The best time of year for floating is upon us. It’s still plenty warm in the afternoon to swim, but it’s cool enough in the evening to throw on a flannel shirt. You won’t find a more comfortable time to sleep in a tent. Fishing is picking up. Fly fishing for trout and smallmouth bass at sundown is divine. Hunting seasons are opening.
I write about a lot of outdoor activities I know most people won’t ever participate in. Fewer than 10 percent of our country’s population will go hunting. Many more people fish, but most are not serious about it. But hiking, camping, bird watching, and floating are some of my favorite pastimes, and they are readily accessible to most.
Of these non-consumptive outdoor pursuits, paddling is my favorite. There is nothing like gliding down a scenic river, pushed along by nature’s hand, soaking in the serenity of water, land, and sky. Along the course of the river, wildlife and bird watching opportunities abound. Fishing is often the point of the float. Sometimes, though, the rods stay stowed, and focus is given to nothing but the warmth of sunrays.
It was during my college years when I fell in love with floating. Sugar Creek in West Central Indiana was the first to draw my constant attention. Just an hour south of Purdue University, my friends and I could escape campus life to camp at Turkey Run and Shades State Parks an hour south. We’d rent canoes from local liveries and spend Saturdays floating at our own pace back to our vehicles.
After college, I moved to the Rocky Mountains. For just over four years, I explored the rivers of Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. Most of my time was spent in Montana. Up there, the Madison River is my favorite to float and fish. Followed closely by the Yellowstone River. Especially the section flowing through the Paradise Valley. The Big Horn River is where I fished when boating as many trout as possible was the goal.
There are still quite a few western rivers on my bucket list to float. Right at the top is the portion of the Wind River just north of Riverton where it flows through the Canyon. The Upper Rio Grande near Southfork, Colorado is another water I am desperate to float. I’ve wade fished it before, but really want to run it in my raft. Henry’s Fork of the Snake River is a water I’ve yet to lay eyes on. But it’s legendary, so I’ll float it someday.
The Ozarks in Southern Missouri are where I spend most of days floating now. The Eleven Point, North Fork of the White, Jacks Fork, Current, Black, Meramec, Gasconade, Big Piney, James, and more are all exceptional floating rivers. Missouri is blessed with beautiful rivers and creeks. Most of which have local outfitters catering to floaters. They make the entire process of a day on the river so simple.
If you have ever wanted to go floating, but haven’t because you’re not sure what to do, it’s simpler than you might believe. There are local businesses that provide everything you need. You can rent canoes, kayaks, rafts or innertubes. It’s a little chilly for innertubes now. The liveries provide the paddles and lifejackets. You’ll either be driven up stream and dropped off to float back to your vehicle, or you will float down to a pickup spot from which you’ll be driven back to your vehicle. Either way, you don’t have to worry about how you get back to where you parked. You pack your own food and drinks, and bring your own personal supplies like sunscreen and bug spray.
If you have been thinking about doing something outdoors with your family, but haven’t gotten around to it this summer, it’s not too late. The weather is perfect right now. Floating is great way to escape electronics for a day. If your child has a paddle in their hands, it’s hard to hold a phone.
See you down the trail…
Pic: It’s a great time of year to float a river as a family with the help of a local outfitter.