Buffalo River

What did we learn on our Buffalo River float

Posted by John Berry on June 7th, 2012
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On our way home from our recent overnight float on the Buffalo River, my wife, Lori, and I discussed what went well and what we would want to change on any future trips. The first thing we talked about was just how much Lori had enjoyed her first camping trip. The weather had been perfect. It was warm enough to wet wade and cool enough at night to sleep comfortably. The scenery was awe inspiring and the river flows were perfect for boating and fishing. The timing was great. It was just before school let out and by doing our float in the middle of the week, we did not encounter much boat traffic. The campsite was gorgeous and the facilities provided were first rate.

Our canoe, an Old Town Camper ordered from L L Bean eleven years ago, performed flawlessly. It was light enough to load easily on the factory rack on my Suburban. It was big enough to carry all of our gear and some of Donna’s. Most important, it was easy to control and paddle. In my opinion, it was the perfect choice for our trip.

Our clothing choices generally worked well. I wore light weight quick drying pants, a long sleeved shirt, sun gloves and a broad brimmed straw hat. Lori dressed similarly with a swimsuit underneath so that she could cool off when needed. We both carried fleece jackets to keep us warm in the cool of the evening. I wore studded wading boots and heavy socks. I normally also wear neoprene booties when I wet wade to fill the space in my wading boots normally taken by my waders. Somehow, I left the house without my booties. I just laced my boots as tight as I could and they worked fine. Lori has a pair of neoprene shoes with felt soles that worked well. I carried a pair of sandals that were very comfortable around camp and they were a welcome change from my wet wading boots. Lori did not bring hers and she had to wear her wet wading shoes around camp. She will definitely bring her Tevas on the next trip.We always wore our life jackets whenever we were in the canoe. Lori has made a habit of wearing hers when she wade fishes also.

There were a few other things that we could change that would make the trip even more enjoyable for both of us. The first thing that came to mind was to replace my malfunctioning camp stove. We had eliminated it at the last minute because the gas line was leaking and I thought that it was a safety hazard. We cooked our hamburgers over charcoal (a small bag of match light) and that worked well. I was not able to make fresh coffee the next morning and that was a problem for me (I am a caffeine junkie). The fix is simple. Buy a new stove. I am currently researching on the internet to find the best buy.

My old tent was good reliable shelter but was a bit small for the two of us. I have a Eureka Timberline, which is a very popular (there have been over a million sold). While it is the most popular tent for Boy Scouts, we need something a bit larger. There was just enough room for our two cots inside. Lori wanted to be close to the exit and that meant that whenever I had to get out I basically had to climb over her. We need a larger tent. I think a three person or maybe even a four person would give us the room that I think we need. I think it would be good to get one that had two doors and some more headroom. We could barely sit up let alone stand in my tent. We are looking at other tents but we are reluctant to buy one because my Timberline is still in great shape.

Our sleeping pads did not function as well as we would have liked. Mine was functioning properly but is a back packer model and is too short for my body. The one that Lori used was malfunctioning and did not hold air properly. It was just too old, too thin and short to begin with. Both need to be replaced. I have located some adequate replacements and have ordered them.

When we packed our gear for the float trip, we put all of our critical gear into dry bags. Not only did they help us organize our gear but they would keep essentials dry, in the event that we flipped our canoe. We had our sleeping bags and match light charcoal in one dry bag and our tent, cots and sleeping pads in another. We put our spare clothes and food in the third dry bag. That turned out to be problematic. If we wanted to get to our clothing, we had to pull out all of our food. We have replaced one of our large dry bags with two medium sized ones. We now have one for food and one for clothing.

On the way out at the take out, I drove close to the river to load our canoe and gear. In doing so, I managed to get stuck in unstable gravel. We were lucky in that an outfitter came by and was able to drive my vehicle out. I will be much more careful as to where I drive and I will carry my gear a bit further, if I have to. I have a two wheeled canoe cart that my friend Henry Fredericks gave me. It makes it much easier to transport the boats from the shore to the car. I will make sure that I have it with me on the next trip.

By making a few small changes, we think we can have an even more successful float trip. We are looking forward to it.

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