Updated: Aug 2018

Found it!  Here’s the scoop on what we’ve long been looking for:   the best time and place to go kayaking with kids.

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Missouri is home to some of the biggest and most beautiful spring-fed rivers in the world, and Labor Day Monday is the perfect time to go.  Sadly, families attempting to float our beautiful Missouri rivers are often disappointed by lewd and drunken behavior, obviously not suitable for children. This can be rather frustrating, and legislation has been introduced to address the problem.

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Meanwhile, Green Spiral Tours has discovered that the Courtois River on Labor Day Monday is the perfect time and place to take kids on their first kayaking adventure.

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You are headed for the Courtois River, which is really a creek.  Courtois is a french word, meaning “polite” river. In Missouri, we pronounce it the “CODE-away”.  Kids should be old enough to swim, problem solve and respect wild rivers.  Middle School is the perfect age to learn to kayak, but of course people of any age will appreciate this trip.

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Paddle Courtois Jzka WEB

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Start by calculating your mileage to the GPS destination of Bass River Resorts at 204 Butts Road, 65565. (About 1:45 hours from Saint Louis). Call Bass River Resorts at 800-392-3700 to check the price and reserve your kayak or canoe. You are headed out Highway 44, which is Route 66, the “Mother Road”. (Be sure to put your play-list together in advance!)  *

If you have a Green Spiral adventure map, the parade of water towers will help you pass some time along the way.  Exit 208 at Cuba (the “Mural City”) will take you to Steelville, the “Floating Capitol of Missouri”.

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Kayaking 2018-08-23 TITLE

 

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Stop for sandwiches at the Subway in either Cuba or Steelville, and gas up now for a quick get-away at the end of the day.  Then proceed to Bass River Resorts, just ten more miles down the road.  If packing your own lunch, BYO+ is the way to go.  (Bring Your Own PLUS” something to share).  Cubed melon is refreshing on the river, as are carrots and frozen grapes. Sometimes it’s fun to build a tiny fire for hot dogs or s’mores on the river bank.

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When kayaking, or on any adventure, it’s always good to bring friends, and a small group works best on the river. Remember that canoes travel faster than kayaks, and you will be limited by the slowest paddler in your group. Put younger kids in a tandem kayak with you; it will be fun and easy for them to jump in and out of the kayak to swim. Teenagers will sprint off and be gone before you know it, so make a plan with them to wait for you around each bend.  A canoe and two or three kayaks makes for the perfect flotilla size.

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Bass River Resorts is a particularly nice operation because your car is left at the “take out” point, which becomes important at the end of the day when the sun is going down and your tribe is getting hungry.  Bass River Resorts also has a quick sign-up system and clean restrooms. Floating and kayaking are “hurry up and wait” situations, and the Bass River location minimizes this frustration.

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Free showers and changing rooms are available when you get off the river, so bring a change of clothing to leave in the car.  If you buy or bring goggles or a face mask at the  Bass River store, the kids will love it.

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2013-09-02 fishing*

If you have coolers, dogs, young children, or fishermen: get a canoe; be sure to insist on the fiberglass “Old Towne” style, which slides more easily over the rocks.   Bringing a low slung chair for the canoe is not a bad idea, as a comfort measure for adults.

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Two paddle

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Pay your money at Bass Rivers, sign the liability waiver, and ask for the “Blunt Trip” which is a 6 mile paddle, lasting about three hours — if you linger.  There is also a 13 mile trip, called the “Berryman Trip” which you can try when you have more time.

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Upon check in, you will be given a bus ticket, and directed to move your car to the “take out” point, just beyond the cabins and the horses at the river.

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Slather on sunscreen, and use the restrooms one last time while you wait for the school bus. Give your ticket to the bus driver and get on the school bus. Have your school bus songs in mind before you go.

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Bass River

Bass River

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The bus will take you on a short ten minute drive to the “Put In” point.  The driver will then assign each paddler his or her kayak or canoe.  Ask for a life jacket for kids, and use your flotation device as a backrest in your kayak.  You can see the bottom of the Courtois Creek on this whole trip, so fear not:  as the locals say,  “If you find yourself drowning, just stand up!”  As always, use your common sense and respect all rivers.

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The kayaks are the “sit-upon” type, so wear quick dry shorts and flip-flops.  Bring a sunhat, polarized sunglasses, lunch, drinking water, your camera, field guides, and a bungee cord to lash your dry-bag to the kayak.  Or, go minimalist, leave valuables at home and simply use a plastic bag and a piece of string.

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Kayaks are highly maneuverable, they put you closer to the water, and you get stuck less often.  If you’ve never kayaked before, it’s easy to learn the unique swivel motion required to dip each paddle into the water. Take some time when you first begin kayaking, to practice maneuvering the kayak: go forward, and backwards; practice spinning, and get comfortable with the paddle in the calm water at the “Put In” point. You will hit some riffles the minute you start paddling down the creek.

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In general, the Courtois starts out with high canyon walls, as well as swimming holes, rope swings and ledges; be sure to swim early in your trip, as the opportunities for swimming become fewer as you go down creek. Swim early and often.

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Look! No crowds!*

There’s lots of wildlife to enjoy as this trip proceeds. There are tadpoles, craw-fish and frogs to catch, snakes to chase, and large fish to spy beneath your boat. If you stand in the water, little fishes will come to nibble and kiss at your feet.  The torch-shaped red flower you see near the water in September is called cardinal flower, and migrating hummingbirds love it.  The bright red leaves you will see belong to the sumac, the first leaves to change in September. You will also see lots of dragonflies and blue swallowtail butterflies.

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The Courtois Creek runs down to meet up with the Huzzah (an old English victory cry among sailors), which then quickly meets the Meramec River  (an Algonquian term meaning river of ugly fishes), before all joining the Mighty Mississippi – the Father of Waters.   French, English and Native American, we are a melting pot of waters. If you live in South Saint Louis, you’re floating on your drinking water!

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Leaving Saint Louis at a lazy 9 am, you can easily be on the river by noon, including the Subway stop, returning home before 7 pm.  OR, stop for milkshakes and hamburgers at Dairy Isle, a local independent ice cream shop in Steelville. It’s easy to find, and marked on your Green Spiral Adventure map.

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All scream for Ice Cream

All scream for Ice Cream

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You might or might not get caught in Ozark traffic on the way home Labor Day Monday, so enjoy the sun-kissed feeling, the people in the car and one long last day of being unplugged before fall arrives and school settles in for good.    Bass River Resorts is open  year ’round, so you can kayak through the changing of the leaves, and even join a paddle on New Year’s Eve!  (Bring long underwear.)

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Viva le polite river!

 

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