Paddling Mark Twain Lake

Mark Twain Lake taken from the MW Boudreaux Memorial Visitor Center deck.

Our campground here is Ray Behrens Corps of Engineers, Perry, MO. We were actually here in June last year and it was 97 degrees the day we arrived. I’m thinking that is why we didn’t kayak that time. This visit the temperatures have been in the lower 80’s which is much more bearable.

Site #16 at Ray Behrens

We had this same site in June last year also.

Ray Behrens boat launch

The boat ramp is part of the campground and was pretty decent. Luckily, it wasn’t too busy on this weekday. We chatted with a ranger at the visitors center and figured out a paddle route which would avoid as many motor boats as possible. For the most part our paddle was perfectly glassy.

Starting down the Dry Fork arm

Mark Twain Lake is 18,600 acres. We paddled six miles, which is just a small drop in the bucket of this lake!

Underwater forest and shore break

This arm of the lake is called Dry Fork and was all ours since boats wouldn’t be able to get by the lake trees. The further up we paddled the more serene it became. There were no boat motors, no highway sounds, just the splashing of our paddles through the water, the menagerie of bird sounds, and jumping fish. This is when paddling can be meditative with the nature sounds and glide of the water. We saw all the usual water birds such as great blue heron, king fisher, terns, great white heron, and one eagle. We were hoping to see more eagles, but felt fortunate to see the one. It was a fun paddle trip which took 2.5 hours and 6 miles. Dave could go several more miles, but that is about my limit and still enjoy it. Plus, it was getting hot!

The day before we rode our bikes to MW Boudreaux Memorial Visitor Center outside the campground. It did involve some riding on highway J from the campground. We were early enough to have very little traffic. This visitor center is one of the best we’ve been in. I didn’t take any pictures because I have a thing about stuffed wildlife just feeling creepy. There was SO MUCH. Every kind of wildlife around here was in this visitor center. They had the most beautiful bald eagle behind glass, but everything else was hung on the wall or in touchable places. I made sure to have a conversation with the ranger about all these stuffed animals wanting to know how they got them all. He came out of his office and spoke a long while with us. The eagle was in possession of the COE long before this visitor center was built. He didn’t know the history. Some of the animals were road kill that people bring to them and if they are not too old and in decent condition then they will pay to have them preserved. They had an osprey that you could see a thin line across his chest feathers which caused his death somehow. There were several stag heads on display which he said came from a hunter who’s wife was tired of looking at them. (I’m so grateful growing up no one in my family hunted and that Dave doesn’t either.) It was surprising and interesting to see a cinnamon raccoon there which we’ve never seen before. It wasn’t cinnamon colored, but very light and almost faded looking. It’s always been hard for me to imagine what a beaver looks like up close, but now I know. I felt a little better about viewing all these animals after speaking with the ranger and knowing that none of them had been killed to put on display. This visitors center also had much information about the dam and history of the area.

Some visitor centers are just pamphlets, trails maps, and souvenirs for sale. Even if we have to go out of our way, we go in all of them and sometimes get lucky and find a great one like this.

Our next stop is Main Brother’s City Park Campground in Karnak, Illinois to bike the Tunnel Hill State Trail.

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