I'm sure the Ozark Mountains have many claims to fame, but perhaps their crayfish fauna is not the one that immediately springs to mind. For most people, that is..... I, on the other hand, saw a conference presentation about them many years ago and vowed that I'd get to visit them one day, and that ambition has been achieved, thanks to Bob DiStefano, the guy who gave that conference talk.
Following the crayfish conference in Columbia, twelve of us went off on a two day tour of the Ozarks, visiting some nice little creeks, seeing lots of crayfish (and fish, and frogs, and turtles, and even some snakes) and having a day-long "float"in canoes down a wild river.
Fourche Renault Creek.
Water temperature? Well over 25°C.
Lots of crayfish.
This is a bullhead.
We left Columbia very early in a small convoy and drove south for a couple of hours, then made a series of stops in crayfish creeks, and in the little town of Arcadia for lunch at Aunt Mary's, where I had a catfish sandwich.
Aunt Mary's, Arcadia.
Run by an Italian lady.
Lunch at Aunt Mary's.
The last stop was to walk down through oak and hickory woodland to a very large spring, gushing out from the limestone. But underground water runs more or less at the annual average temperature, in this case about 12°C, very much colder than the streams we had been wading in all day. Hardier souls than I went swimming; I just paddled.
Fast and cold.
Young people don't feel the cold.
Now you see him, now you don't!
We spent the night in a roadside motel that advertised clean rooms and waffles. We had to sign a declaration that we would not keep pets in our rooms.
The Honeysuckle Motel, Mountain View, Mo.
My waffle for breakfast.
Made it myself!
This was next door to the motel.
What could it be?
Where vending machines go to die.
The following day we took the canoes to the Jack Fork River and descended, two to a canoe. Once we had mastered the steering the rest of the day was idyllic: perfect weather, and warm clear water in which we could see fish, turtles etc. The river is shallow and without any serious rapids; in fact in one of two places we had to get out and haul the canoe over shallows. We stopped regularly to catch crayfish, swim and to visit a large cave in the bluff along the river.
Jack Fork River.
Canoes to go.
Jack Fork River.
Gently down the stream.
That's how they catch crayfish in Missouri.
Cave on the Jack Fork.
Strange, pale cave creature.
We were on the river for 6-7 hours, and in that time saw just one other party on the river bank. This is in sharp contrast to several other rivers in the area, where "outfitters" rent canoes and run fleets of yellow school buses to pick people up from downstream. In these places a cooler for the beer is apparently and essential part of the equipment.
The Jack Fork supports many different fish species.