Before Tropical Storm Cristobal rolled through, seven Boy Scouts from Troops 124 and 124-G headed north on I-55 toward Missouri’s Current River in the Ozarks. Their mission: travel approximately 53 miles via canoe over the course of about five days, camping at night along the river.
They packed for primitive conditions, most gear neatly rolled into dry bags. All of them were looking forward to the clean, mountain air and having fun with friends on the Class I, crystal clear river.
Perhaps they would see local wildlife like wild horses, bears, deer, ducks, endangered cave critters and turtles. It was exciting to anticipate viewing the hardwood trees, rock ledges, caves, springs, gravel bars, as well as the towering dolomite bluffs which line the banks of the river. The Ozarks offer very different scenery from flat, southwest Mississippi! It was going to be an adventure.
An adventure it surely was! The mountain air was sweet-smelling and not as humid as southern Mississippi air, and the Ozarks of Missouri definitely delivered on wildlife and wildflowers.
The Current River flows southeasterly out of the Ozarks into Arkansas. Eventually, it becomes a tributary to the Black River, the White River and the mighty Mississippi.
Current River is approximately 184 miles long, starts out at about 900 feet above sea level, and at the mouth it lies around 280 feet above sea level. The upper part of the river and its tributaries have been federally protected since 1964 as the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, the first national park in America to protect a river system.
The Scouts and trained adult leaders were ready for their trek into the wilderness. The Current River has ideal conditions for trout fishing, so many of the Scouts packed fishing tackle.
Tropical Storm Cristobal had a different idea. Though Scouters only experienced a light rain while camping Monday night and Tuesday morning, the watershed of the area gained enough water to raise the river more than six feet.
The Current River is spring-fed and Welch Spring, where the group began, enters the river early and nearly doubles the flow of the river. Other notable springs that add to the river include Cave Spring, Pulltite Spring and Round Spring.
The extra rain caused treacherous conditions that closed the river for two days. By Thursday the weather and water were back to perfect, and what was planned for Monday and Tuesday was covered all in one float.
Though it was an abbreviated trip, the Scouts explored a waterfall, caves and an abandoned hospital built as a retreat for people with asthma. They saw four different kinds of turtles — the three-toed box turtle, red eared sliders, eastern spiny softshell and a common snapping turtle.
A few canoers pointed out snakes in the water or on the banks but got only quick glimpses to determine they were nonpoisonous. A colorful wood duck with a female was spotted, and later another female with two small ducklings swam below the shady dolomite overhangs.
Several deer were seen along the banks, and every night the campers were plagued with raccoons. Wild horses grazed along the roadside near the Round Spring campground where the Scouts made base camp.
The crew dubbed themselves the Current River Castaways, and they hope to return to complete their trek later this year.
If you or your child is interested in Scouting (Cubs age 6 to 11, Scouts age 12 to 17), contact Nathan Wells at 601-249-7041 or Kim Shepherd at 601-807-4386.
The Scouts meet in small groups in McComb or virtually, and activities are always family-friendly.