Tuesday, March 06, 2012

La Rivière Courant

"The Ozarks" is an area of highlands in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas that includes the Ozark Mountains but is as much about hillbilly culture as it is about geography. 

Modern "float trips" and "float camping" were basically invented here, and the Current River is the Ozarks' most famous float stream.  Although it is now one of the most popular canoe destinations in the country, it wasn't canoes that got things started.

The Ozark Jon Boat:  http://hootentown.wordpress.com/what%E2%80%99s-in-a-name-like-john-boat/

The johnboat became, perhaps, the Ozarks most famous folk product and was constructed throughout the entire region. The locally crafted johnboat was and is revered by fishermen and folklorists alike. Its historic role as the watercraft which introduced tourists, journalists, artists, and businessmen to pristine Ozarks streams is significant. The johnboat and associated float fishing became a fundamental part of the experience sought by the new people coming into the region—an urban clientele in search of health, pleasure, and sport in the outdoors.

Entrepreneurs and Ozark float trips became a common thread of experience for outside investors. These men who came to the Ozark outdoors advocated Ozark waters for their crystal clearness, gushing springs, and long, clean gravel bars for camping. The romantic images in the press owed their origin to floaters in flat-bottomed boats who placed their testimonials in print. Float fishing became part of a social landscape for conviviality and recreation, whether floaters were visiting sportsmen or native fishermen.

The johnboats were constructed "for use, not show. They are never graceful and trim. They are not pretty. The outlines thereof resemble the cartoonist’s study of a typical old maid—angular and built for long life." Imagine a flat-bottomed affair, oblong, shallow, two capacious end seats flush with the top rail and two broad intermediate boards, on one of which the pilot-rower sits. Besides the abnormal width, these seats are of course uncushioned.  It did not tip over and resembled a "floating piano-box. The flat-bottom acts as if greased." And, as important, overland transportation had to be overcome. "This unique product of the ancient mariners’ skill is lifted bodily from the water, placed on wheels, hitched to a pair of mules—and presto, is transformed into a wagon, conveying overland to the starting point."

It's movie time, so grab a skillet of popcorn.  Take your shoes off.  Sit a spell.

At 6:52: "Rivers, being what they are, like fickle women, can change their ways ever so suddenly and catch the unwary." 

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