Notes from Hunter Creek: Winter Floats

Let’s be honest. Canoeing an Ozark stream during the winter months makes most of your non-canoeing friends believing that you are in need of a serious mental tune up.   

But you and I know that almost every year in January and possibly February, there are usually a couple of beautiful winter thaw dates that can make for a wonderful float day in the Ozarks. 

Wear “wet-shoes” or some other means to keep tootsies toasty. And be aware of your stream surroundings. In others words, DO NOT TIP!

However, if you do, try to have a fresh set of clothes and some dry matches ready. Avoid hypothermia at all costs. It is especially dangerous to the very young and the very old, but can take down anybody at any time.    

Winter floating offers floating with deluxe views of bluffs, small caves, and wildlife. If you haven’t ever done a winter float, watch the weather and be ready for a beautiful 60 plus degree day in January or February. You will feel like it’s a true “bonus day off.”   And you know my old saying:  A bad day on the river always beats a good day at work.         

Elsewhere if you desire a winter expedition in December or January, Florida is your goal. If you want to go in November, February, or March, add Arizona and Texas to the list.   

In the heart of winter, in Arizona and Texas, you can catch a good week of floating weather in Arizona and South Texas, but you could also catch the frozen week from Hades.         

In Florida, once you leave the Panhandle area of North and West Florida, you may catch a cool week of floating weather, but generally not a frosty week. 

In the next couple of columns, we will briefly discuss five of my favorite winter floats in Florida. Three are in the Panhandle, one is on the East coast , and one is on the West coast.   

However, don’t let this limit you. With a little research you can locate at least another 20 rivers that offer some superb mileages in the heart of winter to float in Florida. 

In a later column, we will discuss floating in Arizona and Texas, but not in December and January.   

Note: Another friend passed, another funeral to attend. As you get older, you can’t help but to notice that this practice gradually increases.  

If you want to be ready for a winter thaw float day in January or February in the Ozarks, get ready now!

Have your vessel in a good shape of repair and readiness. Take a good spare paddle along with a decent life vest. Bring a 50’ foot length of rope in order to line your boat around dangerous root wads. 

And above all, have river gear ready for your wet feet, and be sure to have a nice dry pair of shoes to put in place on your cold, wet feet.  There is hardly a better feeling in the world than to experience toasty dry feet after a cold winter float.     

Now, get up and go enjoy our beautiful Ozarks outdoors!