Lower Rock Creek Trip Report

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    • #17593
      • Total Posts: 313

      Well, well, after years of hearing fireside tales of the “secrete creek” nestled into the St Francis mountains, I decided yesterday was the day that I’d have the best chance catching it.

      I left STL around 7 a.m. and arrived at the bridge on hwy E that flows over LRC at about 9 a.m.  I had information that if the creek looked runnable there, that there should be plenty of water upstream in the gorges.   With water pumping in from everywhere, and what seemed to be a healthy flow at the take-out, I proceeded to try to find the put-in parking.  Fortunately, prior to my arrival, I was able to link together some info from Matt and Jason and concluded I knew how to hike in to the put in…

      I parked at the Madison County 511 road (.3 miles, left up the 4×4 lookin road). I noticed a gate, and probed around for a bit, but did not see a trail breaking off towards the LRC.  This is where I made a costly mistake, and proceeded to hike straight up the 4×4 lookin road….and this sum’bitch was steep!  By this time, I no longer had a readable map on my phone, so was just going with my gut that I’d hike up and over the ridge, and then I must drop down into the LRC canyon.   After one of  the worst uphill hikes I have done with my kayak, I found cell service and touched base with Matt W…. Having hiked a solid mile straight uphill, I had started to drop back down towards what I was hoping was LRC.   It was here that Matt let me know LRC was now about 3 miles south west of where I was…it appeared I was close to reaching the Mud Creek Drainage. 🙂

      Totally spent and disheartened that I had botched the hike in, I started the long walk back to the car.  All in all, the detour was about 1.5 hours….

      I got back to the car and thought to myself I’d have to catch it another day when I came more prepared with a useable map, beta, etc…

      As I was driving out, I stopped at the steel forest gate and looked around to find a trail across the stream, heading towards the direction of LRC.  I immediately got a second wind, and with it still being early, decided to put the boat back on the shoulder and start walking…

      It took about 45 minutes to hit the creek, which I was now ecstatic about.  I could see rapids upstream quite and ways and figured the hard part was just beginning;  The next hour was spent scrambling up the river left side of LRC. At many points there was an easy to follow trail, while at other points it was more of a scramble to get up, down and around…

      I was making great progress and thoroughly enjoying the views of the creek when I set my boat down on a ledge outcropping and proceeded to pull myself up a rocky ledge. As I was pulling up and over the rock, I was quite surprised to see a big ole’ copper head eye level with me and only inches from my hand!  Falling backwards in a panic, I had finally achieved my first adrenaline rush of the day!   Needless to say, my progress slowed quite a bit after the snake encounter, as I hadn’t even considered they were already out and active.

      When I finally reached what appeared to be the top of the canyon, I couldn’t wait to get in and run the rapids I had seen on the hike up!

      I pushed off shore around noon and had a fantastic 2 – 2.5 mile run down the creek.  While I have nothing to compare the water level too, it was far from “shallow””, but also nothing like the description I had read from Jason Bales and Chris A’s. story.    The river had some great 3+ style rapids and zero obstructions across the river.   Somewhere in the middle of the run, one rapid had a 3 branched tree poking up in the middle of it, but it was rather inconsequential.  The only other note worthy mention is of course the reeds.  They get thicker towards the end where the creek meets HWY E, but again, nothing so bad that you had to stop or portage.

      From the time I put in my boat, which I believe was roughly 12:00, it took about 35 – 45 minutes to cruise down to hwy E.

      On top of the world to have finally gotten a chance to paddle that creek, I stashed my boat by the bridge at E, and hiked the 30 or 40 minutes back to the car at the 511 spur…

      As if the day wasn’t sweet enough, I then caught up with Dan, Larry Dan b. and Matt w. for a lap off Killarney followed by lower stouts / upper saint.

      All in all, this creek is definitely worth while, and without getting lost, the hike in I did was not all that terrible…    I did, however, get informed by Jason B., that he and Chris A did NOT hike in the way I took, and that there is a much easier (at least flatter) entry off hwy D.  Needless to say, I will be trying that route next time.

      The level was roughly 3 ft on the gauge and it is rather apparent that if it were closer to 4′ or 5′ it’d take on more of a class 4 feel.

      I shot some go-pro footage of some of the rapids, so will put together a little edit in the weeks to come for those interested.

      Catch y’all on the river tomorrow!

      Chris Ward

      • This topic was modified 2 years, 11 months ago by CJW4D.
    • #17595
      • Total Posts: 40

      Please do post your footage. Very interested.

    • #17596
      • Total Posts: 40

      I thought McHenry, Tansil and the others know of some other way in there besides hiking from downstream. My hat is off to you for making the trek and thank you for the information you have provided.

    • #17597
      • Total Posts: 413

      Awesome story! I know exactly what you mean by the steep hill. I took the same “wrong” trail and got enough service at the top to get my map to load. Finally got down to the bottom and took this crappy video (before I started learning how to edit better)

    • #17617
      John Tansil
      • Total Posts: 206

      Great trip report! I still think the easiest way to the put-in is along Barren Hollow. May be longer but you don’t gain any elevation. Start at the gate off hwy D/county road 618 and drag/carry your boat 2-3 miles.

      Btw, on that first D I still remember scouting a drop & parting the weeds with my paddle and seeing a copperhead. Rapids are Copperhead, Upchuck, Slimslide.

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