riparian rap

Missouri’s Current River.


I’m always surprised how few geomorph types know the Current River in the Missouri Ozarks.

Kate and I are finishing a short working trip there.

This photo shows me with a project I designed in 1994 at Big Spring. This National Park Service site has a rich history, including old CCC buildings (and very cool, rentable CCC-built cabins).   In the late 1980’s the Army Corps installed a massive gabion project to repair a bank blowout that threatened both Big Spring and historic structures. The hydraulically smooth, hard, gabion structure caused serious bank instability downstream (no surprise).

And this is what we fixed. Can’t see the restoration project behind me? Looks like a mass of sycamore trees? Good!

The gabions are now starting to corrode and come apart. Our bioengineered project including tree planting, degradable geotextiles, and carefully sized limestone rock (now weathered so it looks natural) should be good for geologic/ecologic time.

The watershed is mostly karst and the river’s fed by many springs, some of them huge, all of them interesting. The NPS holds property and easements on both sides of the river for over 100 miles. You can canoe for days, enjoying beautiful clear water and camping anywhere you like on the sandy, mostly bug-free bars. The aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems are amazing. So is the geomorphology, which has been extensively studied by Robb Jacobson of the USGS, though much remains to learn. Robb came to Missouri in the early 1990’s after I wrangled funding from my superiors at the Missouri Department of Conservation for a study of historic channel conditions.

Water clarity can be incredible. All my underwater video (example here) was shot on the upper Current and its major tributary, the Jacks Fork. And the springs keep the water very cool even in mid summer.

You should go there. But email me first for guidance. Thousands of tourists hit the river on a summer weekend. You don’t want to be one of them. Go during the workweek, or during the off season for an incredible experience; one of our best floats (that’s what they’re called there) was a three day trip including Valentine’s Day. It was warm enough to swim, and in three days of floating we saw only three other canoes.

Finally, a picture of me in a very happy place, snorkeling around a rootwad looking at rocks and fish, with no work to do, not even a video camera. And Kate, yesterday, doing a watercolor.