Saturday morning, 6:30 am, I met my friend Brian in Ozark and followed him down to Branson for a day on Lake Taneycomo and the White River. We put the kayaks in at the trout hatchery at Table Rock State Park. Right away catching the attention of a river guide and his clients launching a drift boat. We chatted with them a bit about what the boats were made of before helping them push off.
The lake, barely deeper or wider than the river it's formed from, I'm guessing is fed from the lower thermoclines of Table Rock Lake and it's a very chilly 55 degrees or so. Perfect for rainbow trout, not so much for a capsize. We kept our PFDs on most of the day. Just precautionary, the Chuckanut 12 kayak is really stable. I stood up in mine a couple of times in shallow water to check just how much. In warmer water, I might have even tried paddling it that way a bit.
Our ten mile float trip weaved through the hills south of Branson and right into downtown, where we took out at Branson Landing. It was strange, really. There were huge houses lining the river in areas, as well as very wild stretches. There was also plenty evidence of the flooding a year or two ago. Mansions boarded up, docks bent into pretzel shapes and sitting high and dry, etc.
Lots of wildlife to be seen. Dozens of kingfishers zigzagged back and forth from shore to shore. Blue herons and green herons took to the air, coughing their annoyance at us interrupting their fishing or rest. There were plenty of martins, too. But the highlights of the day were spotting two river otters. One running the muddy and rocky shoreline, the second sunning and preening itself on a dock. I was grinning like a six-year-old both times we saw them.
The boats did really well in this type of setting. The stream had no difficult riffles or turns to navigate. The only hazards were fishing boats, docks and the occasional downed tree. The wind hitting us right on the nose for the last couple of miles, we could have done without, but it wasn't too brutal. If you kept straight into it, there was little windage.
It was cool to finally see "The Landing" from the perspective of being on the water. We pulled our kayaks up on a dock right in front of Joe's Crab Shack, packed our gear up while talking to a couple young guys that worked the paddle boat rentals, sat our boats where we could easily watch them and got lunch on the balcony of Old Chicago Pasta & Pizza. They had less of a wait than Joe's, a better beer selection (or in Brian's case, Mountain Dew) and more honest sounding hostesses (as in the wait).
UPDATE 8-22-2012: The "river otters" very well might have been mink.