Thursday, January 31, 2013

Cliff Jumping in the Ozarks


Why do boys and men need to do things that are dangerous, potentially life threatening, financially unwise, and certainly painful?  Because it is manly.  Cliff jumping is a perfect example.  It is hard to explain the way it feels to someone who has not jumped before.  It's like riding a roller coaster with no seat belt.  Peer pressure is the only reason 3/4th's (or more) of those who jump do so.  The lack of control after jumping can be somewhat liberating...the windmill arms tucked just in time to avoid bruises, the uncontrolled cursing, the fact that the whole world disappears as you focus on not dying, and the final inclusion in the group of elite jumpers who also made the leap.  

Current River

The Ozarks is full of rivers carving away at the bluffs.  The crystal clear, frigid spring water allows you to see the rocks that could break your limbs, ...usually.  The Current River is a prime example of a place chock full of death defying cliff jumping experiences for my family and friends.  Numerous canoe trips transported us to the limestone walls up to 40 ft. high.  Here are a few pictures from that memory-filled country.

It is hard to tell who is who in this picture.  I can pick out Joe and Mark at the top.  That may be me jumping.  That looks like Chris in the water looking on.  Climbing up to this cliff was not too enjoyable.  It was quite the scramble and left our backs, arms, and legs scratched up.  This was a youth trip (what were our leaders thinking allowing this!...glad they did!).

This was from a trip with Mark, Darin, and Billy.  It is a nice panorama of a three-way simultaneous jump.  Left to right: Billy, Me, and Mark.  Darin shooting the photo.

Joe watches as John jumps from this extremely scary cliff.  It might be a whole 20 ft.  John and his life jacket, inseparable.

Mark often looks like an alien life-form landing on the planet when he jumps.  This is Bee Bluff.

There I am, proof that I did the jump.  Bee bluff is a scary jump because the platform is an overhang.  I am pretty sure that it hurt every time I jumped off this cliff.

A view from the top of Bee Bluff.  Mark taking the shot, Me and  Darin in the canoe.

Mark jumping off Bee Bluff.  If anyone thinks jumping is not scary, they either dive professionally or are insane.  Notice the muscles in Mark's body.  Every single one is flexed and ready for impact.  Also, notice the shape his arms are in and then look at the following picture.  These two photos were taken at the same moment, accidentally.  Darin shooting from below and me from the top.  You can see us both in the shots with our cameras to our eyes.  I am not sure what Billy is doing.

I don't recommend diving.  It hurts.

The path to an obscure cliff.  Sometimes it was a lot of work to get there!

Beaver Lake

Beaver Lake is another prime cliff jumping location.  As kids we used to go to this lake and stay at our grandparents cabin.  They had a pontoon boat that we would tool around the lake in.  We never knew there were such wonderful cliffs over by the dam until a youth trip much later in life.  After the discovery, we took Darin and Billy to the spot and jumped.  Here we are at the top.  Notice the ledge under the water.  It would stink if you hit that! 

Back to front: Billy, Me, Mark.

Darin and Mark.

Johnson Shut-Ins

Tucked away in southeast Missouri is this awesome little park.  It is known for its naturally shaped bathtub impressions in the rock of the stream bed.  You can lounge around in them all day.  Further down the stream is a magnificent cliff.  Perched atop this cliff is a sign that warns jumpers to cease and desist.  These next few pictures tell a story...

Notice from left-to-right Me, Joe, and James.  Scoffing at the warning.  Who would listen to a silly sign like that?

Now we see James in the air as Joe and I look at his flailing body and plugged nose.

Sometime after that, James has pulled himself from the water and you see me swimming from the approximate location where I landed after him.  Joe still perched atop the cliff...

No cliff jumping for Joe!  Out of the trees appears (not a bear, coyote, or rabid dog) a rabid park ranger with a flip book full of tickets!  Hence the financially unwise statement from the beginning of this post.
Lake Stockton

No article about cliff jumping would be complete without a piece dedicated to Lake Stockton.  The lake is man made and part of it is a flooded limestone quarry.  Cliffs extend almost 360 degrees.  It is cliff jumping heaven.  They go from a few feet tall to 40+ ft. depending on the water level of the lake.  Apart from the occasional submerged tree branch that wants to drag you under, or the large boulder left at the bottom of the quarry that wants to break your leg, or the poisonous water snake curled up on the exact rock you MUST use to get out of the lake, it is perfectly safe. (Side note: I took April here and kissed her beneath the trees at the cliff edge, ahem, moving right along...)

That is the highest point.  This spot is really freaky because the spot you jump from slants down toward the water.  You feel insecure before you even contemplate jumping from this spot!

Mark (left) and Joe (right).

Joe's head (left) and Darin's head (right).  Notice the lack of places to climb out.  If you are asking, the answer is yes, we did jump before finding a way out.  We were not known for our ability to plan ahead in these situations.

Well, I don't necessarily suggest that you go out and find a cliff to jump off of, nor do I recommend the opposite.  Each person must decide if they want to be a part of the fraternity of brave, manly, stupid, cliff jumpers.  Now that I am 30 years old, I think I'll become an emeritus member though.  My old limbs will not take too much of a beating anymore...then again I am going to the Current River soon.  

No telling what might happen!


  1. Stephen, This is Barbara Winberg if you have a moment will you please contact me..

    1. Hi! Barbara, I lost my previous phone and your number with you have my email address?

    2. Hi! Barbara, I lost my previous phone and your number with you have my email address?

  2. How about some more beta on Lake Stockton? heading there in a couple of weeks, and have never been. It's a big lake, whereabouts are you jumping/swimming?

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. The quarry is just north of Crabtree Cove Public Use Area. If you head south from highway 32 on 1791, it will be the first right turn. I just pulled this from Google: 37°40'18.4"N 93°44'51.4"W

  5. Thanks for the website -- my local favorite: Alum Bluff on Cadron Creek just below Highway 65 bridge -- estimate it to be somewhere between 50-70 feet -- time enough to think "what have I done?" before you hit the water.

  6. Here at beaver lake, any good swimming and cliff jumping spots in walking distance??

  7. When was the last time you are at beaver Lake and where was that cliff you jumped off of?