Calling All Daredevils!
Columbia offers plenty of heart-pounding outdoor adventures for those seeking new and unexpected thrills. From kayaking a flooded creek in the middle of the city to revving up an ATV on a rugged, reclaimed strip mine, the unusual outdoor pursuits in and around Columbia keep the adrenaline rushes coming.
Are you bold enough to explore a different side of CoMo? Check out these nine ways to experience a local adventure.
Tim Sanders, Alpine Shop
White-water enthusiasts don’t have to go to Colorado or even down to southeast Missouri for the white water of the St. Francis River. All they have to do is wait for a big rain and take a trip on Columbia’s Hinkson Creek.
“It takes a very high skill level when it’s flooded,” says Tim Sanders, an Alpine Shop outfitter and kayak instructor.
The water level of Hinkson Creek fluctuates widely, so before heading out, paddlers should visit www.americanwhitewater.org/content/Gauge2/ to check current levels. Site visitors can click on Missouri and then look for the Hinkson Creek entry in all-capital letters.
Sanders recommends beginners stick to a depth range between 4 and 6 feet on the Hinkson.
“After 6 feet, it gets a little bit tougher,” he says.
One spot to put in is below the Walnut Street Bridge on the northeast corner of Stephens Lake Park. From there, it’s about an hour’s trip to Capen Park, depending on the swiftness of the water. Another option is to put in at Capen Park and travel to Scott Boulevard, about a three-hour journey.
There are several other creeks and rivers in or near Columbia for paddlers to explore. Sanders offers this list with general levels of difficulty; however, the skill level required depends on how much water is flowing.
Perche Creek: Beginner
Missouri River: Beginner
Lower Hinkson Creek (Stadium Road to Scott Boulevard): Beginner
Upper Hinkson Creek (Stephens Park to Stadium Road): Beginner/Intermediate
Grindstone Creek: Intermediate
Gans Creek: Intermediate
Silver Fork Creek: Intermediate/Advanced
Bass Creek: Intermediate/Advanced
Flat Branch Creek (Flat Branch Park to Forum Road): Advanced
Paddlers who need to rent a boat can do so at either Alpine Shop or at Mighty Mo Canoe Rentals in Rocheport. Other important gear to get: a life vest and helmet.
Those who need instruction can check out Sanders’s kayaking classes at Alpine Shop. A schedule is online at www.alpineshop.com/info/calendar.
Note: A temporary low-water crossing has been installed during reconstruction of the Hinkson Creek Bridge at Scott Boulevard. The Columbia Public Works Department recommends avoiding this portion of the creek until construction is complete.
Extreme Team Building
Epple Field (MU campus, off Providence Road next to Green Tennis Center and Reactor Field)
“Learning the ropes” takes on new meaning at the University of Missouri’s Venture Out complex. Here, groups navigate challenging ropes courses — including one with portions stretched 30 feet in the air — to build teamwork.
There is a low-ropes course, which keeps participants on or close to the ground, as well as a high-ropes course that takes them into the air on a structure that looks like an elaborate tree house fort — without the trees. Getting through the obstacles on either course requires team members to work together and communicate.
Another fun challenge at Venture Out is the 60-foot-tall climbing structure, Alpine Tower. This soaring tower of tilted poles, ropes and rope ladders invites individuals of all skill levels to test their determination.
“If you’ve never climbed before, the Alpine Tower is a great place to learn,” says Bryan Goers, coordinator for MU’s Center for Leadership & Service. “It has easy and hard routes. If you’re an experienced climber, there are challenges on the tower that you cannot find on any rock face.”
Alpine Tower is geared more toward individual achievement than teambuilding, but Venture Out requires a group of at least five for all of its activities. Groups can be business groups, nonprofit groups or just groups of friends. Costs range from $20 to $35 for nonprofit groups, which includes groups of friends; business groups cost more. All gear is provided.
Venture Out also offers occasional rock climbing classes, which are open to individuals. Classes begin on the Alpine Tower and then move to a cliff at Capen Park.
Urban Bow Hunting
Missouri Department of Conservation
Columbia hunters don’t have to go far to bag a buck. In fact, bow hunters don’t even have to leave the city. The city of Columbia allows archery hunting on private property, and on select city park and utility properties.
Urban hunters may use their bows to hunt both deer and turkey on private land; bow hunting on city land is restricted to deer hunting. To qualify for the archery deer program, hunters must meet three requirements.
- Minimum age is 15 to hunt without direct supervision of an adult.
- Hunters must register online and attend a registration class (in August).
- Hunters must fulfill requirements of the Missouri Department of Conservation, including obtaining the appropriate hunting license.
The program runs from Sept. 15 to Jan. 15, within Department of Conservation guidelines.
Registration and classes are free of charge, and permits to hunt on city property are good for two years. The classes cover the eight city properties that allow hunting, as well as various regulations such as no hunting or field dressing within 100 feet of private property or city trails.
Off-Road Vehicle Riding
Finger Lakes State Park
1505 E. Peabody Road
Finger Lakes State Park, just 20 minutes north of Columbia, offers a rowdy escape from city living with more than 70 miles of off-road trails for motorcycles, ATVs, side-by-sides and mountain bikes.
A reclaimed coal-mining site, the park’s rugged terrain features steep hills and deep ravines. Beginners who want to avoid the abrupt topographical changes can stick to the main trail, which is 5 miles long and 12 feet wide.
Experienced riders love to venture off the trails and can challenge themselves on a professionally designed motocross track, used for sanctioned motocross races. There is also a riding area set aside for children learning under direct adult supervision. The park also has a demanding 2.25-mile mountain bike trail.
No trucks, Jeeps or dune buggies are allowed in the off-road areas, and no passengers are permitted on ATVs or motorcycles, unless the ATV was designed for more than one rider. Operators of ATVs, motorcycles and side-by-sides must wear protective helmets, and all ATVs and side-by-sides must be equipped with an orange flag. More details on these rules and other information are on the park’s website.
According to Park Superintendent Debbie Newby, there is no place to rent an off-road vehicle in Missouri, so it’s either buy one or borrow one. Riding permits must be purchased at the park office for $5 per vehicle per day.
Speeding down hills at 40 or even 50 miles per hour is the thrill of longboarding, a form of skateboarding that, as the name implies, uses an extra long board.
“Longboards are easier to ride and can gain speeds greater than a skateboard just pushing on flat ground because the wheels are bigger, and it will roll over pebbles and bumps that a regular skateboard won’t,” says Sanford Speake, a local longboarder who administers the Columbia Longboard Facebook group. “It’s my understanding that longboarding was invented by surfers as a way to cruise around.”
Longboarders can have fun just pushing around, but the extreme thrill is bombing, or going downhill as fast as you can go. Some of Speake’s favorite rides for bombing are on Rock Quarry Road, Old 63 and Mick Deaver Memorial Drive, from the Hearnes Center down to Providence Road.
To start longboarding, a person needs a longboard, special gloves with hard plastic on the palms (this sport gives new meaning to “hand brakes”) and a helmet. Depending on material and design, longboards can cost $90 to $500. Learning to longboard can take days or weeks, Speake says, depending on how committed someone is to practicing.
In general, longboarders are subject to the same traffic laws in Columbia as bicyclists. For specific rules, read Section 14-5 of the Columbia Code of Ordinances, accessible atwww.gocolumbiamo.com/Council/Code_of_Ordinances_PDF.
Captain Nemo’s Dive Shop
1414B Range Line St.
Thanks to Captain Nemo’s Dive Shop, Columbians can prepare for their deep-water adventures right here in the city.
Scuba certification classes at Captain Nemo’s take just two Saturdays. Students spend time in the classroom and then practice their new skills in the Hickman High School pool. After that, students must complete four open-water dives. These can be accomplished on a trip with Captain Nemo’s — which might be to a lake in southern Missouri or northern Arkansas or to somewhere more exotic, such as the Caribbean or Cozumel — or students can take their paperwork to other scuba destinations and finish up with an instructor there.
Dwaine Gardner, who owns Captain Nemo’s with his wife, Mary Stanford, stresses that beginning divers need no knowledge or equipment before making contact. Before their first class, students must purchase a mask, snorkel, boots and fins, which will total around $250, and Gardner can help them make proper selections. The shop furnishes all other equipment, including a wet suit.
Most scuba divers eventually choose to purchase their own gear, Gardner says, which usually costs from $1,200 to $3,000. But after that, costs are minimal.
“Once you get through the training and have your gear, it costs almost nothing,” Gardner says. There are lots of places where diving is free, and an air tank fill at Captain Nemo’s is just $5.
Eco Zipline Tours
487 S. Highway 19
If soaring through the treetops, high above hills and ravines sounds like an exhilarating rush, then ziplining would be the perfect adventure. Located about 45 minutes east of Columbia just 5 miles off Interstate 70, Eco Zipline Tours bills itself as “Mid-Missouri’s largest, longest, highest, fastest and most exciting” zip line treetop tour, and the impressive number of positive reviews on Tripadvisor (357 “excellent”; 15 “very good”; 5 “average” or below) confirm these claims.
Eco Zipline offers three tours, with various zip lengths and heights. Two of the courses are for ages 5 and older, and the highest course is for ages 12 and older.
Several reviewers praise the limited amount of walking and stairs required to go from one zip line to the next. The tours use the natural contours of the land, and most of the zip lines start and end on the ground.
Closed-toe tennis shoes or boots are required, and it’s recommended that shorts be long enough to meet the harness, positioned mid-thigh. All participants must weigh less than 250 pounds and have waists measuring less than 42 inches. The cost ranges from $45 to $85 per person. Reservations are required.
Dodging Silver Carp
Craig Gemming, Missouri Department of Conservation
573-815-7900, ext. 3393
Boaters on the Missouri River can have an accidental adventure, if their boating brings them into a school of Asian silver carp.
This invasive species has a behavior that scientists don’t really understand: When spooked, silver carp will leap out of the water, as high as 10 feet in the air. And because these are not small fish but can top 50 pounds, their leaping can be dangerous for boaters. In most cases, though, boaters just get a wild show, says Craig Gemming, fisheries management specialist for the Missouri Department of Conservation.
“Most people aren’t used to seeing 20- to 30-pound silver carp jumping out of the water,” he says. “Sometimes, you’ll only see a few jumping out of the water. Other times, you can see hundreds jumping at the same time.”
It usually takes a boat motor to startle the fish into jumping, although paddlers might scare up a few. Summertime — when the water is warm and river levels have dropped — is when silver carp tend to be most active. Gemming recommends putting in a motorized boat at the Providence Access on Perche Creek (from Columbia, take Route K south 4 miles, then Old Plank Road west 2½ miles to the access). The creek itself has a high concentration of silver carp, and the access is just a mile from the Missouri River.
Silver carp and their cousins, black carp and bighead carp, are non-native Asian fish that have rapidly taken over parts of the Mississippi River and Missouri River regions. More information on them, including videos and cooking instructions, is on the Missouri Department of Conservation’s website,www.mdc.mo.gov.
Mark Twain National Forest
573-592-1400, ext. 5
There are countless places to hike around Columbia, but most do not allow backpacking. One place that does offer this overnight wilderness adventure is the Mark Twain National Forest.
The forest consists of several separate areas across central and southern Missouri. The area closest to Columbia is the Cedar Creek Ranger District, which covers 16,500 acres in the triangle formed by Interstate 70, U.S. 63 and U.S. 54.
Columbians can take U.S. 63 to Road AB (via a j-turn that requires passing the road and turning back onto the north lanes of the highway), go 4 four miles on AB, which becomes Barnes Chapel Road, and then turn right onto Ginn Lane. A trailhead for Cedar Creek Trail is about a mile down Ginn Lane on the right. There is no water or restroom at this trailhead.
Cedar Creek Trail is open to hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders, all of whom can spend the night in the forest. The Ginn Lane trailhead is near the trail’s Moon Loop, which is about 7 miles in length.