47 in 48: The Jacks Fork in Winter

In March of 2015, while Tom was out West exploring in the desert, my girlfriend Rachel and I decided to challenge ourselves in the Ozarks.

With the Jacks Fork River being one of the many common interests that brought us together in the first place, we knew it had to be involved. I had floated the entire river numerous times, but never on one trip. Rachel had been on a few overnight float trips and endless day floats. After a little disagreement on which section to float, we threw our hands up and decided to float all 46.5 miles of the Jacks Fork.

So we started at the beginning, on the South Prong, a creek that, when joined by the North Prong, starts the Jacks Fork. You need high water to put a canoe in on the South Prong. But on the day before we set off, the water on the Jacks Fork was way too high, causing some of the lower sections to be closed. With a little luck and the quickly fluctuating water levels of spring, the water level was perfect by the time we were headed to the Prongs.

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Pushing off from the South Prong around noon, it was snowing and cool. The forecast showed a consistent improvement in weather for the next 48 hours, but at the beginning it was real cold! Ideally, we needed to do just over 15 miles a day to arive at our car at Two Rivers Access just below the confluence of the Jacks Fork and Current rivers on time. On the first day we were lured off the river early by thoughts of a warm fire and down sleeping bags. Once we established camp for the night, we got our blood flowing by scrambling up a bluff near our camp and caught a view.

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Stopping after only 8 or 9 miles that first day meant we would have a lot of catching up to do the following day. We made a big dinner studied our maps and made a goal of padding up to 20 miles the second day. After a couple of fireside cocktails, we retired early.

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Up early, we tore down camp, loaded the boat and set off. With a mix of clouds and sun, the bitter chill had been knocked out of the air. It’s perfect mornings like this, sitting on crystal clear Ozark spring water, that pulls me back to the Current and Jacks for rivers every season of every year.

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We stayed in the canoe all day, even eating lunch on the move. With temperatures slowing rising as the day went on, we beat our 20-mile goal and stopped to build camp near Ally spring.

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Now, with our big day behind us and warmer weather, we really enjoyed the final miles of one of our favorite rivers on earth. We pulled into the landing at Two Rivers around noon, just two days after setting off. Cold days, long days and complete solitude made this an amazing 48 hours. Wouldn’t have wanted to be there with anyone else. (Sorry bro…ha!)

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This photo of me was taken by Rachel while sipping some coffee and getting in some early morning miles! Check out more of her photography here. https://instagram.com/raegeringer/

-Mark Malkowicz

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