After decades of paddling the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, we decided to go a little farther south and try a new river. It is easy to get stuck on the Jacks Fork River and the Current. They never get old, but sometimes it is fun to step outside the norm and try something new. The North Fork River or the North Fork of the White River proved to be right up there with the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, so it was a good choice.
What and where is the North Fork River
The North Fork of the White River is in the Ozarks and it is scenic, but the river is not considered part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. The river is a tributary of the White River in Arkansas. The North Fork begins near the city of Mountain Grove, Missouri and flows southwards. The river forms Norfolk Lake and then joins the White River in Arkansas. The North Fork River is 109 miles long. This is the amazing aspect of this part of the country. There are so many beautiful rivers to paddle here. You can canoe your whole life and not touch a 109 mile scenic river like this.
Paddling ten miles to Blair Bridge
We put in at a national forest service location and paddled about ten miles to Blair Bridge. The river was really shallow, and we scraped a few times. It barely had enough river to navigate at times, but we made it through without having to get out of the canoe.
The scenery was almost exactly like the Current and the Jacks Fork. It featured crystal clear spring fed waters, limestone cliffs, gravel bars, and tree covered Ozark Mountains in the distance. The cliffs and the tree covered hills may not have been as dramatic and as picturesque as the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, but they were close enough. We saw a few people at the put-in and take out, but not a soul on the river. I am sure the North Fork River is a better option during busy weekends when the Ozark Riverways are inundated with mobs of paddlers.
Poling the North Fork River
At first, I thought the river would be ideal for poling. Initially, the river was gravel and perfect for poling; however, there were long stretches where the bottom was solid rock. If you dug the pole in on these solid rock sections, the pole would slip, so you would have to look for nooks and groves in the rock to push off from. There were a lot of these, so it was not a huge problem.
Interesting rifles and rapids and the Falls
The rapids on the North Fork were again similar to the Current and the Jacks Fork, but some were a little more fun. None of the rapids were that challenging. Most comprised of well defined channels with small standing waves and easy to navigate rock gardens. At one riffle, I noticed a water moccasin on a log to my right as I scooted by. The snake did not move as he was enjoying the warm Missouri sun.
The Falls of the North Fork River
The highlight of the trip from a thrill standpoint was The Falls located near the end. The Falls is a class I drop with a three channels to choose from. Approaching it, I thought left was the only route open. I paddled with my dad and Bob Tyler. They were well in front and waiting for me in the pool below. Little did I know that they all went right. I tried to stop above the falls by sticking my pole out, but the river was flowing too strongly here to scout.
I decided to take the Falls sitting down, so I threw my pole in the front of the canoe, grabbed my paddle, and hit the left chute. As I mentioned before, it was shallow, so I did bump some rocks going down. I was paddling a kevlar canoe thanks to Bob Tyler, so I slid easily down the rock ledge into the pool below and met back up with the group.
Nice ending to another Scenic Riverways trip
This year we paddled one stretch of the Jacks Fork River and two on the Current River in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. This trip was a nice way to end the four days of paddling on a different river and a different area of Missouri.
Thank you to Bob Tyler for use of the canoe and exposing us to this new river.
If you are like me and do not have a canoe and do not have a cool friend like Bob Tyler, then check out Pettit’s Canoe Rental just around the corner from Blair Bridge.
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