Ozark spring break, 2014 edition, was a great adventure. I plan to post twice about it. This post will focus on the outdoors, the second on interactions with my 25 year old son that went with us.
The Ozarks are filled with geologic wonder. Porous rock creates countless caves, springs, cliffs, and other curiosities. While down there, I read about a river that disappears underground and appears again 20 miles away. They know it is the same river because they tested with dye (think Chicago River on St. Patrick’s Day) and found the dye appearing above ground that distance away. We visited several springs, including Mammoth Spring, which produces 9-10 million gallons per hour, creating a floatable river with constant water level and a constant temperature of 58 degrees. One could easily fill several week-long vacations visiting such sites in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas.
Many Ozark rivers have been dammed to harness their power for electricity. On little streams these dams powered personal businesses; such as grinding flour and sawing lumber. On larger rivers the dams have created renown fishing lakes such as bull Shoals and Table Rock. These larger dams release water from the bottom, creating “tailwater” fisheries. The water released from the bottom is constantly cool, so it creates trout water. The amount of water released varies with demand for electricity, so water levels on the tailwaters can fluctuate, sometimes multiple times in a single day.
Perhaps the most famous tailwater river in Arkansas is the White River. We fished it for one day. I came prepared to throw crankbaits for big trout, but was advised to follow the locals.The typical White River technique is to use a bell sinker on a three way rig to drift bait along the bottom. When water is low, the drift is slow and easier to control. In high water the bait drifts faster in powerful current. I didn’t study enough to realize that on a Monday demand for power would be higher than the weekend, and would affect the water level, so we dealt with high and rising water all day. next time I would plan to fish on Sunday, when water is predictably low. With thunderstorms approaching, Matt and I caught 20 trout before lunch, keeping three to eat and releasing the rest. After lunch we landed two more before thunder chased us off the water ahead of schedule. We were satisfied.
The next day we toured Blanchard Springs Caverns, an amazing cave on National Forest land. We were not allowed to photograph the gigantic and varied formations because of concern for bats. 250,000 bats were still hibernating in Blanchard Springs Caverns, but not one was spotted in the rooms we were allowed to visit.
After my fourth trip to the Ozarks in recent years I haven’t tired of it. I haven’t seen everything I’d like to see there, and I want to catch more trout now that I understand better how to fish that unique water.
Check back in a day or two for reflections on traveling with my son.