Monday, October 14, 2013

Fall Float

The crisp, clear days have ushered in several consecutive weeks of Bermuda shorts, long sleeved t-shirts and sandals, not cold enough for closed toe shoes but not hot enough for short sleeves. With just a hint of fall color moving in, especially on the sumacs and black hickories, this week was the perfect time of year to take a float trip. However, many float outfitters are closed now with the shutdown in place, and the days are shorter so finding a nice stretch of river near home was a challenge. I didn't succeed in that challenge.

Instead, I went to a river I know, a river I love, actually, but on a downstream stretch I hadn't visited before. I had a feeling the area was impaired by grazing livestock but I didn't quite know the degree to which the river had been trashed by cattle. I learned very quickly from the frothy mess and heavy sediment load that I had just rented a canoe to paddle 7.5 miles on a cattle stream. A sunny 75 degree day on a river beats a day inside regardless of the quality, but with my stitches still healing from surgery, I knew immediately that bodily contact with this waterway was out of the question for fear of major infection from a serious e. coli saturation.

I wasn't being histrionic in my fear of stepping foot in a cattle stream, evidenced by the suite of cows we discovered defecating directly into the river. Eroded streambanks were prevalent, and very little native vegetation existed on this stretch of Ozark stream. Sorry, no photos of cardinal flower or even Carex haydenii, but we did see an osprey, some eagles, herons and wood ducks. I just don't think it would be an Ozark stream without them. It's really sad, actually, how impaired this waterway is further downstream from the spring branch, which is why it is still amazingly bizarre that anyone would think that grazing cattle anywhere near a natural waterway is a good idea.

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