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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/FLIP PUTTHOFF This couple were on a quest to explore all of the White River lakes. They're shown here in 1978 as they set out on Bull Shoals Lake.

A journey can start with a first step, or the pull of a starter cord on an outboard motor.

We'll always remember a couple we met long ago who were on their own adventure, a quest to explore all of the White River lakes in their small boat and motor.

Their journey started one summer day at Beaver Lake east of Fayetteville and ended halfway across the state at Bull Shoals Dam. Over several days they explored lakes Beaver, Table Rock, Taneycomo and Bull Shoals.

Only trouble was, there's a dam at the end of each lake.

My pal Hog Ears and I were proud to be a part of their trip if only for a couple of days. Back then we were both working our summer jobs at Table Rock State Park, close to the lake's massive dam. Hog Ears collected camp fees, and I held down the fort at the marina.

We were living the paradise life in our backwoods bachelor cabin, a little slice of heaven out in the boons down four miles of gravel county road. Rent was $50 a month, utilities paid.

One hot afternoon the guy, gal and their dog came puttering up to the marina gas dock in their 14-foot aluminum boat packed with camping gear. A small Johnson outboard pushed them along.

"We're good on gas," the guy said. "We're wondering if you know anyone with a boat trailer who might take our boat out, drive us around the dam and put us back in on Lake Taneycomo."

There in the hot sun they told their story. How they'd launched at the headwaters of Beaver Lake, near Fayetteville, cruised Beaver from its headwaters to the dam. Then how they managed to hitch a ride around Beaver Dam to the White River.

From there, the explorers motored all the way down Table Rock Lake, camping a night or three along they way. My eyes grew wide listening to every sentence of their story. Now here they were, looking for a way around Table Rock Dam. What a grand adventure.

"Heck yeah. I can give you a ride," I piped. Working at the marina, I had access to a whole lot full of boat trailers. The couple camped in the park that night. Next morning I hitched a trailer to my 1968 Ford pickup and met them at the boat ramp.

We got acquainted on the short drive from the park down to a ramp on Lake Taneycomo, just downstream from Shepherd of the Hills trout hatchery at Table Rock Dam. Turns out the guy and his girlfriend lived in St. Louis. She was a native of France and spoke with a lovely accent.

"Tell you what. If you all want to, we can launch your boat and you can spend today on Taneycomo. This evening I'll pick you up at the end and you can stay at the cabin with Hog Ears and me," I proposed.

Free lodging at a cool cabin sounded great to them. Their little outboard coughed to life on the first pull. I bid them farewell for now and watched them start downstream on Lake Taneycomo.

Taneycomo isn't usually mentioned as one of the White River reservoirs. The ribbon of water is part river, part lake, and sandwiched in between Table Rock and Bull Shoals lakes. Tanycomo is named for its home county, Taney County, Mo. It's narrow, like a river, but there's a low dam, Powersite Dam, that backs up the lake.

When water is released at Table Rock Dam for power generation, there's current, as in a river.

Our new friends had a great time working their way down Taneycomo. They stopped and explored downtown Branson for a bit. The lake curves right through the middle of town. Now we were bumping along the county road with their boat in tow, on our way to the cabin.

I'm not sure what haute cuisine we fixed our guests for dinner. I'll wager it was barbecue chicken and macaroni and cheese. That's pretty much what Hog Ears and I lived on most of the summer.

We all became fast friends during their visit. It was a bit sad the next morning when we returned to the water to launch their boat at Forsyth, Mo., on the upstream end of Bull Shoals Lake, the last leg of their journey.

That was long ago, but I've always remembered them. I don't recall how they got home at the end after navigating Bull Shoals Lake. All I know, it was one grand adventure.

Flip Putthoff can be reached at

Sports on 01/01/2019

Print Headline: Small-boat travelers explore all White River lakes


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