Jack’s Fork River

Posted by Al Agnew on September 26th, 2011
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Have you ever seen Jam Up Cave? Let me describe my first time floating the upper Jacks Fork and seeing Jam Up. It was a springtime trip with a group, no fishing done, river up and flowing very well. We put in at the Prongs. This upper Jacks Fork is like a smaller version of the Buffalo in Arkansas with all the big bluffs, and it’s almost a wilderness experience, with the river flowing through a narrow canyon with no bottomland at all, just a bluff on one side and a wooded hillside on the other.

When we got to Jam Up Cave, we stopped to go up into the cave. It’s a huge, yawning opening in a high bluff, with the base of it littered with huge boulders that you have to climb over to go down and into the cave. And geologically it’s very interesting, because Jam Up Creek, a small, sometimes dry stream, comes down off the plateau to the south in a little canyon, and as it approaches the river it has carved out the opposite side of the cave bluff, leaving a rather narrow hogback with the Jacks Fork on one side and the creek on the other. At one time, geologically speaking, the creek then swung away from the Jacks Fork to carve its canyon on for several more miles before finally entering the river. But sometime in the geologic past, the creek took advantage of a fissure in the hogback ridge and took a shortcut through it to the river, forming Jam Up Cave. There is the opening where the creek enters the back of the cave, and there is also another opening in the roof of the cave. The creek pours over a waterfall in the back of the cave, and there are a few hours during a few days a year when the sun comes through the other opening in a shaft of light that strikes that waterfall. This was one of those times! It was possibly the most sublime sight I’ve ever seen on an Ozark stream.

I’ve floated all of the Jacks Fork. The stretch between Alley Spring and Eminence is one of the better places in the Ozarks to catch chain pickerel. The lower river below Eminence has produced some good fishing trips for smallies, though you have wonder about all the horse manure running into it. The upper river? Well, I still try to do at least one overnight trip on it each year.

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