Lower Mountain Fork from Hwy 70 to Horatio, Ar, Hwy 41
Date: May 28th – May31
Along on this trip with me is one of my 10yr old twin boys Jacob. He is paddling a OK Prowler 15 and I am paddling an OK Trident 15. Jake and I got to Ambush Adventures around 7am and started unloading. We had it all unloaded and the yaks packed up by 7:30. You could see that the water had been quite high the night or day before and was still running nicely. Come to find out later they were releasing 3100 cfs during the night then cutting back some during the day. The rest of the crew from DDRC started arriving at 8am then we ran shuttles down to Horatio and got back and launched by 11am. The water was still flowing good at 11am and we made our 6.6 miles to the first nights campsite in just over 1 hour. I stopped and fished some along the way up until I lost my pole. I had grabbed it to duck a tree the went to put it into the rod holder and guess I just did not get it in and heard plupe. I eddied out and made my way a little ways upstream to the swift area where I lost it and crawled up on top of an 8ft diameter cypress root ball out in the middle of the river. I looked down into the area and could not make out any sign of my reel. Decided to move on and catch up with Jacob. This was the highest I have seen the water on this stretch of river in 6 yrs and it was fun. You could paddle parts of the river you normally would have to pull through but it went fast. When we arrived at our campsite on river right (WW10) we got ourselves unloaded and had some lunch then played in the quite cool river. Normally on this part of the river you could walk across without much effort, but not this time. Later we cooked dinner of steak, baked potatoes, and corn on fire filled our bellies then sat in our chairs and told stories until one by one we retired. I crawled in around 10:30 and slept quite lite and then around 12am awoke to the sound of a bump of a boat somewhere upriver. Everyone else had unloaded their boats and brought them up to high ground but I left mine tied to a tree floating in the river. I went down to the river to investigate and noticed that the river was up about a foot and a red light about 200 yrds upstream. Some of our group had exchanged words with some guys in flat bottom boats running up and down the river throwing large wakes earlier that day. So I figured one of these joker might be looking for more. I picked up several rocks got into the shadow of a tree and was ready to start firing away if they got close to my kayaks. As I sat and watched this guy in a canoe standing up paddling wearing a cowboy had with a red light attached came by along the river. I instantly recognized this guy in the dark and there was only one guy I know who paddles standing up and wears a cowboy hat with a red light. I also knew that Tom Taylor might be joining us during the night so I called out Tom just as he went by. He quickly tried to eddy out but could only get up so far so I got out in the river and helped pull him over. With the river flowing like it was I almost lost my footing. Good thing I did not as I would have been washed down the river in the dark. Tom tied off his canoe then grabbed a tarp and a sleeping bag and headed up to the camp. Shortly after I laid down a pack of coyotes gathered on the other side of the river and must of cornered something as you could hear them snarling then started to howl. I laid back down and got some decent shut eye.
I got up about 4:30 and made me a cup of coffee and listed to the serenade of the owls and watching the fireflies filling the trees. As the moon gave up it luminous dominance to the sun the rest of the group got up along with Jake. I made us some oatmeal for breakfast along with some OJ. We packed up and were the first ones on the river at 7:30. The river was even higher than the day prior and made for some easy paddling. We arrived at the confluence with the Little River in about 20 minutes. Jake and I paddled easy soaking up the scenery and not seeing anyone until we arrived at the next nights campsite about 10-11 miles downriver. This campsite is one we had stayed at many times before and is a group of 4 islands side by side. When the water is low it is really only two islands and when the water is higher it is four. With the water as high as it was there was and had been the night before there was minimal room for the rest of the group. So Jake and I paddled back upstream about 200 yards and pulled up to a very tall grass covered sandbar which really was not an island at these water levels but certainly had been earlier in the spring. We set up my shade and pulled out the chair and lunch then kept cool in the river as the day was getting quite warm. The rest of the group arrived a short time later. Jake and I spent the rest of the afternoon shooting the bb gun and playing in the river. Supper was ham steak, green bean, fried potatoes and was topped off with apple cobbler made by Bryan Jackson and Marc McCord. As the sun set we all sat around one of the shades and exchanged our usual evening time conversations. Soon the lightening bugs lit up the trees like it was Christmas and the bats made their appearance fluttering through what was left of the twilight. Jake and I did not set up a tent and elected to sleep out under the stars followed by the bright moonlight. The dew was very heavy and soaked our bags and shade. As the night time temps slowly dropped into the upper 60s we began to slide into the bags rather than on top. Jake got up once during the night to pee and stumbled in the dark on one of the painters from a canoe and fell face first into the mud on the rivers edge. Well that woke him up pretty good and boy was he mad. I finally got him calmed down and cleaned up and back in his bag.
I got up at my usual early morning hour of 4am and made me a cup of coffee then sat in my chair and enjoyed the peace of the river making it slight sounds of running water as it passed by. Soon I got to enjoy the chorus of at least two owls downriver one trying to out hoot the other. I guess one got tired of the competition and flew right over me a lit in a tree just up from the camp then started his own symphony. Meanwhile the lightening bugs are still at it lighting up the forest. Soon the moonlight gave way to sunlight and people began to stir. Jake peaked out of his bag and smiled. I made us some oatmeal then we got busy packing up and got on the water by 6:40. We have about 8 miles to the take out in Horatio, AR. The river slows down some over this stretch with a couple of faster narrows. We made about 3 brief stops along the way and to Horatio about 8:50. I packed us up and were on the road by 9:30 and back in Plano by 12:30. It sure helps knowing some of the back roads in AR, OK and TX which saved a good 30-40 minutes off of our drive time.
See you on the water,