Everyone has seen them in the streams and on the beaches of sunny areas. Yes, the snorkeler is a gregarious creature often seen in pairs and groups.
We've all driven over bridges on country roads and highways and peered over the sides as we hurdled over the water. There they are, backs to the sun, plastic tubes pointed up, in colorful costumes. They're viewing things underwater that most people don't take the time to appreciate. What, specifically? Fish in their natural habitat, artifacts washed downstream, and a thousand other things people lose when floating on the current.
Snorkeling opportunities are abound...
Snorkeling is a relaxing sport absent of strenuous exercise—it’s just a leisurely swim with your head in the water. The ten or twelve feet of water you may encounter is in perfect range of the breath-holding snorkeler. There are many areas in the 573 for snorkeling. Snorkeling opportunities are abound and access is almost always free.
First, you'll need equipment. You'll need a mask, of course, with a snorkel and swim fins. There are two trains of thought when it comes to shopping. One is to head over to your local Walmart and pick up the least expensive quality gear you can find. If you've never been snorkeling, you might want to take this route. Maybe you won't like the sport (not likely, though), or perhaps you're accustomed to budget sports. That's fine for some. However, I have a different take. If you have top quality gear, you'll likely become an avid snorkeler.
While I was in the Navy, the professional divers who taught us to use SCUBA, first taught us to snorkel. The first piece of equipment we were issued was the dive mask. Spend the money for the one that feels the best and you won’t have to buy a replacement for years.
You get what you pay for...
Next, you'll want a pair of neoprene booties for entering and leaving the water. Your fins will fit over these and prevent the rubber of the fin from rubbing your feet raw.
Lastly, you'll need fins. There are soooooo many colors, sizes, widths, and lengths. I prefer a medium length, thick, strong, and rugged fins. Pick the most comfortable pair—they'll be your best friends. You can spend $20 or more on a set of fins. You get what you pay for.
You can get cheap snorkeling kits on Amazon starting at around $30. They are made to last a few seasons and work decently.
Now you're all set. Find a clear stream and wade, jump, or slide in. You'll be amazed in the first ten seconds.
My personal favorite is Big Creek...
The 573 boasts a long list of possibilities for snorkel-ready water Let's start small and work our way up. Big River, just north and west of Farmington, is superb, as is the Castor River to the east in the early summer. My personal favorite is Big Creek upstream from Sam A. Baker Park.
What qualifies as a great snorkeling stream? Look for clear water that’s not too swift, and definitely no standing water. Just to the west is a collection of streams you can float in without the aid of a canoe, kayak, or inner tube. There’s the Huzzah, Meramec, Current, Black, Big Piney, Eleven Point, and Gasconade… WOW! Terrific opportunities are everywhere! This will be a sightseeing trip like no other. What's more, there's a different view in every stream.
...did I mention what great exercise this can be?
Here's what to do to plan a snorkel trip. Gather your equipment along with SUNSCREEN. Plan your trip as you would a float trip, except you won't be needing a canoe! Have your outfitter drop you off and pick you up later. In the Huzzah, they only charge $10.
You can cover as much of the river swimming as you can in a kayak. Start slowly, maybe only taking a two- or three-mile float until you’ve built up your strength—did I mention what great exercise this can be? Seriously, it need not be strenuous, nor does it need to be a race. You'll see a world like no other!
To learn more about fun outdoor activities, events and locations here in the 573 go to www.573magazine.com!
Written by B. Hisserich