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VOL. 46, NO. 1

JUNE 2018

Groups work to stabilize Elk River stream bank


By Mattie Link he Elk River Basin is an ecologically and economically significant drainage in southwest Missouri. Unfortunately, like other river basins in the state, stream bank erosion impacts its waters, resulting in sedimentation and nutrient pollution, loss of in-stream habitat, and degradation of water quality and recreation opportunities for local communities. At a site on the lower end of Elk River in Noel, Mo., in McDonald County, stream bank erosion has resulted in around 7.5 acres of land, totaling 170,000 tons of soil lost

Handmade canoe & paddles G

By Mattie Link rowing up in Missouri, Gary Coursey has done a lot of canoeing throughout his life. He mostly does canoes in the lakes that surround Bolivar and Buffalo, about 30 minutes away from his home and with his wife and four daughters. “I decided to start making beavertail wood paddles and it kind of progressed from there. I really wanted to build my own canoe to go with my paddles,” said Coursey. Coursey has made several beavertail paddles for canoeing and two kayak paddles. He even started his own business — Halfway Paddle Company & More — for his paddles and canoe. “It’s amazing the amount of effort you can put into making a wood paddle,” he said. “It’s hard to describe, it just takes a lot less work. The paddles work well on the

in the past 20 years. The Nature Conservancy of Missouri along with several local landowners and support by Tyson Foods Inc., and the Missouri Department of Nat-

Please see STREAM, 14

Prison donates mural to Ozark Riverways


Missouri man’s #1 hobby

zark National Scenic Riverways (ONSR) Superintendent Larry Johnson was recently invited to visit the South Central Correctional Center, at Licking, to receive a mural painting that features scenes from the ONSR. The mural was a surprise donation to the National Park Service, hand-painted by one

inmate at the correctional facility.! The artwork, which measures approximately seven feet tall by nine feet wide, was created using acrylic paints on heavy art paper and coated with acrylic spray to protect it while on display. It depicts beautiful imagery of Alley Spring, Big Spring, Please see MURAL, 15

lake and we have tried them on the river, too.” Coursey grew up in the construction business, but is now a tile and hardwood installer and has been running his own business for 20 years.

Please see CANOE, 15 ONSR Superintendent Larry Johnson with one of the inmates at the South Central Correctional Center who painted the mural in honor of the ONSR.

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Page 2 • June 2018

Don’t scoff, give that creek a try


t’s often said we can’t see what’s right in front of us, and that certainly rings true for sportsmen. We always have our eye on the bigger picture and overlook the small things. The Ozarks are interlaced with small streams, some no bigger than 15 feet or so wide and we wouldn’t dare waste a day’s time on them. Most anywhere you go you cross small bridges with little streams running underneath and you do no more than give them a glance, never thinking they could possibly hold fish, let alone a day of fun. Oh, maybe let the kids splash around in them and cool off but that’s the best they have to offer. There was one such small stream that a buddy and I passed over for probably 20 years going back and Roger Smith forth to our spring ———— turkey hunting spot. We never paid it no mind as we were always eyeing up the farm ponds along the way and longing to wet a line in those. Eventually the subject arose about that little creek that we may just have to fish it one day, but it was more in jest than seriousness. Year after year we’d cross that creek, occasionally remarking how we may just have to fish it one day but it certainly wasn’t on our to-do list. Finally, one spring I told my friend the night before to at least throw a couple rods in the car and a couple beetle spins, as if we had no luck turkey hunting maybe we’d at least find a small group of perch to add excitement to our day. So after that mornings hunt we parked at the bridge and made our way down to the creek. With great pessimism, I might add, we entered the shallow stream. The water was cold and we questioned what we were even doing. Where we started the water was maybe 12 inches deep and didn’t hold much promise. We normally wade upstream so as not to send a cloud of mud out before us, but looking upstream it didn’t look like it offered much holdings as it grew narrower, so we decided to head downstream anyway. We finally hit a hole where the water

deepened to maybe a whole 2 feet. I tossed the beetle spin downstream and reeled it along the bank. Much to my surprise I felt a sudden tug. In my mind I was thinking at least there were some perch here when all of the sudden the top water exploded and I saw that bronze back of a smallmouth. I wrestled him in and he was a 15inch fish, 3 inches over the legal minimum to keep. I wrestled with the idea, then figured it was a fluke so I gently removed the hook and turned him loose. But our spirits had lifted, as we trudged on along the gravel bottom we started catching more and more fish. Some bluegill, some redear but a plethora of smallmouth. My buddy even got ahold of a small bullhead. We were basically dumbfounded as we had never found a hole quite waste deep. As we rounded a bend we saw a farmer working a field right along the creek and we figured we may be in for a tongue lashing as we had stumbled onto his property. This stream didn’t appear to be big enough to be navigable, so under law we really shouldn’t be there. The old farmer stopped his plowing and met us at the bank’s edge. He was as surprised as we were. He stated he had never saw anyone fishing that creek before. I asked him if we were trespassing and he replied the Good Lord made that water flow through there, it wasn’t under his control. So we struck up a conversation and explained how we had passed over it for so many years and finally decided to give it a try. He sort of chuckled and said you fella’s got a surprise didn’t you? He explained how he brought his grandchildren down every summer with a can of worms and let them have their fun. We asked him the name of the stream and he replied he wasn’t even sure it had a proper name, but the locals called

it Greasy Creek. After a little more conversation we assured him we would release anything we caught, so his grandchildren and theirs would always have a fishing hole, and then he bid us a good day. The rest of the trip home that little creek was the topic of discussion along with how many others we drove over every day without giving them a thought of stopping to fish. It seems the Ozarks have many a hidden surprise. So from that day forward I started carrying a rod and reel in the Jeep along with a small selection of tackle that could be clipped onto a belt loop. Among the years I’ve stopped when I had extra time and tried my hand at various small streams. Some produced, some didn’t, but that idea of unsureness

always kept me excited. And, on occasion, I’ve ran across a few landowners who weren’t quite as understanding as that first gentleman but nothing ever got too serious, and I’ve had a lot of fun with those places. So, the next time you cross over a bridge maybe 2 or 3 car lengths and glance down at a small creek sparkling as it winds downstream, don’t scoff at the idea of giving it a go. And I’d suggest keeping at least a lightweight rig in your vehicle along with some lightweight tackle and stop every now and then and try your hand at one. You may just stumble onto one of those hidden surprises just as we had. (Roger Smith lives in Bonne Terre, Mo., and can be reached at n0uss@

June 2018 • Page 3

Guidelines put in place for the safety of floaters


rystal-clear spring-fed waters, along with gravel and sandbars, attract tens of thousands of visitors to Missouri’s streams. This summer looks to be no different, especially as May saw some unusually high temperatures. To beat the heat, there’s nothing like a great float trip with family, friends, or simply riding solo. Yet, a float trip can be quickly ruined when people do not follow the rules of the waterways. Kayla Harper has spent her life enjoying all that Missouri streams have to offer, but she’s become frustrated in recent years with the increased levels of trash and hazards found in and near streams. “I’ve been on more float trips than I can count between my childhood and now,” Kayla shared. “I can say there’s Michelle Turner been an increase in ———— trash. People just don’t seem to care. This is particularly true near the resorts that are known for party floats.” Kayla doesn’t just view the trash as an eyesore; she’s seen it cause a lot of problems. “I’ve seen people cut by broken glass in the river. It’s a huge safety issue. When you’re in the river, you shouldn’t have to walk on eggshells wondering if you’re going to step on a piece of glass,” Kayla added. Due to issues like this, the Missouri Highway Patrol Water Division has published guidelines for people who intend to float Missouri’s streams. One such area they touch upon is the use of glass on the waterways and banks. The document states, “No one

may have or use glass containers for beverages within a vessel.” Kate Mills is another individual who has a lifelong love for floating Missouri’s waterways, and she agrees with this rule for many reasons. “It’s important to have laws like these in place. It not only helps the wildlife, but anyone who wants to float or swim safely,” said Kate. “There’s nothing worse than trying to enjoy a relaxing day on the river and being worried about stepping on glass and getting cut. Worse yet, having to wade through trash. I want to enjoy the river, not be frustrated by it.” Even with rules in place, people like Kate have seen them broken all too often. “It’s heartbreaking because it’s not hard to clean up after yourself. Also, almost all of the beverages people want to drink on a float trip come in nonglass options. You can have a good time without sneaking glass onto the rivers,” Kate added.

The solution that Kate alludes to is simple: keep your float trip glass-free. Better yet, one can also follow the suggestion made by the Missouri Highway Patrol Water Division and “take your trash with you after your float.” After Gary Rice moved to Missouri from California, he fell in love with our waterways and enjoys them often. Gary agrees with the “packing out what you pack in” philosophy wholeheartedly. Yet, he’s expanded it to include picking up the trash left by other people. “Myself and many others who enjoy the outdoors have adopted the ‘take some back with you’ attitude,” Gary explained. “Sometimes I will arrive at a site and find litter left by previous visitors. It takes very little trash to spoil any location. “That said, picking up a little trash when you find it is easy and can have a

profound effect. Practicing the habit of taking a little with you can help encourage those around you to do the same.” Gary, Kate, Kayla, and all of us at the River Hills Traveler are all hopeful that people will realize that guidelines for floating were made to make the experience safe and enjoyable for all who hit the steams in Missouri. As Gary added, “I know we have all seen rules ignored, but the intention here is for the good of the greatest number of people. So, get out on the water and enjoy. I’ll see you out there.” If you would like more information about glass containers and littering on Missouri’s waterways, simply do an online Google search for the Missouri Highway Patrol Water Division. That will lead you to their website where you can research the various guidelines and safety tips that they have to offer. (Michelle Turner lives in Union, Mo.)

Page 4 • June 2018

New boardwalk & observation deck on the Little Sac


new boardwalk and elevated observation deck along the Little Sac River, near the output of Indian Spring, will allow guests visiting Fantastic Caverns another opportunity to sit back, relax and enjoy the Ozarks’ scenery, this time above ground. The observation deck and boardwalk front 175 feet of the Little Sac River’s southern bank. Over two miles of lumber and more than 15,000 nuts, bolts, screws and anchors were used in the construction. The triangularshaped observation Jimmy Sexton deck overlooks In———— dian Spring and its Journey On convergence with the Little Sac River. The boardwalk begins at the river’s edge where Fantastic Caverns’ Canyon Trail ends. The trail, which starts near the visitor’s center and parking lot, passes through a collapsed cave system and into the valley directly beneath the cave’s entrance and exit. Horseshoe pitches are located in the valley adjacent to the boardwalk as another entertainment option for cave guests looking to connect with nature. The boardwalk and observation deck provide great opportunities for relaxing, birding and wildlife viewing. Fantastic Caverns is a part of the Great Missouri Birding Trail and nu-

merous bird species can be spotted on the grounds and near the Little Sac River. ——— The Springfield and Branson chapters of the Missouri Trout Fishermen’s Association will hold their second annual Fly Fishing Exposition on July 2728. It will be a celebration of everything fly fishing held in one of the premier trout fishing areas of the Ozarks — Branson. The venue is the Branson-Hollister Lions Club Community Center at 1015 E. State Highway 76, approximately one mile east after you cross the bridge over Lake Taneycomo from the Landing Boulevard. “We expect to have approximately 63 flytiers demonstrating their skills, talk-

ing about flies, and sharing tying tips,” said Dennis Stead, on of the organizers of the event. “We will have nearly 25 vendors and factory reps on hand to show you their products and make you a deal. We will raffle and auction off some fine tackle, nets, boots and waders, tackle bags, fly tying stations, artwork, signature flies, and more.” Adults can learn from fly casting experts demonstrating their skills in a casting pool. On Saturday, July 28, there will be a did’s fishing event for children 15 and under at the Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery below the Table Rock Dam from 9 a.m.-11 a.m.! A limited number of rods will be available, but feel free to bring your own.!Mentors will be on hand to assist the kids. ——— The Powder Mill River Access on the Current River along Highway 106 is temporarily closed to vehicles due to a washout of the paved road near the access point.! This closure does not affect walk-in use of the river access, which remains open to foot traffic.! ! The Powder Mill River Access was badly damaged during the April 2017 flood, which also destroyed the adjacent Powder Mill Campground.! Even though the flood caused the Powder Mill Spring Branch to change course and flow across the paved road on its way to the Current River, the road was still passable by vehicles

I think back on those float trips... and smile


s a young man in college I had the opportunity of canoeing a section of the Buffalo River in Arkansas on two occasions with friends, a few of whom were there both times. The memories linger with me. At first I didn’t recall where we put in, or exactly what section of the river we paddled because it was many years ago and I wasn’t the one who made the arrangements on either occasion, as I was just there for the ride, as it were. Both times we pulled off next to a narrow tributary stream and walked up a hollow a short Wes Franklin distance to a small, ———— picturesque waterNative Ozarker fall. In my youthful naivety I thought it something of a hidden jewel, until years later I saw on social media photos of various people I knew at the same waterfall so I guess it wasn’t so hidden after all. In fact, as I also found out much later, it’s actually a fairly well-known tour stop. Now, let me just say, it is NOT the big one at Hemmed-in-Hollow, which at 209 feet tall is said to be the biggest waterfall between the Appalachian and Rocky Mountains. I have no earthly idea why we didn’t stop at that one either time, but we didn’t or I would have remembered. The little six-foot or so waterfall – if it has a name, I don’t know it – that we DID stop for is about eight miles down river from Ponca, on the left side.

We parked the canoes at the mouth of the tributary branch and hiked up just a short way to the fall, which is nestled in the forest. It’s a beautiful spot, and one that anyone can appreciate for its natural wonder. On the first trip I wasn’t able to fully appreciate it, I’m afraid, being the sorry victim of some unrequited love, and it only made me a little sad that such a lovely spot should be wasted for the fact that “she” wasn’t there to enjoy it with me, and never would be. I know, I know, but what can I say? I was about as starry-eyed, and brokenhearted, as any ol’ Shakespearean — or country song — character in the same situation. Kinda makes me cringe a little now, and I’d like to go back and kick that boy’s hind-end and tell him a thing or two. From there we most likely canoed down to Kyle’s Landing and camped. The trip from Ponca to Kyle’s Landing is 11 miles. As I recall, the water moved pretty fast in places. In fact, on one of those trips we got caught in a swift-moving current near a bank and, getting tangled in some low+hanging tree branches, we flipped the canoe. Downstream we pulled off and built a big fire to dry our wet clothes a little. Being springtime it was rather chilly and we were shivering for a while. It was at that site that the little brother of one of my friends picked up a big sycamore stick for some reason and took it along when we continued on our way. At the campsite, another friend carved a devilish-looking cat’s head at the top of the stick and we later all

carved our names into the wood. I kept that memento for several years, but don’t know whatever happened to it. On the other trip yet another friend had two younger brothers who reminded me of a comedy act the way they were always bickering with each other. For some reason they got paired in the same canoe, which was probably a mistake. Not long after they first set out the canoe they were in got turned around, and then around again in a circle, all while they yelled and fussed at each other as the canoe went round and round. I laughed until I cried, which probably made them mad at me as well as each other, but I wasn’t the only one laughing for sure. Although the water moved fast in spots, as I said, most of it was smooth going, even for an inexperienced paddler such as myself. One more thing I’ll say about that section of the Buffalo River is that it appeared to be family-friendly. We weren’t there to party and I don’t recall seeing any other rowdy revelers on the river, either. I think back on those times of 15 years ago or better and smile. (Wes Franklin!can be reached by email at, or by USPS mail at 12161 Norway Road, Neosho, MO 64850.)

On the Cover Float trips are a huge part of summer for many Missourians and others flocking to the Show-Me State to enjoy our beautiful waterways.

using the river access.! Since that time, however, the constant flow of the spring branch and two additional floods have eroded the pavement and cut into the roadway base. This has caused a section of pavement to collapse and wash out, creating a significant hazard for vehicles. Because the roadway is now impassable and unsafe for vehicle travel, barricades have been placed across the road near the closed Powder Mill restroom facility. There is no estimate for how long it will take to correct this safety hazard and reopen the road to the access point.! The channel of the spring branch will need to be evaluated to determine the best way to divert it from the road and then the roadway repairs will be completed.! River users can still walk to the Powder Mill access point from the parking area near the closed restroom to use the gravel bar, or to carry their gear for floating. Vehicles can continue to use the parking lot near the trailhead for the Ozark Trail at the Powder Mill Center.! In addition, park managers are working to improve an alternate access point directly across the river near the old Owls Bend School for vehicle access.! This will provide a launch point for jet boats and floaters.! !! (Jimmy Sexton is owner and publisher of the River Hills Traveler. He can be reached at (800) 874-8423, ext. 1, or

River Hills Traveler 212 E. Main St., Neosho, MO 64850 Phone & Fax: 800-874-8423 Email: jimmy@riverhillstraveler. com Owner & Publisher Jimmy Sexton Managing Editor Madeleine Link Circulation Manager Amanda Harvel Staff Writers Wes Franklin • Mike Roux Bill Wakefield • Bill Oder Tom Boydston • Judy Smith Michelle Turner • Dana Sturgeon Chuck Smick • Bill Hoagland Richard Whiteside • Roger Smith Advertising Jimmy Sexton & Madeleine Link

River Hills Traveler, established in 1973, is published monthly by Sexton Media Group and Traveler Publishing Company at 212 E. Main St., Neosho, MO 64850. Postmaster: Send change of address notices to: River Hills Traveler, 212 E. Main St., Neosho, MO 64850. Subscription prices: $22 per year; 2 years, $40. Back issues available up to one year from publication, $5 plus sales tax & shipping. COPYRIGHT © 2018 No part of this publication may be reproduced without the express written permission of the publisher of the River Hills Traveler or his duly appointed agent. The publisher reserves the right to reject any advertising or editorial submission for any reason.

June 2018 • Page 5


Ozark hickory baskets


asket-making was a pioneer necessity that became a commodity for early souvenir shops. This selection of handmade baskets of split hickory is not only beautifully made, the composition of the photograph and its technical qualities are excellent. Ozark crafts had some reinforcement from benevolent institutions and government programs, but it was much less and more sporadic than it was for Appalachian craft industries. The crafts business seems to have revolved more around roadside souvenir shops, with some encouragement from School of the Ozarks and later WPA programs. Silver Dollar City was an early supporter of the original souvenir-shop products and provided an environment where people could see these and other traditional handmade items being fabricated.! Handmade baskets are still produced but they join additional arts & crafts technologies like glassblowing, woodcarving and pottery making. An original Ozarks craft centered in Hollister was the making of concrete yard ornaments and flowerpots decorated with drip paint, invented by Harold Horine. (This feature is courtesy of Leland and Crystal Payton at Lens & Pen Press, publishers of all-color books on the Ozarks. Their new book, James Fork of the White, was published in 2017. Some pages from this book can be seen on Their earlier river book, Damming the Osage, can be at seen From the June archives of the River Hills Traveler:

5 years ago • An Ozarks stream, a kayak or canoe, and a fishing pole pretty well paint a good picture of me and one of my favorite outdoor activities. One day last summer I made a quick call to Bass’ River Resort to line up a shuttle, loaded the truck with two kayaks and paddles, packed a lunch and drinks that would not need a cooler, and put together a bag of post-float clothes and towels. (Greg “Rudi” Rudolf) • With the coming of spring, many outdoor lovers look forward to the first float of the year. My friend Rich and I have floated most of the Big River except the southern stretches. The hassle of jogging cars and leaving them in remote areas led us to try Steve Anderson at Cherokee Landing. Rich made our reservations and on April 5, we drove one car to Bonne Terre, to where U.S. 67 first crosses the Big on your way south. Steve ran us down to the Highway K bridge to start a six-mile float. You would have trouble getting to your own car back in there much less leaving it while you float. (Bill Janis) 10 years ago • Current River dreams include warm temperatures, gentle breezes, clear water and a bunch of big female bass waiting in the shallows. The first day of May should have had all of these characteristics, but it didn’t. Rains still had the river a foot or two above normal with a distinct tint to the water. The gentle wind that day blew 20 to 25 mph gusting up to 35. Warm temperatures were substituted with cool winds. Bass were still in pre-spawn condi-

Real Photo Postcard, circa 1915 — "Hand Made Baskets Shadowrock Basket Shop Forsyth MO"


“Yes. Aren’t they pretty?’’ “Can I take some to Theresa?” he asks. “Let’s leave them, son and bring her here to see them.” (Keith Sutton) • When I began cleaning the crappie, I was surprised and a little dismayed that I had put a couple that size in the livewell. Most of the 28 crappie were right at 10 inches. A couple were about 12, a few were eight and a couple, to my dismay, were only six or seven inches. (Bob Todd)

tions. Did that put a damper on our dreams for the day? Absolutely not! (Tim Huffman) • The new Twin Pines Conservation Education Center in Shannon County celebrates the wonder and beauty of the Ozark and “looks not only at our past, but also to our future,” said Missouri Conservation Department Director John Hoskins at the grand opening of the 456acre complex last month. Completion of the center finishes a project started more than 10 years ago by the Missouri Forest Heritage Center. The group had gathered equipment and raised money to cover erection of a structure on U.S. Forest Service land. Progress lagged until an arrangement was worked out to transfer the property to the Missouri Conservation Department, which allocated funds to build an education center with an emphasis on the history of the Ozark timber history. (Emery Styron)

20 years ago • Father’s Day is a time to give special thanks to your dad for the love and dedication he has given you throughout the years. I am very fortunate to have a father who took the time out of a very busy schedule to take me on many outdoor adventures with him. (Tony Kalna, Jr.) • Like most current efforts involved in the Internet, it is a part-time effort. So don’t expect to find something that is highly polished and complete. At the same time, know that this is to be a dynamic site and won’t ever be complete. It will be changing regularly (Bob Todd)

15 years ago • From the top of the hickory behind our house, a summer tanager sings. “Listen, Matthew. Do you hear the bird?” “Yes, Dad” “Can you see it?” “Yes, it’s red. It sings pretty.” “That’s why they’re called songbirds, son. They sing such beautiful songs.” In a corner of our yard, beneath a trio of small pines, black-eyed susan’s bloom in autumn. “Come here, Zachary. Let me show you something.” “Flowers,” he says.

30 years ago • It was more than 15 years since I’d been on this stretch of the St. Francois River and then, we’d just floated through in the morning to our take out after a four-day float. So to find a really big, deep, bluff hole just a short ways up the river surprised me. If it had registered in memory back then, the memory had since been erased. We caught two keepers there, largemouths that fell victim to a deep diving lure in a deep eddy. A good start for a morning when I’d feared scenery would be our only reward for the day. (Bob Todd)

• The admission fee program at Mingo and other national wildlife refuges seems to be one of those things involving a worthy objective. Under a newly effective federal law, there is a basic entrance fee of $2 per car to get into Mingo National Wildlife Refuge near Puxico. The purpose of the fee is to raise funds to protect wetlands elsewhere in the U.S. But, there are things that already do serve as a “pass” to the refuge. A federal duck stamp, for instance, is a pass. So is a Golden Eagle Passport. So we’re led to believe, people who’ve been using the refuge without also buying a duck stamp will now have to be kicking in for wetland protection, too. (Bob Todd) 40 years ago • You may think Big Oak Tree State Park is just a place with some big oak trees. It is that. In fact, there are currently 17 state record trees in the park — oaks as well as other species. But the park also has some surprises in store for bass and crappie fishermen and for some bird watchers. For a more casual outing, Big Oak forms a nucleus of a tour of the back country of the Missouri bootheel. To get to Big Oak Tree State Park, most folks take Highway 80 east from I-55 south of Sikeston. At East Prairie, they take Highway 102 south to where it terminates in the park. (Bob Todd) • It was the bloodiest battle ever recorded in Missouri. In fact, it was one of the bloodiest battles of the entire Civil War. What’s more, it made little military sense for the battle to even take place, and still less sense that the Confederates should have lost. (Bob Todd) (compiled by MyraGale Sexton)


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