Explore | Current River, Missouri
The 140-foot-deep Cave Spring is one of 65 subterranean water sources that keep the Current River navigable almost year-round.
"Real intelligence is like a river; the deeper it is, the less noise it makes."
—Barbara Delinsky, novelist
Early this morning, we doused the fire and followed our smoke down the glinting, spring-fed Current River. It was the long day of our 26-mile weekend paddle from Cedargrove to Round Spring in southern Missouri, a piney October Saturday of bright light and cool shadow.
The wild summer locals were gone. No more Jell-O shooters. No .38 Special or Foghat. Just the white noise of rapids. We willed our way over shoals, paddled on turquoise water deep into the cavern at Cave Spring, peered down into clear pools to watch smallmouth swim along the ancient stone bones of the Ozarks.
The Current, part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverway, is on public land. So when we grew tired, we were able to make camp and a fire that we inched closer and closer to as the day left us. We watched water race past sheer cliffs as the dimming twilight blurred the reds and golds of fall trees and then extinguished all color for the night. Our fire faded, and so did we.
Now it's cold. I'm in my little tent in the dark. I can't see much of anything, but I hear everything. A family of coyotes comes out of its warm den and into the frosty, wind-rustled woods, whooping it up like drunks leaving a party. I jump at the crazed holler of a barred owl just above me. I listen to a raccoon rummaging through our gear and to the squeaking of two branches rubbing together in the wind. The forest ignores the shhhh! of the rapids.
So does my friend, who snores in the tent next to mine. I wonder how he can go to sleep so fast. I envy him. Then again, no. This is exactly what I have come for. This shivering night. This rushing wilderness. And me right in the middle of it, more awake than ever. —Randy Parker
Photo by Perry Eckhardt