MISSOURI TRIP – JULY 10-13, 2007

LouCindia, Drey, Gabriel, Granddad and Grandma



Tuesday, July 10 

            We left the house about 12:00 noon and went to Murray to have a quick lunch at Burger King..  From Murray we took KY Hwy 121 to Wycliffe, KY where we passed by the Wycliffe Mounds Sate Historic site, on our way to the bridge over the Ohio River at Cairo, IL.  We saw the bridge over the Mississippi River there, but we wanted to cross the Mississippi River on the new bridge at Cape Girardeau, MO.  It is a suspension bridge and is very impressive – there was a park at the base of the bridge on the Missouri side, and we stopped there to take pictures of the bridge (and a Mockingbird flying from a post there, and a squirrel in a tree!).  From there we took I-55 south to U.S. Hwy. 60 and took that highway to our destination for the day, Van Buren, Missouri.  Hwy 60 was pleasantly 4-laned all the way to Van Buren so we made better time than we had thought we would.  Hwy 60 goes across southern Missouri like Hwy. 64 goes across southern Tennessee.

            In Van Buren, we crossed the Current River and saw our motel, The Landing, on the left.

            We got to our room – 209 – and got ourselves “situated” and then set out in search of supper.  WE found a restaurant across the river, right on the court square, called the Float Stream Restaurant.  The food was pretty good and reasonably priced.  Of course we had to go down to the water and play (right in front of the motel) – skipping rocks, throwing rocks, and just generally having fun.  Drey wanted to swim, and found the water to be COLD!

            After our romp at the river, we were all tired and got ready for bed when we heard someone shooting fireworks – and the kids had spotted a bat (actually 2) flying around the lights catching bugs, so we wound up outside watching the fireworks which were being set off across the river and on the other side of the bridge.  We met our neighbors who were from KY and had a pleasant conversation with them.


Wednesday, July 11      

            Everyone slept well and we were up about 8:00.  We went to breakfast at the same restaurant where we had eaten supper, and then came back to the motel room to get ready for our float trip down the Current River.  That process – all changing, sun-screening, stowing of valuables, etc. – took some time.  It was a little after 11:00 when we finally got the float rented, then we had to wait for them to set up the float and then pick us up and take us to our starting point which was the Log Yard.  They basically unloaded the raft and paddles and left us there – no final instructions, safety talk or anything.

            We got into the raft, life jackets on the kids and ours at our feet, and pushed off from the bank.  It was IMMEDIATELY clear that paddling was only going to be necessary if we needed to steer – it is not called the Current River for nothing.  There was a canoe that came up behind us with a father and son from southern IL.  We talked for a long way down the river.  As we began to see that much of the river was shallow enough to stand in, the kids asked if they could swim as we floated.  It turned out that this worked well, so Drey spent about half her time in the water.  Gabe would have stayed in it the whole time, but we kept having to pull him out because he would be shivering.  The river was really beautiful, alternating from shallow rocky bottom to deep river channel with some rocky cliffs and many gravel bars with trees everywhere – broad-leafed sycamores and wispy willows overhanging swift green channel or rippling gravelly shallows.  With kids in and out of the raft, we had water in it and so we stopped at a point where there was a sand bar with a concrete ramp, and we turned the raft over and dumped the water.  Just a little further down river we came to the Nation Park Watercress recreation area.  We pulled in there and took a much-needed restroom break.  (We later learned that this was a river access area located in the Big Spring part of the National Park area.  But at the time we didn’t know about Big Spring.)

            We saw springs bubbling in the water in one area as we came around a bend.  The bubbles would start up from the bottom and follow a slanted path to the surface as the current moved them swiftly downriver.  Fascinating to watch.  We saw small “caves” in the rocks in some places and many beautiful rock walls.  There also were some very beautiful houses on the hills overlooking the river.  It is hard to imagine how many people are here on weekends:  our neighbors at the motel said that the driver who took them to their starting point on the river said that on weekends he could easily take 2300 people to the river!  And he is just ONE driver for ONE outfitter and there are several outfitters!  We were VERY glad we came in the middle of the week! We were still “dodging” people all the way down (a group of “tubes” passed us while we were dumping the water from the float.)  Toward the end of the run, Drey and Gabe “captured” a loose yellow tube. They floated in it till the owners came by and asked for it – the owners also thanked them for rescuing it.

            When we got under the bridge, we left the raft with the outfitters and headed up to the motel.  We changed to dry clothes and hung wet things on the banister, then we went to lunch at the Float Stream again. 

            After lunch we went looking for Big Spring – another site in Ozark National Scenic Riverways.  It is the largest spring in Missouri and one of the largest in the world with a flow of about 278 million gallons per day!  It is really a beautiful area, though its “lake” does not cover as large an area as Mammoth Spring in AR.  It comes to the surface out of a rock wall – having traveled about 45 miles underground to get there – and the area where it comes out is very beautiful.  The water from the spring flows into the Current River.  In driving around the area, we came to the landing area that we had seen on our river trip earlier in the day – where we had taken our restroom break.

            After Big Spring, we returned to the motel.  LouCindia and Tommy stayed in the room and Gabe and Drey wanted to swim.  So I took my camera and notebook and went down to the river with them.  We all got inner tubes – they floated with theirs and I sat on mine because the best shady spot on the beach was also the only sandy spot on the beach (most of the beach – as with most of the bed of the entire Current River – is composed of river gravel.  Gabe and Drey floated and swam until almost sunset.  We went back to the room and they got baths then we went to the grocery store and got “snacky things” for supper.  Everybody slept well!


Thursday, July 12

            We got up at 6:30 because we wanted to be at the Round Spring Cave at 9:00.  We wanted to take the lantern tour of the cave, and they only do 2 per day and each is limited to the first 15 people to sign up.  We wanted the first tour so we would have the rest of the day to get to Mammoth Springs, AR.  We drove to Winona and ate breakfast at the Apple Barrel Restaurant.  It took us a little longer to get packed and away, so we got to the cave about 9:15.  The ranger took the number of people and said he would be selling the tickets in 15 minutes.  So we got the tickets and then drove down to the starting point of the tour.   The ranger who led our tour was a woman, and she had her daughter, Bailey, with her.  Bailey and her mother handed out electric lanterns to each person, and one person in each group got an LED light.     We climbed the steps to the cave entrance and went through the gate – which was a low bar to demonstrate how low we’d have to bend over later in the cave tour:  if you couldn’t get through the gate, you couldn’t go on the tour.

            Since it was a lantern tour, it was hard to get every picture we wanted, but we got some good ones, including some of the cave salamanders, grotto salamanders, the fossils of ancient sea creatures and the actual prints from ancient short-faced bears which went extinct 10,000 years ago (in fact, the fossilized bones of one were excavated from the cave and are on display at the University of IL.)  There were a couple of bats but they flew away before we could get pictures of them.  The rock formations were beautiful and the trail was good, even though it was steep in some places and low in others.  The ranger said that other than some repairs or improvements, the trail was pretty much the same one that had been put in originally about 75 years ago.

            She said the bears had come to the part of the cave where we found their prints because it was dry there (unlike other areas which are still very active); they found it by following the scent trail they left with scent from their paws (because where they were would have been pitch black then).

            The tour was 2 hours long and we were ready to be done by the end of it.  We then went on down the road and had lunch in Summersville., and then continued on toward Mammoth Springs, reaching there about 4:30 this afternoon. Tommy and I had been here before, but it was a first for the children.  This spring averages a flow of about 9 million gallons an hour!  It is a beautiful expanse of water which is the beginning of the Spring River.

            We got our room (130) at the River View Lodge – it overlooks the river with balconies on the back.  Also, the railroad is between the motel and the river – and it is a busy rail line.  We saw a first for me earlier:  a coal train with two engines up front and one pushing it in back!

            We ate supper across the river at the River Bend Restaurant – Tommy and I had eaten there before and had been looking forward to coming here again.  After we ate, we went out on their deck and watched a ground hog below us who came up, seeming to ask if we were going to feed it.  We also saw a mother mallard with two small babies on the river.  Earlier we had seen muskrats at the springs – eating plants and taking some to build their nests.  We also saw SEVERAL geese and a lot of ducks and pigeons at Mammoth Spring.

            On the way from the cave to Mammoth Spring, we went through Akers and crossed the Current River on the Akers Ferry – Gabe’s first ferry ride.  It was interesting to see how they operated it:  we had to ring a bell to call the operators as they didn’t have a “ferry house” located next to the river – it was back up the hill.  Drey got to do the honors for that call.


Friday, July 13

            We got up late – about 8:30 – and packed and went to breakfast at eh River Bend Restaurant again.  This time the kids wanted to eat on the deck, so we did.  It was very pleasant outside and the sun stayed behind the clouds for the most part.

            After breakfast, we went to “Dam 3” where the fish hatchery is located and saw an awesome array of trout!  We even got to feed some – that was fun!  We watched one man load trout into a truck to deliver somewhere and that was really interesting – they got the trout into a long rectangular raceway and then used a screen pulled through the water to force them into a hole with a suction pump on it which pumped them up a tube and then out the tube into the truck.  There was a LOT of water running!  They said they ran 70,000 gallons of water a day through the “silos;” trout have to have strong current and that was DEFINITELY what they had there.

            In addition to the fish, we also saw a couple of snakes in the water (not in the silos but in a separate area which seemed to allow them to release fish into the river – we didn’t ask what that area was for).  We also were VERY surprised to see a small alligator in one of the raceways – there was no water in it, just a little dripping, but not filling it up.  When we asked, the man said that it had been confiscated from someone and had been kept by the fish and wildlife people in another town till they got tired of fooling with it.  These people normally kept it in another area in the building, but let it outside some on sunny days.  They take it around for demonstrations at schools.

            We also got to see the incubators where they put the fish eggs to hatch them, but there were no eggs today.  It was all very, very interesting.  They also had a skin from a boa constrictor hanging in the office:  the boa belongs to one of the employees and she brought the skin in for demonstration purposes – it was probably about 6 feet long!

            After the hatchery, we left Mammoth Spring headed east for Kennett, Missouri.  We stopped in Paragould, AR to look in the library and see what we could find on the Carmacks and Claxtons and see if anything would help us find Nancy Claxton Carmack’s grave.  We had no luck in Paragould, but had not expected much there.  We went on to Kennett and went to the library there.  Tommy found cemetery listings and Drey looked through the C’s on the deed indexes that were available on microfilm (which were not much).  I found some information in a family folder, but it was mainly information we already had.  Lou’cindia and Gabe (and Drey at one point) went upstairs where there was a “Hall of Fame” display including some pictures of Sheryl Crow who is from Kennett.

            We knew we wanted one particular cemetery, but we could not find any directions.  So we asked the ladies in the library who gave us directions.  When we got to the cemetery, it was REALLY large – we all spread out (some of us had chalk because these were mostly very old stones) and we looked for Carmack and Pickens.  We only found one stone that we knew was related and that was for J. R. Carmack who was the son of Nancy Claxton Carmack.  We found a piece of another stone with several names, but it was broken and only a few names were visible.  We thought this might have been a stone that listed children of someone and it COULD have been children of Nancy (but that is VERY far-fetched!  With too little info to go on)

            After the cemetery we headed home – a little less than three hours away.  We crossed the Mississippi River on the Dyersburg bridge and passed the hospital were Chris was born and pointed out the location of the house where we lived in Martin.  All in all, a very rewarding trip.