Midwest Adventures

Bourbon County Lake Falls

The winter this year in Kansas started out mild but ended with a couple miserable weeks of frigid wet weather. The warm weather and sunshine this weekend was a light at the end of the winter tunnel. We loaded up Hannah and some snacks into the Jeep and headed to Bourbon State Lake. We weren’t prepared for how beautiful and majestic the falls are.

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A quick route to get to the falls is: driving through Bronson, KS turn south on 25th st, then take a left on Juniper rd, after approx a mile and a half take a right on 30th st, lastly take a right on Ivory Rd. The waterfall is located on the left hand side of Ivory Rd. If you pass the little white house on the right then you have gone to far. The entrance to the waterfall has a little shallow creek that runs across it. If you are not comfortable driving through a little water you can park along the road and walk in through the small creek. If you go through the small water crossing you can park right along the waterfall.

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The top of the falls can be accessed by climbing the trail up the hill on the left of the falls. The trail leads up to a giant rock shelf that runs along the water. If you are willing to brave the chilly March water and walk across the slimy rocks to the center rocks you are in for an amazing view of the falls. The rock shelf runs alongside the water and leads back to the lake. We took advantage of the perfect flat rocks to set-up chairs and cook lunch with our backpacking stove. When the weather warms up the creek above the falls would make a perfect spot to take a swim and have a picnic lunch.

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Our refreshing beverages chilling in the beer weir while we made some lunch…

Our refreshing beverages chilling in the beer weir while we made some lunch…

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If you follow the rock shelf along the water it leads to the Bourbon County Lake.

If you follow the rock shelf along the water it leads to the Bourbon County Lake.

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Bourbon County Lake Falls is definitely worth taking the kids on a day trip and checking it out. The lake is also perfect for primitive camping and fishing. Unfortunately ATV’s are not allowed. You can find more information on the lake at: https://ksoutdoors.com/KDWPT-Info/Locations/State-Fishing-Lakes/Southeast-Region/Bourbon.

Labor Day on the Elk River

When you live in small town America Labor Day weekend is notorious for barbecues, lake time, camping, and float trips. Last Labor day weekend we loaded the kayaks on the roof of the Cruze and headed to Pineville, MO for a weekend of family time on the Elk river. Pineville is located in the southwest corner of Missouri and is only a short 3 hour jaunt for us. Our group of 11 booked a big house right on the Elk river so we could enjoy the water and the comforts of a house.

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We made sure that we got up early in the morning on Saturday to get out on the river before the crowds. The river is crystal clear when undisturbed and has a gentle current. The scenery is full of lush greenery and big rock bluffs.

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Along the river is a large number of campgrounds and rental cabins which provides options to fit any budget. There is also a large number of canoe/kayak rental companies a web search away that will pick you up from most accommodations. There are several hiking trails nearby and recreation areas where you can ride ATV’s.

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Due to the popularity of the Elk River on Labor Day weekend the river started to fill up with boaters (canoe/kayak/raft/giant inflatable camels) mid morning. The vast majority of the people on the river are in good spirits and mind their manners. If you are looking to fish they are hiding from the noisy human invasion and are definitely not biting.

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This could be oversharing but the red and swollen legs above is what happens when you float the river all day and don’t reapply every 80 minutes as directed. Don’t be like Sarah-use sunscreen liberally and often. If you do get burnt to a crisp apply a towel soaked in vinegar to the burn and it will draw the heat out and for the lucky ones turn it to tan.

This could be oversharing but the red and swollen legs above is what happens when you float the river all day and don’t reapply every 80 minutes as directed. Don’t be like Sarah-use sunscreen liberally and often. If you do get burnt to a crisp apply a towel soaked in vinegar to the burn and it will draw the heat out and for the lucky ones turn it to tan.

Returning home after a long weekend of fun…

Returning home after a long weekend of fun…

Maddie cleaning the sand and mud off the kayaks.

Maddie cleaning the sand and mud off the kayaks.

The Elk River is a beautiful place to kayak/canoe and would make an awesome weekend camping trip for the family. I would recommend that if you do not want your children exposed to drinking, housewives gone wild/coeds flashing for beads, or the occasional whiff of reefer I would avoid a float trip during holiday weekends. We are definitely going to go back and visit this coming year to check out the hiking trails and ride on the ATV trails. What rivers do you love to kayak/canoe?

Swissvale Falls

Swissvale Falls

Attempting to make the most of an unseasonably warm 66 degree February day we went on a little local adventure to see the Swissvale falls. The falls is located on the Landon Trail near Overbrook, KS. The stretch of the trail that has the waterfall is labeled under construction on trail apps and sites. We realized why when we attempted to locate it. To get to the trail you head north out of Overbrook on Shawnee Heights rd then you turn left onto 129th st. The trail is not marked but we were able to find it using the Get Outdoors KS app and AJ’s awesome navigation skills. The hill above the trail was a ridiculously muddy mess so we don’t recommend that you drive to the trail in a Prius. The trail itself was not muddy thanks to the railroad rock and thick grass.

The trail runs down the middle of a field and strangely has two deer stands smack dab in the middle of it. When you get halfway to the trees you will start to hear the rushing of the falls. At the edge of the field there is an old railroad bridge stretching brokenly across the creek. The falls are a couple hundred feet to the left from the bridge.

Due to the small amount of precipitation that Kansas has had in the last month the water level of the falls is pretty low. Swissvale Falls is relatively small when it comes to waterfalls but it is definitely worth checking out. The large slabs of rock surrounding the falls is perfect for spending an afternoon relaxing with the kids. In warmer months the pool underneath the waterfall would be a perfect place to take a swim. The water above the falls is shallow and during springtime will be full to the brim with tadpoles and minnows for the kids to chase around. AJ and I pulled out our backpacking chairs and made a quick lunch in the February sunshine before we headed back. Walking back to the Jeep we saw a bunch of little raccoon prints and deer hooves in the mud leading to the water which explains why the hunters set up shop.

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The Landon Trail-barely visible in the middle of the field.

The Landon Trail-barely visible in the middle of the field.

The trail is located in a field between this bridge and the hill in the picture below.

The trail is located in a field between this bridge and the hill in the picture below.

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Old railroad bridge that has seen better days.

Old railroad bridge that has seen better days.

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Swissvale Falls

Swissvale Falls

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AJ and Hannah

AJ and Hannah

The view looking down from the top of the falls.

The view looking down from the top of the falls.

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A man and his dog.

A man and his dog.

Our easy and tasty backpack lunch.

Our easy and tasty backpack lunch.

View from the end of the trail looking toward the road.

View from the end of the trail looking toward the road.

Sheila got a little muddy…

Sheila got a little muddy…

If you are looking for a short afternoon activity that requires only a small amount of walking you should head out to Overbrook, KS and check out Swissvale Falls.

5 Days of Adventure in Eureka Springs

The first week in August we took a romantic 5 day rendezvous in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. For us it is a short 4 hr jaunt to get there which is perfect if you want to save a precious vacation day and leave after work. This trip we elected to leave the Jeep behind (I know what your thinking and yes we regretted it) and strap the kayaks to the roof of our Chevy Cruze. We used the HomeAway website to search for vacation rentals and found the perfect little cabin. Our cozy little cabin was located right along the white river and had all the needed amenities. Our goals for the trip were to kayak, hike some trails, see some sites, and eat some delicious food. We definitely accomplished all of those goals.

Our awesome little cabin on the White River.

Our awesome little cabin on the White River.

The inside of our cozy cabin. It also had a small full kitchen and the owner stocked it with a bag of ice and a container of coffee. Yes, that is a giant heart shaped tub…

The inside of our cozy cabin. It also had a small full kitchen and the owner stocked it with a bag of ice and a container of coffee. Yes, that is a giant heart shaped tub…

The White River: a short walk from our cabin across a well manicured lawn.

The White River: a short walk from our cabin across a well manicured lawn.

White River Kayaking

The first morning we decided to start off the day by kayaking the White RIver. The stretch of the White River that ran next to the cabin is about 8 miles upriver from the the Beaver Lake Dam. We were told by a local fisherman that the water was muddy along this stretch due to the decrease in rainfall resulting in the dam not being let out as frequently. The water was muddy in the middle but clear along the banks with a sandy bottom. We paddled a couple miles with the whole river to ourselves drinking breakfast beers and listening to music. The sun was just starting to warm up when we got back to the cabin ready for a shower and some lunch.

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Eureka Springs Highlights

Eureka Springs has a lot to offer in the way of outdoor recreation, shopping, historical sites, and delicious eats. Since we only had 5 short days there we decided to see some of the main highlights of the city and spend the rest enjoying the beautiful lakes and rivers.

Thowncrown Chapel   We stopped at the Thorncrown Chapel on a Sunday and there was Sunday church services in progress. The 48-foot tall glass church is breathtaking and I couldn’t imagine attending church services in such a majestic place.

Thowncrown Chapel

We stopped at the Thorncrown Chapel on a Sunday and there was Sunday church services in progress. The 48-foot tall glass church is breathtaking and I couldn’t imagine attending church services in such a majestic place.

The Cash and Boardman Mural or the Rainbow Staircase as some people call it is a neat site to see. It is tucked away on a backstreet in the boutique shop section of downtown.

The Cash and Boardman Mural or the Rainbow Staircase as some people call it is a neat site to see. It is tucked away on a backstreet in the boutique shop section of downtown.

We made a stop at the Christ of the Ozarks statue and AJ drank a beer with Jesus (I’m pretty positive that God has a sense of humor).

We made a stop at the Christ of the Ozarks statue and AJ drank a beer with Jesus (I’m pretty positive that God has a sense of humor).

Lake Leatherwood

We spent half a day at Lake Leatherwood. It is a spring fed lake located not far outside of the city of Eureka Springs. It is the perfect place to spend an afternoon hiking, kayaking/canoeing, fishing, or have a picnic with the kids. There are onsite campgrounds with RV hookups and a pretty nice playground for the kids. Located right on the edge of the lake is a small store that rents out canoes and kayaks. The lake website states that they have a swim beach but it has become overgrown with moss and other vegetation. Around the lake is over 25 miles of hiking and biking trails. Beacham and Fuller trail heads are located near the boat ramp and both circle the lake crossing the Leatherwood dam. The mountain biking trails look amazing and were full of what looked to be hardcore mountain bikers with high end bikes and GoPros strapped to their heads.

For more information on Lake Leatherwood visit the website below:

http://eurekaparks.com/

Many online reviews complain about the lake being overrun with Canadian geese but the small flock of geese are harmless and they give the kids something to feed their sandwich crust to.

Many online reviews complain about the lake being overrun with Canadian geese but the small flock of geese are harmless and they give the kids something to feed their sandwich crust to.

Beautiful lilies pads and lotus have taken over where the swim beach used to be.

Beautiful lilies pads and lotus have taken over where the swim beach used to be.

It’s a hard life…

It’s a hard life…

The Leatherwood Dam in the distance. The Beacham and Fuller trails converge at the walkway over the dam.

The Leatherwood Dam in the distance. The Beacham and Fuller trails converge at the walkway over the dam.

The Leatherwood Dam spillway with the trail walkway above.

The Leatherwood Dam spillway with the trail walkway above.

Beaver Lake

The local fisherman who informed us why the river was so muddy upstream recommended that we check out the stretch of the river right below the dam. When we arrived at the bottom of the dam we understood why. The water was crystal clear, freezing cold (53 degrees), and flowing a little swifter. It was also a lot busier with trout fisherman, riverside campgrounds, and canoe/kayak rental companies dropping off groups of people. We paddled the river for a while looking at the big trout swimming below us and taking in the beautiful scenery.

Beaver Lake Dam

Beaver Lake Dam

Up ahead is a large amount of trout fisherman knee deep in the water hoping to catch the big one.

Up ahead is a large amount of trout fisherman knee deep in the water hoping to catch the big one.

This picture is right after we both decided to take a dip in the 53 degree water. We videoed each other taking the plunge but the language used when one of us came out of the frigid water is not appropriate for children…

This picture is right after we both decided to take a dip in the 53 degree water. We videoed each other taking the plunge but the language used when one of us came out of the frigid water is not appropriate for children…

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We loved this stretch of the river.

We loved this stretch of the river.

Dogwood Trail

After kayaking we drove across the dam and decided to hike the Dogwood Trail. The trail is 1.4 miles long loop and is rated moderate on the AllTrails app. The trail was scenic but the markers were pretty hard to identify and in spots it was pretty overgrown. All things considered the view of Beaver Lake below was worth the hike.

Eureka Springs, AR is a pretty awesome city to visit. It has enough outdoor recreation to keep even the hardcore outdoor enthusiasts entertained. Throughout the year the city hosts a lot of different festivals and events to meet almost any interest.

For more information on all that Eureka Springs has to offer check out the city’s website:

https://www.eurekasprings.org/

Free Outdoor Family Fun in Garnett, KS

There is typically 2 kinds of camping families. The hardcore campers that roll in with everything but the kitchen sink packed and organized. The last minute campers who throw beer and hot dogs in the cooler and grab the tent that may or may not have been repacked with all the pieces. If you are either type of those campers you will love Cedar Valley Reservoir. It is about 7 miles from Garnett, KS so you are close enough to civilization in case you forgot to pack the ketchup or need emergency medical attention after nearly hacking your finger off with a pocket knife. One of the great things about the reservoir is that you can be about as social as you want to be. There is plenty of camping spaces and recreational areas. Campers can enjoy the peace and quiet of nature without the sound of loud music and drunken shenanigans that you could experience at some of the more popular lake campsites.

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We spent many weekends this last summer and fall at the reservoir kayaking, hiking, and camping. The best time to kayak on the lake is early morning and late afternoon when the water is the calmest. Our favorite spot to put the kayaks in the water is circled in the map below. Once you put in on the boat ramp head southeast toward the bottom of the lake. After a little paddling you will find yourself in a scenic little creek (Disclaimer-once you reach the creek it is private property on both sides so exit your kayak/canoe at your own risk). Depending on the water level you can paddle a couple of miles down the creek before you reach an impassable area full of downed trees. The local wildlife includes a couple herds of cattle getting a drink in the creek and a family of bald eagles with a giant nest in a creek side tree.

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Kayaking on the dam side of the reservoir has its own beauty. I recommend putting your kayak/canoe in at a camping area instead of trying to scramble down the rocks of the dam.

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Camping

Cedar Valley has electric RV hookups and tent/no utility camping available without reservations on a first come, first serve basis. There are porta potties available in the large camping areas. There are ATV trails around the lake that require a city permit to ride on but the fee is very reasonable and easily obtained.

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If you are looking for a quiet out of the way spot to spend a day relaxing in the outdoors I would highly recommend Cedar Valley Reservoir. It is perfect for some free outdoor family fun.

Where are you and your family going for your next outdoor adventure?

For more detailed information on the reservoir visit the city of Garnett’s website:

https://www.simplygarnett.com/cedar-valley-reservoir.html