especially if you are kayaking and want to be able to access your camera quickly.

Warning!

Although all of these bags are touted as waterproof, please test them prior to placing your expensive equipment in one and throwing it in the water. One just never knows.

Plus, make sure you properly close your bag for absolute best results. The roll-top type of bags require 3- 5 rolls before you clip the buckle for maximum protection. This is also going to affect the capacity of your bag.

Nearing the End

I think I have given you some pretty great options in the market of waterproof dry bags. Not only are these bags great for all your outdoor activities, but they make great gifts as well. Do you have a kayaker, fisherman, hiker or even a college student in your family? I bet you do.

A dry bag is a must have if you are kayaking or boating and want to keep certain things dry. Hope this post helped you make a decision as to what you need for your outdoor life.

Thanks for stopping in and spending some time with me today.

Until next time!

Best Automatic Inflatable Life Vest

We all know that PFD’s are a very important accessory when doing any kind of boating. Kayaking is no different. The only difference is the fact that finding a comfortable PFD (personal flotation device) can be more of a challenge.

We are going to take a look at the best automatic inflatable life vests on the market, and whether they are a good option for kayaking.

Onyx A/M-24 Deluxe Automatic Manual Inflatable Life Jacket

This Life jacket rated very well on several websites that I encountered. Many of the reviews that I encountered were 5 star reviews based on the quality, comfort and the fact that it has zippered pockets.

With a minimum buoyancy of 22.5 pounds when inflated, it has enough to bring you to the surface if you are rendered unconscious. This PFD can be inflated two ways. Automatically when it is below 4 inches of water or you can inflate by pulling the red T-inflate pull tab. You can also convert the Onyx A/M-24 Deluxe from automatic to manual inflation only at will. The straps, back, and lower section are designed with padded air mesh which provides for additional airflow and comfort.

The Onyx A/M-24 Deluxe is designed for those over 16 years of age and over 80 lbs, but not recommended for non-swimmers or weak swimmers.

I personally like the fact that it can be used as an automatic or manual inflatable. When Kayaking, this could definitely be a bonus. Especially if you have a tendency to get wet a lot.


Some key points of this model are:

  • The Onyx AM/24 is Convertible from AUTO/MANUAL inflation to MANUAL ONLY inflation
  • It has Zippered pockets for a spare CO2 cylinder, or other gear. Perfect for sunscreen or chapstick
  • The Onyx AM/24 is designed with Secure Pull – clips attached to the life jacket; allows for quick release when pulled for manual inflation
  • Padded air mesh for add’l comfort on the lower panels, back and straps
  • Padded, fleece lined sunglasses pocket, wouldn’t want to lose those out on the water.
  • 1″ buckle and body belt for a secure fit
  • The Outer shell is made of a 420 Denier, rip-stop nylon for durability
  • U.S. Coast Guard Approved Type V Life Jacket / Personal Flotation Device (PFD) with Type III Performance

This model has replacement cartridges and you will want to look for Onyx A/M-24 Reaming Kit #1352

Many of the reviews I read on this product were from actual kayakers. That makes me feel confident that it would serve the kayakers needs well. Now, with that said, these will inflate when wet, so if you are in the habit of tipping your boat you may want to make it manual or search for a traditional type PFD. Otherwise, it could get costly replacing the CO2.

ABSOLUTE OUTDOOR Onyx A/M-24 Automatic/Manual Inflatable Life Jacket

Again, another great product from Onyx. This PFD is also a US Coast Guard approved type V life vest with type III performance.

This vest boasts a light-weight, compact and comfortable design. The Onyx AM/24 is made from the same durable fabric as all Onyx life vests. This particular model also has neoprene at the neck line for extra comfort. The many reviews I have read were all great and a lot of them were kayak owners. They loved the fact that this vest can be worn all day with comfort and doesn’t hinder any movement needed when kayaking and fishing.

Some key points for this model are:

  • Coast Guard Approved
  • Automatic or Manual inflation
  • Easy to rearm
  • Reflective cording for visibilty
  • 420 Denier rip-stop nylon for durability outer shell, also puncture proof
  • Neoprene neckline for all-day comfortWhile this vest is a great option, it is not recommended for non-swimmers or weak swimmers

Mustang Survival M.I.T. 100 Inflatable PFD

The Mustang Survival has rated very well in general with boaters and folks that work around water. Non of the reviews were actually kayakers from what I found. Although, this model is a manual or automatic inflation device, there is no way to make it strictly manual without tampering with it.

While it rates well for its comfort, low profile and light-weight design, I am not so sure I would recommend it over the other two for a kayaker.

The Mustang is USCG approved, and is designed for those over 16 yrs of age and over 80 lbs. Not recommended for non-swimmers or weak swimmers.

Some key points for this life vest are:

  • It’s made out of 500 denier cordura fabric for durability
  • The T1 version comes with reflective tape and a whistle
  • Inflator inspection window and easy entry flap
  • Provides 28lbs of buoyancy when inflated – 1.5 times that of a regular foam PFD
  • Universal vest fits most adults with chests from 30″ – 56″
  • 1 fold – easy repack design
  • Has 3 color options

Again, a great product for someone looking to be out on the water all day, as long as you take it off before jumping in. It will inflate within 10 seconds of being immersed in the water.

This PFD did rate 4.9 out of 5 stars on Amazon. The Mustang is a popular brand and is good quality.

Bass Pro Shops AM24 Auto/Manual Inflatable Life Vest

Since I life in the land of Bass Pro Shops, I had to add the Bass Pro AM24 Auto/manual life vest to the count. You can easily order this vest online or make a trip to the store to get this vest, which makes it great for trying it on before you buy.

This is a light-weight, low profile vest made of 200 denier rip-stop fabric. The Onyx AM/24 is built for comfort while boating, fishing or anything else you would do near water. The Onyx AM/24 is USCG approved and can inflate automatically or manually. The fabric is designed to resist tears or punctures and this vest is suitable for those over 16 yrs of age and over 80 lbs. Fits adults with chests of 30-52″ and has a neoprene neckline for comfort.

It comes in 3 color combos so you might even be able to match your boat. Gotta look good out on the water. Plus you get to sport the Bass Pro Logo everywhere you go, LOL.

Some Key Points of this vest:

  • US Coast Guard Approved
  • 200 Denier Rip-stop Nylon
  • Automatic and Manual inflation, can be switched to just manual inflation
  • Soft Neoprene Neckline

Bass Pro Shops AM 33 All-Clear Auto/Manual Inflatable Life Vest

This vest is an upgrade from their A-33 insight automatic inflatable vest. The AM 33 All-Clear is an automatic/manual combo inflatable vest.

Rather than the usual clip and loop fastener, this vest sports a YKK zipper in the front for maximum protection of the inflated chamber, while still allowing for easy opening when necessary for activation. The All-Clear window allows for at-a-glance viewing to make sure there is enough power to inflate the vest. With a green indicator and a red indicator. Green meaning go and red meaning t needs rearmed.

This vest also has a wide, comfortable neckline made of soft neoprene for all day wear and it has a d-ring on the bottom for extras.

I also love the fact that it will fit most adults with a chest size of 30 – 65″, where most only go up to 52″. Again, this is a USCG approved Type V with a Type II (with manual inflation) and a Type III (with automatic inflation) performance PFD.

Key points on this vest are:

  • Automatic and Manual inflation
  • YKK Burst zipper front closure to protect the inflation chamber
  • Wide comfortable neoprene neckline
  • Green/Red cylinder readiness indicator
  • High-vis inflation chamber
  • Min. 35 lbs buoyancy

How to Choose your Automatic, Inflatable PFD

I found this great video on YouTube that I though would really help you decide if an automatic, inflatable PFD is what you are really looking for/ Check it out!

Now that you have watched the video I hope you have a better idea of what to look for your specific application for using an inflatable PFD.

Some key things to look for are:

  • Size
  • Comfortability
  • Inflation Method
  • Material/Durability
  • Fit

Size matters! Make sure you take accurate measurements before buying. I hate when I order something online or get to a store and have no clue if it is going to fit. Also, make sure you are adhering to the recommendations of the manufacturer. Most inflatable life vests are designed for people over the age 16 and over 80 lbs. It is a safety issue if you do not follow the guidelines.

Don’t compromise on comfort. If it is not comfortable, you won’t wear it. The vest will not do you any good if you don’t wear it.

Inflation method. For kayaking specifically I would certainly prefer a dual method. All the vests that I have here are automatic and manual. Some even come with an air tube for blowing it up yourself if needed. Obviously, the automatic option is great, but if you are lacking an extra CO2 cartridge to rearm it during a trip, the manual option is going to come in handy.

Material and durability are important as well. These vests are somewhat of an investment, so you want them to last as long as possible. You are definitely going to want one that is easy to rearm, and one that resists punctures and tears.

Finally, you want one that fits. You are not going to be happy if the thing falls off the first time you fall in the water because it is too big. Make sure you have a good fit. Too small is not a good option either. Make sure the straps and buckles are fitting you correctly.

Final Thoughts

There are a lot of options on the market today for automatic inflatable life vests. The 5 I have highlighted here have rated at the top of the charts and have been popular with many folks.

Before you purchase, do your homework. Do not trust your safety to anyone but yourself. I hope that I have made that decision easier for you and that you find what you are looking for.

I believe that all the above are great options for fisherman, kayakers and boaters alike. I personally would have a few of the standard foam PFDs in a boat if you were going to be doing any skiing or tubing. I would not recommend these for that kind of sport.

I also read that while these vests are Coast Guard approved, if you get checked while out on your kayak or boat you must be wearing it at the time that you get pulled over. It will not count as a required PFD if it is laying in the boat. You must have it on and properly secured at time of being pulled over. Otherwise, you better have a standard type PFD in the boat with you.

Hope this has helped you in you decision-making and on to the next review!

Until Next Time!

 

Best Sit-On Top Kayaks of 2020

I personally prefer a good sit-on top kayak for a couple of reasons.

They are personal reasons, but reasons non the less. I will tell you my reasons as we go through this review.

We are going to take a look at what I would consider to be the best Sit-on top kayaks of 2020.

sit on top kayak


Criteria for the the Best

What am I looking for?

There are certain things to look for when deciding what the best kayak is. So we are going to look at:

  • Durability
  • Stability
  • Transportability
  • Customizable
  • Comfort
  • Budget or Cost

We are going to look at how durable these kayaks are. No one wants to put out good hard-earned money and then have to buy a new one in a year or even 5 years. Unless of course, we just want to upgrade or want a new one.

Stability is a major one for me. I have no desire to go swimming just because I adjusted my seat. I like to feel stable in my kayak. So we are going to look at the stability factor.

We have to be able to transport our kayak. It doesn’t do us any good sitting in the garage. So we are going to look at the weight and what it takes to get it to the lake or river.

How hard is it to customize the kayak and what does it already come with. We have to be able to bling it out.

Comfort is another biggie. If it isn’t comfortable for you, you will not use it. Nothing worse than getting off the lake or out of the river and not being able to walk. Us older folks need to be comfortable.

Last but not least is budget or cost. I am not shooting for the cheapest here. Although, budget is always a concern. Let’s face it though, you are going to pay a bit more for the best.

Okay, let’s get to it already. Are you excited to learn what I think is the top picks of 2020?

Why a Sit-on Top or SOT Kayak

While the reasons I have a SOT are strictly personal for me, I thought I would share them to give you food for thought.

  1. They are easier to get on when launching and easy to get off of when done.
  2. They are easier for me to fish off of, and generally provide easy access to storage and stuff.
  3. Customizable! While the fishing kayaks come with a lot, you can add more.
  4. They can be very versatile.

OMG!

My research has been a long process. Trying to narrow down the best sit-on top kayaks is a challenge. There are so many options and there is so much to consider.

I am going to break this down a bit and separate my choices into a couple of categories.

Basically, a lot of your Sit-on Top kayaks are versatile enough to use in many applications. Although, there are those that are best suited for one application or the other.

Sit-on Top Kayak for Recreation

The recreation category is a big category.

While I consider all kayaking to be recreational, the term is generally used for basic kayaking done by families or individuals randomly without a definite purpose. Such as just having fun on the lake or river on the weekend.

So the best sit-on top kayak of 2020 in my opinion for this purpose starts with the Pelican Sentinel 100X.

I chose this model for a couple of reasons.

  1. It had great reviews on Amazon and YouTube
  2. Easy to transport
  3. Versatility
  4. Budget Friendly
  5. Ample Storage

The Pelican Sentinel is a one-person kayak that is manufactured in Canada. It is easily transported due to the light-weight construction and the molded side handles.

While it is dubbed as a recreational kayak, it can easily be used for fishing as well.

Its construction makes for a durable kayak and has built-in flotation (foam blocks) for extra stability and safety.

Specs. for the Pelican Sentinel

Length – 9′-6″

Weight – 47lbs

Capacity – 275lbs

Check out this video for a great walk-around of this great little boat.

The few cons that I found were the same as some other kayaks I researched. The paddle is sold separately, but that just means you can get one suited to you.

The Exoshell that is shown in the video is not water tight. So, make sure your gear is in a dry bag before hitting the water.

There are so many options for this category that I am going to leave you with this one for now. You can also check out my review for the Ascend 10T. Also, a great little boat, I own an older model the D10T, and it is made in the USA.

I am going to start reviewing some of these kayaks on an individual basis, that way I am not boring you with extremely long posts, LOL

Sit-on Top Kayak for Fishing

This category is flooded with awesome sit-on top kayak models. These range in prices from a couple of hundred dollars to a couple of thousand dollars.

The Hobie line is at the top.

My pick for 2020 is the Hobie Mirage Compass

Hobie is notorious for building a quality fishing kayak and this is no different.

While the Hobie is in the higher price range, you are paying for quality and a wealth of standard upgrades compared to other kayaks. Hobie is also manufactured in the USA.

Specs. for the Mirage Compass are:

Length – 12′

Weight – 87lbs (fully rigged with standard equip., seat, pedal drive and rudder system). Fitted weight without stuff is 68lbs.

Capacity – 400lbs

The Hobie Mirage has a lot of Pros.

It comes with a breathable, mesh seat that can also function as a beach chair when removed. It is also adjustable to suit your comfort.

All Hobies come standard with the MirageDrive pedal system. This one also has the retractable fins and can also be upgraded to the drive that offers reverse and the bigger fins.

It has the Hobie H-track system to attach accessories easily on either side.

Molded side handles for easier loading and carrying. Also, has bow and stern handles

Comes standard with a built-in transducer mount and includes thru-hull cable plugs. So you can add your fish finder.

This kayak also checks off the stable and durable boxes in my checklist above.

It is also very versatile. While I really like it for fishing it can also be used for recreational purposes other than fishing. The flip-up fins make it doable for shallower waters, so you can still enjoy rivers as well as lakes and island touring.

Check out the video below for a great walk-thru demo of this awesome kayak.

The only con I found with this kayak is really the weight. If you are alone and not super strong it is going to be a challenge to transport. You will certainly want to have some kind of cart to get it to the water. I would recommend the Hobie Fold n Stow Kayak Cart.

Sit-on Top Inflatable Kayak

The top pick for me in this category is the Driftsun Rover 120

The Driftsun is a versatile, durable kayak that checks off many of my criteria boxes. The only real exception is being able to bling it out. Let’s face it. It is inflatable, and adding gear could really compromise the structure.

It is, however, budget friendly, comfortable and easy to transport.

It has a great many reviews on Amazon and rated at a 4.8 out of 5 stars.

Specs for the Driftsun Rover 120

Length – 8′-6″

Width – 32″

Weight – 22lbs

Capacity – 300lbs

This kayak generally comes with the two-piece aluminum paddle, Dual-action hand pump, rear tracking fin, adjustable EVA padded seat w/ high back support and a handy dandy travel bag.

This kayak sports a rocker profile ideal for maneuverability and stability and can handle up to class 3 or 4 rapids. It is just as handy on flat water.

The construction is composed of high-pressure drop-stitched floor, and reinforced layered PVC. Both adding to the stability and durability of the kayak.

It has a removable rear skeg. It makes for great tracking in flat water, but can be stored for whitewater use.

Lastly, It has 7 self-bailing plugs.

It only takes about 9 minutes to inflate, which makes it great for getting your day started.

Also, if you find that you would like to have a little larger capacity with more space, Driftsun also offers a two man inflatable with all the same bells and whistles.

Wrap it Up!

Okay, so I purposely only gave you my 3 top options for 2020. There is a huge selection of Sit-on Top Kayaks on the market. I chose the three I chose for specific reasons stated above as my favorites.

My intention is to start reviewing different makes and models of kayaks individually. Had I tried to review them all here this post would have turned into a book, LOL.

So I hope you found my reviews helpful and informative. Keep coming back to see what I have reviewed next and what I think about them.

Until Next Time!

How are Kayaks Made

Does Construction matter and what are the differences?

We are going to take a look at how kayaks are made and the difference in the construction process. Also why construction is important and how it is relative to the plan you have for your kayak.

4 Basic Types of Construction

We have come a long way from the original kayaks made out of tree bark and animal skins. Not that they were not effective. In todays world, they are not efficient, economical or practical.

There are 4 types of construction or materials that kayaks are made out of. Each type will determine things such as weight, durability, pricing, and what you are going to use it for.

Kayak Construction Materials

  • Rotomolded
  • Thermoform
  • Fiberglass/Composite
  • Wood

Rotomolded or Rotation Molding

This is a process that has been used for a long time to produce many plastic or polyethylene objects and products. Many of the products we use in everyday life and is not just contained to kayaks.

The process is done by pouring a plastic powder into a hollow mold and continuously rotated while the heated plastic forms to the sides of the mold. The rotation continues through the heating and cooling phases. Eventually after cooling the product shrinks and pulls away from the sides of the mold allow easy removal.

Advantages Of Rotomold

  • One solid piece polyethylene or plastic
  • Durabilty, flexibility and can handle quite an impact
  • Consistant wall thickness
  • Budget Friendly

Cons to Rotomold Kayaks

  • Weight, they tend to be the heaviest kayaks
  • Hard to repair
  • Susceptible to UV damage

Rotomolded kayaks are very popular, because they tend to be less expensive and are easily found. A couple of the popular brands are Ascend, Perception and Lifetime Kayaks.

Rotomolded kayaks tend to be very durable and come in a variety of lengths and widths. They are used for recreational kayaks, whitewater kayaks, fishing kayaks, touring kayaks and surf kayaks.

Thermoform Construction

Thermoform is another form of molding plastic or polyethylene. In this process thin sheets of plastic or polyethylene are heated till they are pliable then formed over a male our female mold. Thus, creating two pieces that are then molded together. Then, once removed from the mold the product is trimmed to increase usability.

There are two types of Thermoforming.

There is Vacuum forming and Pressure forming.

Vacuum forming is accomplished by heating a sheet of plastic, then placing it over the mold. Once it is at the desired temperature a vacuum is used to apply the pressure needed to form the plastic into it’s desired form.

Pressure forming has many similarities to vacuum forming, but has the benefit of added pressure. This is great when extra detail is needed or wanted for additional aesthetics value.

This technique is used in many different applications. Everything from kayaks, car parts to disposable food containers.

Advantages of Thermoform

  • Budget Friendly
  • Light-Weight
  • Impact Resistant
  • Durable
  • Outer Layer is UV Resistant
  • Recyclable

Cons

  • Acrylic outer layer can break down over time

There really aren’t any cons to this process. Many popular kayak manufacturers use this process. Pelican and Hobie to name a few. This process is relatively new and provides a product that is also pleasing to look at.

Again, this process is used for a large variety of kayaks. These kayaks are great for beginners and are typically easier to transport due to weight.

Fiberglass/Composite Construction

This process is used for a lot of your higher end kayaks. It is an expensive process and takes a long time to complete. But it does produce a beautiful kayak.

It is a constructed of layers of fiberglass, Graphite or Kevlar, or a combination of the three and resin to hold it all together. Think of it as making lasagna. They build them in a mold one layer at a time. Due to the lengthy process they are quite expensive.

Advantages of Composite

  • Ultra Light-weight
  • Highly Responsive, great tracking and fast
  • Fairly Durable
  • Fairly easy to repair
  • Many configurations are available

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Susceptible to damage in impact situations

Not sure I would recommend for general recreational kayaking.

Composite kayaks are beautiful to look at and if you have the budget, they are high performance kayaks. I would imagine a long-distance journey in one of these kayaks would be a lot like riding in a Cadillac.

Wood Construction

For that purist kayaker or that person that just loves art, the wooden kayaks are glorious. They are stunning to look at and there is just something about them that brings out the naturalist in a person.

Wood construction is a lengthy, expensive process and really requires patience and a loving hand. Although, they do sell a few DIY kits for that person that wants to give it a try.

Wooden kayaks can be just as durable if not more so than composite kayaks. They are typically coated in fiberglass, resin or varnish to protect the wood underneath.

Advantages of Wood

  • Beautiful to look at
  • Light-weight
  • As Durable or more so than composite
  • Fairly easy to repair
  • Great DIY project

Cons

  • Requires some woodworking skills
  • May need to be put together
  • Custom-made is expensive
  • Not really recommended for rough conditions

Here is a short video to show the process.

Wow, Who Knew

Now you know what goes into making a kayak and what to look for depending on what you are going to do with your kayak. Rotomolding and Thermoform are ideal for most kayak applications. If you are looking to go on long tours maybe you would be better suited with a composite built kayak or even a wooden one.

==>Click here to learn about the different styles of Kayaks<==

Either way, in the modern world there are affordable kayak options that are durable, nice to look at and easy to transport. Construction really does matter depending on what you are using your kayak for.

There are also inflatable kayaks that are obviously not built in any of these constructions styles. We will save that for another day.

If you have any comments or experiences you would like to share about your kayak and it’s construction, please share!

Until Next Time!

Kayaking in Branson – Lake Taneycomo

Kayaking in Missouri can be a wonderful adventure. If you need some ideas of where to get started, checkout my recent post.

I am going to focus on kayaking in Branson on Lake Taneycomo for a minute. Come take a trip with me and let’s explore a hidden kayaking gem.

Lake Taneycomo

Where is Lake Taneycomo

Lake Taneycomo is nestled in the heart of the Ozarks in Branson, Missouri. It’s name alone tells you where it is. Taneycomo is the combination of Taney County Missouri, or Taney co mo. I know, ingenious!

Branson is known for its musical shows ranging from Country to some good ol’ 50s and 60s, to some Classic Rock n Roll and sweet Gospel. Branson boasts of things to do with the family and lots of places to eat. It also has 1.5 miles of boardwalk along the bank of Lake Taneycomo that also houses the Branson Landing.

Lake Taneycomo was the first of now several reservoirs on the White River. It began in 1913 when the Ozark Beach Dam in Powersite was constructed. Nothing more than a widening of the White River and hosting a number of species of sport fish native to the river.

Lake Taneycomo became the first tourist attraction in the area and for 38 years hosted many sport anglers on the shores of Rockaway Beach. Everything changed in 1958 with the construction of Table Rock Dam 22 miles upstream.

Lake Taneycomo

After the construction of Table Rock Dam, the ecology of the lake changed. It is now being fed from 160 miles below the surface of Table Rock Lake. This caused the waters in Lake Taneycomo to drop significantly. The lake generally maintains a temperature between 45 and 55 degrees year round. The warm water species of the lake started to decrease in numbers and there needed to be a fix.

Why is it Unique

This is where the unique part of the lake comes in. As the waters got colder and the fishing declined the Missouri Dept. of Conservation scouted for ways to bring the Lakes fishing back up. So, the Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery was constructed and in come the rainbow and brown trout. Now the lake is stocked constantly with trout.

rainbow trout

If you like to fish there is no shortage of fish in Taneycomo. I personally have kayaked and fished it several times near the Branson Landing and in a few of the inlets nearby. Trout being the main fish in the waters these days, you can still catch bass, crappie, and walleye depending on the season and the way you hold your mouth.

If you have never fished froma kayak, I highly recommend you try it. Check out my post “Kayak fishing for beginners” and get all the scoop on how to get started.

Why Kayak Lake Taneycomo

Why not?

Actually, it really is a gem. There are several places to access Lake Taneycomo if you are looking to put in a kayak. There is public access at the Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery, which is up at the Table Rock Dam. A little further down stream there is public access at Cooper Creek again at the Branson Landing and at Rockaway Beach. Those are the ones I know of for sure.

While normally Lake Taneycomo is a flat water float, it is dependent on the release of water from Table Rock as to how fast it is moving. Meaning that, if they are releasing a fair amount of water, it will not take to long to get downstream. If they aren’t, your arms may get a bit tired.

The scenery of Lake Taneycomo is stunning. Up by the dam you will find gravel bars and tree line shores. You can spot trout in the water underneath you and you will probably spot an eagle or two in the tree tops. As you move downstream the scenery will be spotted with houses and private boat docks with and occasional stream flowing into the lake.

Lake Taneycomo scenery

Watch out for the Canadian Geese and ducks, they are everywhere. The Great Blue Heron is a constant companion along the way hoping you will toss a morsel or unwanted catch. I have been lucky enough to see an occasional mongoose and otter along the way as well.

Because of the cold water of the lake it is not uncommon for the fog to roll in the evenings and hang out well into the morning. I haven’t had the pleasure of getting on the lake early enough to paddle in the fog yet, but I want too, with caution of course

Lake Taneycomo fog

Don’t overlook the little inlets either. Turkey Creek is straight across from the Branson Lakeside RV Park, which by the way is a great place to camp and launch your kayak. Also, downstream from the campground, just past the Branson Landing there is Roark Creek. In between the two is a smaller inlet that doesn’t go very far in before it becomes too shallow to navigate, but is very scenic to see.

Turkey Creek is where you can also find Branson Kayak. The most popular outfitter in town. So if you do not have your own kayak, no worries. They have you covered. It is also chock-full of wildlife. Everything from herons, ducks, turtles and the occasional snake.

Roark Creek is a popular fishing spot and scenic as well. Lots of turtles and bird life. Also, if you happen to float up Roark look out for the giant orange goldfish that hangs out by the boat docks.

Places to Stay

There are several options for accommodations on Lake Taneycomo. I mentioned the Branson Lakeside Rv Park earlier. It is a great RV park right in the heart of Branson. It is city owned and maintained. Clean amenities and right on the lake. You are also right next door to the Branson Landing. Just a few strides away you will find Bass Pro Shops for all your fishing needs and eateries to keep you from cooking. Although, nothing beats a campfire and some hot dogs and s’mores.

Branson Lakeside RV

Also, on the Lake is Cooper Creek Campground. I cannot vouch for Cooper Creek, I have never stayed there. I do know that they are right on Lake Taneycomo and there is a boat launch there. Also, right on the lake is Lilly’s Landing. Again, I have not stayed here, but I know they provide fishing guide services and boat rentals. I do not think they rent kayaks though.

There are also countless hotels, motels and resorts in the area. It is Branson after all.

Thoughts on the Hidden Gem

So, while Lake Taneycomo is not the most popular river or lake in Missouri to kayak on, it is certainly a gem to explore and fish.

The only downside in my opinion is the amount of powerboats on the lake during the busy season. The fishermen can get a little impatient when the fish are biting, so just be alert and aware of what is around you.

If you have had the pleasure of kayaking on the lake let me know your thoughts below. I would love to know about your experiences and see your photos. All the pictures here were taken by myself on the lake. So head over to the Facebook page and share yours.

Until Next Time!

Kayaking in Missouri

While I am relatively new at the whole kayaking thing, there are a bunch of peeps out there that are not. Thankfully, they too are willing to share their knowledge and adventures.

I have a huge desire to get out on the water and explore our country. Right now I am in the Branson area, and I am going to focus on Kayaking in Missouri.

Kayaking _Missouri_map

The Best Places to Kayak

I really do not know if there is a best place to kayak in Missouri. I do know that the part of the state that I have explored, either by foot, by car or by kayak is amazingly beautiful. The Ozarks are a world unto their own and have a beauty that is undeniable.

There are places that make you feel like you are in a fairy wonderland and there are the stunning blue lakes and streams that you can see every rock on the bottom.
Branson_bridge

Missouri has a ton to offer kayakers. Everything from beginner to experienced. There are small streams, large rivers, lakes full of fish, and historic sites all throughout the state. Rocky bluffs and caves sneak up on you. Waterfalls and pools of crystal clear water.

The Ozarks are a popular place to enjoy many outdoor activities. Kayaking/canoeing, hiking, fishing, and camping are just a few of the fun things to do. There is a wide array of State Parks and natural areas to explore.

kayakinginmissouri_tablerocklake

So, lets get started and check out some popular places to go with our tiny boats.

Southeast Missouri

In Southeast Missouri, there are several hot spots for paddlers and kayakers alike. From the popular Current River to the Eleven Point River to the Meramec River. These are just a few that I found listed. There are so many to explore. You can find a full list of Missouri rivers here.

The Current River starts in the Southeastern part of the Ozarks and joins up with the Black River and flows into Arkansas. It is a popular river for floating, fishing and camping. The Current River is approximately 184 miles long and in 1964 about 134 miles of the upper course and its tributaries were federally protected as the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. This was the first National Park to protect a river system.

The Current River begins in the Montauk State Park. The Montauk Spring combined with the confluence of Pigeon Creek make up the headwaters of the Current River. After leaving the Montauk State Park the river passes by many springs, several tributaries and flows through the beautiful Ozarks.

About 52 miles from the headwaters, the Current river receives its largest tributary the Jacks Fork River near the small town of Eminence, Missouri.

The Current River also boasts as having the largest spring in the Ozarks dumping into its waterway known as the Big Spring. This happens a few miles after passing by Van Buren, Missouri and under US Rt. 60.

From there the river travels Southeasterly out of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways 105 miles from the headwaters. It eventually runs through the Mark Twain National Forest and into Arkansas where it runs into the Black River.

The Current River is a very popular summer destination for all kinds of outdoor activities. While it is considered a mostly calm river with some class 1 rapids, there are a few that could be considered class 2 rapids.

Some awesome things to look out for along your adventure are: The Montuak State Park (trout park), The Current River State Park, Welch Spring and Abandoned Hospital, Akers Ferry, Cave Spring, Devil’s Well, Deer Leap, Rockhouse Cave, Pulltite Spring, Round Spring, Jack’s Fork, Blue Spring, and Big Spring.

Keep your eyes open as you will see beautiful rocky cliffs and dolomite bluffs, caves, springs, hardwood trees and gravel bars. Take your fishing pole and camera, you are sure to catch some great shots and possibly a fish or two. Also, watch out for those motor boats. Summer weekends will get busy for sure.

The Eleven Point River is another popular river in the Southeast portion of the Ozarks. In 1968 a 44-mile stretch of the Eleven Point River starting in near Thomasville, Missouri and ending near the Highway 142 bridge was selected to be added as one of the original eight rivers in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Although, the river is about 138 miles long in total and eventually runs into the Spring River in Arkansas.

The Eleven Point is considered a year round river with approximately 30 natural springs feeding it. The largest is also the second largest in the Ozarks, known as Greer Spring.

Even though, in drought circumstances, some areas may need you to do a little walking. It is generally an easy river for the experienced paddler, but with some Class 1 and Class 2 rapids on the International scale, it is recommended that beginners be cautious.

Be prepared also for some spectacular scenery and the occasional wildlife encounter, as it runs through the Mark Twain National Forest. The area below Greer Spring is known as the Irish Wilderness. Full of lush greenery and rolling hills, caverns and sinkholes. It is totally recommended to take a camera along, but make sure you have it in a dry bag.

Also, on certain parts of the river be prepared to meet up with the occasional boat with motor. As they are allowed to have up to a 25 hp motor on certain stretches.

The Meramec River is one of the longest free-flowing waterways in the state of Missouri. From its starting point at near Salem till it dumps into the Mississippi River near St. Louis, it is 218 miles long and encounters 14 Missouri counties.

While the Meramec is a rather large river and can be navigated pretty much year-round, the majority of paddlers stick to a 67-mile stretch of the river between the Maramec Spring to the Meramec State Park. There is excellent access and many outfitters situated along the route.

The Meramec winds its way through the Mark Twain National Forest, through the limestone Meramec caverns and several tributaries intersect with the river for your delight. The Meramec is a Class 1, mostly flat water river that offers great fishing, scenery, wildlife and caverns. The Meramec State Park offers hiking trails and over 40 caves to explore, in addition to other outdoor activities to keep you busy off the water.

The Meramec is surrounded by history. The earliest explorer of the river was a French Jesuit Priest by the name of Jacques Gravier. He was a missionary to the new world and traveled the river between 1699-1700.

It is also hard to believe that at one time the Meramec was labeled as on of the most polluted rivers in Missouri. Since then state and local governments have taken extensive measures to clean it up and it now has a great diverse ecology and is home to many species of fish and other wildlife.

The tributaries include the Big River, Bourbeuse River, Courtois Creek and the Huzzah Creek. All of which are great flat water waterways for exploring the Ozarks.

 

Southwest Missouri

The Southwest portion of Missouri is just as beautiful as the Southeast portion.

The White River is an interesting river with many tributaries and many lakes along its path. The White River is not solely in Missouri. It actually begins its journey in Arkansas in the Boston Mountains In the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest southeast of Fayetteville.

The White River then travels northward into Southern Missouri. Many modifications have been made to the river between its start in Arkansas till its end at the Mississippi River, again in Arkansas. Since 1913 there have been 8 dams erected on the White River, two in Missouri and six in Arkansas.

With that we now have Beaver Lake, Table Rock Lake, Lake Taneycomo and Bull Shoals Lake. While they are all man-made reservoir lakes, Lake Taneycomo still resembles a river.

Lake Taneycomo is still very river-like, even though there is a dam at both ends. It flows from the bottom of Table Rock Lake and is held in place by Powersite Dam. It flows through Branson, Missouri and Rock-Away Beach and is a gem. From Table Rock to Powersite it is about 22 miles.

Many kayakers enjoy floating down Taneycomo. It is home to some best trout fishing in Missouri as well as many bird species including Bald Eagles.

Kayaking in Missouri_Lake Taneycomo

Taneycomo is a flat water float and easy for beginners, but I think even experienced kayakers would enjoy the scenery and the fact that you can pull out right at the Branson Landing for food and drink.

The only real hazard on Lake Taneycomo is the onslaught of powerboats and fisherman that really do not pay much attention to who is on the water with them.

There are several small tributaries on Taneycomo that are worth the short jaunt off the lake. Turkey Creek and Roark Creek are the best known and do not have the boat traffic.

The James River, also a tributary or at least part of the White River Watershed Basin, is another great spot to check out. Before the formation of Table Rock Lake I am sure this river ran right into the White river. Now it runs from northeast Webster County and dumps into Table Rock. Along the way it forms Springfield Lake, in Springfield Missouri.

Large portions of this river are used for recreational activities and when water levels are right you could potentially paddle from the access on the downstream side of the dam at Springfield Lake for 3 solid days to Galena.

KayakinginMissouri_James_River

The James River winds southward through the Mark Twain National Forest and flows near the Wilson Creek Battlefield in Missouri. This site has significant history from the Civil War.

While the James is not as big on the paddlers list of rivers, it is still worth the trip and if you like to fish it is a great one to catch some fish on.

The Niangua River named by the Osage for a tribal leader {Neh-hem-gar} meaning bear, is a very popular river in the summer for floating and paddling.

The Niangua is a tributary of the Osage River and runs about 125 miles. It starts in Webster County and runs northward through 3 counties and runs through the Bennett Springs area, Lake Niangua and Ha Ha Tonka State Parks. It flows into the Osage River as an arm of the Lake of The Ozarks.

There are roughly 113.8 miles of river that are easily accessible to kayakers and paddlers. The Niangua River is wonderful for fishing as the Bennett Spring State Park is home to a trout hatchery for rainbow and brown trout. There are also many other species available for the anglers to harvest.

The river is surrounded by mostly state-managed conservation areas that hosts a number of hunters seeking deer, turkey, rabbits and other edible creatures. So I imagine that the scenery is just stunning and a camera is going to be a must.

Northeast Missouri

The Cuivre River in northeast Missouri is about 41.6 miles long. While, technically not considered to be in the Ozarks, it has all the trademarks of the foothills. As the northern part of Missouri is not as popular as the southern Ozarks, you likely will not be faced with as many people on the Cuivre River.

Most folks stay at the Cuivre State Park when visiting this neck of the woods. There are no campgrounds along the river other than this as far as I could tell. From my research, access is limited but some local outfitters can get you into some other spots other than the few public areas if you ask.

Fishing is a popular activity on the Cuivre as there are 71 species of fish in the river. So take your fishing pole and your camera to back up those fish stories.

The Salt River is a very history rich river. It is about 55 miles long, but since the construction of the Clarence Csnnon Dam in 1983, the first 15 miles of the river are contained in the Mark Twain Lake. Below the dam you can access this river and float its winding path towards the mighty Mississippi.

Mark Tain was born on the Salt River back in 1835 in the town of Florida. The Salt River was called the “Ohaha” by the Native Americans that lived along its course. So, you history buffs will really enjoy this adventure.

According to my research and some helpful folks here on the internet I have discovered that the water levels on the Salt River are primarily controlled by how much water the Corp. of Engineers are letting out that day. So, this river is probably a great one for beginners looking for a smooth float.

Also, they said that the scenery is beautiful and full of birds, butterflies and even the occasional otter. Fishing is also something worth trying while you are drifting along. So, a pole and a camera are a must.

Northwest Missouri

Okay, so floating in the northwest portion of Missouri is doable, but more of a challenge. Access to a lot of the rivers may be limited and you are not going to find the crystal clear waters of the Ozarks. But do not give up yet.

The Platte and The Grand Rivers are both tributaries of the Missouri River and are unique in their own way. Both are rich with history and offer gentle flowing waters for leisurely floats. They say the best time to float the Grand River is in the spring and fall while the migration of the birds is in its height.

The Grand River as several wildlife refuges along its course, so it attracts many bird species.

The Platte River is a playground for Kansas City, but offers many gravel bars and places to pull up and camp. While the northern portion has been channeled, the lower portion between Agency and Platte City can be twisty and navigable most of the year.

Then we have The Missouri River. It is the longest river in North America and enters Missouri in the northwest corner and winds its way south then southeast then east till it reaches the Mississippi River on the northern side of St. Louis.

The Missouri serves many purposes and offers floaters many opportunities to float its waters in many location throughout the state. It has a massive amount of tributaries along its path and many of them offer kayaking adventures for people to enjoy. The “Float Missouri” website offers an extensive list of access points for people to utilize.

That is the Short List

So, here is a very short list of some great places to get you started in the great state of Missouri. I have a huge bucket list my self of places I want to explore while I am here. As I check off my list, I will add more info about them on this site. My research here has just increased the size of my list and I can’t wait to get started.

If you have floated any of these or other rivers in Missouri, please leave you opinion in the comments or on my Facebook Page. I would love to hear of your adventures and see pictures.

Until Next Time!


Fishing in Kayaks for Beginners

Do you like to fish?

I love to fish and I have found that it is even more fun on a kayak!

We are going to break down some basics of fishing in kayaks for beginners in this article.

Choosing the Right Stuff

Now, this is a very broad subject. Stuff encompasses a huge amount of categories, but I am going to try to contain myself and keep it simple. I am sure you have seen the KISS metaphor. Keep It Simple Stupid! Well, let us relate this to kayak fishing.

First, what is the perfect kayak for fishing? I say the perfect kayak for fishing is the one you already have. With that being said, while you can fish off any kayak, ideally there a few things you are going to want to look for if you are shopping for the perfect kayak for fishing.

  1. Stability/stand ability – meaning your kayak is stable enough if you want to stand up and fish, and you won’t flip the first time you set a hook.
  2. Storage – you are going to want to have adequate storage for gear.
  3. Comfort – you want to be comfortable.

You can check out a couple of my previous posts for more about kayaks in general and the different types that are out there.

Second, where do you plan to go fishing? There are going to be distinct differences in what you need depending on what you are fishing for and where. For instance, the gear you take with you when fishing a river with trout will be different from what you take if you are fishing in saltwater.

Third, How are you getting there? Getting to the lake, river, bay or ocean. Transportation is important.

Fourth, What are you going to wear? Dressing for a fishing trip is going to be a little different from dressing for a recreational float trip downstream.

Fifth, Do you have your safety gear? Safety is always high on the priority list. We do not want to ruin a great fishing trip because we have been lax on safety. Check out my Kayak safety post and check off the safety boxes.

The basics of kayak fishing are essentially the same as the basics for any kind of kayaking. If this is your first experience with kayaking or fishing from a kayak, check out my posts on kayaking for beginners. Everything from choosing the right PFD to the right paddle for you.

OH, I almost forgot! Make sure you have the proper paperwork. Get your fishing license, and a rule booklet. All states and countries are going to be different and you don’t want to get in trouble.

The Basics of Outfitting Your Kayak

There are a ton of upgrades or modifications you can do to your kayak. Most kayaks come with at least one flush-mount pole holder. One trip to YouTube will show you a plethora of people modifying their kayaks to work better for them. Honestly, you don’t need to doing any upgrades to go fishing. There are some tho that will make your trip more pleasurable.

  1. A secure rod holder or at least a rod leash to secure your rod and reel to the boat out of the way.
  2. A paddle leash. You certainly do not want to have to worry about losing your paddle while fighting the big one.
  3. A fishing crate. This is a popular way to secure your tackle boxes and other gear to the kayak, out of your way while fishing.
  4. Some kind of wheel rack to get you kayak to the water from your vehicle.

While the top four options are handy and basic, there are so many things you can modify your kayak for and with. Everything from electronics (fish/depth finders, GPS), anchor systems, extra pole holders, etc.

It’s Not a Fashion Show

Dressing for a fishing trip is more about comfort and function rather than fashion.

Be prepared for weather conditions and changes in the weather. Be mindful of the hot sun reflecting off the water. Light-weight, long sleeve shirts, hat, sunglasses, face protection and loose, light-weight pants or shorts.

You will want to do likewise for colder weather. Use layers, that way you can shed them if needed. Have something that is waterproof to put on the outside layer.

Shoes are also a basic need. Summer, some kind of water shoe or kayak boot. Steer clear of flip-flops. Remember there will be fish and hooks in the boat.

I do not recommend wearing waders in the kayak. They could potentially turn into a giant sinker if you fall into deep water.

The Basics of Fishing

While fishing can be a very basic sport, it can also turn into a complicated passion of craziness. If you have ever stepped into a Bass Pro Shop, you know what I mean.

When I was a child fishing with my dad, I thought there was really only 1 or 2 types of rods and reels and there were worms, minnows and the black rubber worms my dad used. Now obviously, I now know that wasn’t true back then, nor is it true today.

You can get very overwhelmed, very quickly with all the shiny objects out there associated with fishing. For us here as beginners, put on the blinders and march on. All you need to get started is a fishing pole and reel, some kind of bait, and a will to catch a fish. Everything else will come with time and practice.

Now there are some other things that I would recommend, just to make your life easier and we will get into those. Here is a short list of things I carry for convenience.

  1. Small tackle box w/extra line, hooks, sinkers and a few lures of choice and bait.
  2. Some kind of measuring tool. Most places have length requirements on certain fish and a scale.
  3. Fish Net, this will help land those fish in the kayak
  4. Pliers or Fish grip to hold the fish or extract the hook
  5. Towel, to wipe my hands

This is just my basic list. You will find so much information that varies from one person to the other. It really comes down to preference and what you are comfortable with.

The Fishing Pole

This is going to be an item that is really specific to you. I will say that if you are someone with shorter arms, you may want to consider a shorter pole when fishing from a kayak.

There are an exuberant amount of different kinds of fishing poles and reels on the market. If you already fish, you probably already have 4 or 5 in the garage. You know they are like potato chips, you can’t have just one!

The poles come in various lengths and strengths. I personally have a 5′ Crappie Max rod with a spinning reel on it and love it. I also have a 7′ and a 6.5′ rod, and found that it can be hard to get fish off of with short arms and lack of coordination. LOL

Choose what works for you!

Tackle Box/Fishing Crate

This is what will determine if you are minimalist or a crazy, obsessed angler that gets sucked into shiny objects, LOL.

I say as a beginner, keep it small and just the basics, until you know what you need or what works for you. Don’t take everything you own. Mostly because you are going to be limited by space and you don’t want to lose it all if you happen to knock it into the water.

Extra line, hooks, sinkers, some reliable lures that you like to use, a pair of pliers or fish grips. Just the basics to get you started. It will also depend on the type of fish you are fishing for. Crappie will not necessarily hit on the same thing as Bass.

Make sure you have your measuring tool. There are some cool measuring things out there. Even some paddles have measuring tools on them. You might also want a scale of some kind, for those fish stories.

Are you keeping your fish or releasing them? You will need a means to keep them if you are. A stringer, basket, cooler, or a bag. There are options, but depending on where you are, put some thought into it. Don’t set yourself up to be bait for larger prey (alligators, sharks, etc.).

Fishing Net

Again, there are options. Everything from folding, collapsing, long handles, short handles, neoprene, and rope or string nets. You just want one that is going to be easy for you to handle while sitting in your kayak. This tool can be a huge help when landing a fish or a hindrance if it is not suited to you.

Fishing Skills and Techniques

Your skills and techniques are going to vary wildly in a kayak. Everything from your basic balance, paddling, using your kayak and fishing equipment and how easily you can access and handle everything.

Casting from a Kayak

While you could be the absolute best at casting your rod and reel on the bank, casting from a kayak is going to be quite different. I found that the first time I cast my pole from the kayak that it felt a little wobbly. Now, after relaxing into it a bit, I found it to not be too hard.

Practice, practice and practice. Learn to have confidence in your boat. You are not going to tip your kayak over with a simple cast. It may feel like it, but if you took your kayak out before attempting to fish from it, you would realize how stable it really is. You will surely improve and get more comfortable the more you do it.

You may have to adjust the way you cast. I found that while I cast over my head with some power from the shore, I tend to cast from the side more at an angle with not as much power from the kayak. You have to adjust to the terrain you are in as well. You will find your sweet spot.

Now, you are going to see folks standing in their kayaks fishing. I am sure it is much easier to cast that way. Although, I can tell you that, that is a learned skill. If you are used to skate boarding or paddle boarding, should be no problem, as long as your kayak is set up for it. Again, practice, a lot!

Boat Position

Learning to position your kayak can be a challenge. Even more challenging is keeping it in position. You should practice working your paddle with one hand while holding your rod in the other. There are a couple natural conditions that are going to affect your position. Watch the current and the wind will play heck with you.

The first time I went out, I found that I spent more time correcting my position, than actually fishing.

You can use an anchor set-up to help with this, or if you are in an area where there is some weeds touching the surface with no real current, try docking yourself on it for a bit.

Drifting

I see kayakers doing this a lot on the river. They start at the at a point and let the river carry them along while they cast or troll for the fish. If the current isn’t super fast you will not have to correct your kayak too much. Minor corrections will keep you path. This method can be very effective though.

Catching Fish!

This is the moment we have all been waiting for!

We are now set up to go out and catch some fish. Now we have to think about how we are going to land those fish in the kayak.

One of the things you need to consider is the fact that when you set the hook on even a small to medium fish, you are not anchored to a mass that is larger than the power of the fish. Even a 5-6 pound fish can and will tow your boat around if given the chance. Just be prepared.

Your kayak will act as a secondary drag system to your fishing pole. This just means that you could potentially be fighting a fish longer and breaking less line. You could also potentially go for a ride depending on the size of the fish. While this could be very exciting, it could also turn scary very quickly in the wrong situation.

Once you get the fish close to the boat, remember to use your net, and to keep your body centered in the kayak. You do not want to go swimming at this point. Place your pole into the hand that is farthest away from the fish and use the closer hand to net it or grab the fish.

Another thing to keep in mind. Depending on the fish, you really don’t want to place anything in the kayak between your legs that has teeth or spikes. Just saying! Keep your pliers or fish grabbers handy.

Don’t forget about Safety

Even though we are out there to have fun, please do not forget to be safe. Check out my “Kakaking for Beginners-Kayak Safety” post for the basics in kayak safety.

There are few more safety things you need to be aware of when fishing.

  • Make sure you have enough water and snacks to get you through the day. Inevitably you will be out longer than predicted.
  • Watch out for flying hooks or spilled hooks. Accidents happen and some fish can be ornery.
  • If you are fishing in the South or in open waters like the ocean, watch out for critters that may want to eat your fish or you. There are other concerns with wildlife. Watch out for low hanging limbs in dense areas and for snakes. They have been known to drop into boats. Don’t Panic and remove them as quickly as possible.
  • Weather can always be a concern. Wind, lightening, rough waters. Be weather aware.
  • Finally, other boats speeding around on the water. Probably the most dangerous animal out there are other humans racing around in the fancy boats.

Let’s Get Out There!

So, we now have the basics to get us out on the water with our fishing poles. The best way to get better at fishing from our kayaks is to just get out there and do it. Like I said earlier, Practice!

I’m going to leave you here and hope that you found this post helpful. I hope I was able to get you educated and excited about getting out there and catching some fish.

Please, add and comments below about your experiences. Meet me over on Facebook and share some pics with me of the fish you have caught or the stories of the ones that got away.

Until Next Time!

Kayaking for Beginners – The Checklist

Are you a list kind of person?

Lord knows I make lists all the time, and sometimes I even use them!

In this installment of Kayaking for Beginners, we are going to work on a basic checklist to get you started.

What is a Checklist?

Now we all know what a checklist is. We make them all the time.

  • Grocery Lists
  • Chore Lists
  • To Do Lists
  • Honey Do Lists

We have all made them. This checklist is going to be geared to you and your kayak adventure. Now, depending on the adventure, this list is going to grow, shrink become a living creature, who knows.

We are going to break our list into a few categories.

  • Essentials – Items you cannot do without.
  • Safety Gear – items you shouldn’t do without
  • Navigational – items to keep you from getting too lost
  • Clothing/footwear – items to keep you from going naked
  • Personal – items to enhance your adventure

10 Essentials List

A little history here. The original 10 Essentials List was introduced by a group of outdoor adventurers called the Mountaineers back in 1974. It was published in the third edition of “Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills.” While the origin of the list dates back to the 1930s, the purpose has always been to answer two basic questions.

  1. Can you respond positively to an emergency or accident?
  2. Can you effectively survive 1 or more nights outdoors?

So naturally, over the years this list has evolved with new technology, equipment, and activities. But, the basics remain the same. The Classic List resembled this: Map, Compass, Sunglasses and sunscreen, Extra clothing, Flashlight or Headlamp, First-aid supplies, Firestarter, Matches, Knife, Extra food.

In 2017, the Mountaineers released a new and improved version of their list known as: Freedom 9 Systems.

We are going to tailor our list to kayaking and primarily recreational kayaking.

Our Kayaking Checklist

Our Essentials – You cannot go kayaking without these items. Quite frankly, if you try you are going to get awfully wet and you won’t get far, LOL.

This is going to be your kayak Pre-trip list.

  1. Kayak – you obviously need your kayak.
  2. Paddle – again, we won’t get far without it. So, store with the kayak so you don’t forget it.
  3. Seat – this will only matter if it is not already attached and not stored with the kayak.

Safety Gear – You should not go out with at least some of these items. Depending on your adventure, this list is going to grow.

Kayaking_for_beginners-pfd

  1. PFD – In my book the most important safety item.
  2. Whistle – in case you need to signal for help
  3. First-aid kit – just in case.

Check out my post “Kayaking for Beginners – Kayak Safety” for more information about safety gear.

Navigation – depending on where you are going this could be needed or not. I personally take my cell phone.

  1. GPS – Some of these have tracking systems
  2. Map – Handy if you are on an unfamiliar lake or river system.
  3. Compass – I would only worry about this if you know how to use one. I personally use landmarks to navigate, so North/South probably wouldn’t help me much.

Clothing and Footwear – dress appropriately for the climate you are in. Again, this list could become a much larger list depending on the trip you are taking.

  1. Kayaking shoes or water shoes – I recommend some kind of decent water type shoe or sandal with a fairly hard sole. I DO NOT recommend flip flops.
  2. Hat – something to keep the sun off your head. A wide brim is recommended.
  3. Quick drying pants or shorts – again weather dependent. Swimwear is okay if it’s warm enough. Take an extra set.
  4. Dry top/Jacket – even if you don’t wear long sleeves, I recommend having something in case the weather changes or you just want to protect yourself from the sun.

Again, this list will grow if you are going out for a longer period.

The Fun Stuff

The Personal Category can and will get out of control if you let it. Totally dependent on the trip. Are you going on a short day float, or a camping float or a fishing trip. It will make a difference in the personal gear you carry.

For a day trip this is my short list. Now, I consider a day trip a couple of hours close to home.

  1. Dry Bag – to carry your personal items that you want to keep dry.
  2. Sunscreen – don’t think you won’t burn out there. Remember, water is reflective.
  3. Sunglasseskayaking for beginners-sunglasses
  4. Lip Balm
  5. Cell Phone
  6. Water Bottle/snacks – chocolate is essential, but we will put it in this category.

Okay, again, this list can grow exponentially depending on the circumstances. I also like to carry my camera and sometimes I remember my little video camera.

Obviously, if you are going fishing that is going to add a whole new category to your list. We will touch on that in a later post.

Start Checking the Boxes

This is just a starter list for you to start checking the boxes. There are certain things I would hate to forget and then there are something I can live without if I am going out close to shore and not for very long.

I hope this helps to you start your list and gets you more prepared for being out on the water.

Thank you for checking in on the next installation of Kayaking for Beginners. Share with me some of the stuff you cannot live without when you go out on the water.

Until Next Time!