In my adopted home state of Missouri, one thing there isn’t a shortage of are waterways. Creeks, streams and rivers flow like hundreds of capillaries and veins through the mountains, hills and valleys on their way to the main artery of the mighty Mississippi. These rivers and streams are always changing and evolving as they tumble and wind through our great state. A natural phenomenon that is unique to our Ozark waterways are shut-ins. Shut-ins occur when a portion of a river is confined by a narrow channel of rock that is more resistant to erosion. This creates chutes, pools, waterfalls and rapids that form as the water is forced over and around igneous boulders of granite and rhyolite.
As is usual during our Missouri winters, there are a few days that are unseasonably warm and when that occurs we all start looking for a quick cure to the epidemic of cabin fever that is running rampant all over the Midwest. So this winter I have been treating my winter “shut ins” with some Ozark shut-ins.
The 2016 Tour de Shut-Ins began in January with a trip to Johnson Shut-Ins State Park. In February, we visited the Tiemann Shut-Ins at Millstream Gardens Conservation Area and the Castor River Shut-Ins at Amidon Memorial Conservation Area. All are beautiful, but each are unique in their own way.
Johnson Shut-Ins are probably the most popular of the shut-ins. In the summertime, people flock here to play in what is like a natural water park. But this January, not long after Missouri experienced a historic flood, the water of the East Fork Black River was running fast and high. We had the whole place to ourselves so we took advantage, climbing out onto the rocks and even hiking a portion of the Ozark Trail that follows along the other side of the river.
The Tiemann shut-ins are unique in that it is part of the only true whitewater in Missouri. Each year, the Missouri Whitewater Championships are held here. What I find most interesting about this place are the pink stripes that run through some of the boulders. It was an amazingly warm 70+ degree day in February when we visited, so I
went barefoot and waded around in the calmer waters near the edge of the stream, climbing over the worn and flattened rocks and digging my toes into the chilly sand. Braver souls were enjoying the rapids and testing their skills in whitewater kayaks.
After a couple cold ones and some BBQ’d brats we saved the best for last and headed over to Amidon Conservation Area and the Castor River Shut-ins. Possibly one of the prettiest places in Missouri, this area is a little more remote and less commercial than the other two. These shut-ins are the only ones in Missouri comprised of pink granite. It’s also narrower and has more features like waterfalls and chutes in a shorter stretch than the other areas we visited. Basically you get more bang for your buck over here.
The idea was to stay past nightfall and get some pictures of the stars filling the sky over the river, what I forgot to do was check the weather app for the moonrise time. As it turns out the moon began to peek out over the trees across the river just as the sun was setting, so it turned into a moon shoot instead. This was a little more challenging but was an amazingly beautiful sight as the moon glow was reflected in the swiftly running river and the long exposure gave the water a surreal icy effect.
After a long and busy day that was jam-packed full of fun, we finally decided to head for home. But judging by the nine inches of snow we had this week, old man winter isn’t quite done with us yet. There are still plenty of shut-ins in Missouri to visit, so I’m sure I won’t stay shut in for long!