Information on Smith Cr.
Location: Newton Co.; Two put-ins are possible. The first of these is
off of Shiloh Rd. that turns East off of Hwy. 21 near Mossville (this
is the road the the EFLB takeout). Follow this road for a short
distance until you come to a USFS timer cutting area on the right
(look for the signs). If you cross a cattle grate you've gone too
far. Park on the right in the timber cutting area, and hike down to
the creek on the left had side of the road (also USFS land). The hike
is almost 1/4 mile and is way downhill. Once you get down, you'll darn
sure be running the creek! A much better put-in is found by taking the
second dirt road to the left after passing the Hwy. 21 Smith Cr.
bridge on your way south to Mossville. (NOTE: This put-in is private
property but the owners don't mind paddlers using it for a put-in when
the creek is running. Please treat the land with great respect and
pick up any trash you find, so we can make sure the access to this
great creek run continues.) Thanks to the owners improving the road,
you may be able to drive this road all the way to the creek if
you have a high clearance 4WD vehicle. The first hill is a
real doozy to get back up though, so you may want to do a little
shuttle scouting to be sure you want to try it! Once down the first
hill (either in your vehicle or dragging your boat) bear to your
right and follow the road to the Southwest. At the bottom of the
first hill, another road/trail branches off and goes more steeply
downhill and to the Northwest. This road will take you just below
the Lower Gorge and is a good spot to take out. When you get to the
creek you can put in for the Lower Gorge, or you can follow the
road upstream over a couple of small tributaries about 1/4 mile to
get to the Upper Gorge. A take-out at the Hwy. 21 bridge is possible
but not recommended since it requries paddling the lower creek which
has many fences across it and is surrounded by private land. Unless
you can somehow duck the fences, the lower creek cannot be run
without portaging, so you'll have to seek permission from
Topo Quad(s): Boxley, Murray
Gradient: 130 fpm (upper 2.5 mi. @ 180 fpm)
Length: 2 to 5 mi. (depending on put-in and take-out)
Gauge: Generally 3 to 6 ft of water over the low water bridge over the
Buffalo R. at Ponca is a good indicator. At the Hwy 21 bridge
over Smith Cr. no rocks should be visible in the flow near the
bridge and the water should be muddy. The creek is only runnable
after extremely heavy local rains. You may be able to predict the
levels using the Buffalo R. rain gauges which are linked below.
The Ponca and Buffalo Tower gauges are the ones to watch. 2+ inches
of rain in a few hours may be enough to produce a good run. If the
creek looks flooded at the put-in, it probably is, and you'll be
portaging class VI nightmares in the gorge if it's that high!
LINK BUFFALO NATIONAL R. GAUGES (UPDATED HOURLY)
Hazards: strainers, undercut rocks, barbed wire fences (above
upper gorge and below lower gorge), severe rapids, hydraulics
Description: First run in May, 1995 by Bill and Chanoy Herring and
Chris Monroe, this creek has two of the toughest gorges in the
Ozarks (the Lower Gorge may have been partly explored as early as
1978). The uppermost put-in is a 1/4 mile climb down from a
dirt road East of Mossville. From this location the creek drops
at a rate of over 180 fpm for the next 2.5 miles with continuous
class III rapids and many nasty deadfalls that must be portaged.
One mile from the upper put-in, the creek drops more than 60 ft.
in 1/10 mi. and is choked to less than 5 ft. wide by several
house sized boulders in the stream bed. The result of this is a
nasty class V+ gorge! When you see the creek choking down
to a really narrow slot on river left, eddy out immediately
and portage on the left (where there is an old roadbed).
The first drop is very questionable, and if you accidentally
enter this gorge, it may be the last thing you ever run! One
half mile later you'll arrive at the put-in for the lower gorge
run. From this access point to Hwy. 21 is only about 3 miles,
but the first of those miles is very intense. After a half mile of
fast class III water you'll encounter the Lower Gorge where the creek
drops 100 ft. in 1/3 mile. This gorge features back-to-back class
IV-V rapids. The major rapids encountered in the Lower Gorge
include: Little Bull (IV), Looking for Trouble (IV),
Trouble (V+), Crack in the Rock (IV), Gunbarrel (III+),
Smith Falls (IV+), Box Sluice (III), and Whippersnaper (III).
All of these rapids have been run at certain water levels,
but each of them harbors undercut traps. All should
be bank scouted very carefully. Taken as a whole, the
Lower Gorge is basically a long class V whitewater rapid.
Indeed, at moderate to high water levels, the continuous nature
of the rapids from Looking For Trouble down to Smith Falls may
commit the paddler to running all of these drops at once.
Little Bull pushes 75% of the creek into a big undercut on the
right, Trouble is basically an undercut rock sieve, Crack in the
Rock funnels about half of the water in the creek under and through
a big ledge, and a very large undercut just below Smith Falls has
already been the site of a near accident. Needless to say
you'd better have 100% confidence in your ability to run a
clean line through these tricky drops! After the Lower Gorge
the creek settles down to a continuous class II-III run until
its confluence with the Buffalo R. Due to private land and
fencing across the creek (do not try to remove these fences!)
the creek is not really boatable below the Lower Gorge.
Take out on the trail at the end of the Lower Gorge and hike
back up the hill to get to your vehicle. Smith Cr. is a very
serious run due to the extreme hazards encountered in the
two inner gorges. The gorges are short, but don't expect to
get through or around them quickly. If you're not a seasoned
creek boater, you may find yourself doing a lot of hiking as
you try to "run" the creek.
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