Bob Mitchell: 3 river days

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Back in the three river days of this region, there was many a boy that well could have cut his permanent teeth on a boat paddle while making their way down White River, James River or King’s River. This Easter season usually began the floating season because there was plenty of water in the rivers to give you a boat ride in some parts and the weather had warmed sufficiently just in case you have a turnover or you ran into a spring shower, either could get you soaking wet.

The vessels of choice in those days were johnboats, which were plentiful, and that was before anyone owned a metal boat and only the affluent were fortunate enough to have a canoe. Few trailers were even in existence in those days so a pickup truck or car-top had to be utilized for transportation. And, a factor that always needed to be considered were the gravel roads that would be traveled from Cassville to any launch point that was accessible without having to pay a fee.

James River tough

A favorite for our bunch on the James River was to put-in at an Owens Bend location and cover the area between there and the river’s mouth at White River. The really accessible spot was the Lester Loftin place, where nearby was a sand bank, which afforded an easy slide to the river.

There were a couple of problems with this area, one getting there over a road with flint rock existing, which required two or three spares for sure emergencies. The other was a take-out point requiring some one to be waiting there for the floaters. This usually was the late Ray Correll, who had a supply of bait fishing supplies to do his fishing from the bank while waiting about a half day.

White River closest

The closest traveling to reach the water was the old Farwell bridge at Eagle Rock, where a large gravel bar made getting a boat launched was simple. The Curry Store at Eagle Rock was a lifesaver at times for any items that might have been overlooked in packing for the trip.

This trip put the party in access to the Roaring River, Owl and Cedar creek areas, usually the most productive for either lure or bait fishing.

The Golden Bridge in those days, which connected the Mano and Golden communities, was the downstream access next with the current. On the Golden side of the river was the nearby home of Rube Dick, famous guide and opposite to the north resided Raymond Nance, equally adapt at float trip guiding.

Further downstream was the old Shell Knob Bridge, reachable at the property of Earl Callaway at the Needle’s Eye point or at the Viola side properties near the mouth of King’s River.

King’s River ventures

For an adventure, the King’s River was usually the best bet, especially under normal water conditions, with its faster waters and frequently the most productive fishing.

If a long float was in the schedule, access at either Summer Ford between Golden and Grandview, was the choice. A half-day upstream was the old Grandview bridge, if you had sufficient numbers in your party to negotiate sliding equipment down a steep bank.

On this same stream was the short float was from the old Viola Ford, just north of that community. Upstream took you past the Jim Couch spring (across from what is now Green Shores) and then under Pinnacle Point, a climber’s access for bait fishermen frequently encountered on this route.

Taking out could be a problem, as we encountered a couple of times, when storms in the area would have White River running higher than King’s by the time we reached the mouth of King’s.

When this occurred, it was paddle like you never had before, in order to get across White and hit the Twin River Resort of Vaughn Errad, before being swept further downstream than you intended.

A longer trip

A favorite route, especially for an overnighter, for the late Bill Sellers, was going through Eureka Springs to the Trigger Gap area and not taking out until reaching the Highway 62 Bridge west of Berryville. This stretch, requiring Arkansas licenses, is still open, as is that between the highway access to Grandview, reachable via private land.

That same access, south of Grandview can provide a float to Summer Ford, beyond this point boaters begin encountering back water of Table Rock Lake.

Beginning at Trigger Gap was a blast, especially with Sellers, his metal boat had self constructed compartments in the bottom, containing anything needed for such trips.

His menu for the first night out most usually included charcoal steaks and strawberry shortcake.

A lost art?

There isn’t much access except King’s in this area today. For the ardent there are trips on the Elk River in McDonald County, which can at times be a real experience!

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat.