Editor’s note: Writer Tom Uhlenbrock has spent a lot of time on Missouri’s floatable rivers and streams. Here, he outlines 10 trips you might consider for your Missouri float-trip experience.
The list features destinations in the Ozarks, with a few lodging choices. Anglers may prefer other rivers like the Big Piney or Gasconade for fishing, although the cold, clear floating streams are known for their smallmouth bass.
Current River – The top stretches beginning at the river’s headwaters at Montauk State Park are the best. Baptist Camp to Cedargrove, Cedargrove to Akers, Akers to Pulltite and Pulltite to Round Spring all are wonderful day floats. Be sure to visit the ruins of the old sanitarium at Welch Spring above Akers. The park service has a nice campground at Pulltite. Lodging is available at the state park and at Round Spring Retreat, a single ridge-top cabin overlooking the river.
Jacks Fork – The bluff-lined top of the river is called The Prongs, and is one of the most wild and scenic river stretches in Missouri. The river from Alley Spring to Eminence usually has floatable water year-round because of the flow from the spring. River’s Edge Resort is right on the river at Eminence and offers a variety of lodging.
The upper Meramec – The top section, from Short Bend to Cook Station, is beautiful wilderness, but floatable only in good water. The river down to Meramec State Park is great for family floats. Lodging, camping and float trips are available at the state park, and with local outfitters.
Huzzah Creek – A lovely, gentle stream with plenty of gravel bars for picnicking.
Courtois Creek – Much like its sister river, the Huzzah. A nice float begins at Bass River Resort or Huzzah Valley campground and ends at the low-water bridge at Scotia.
Black River – Known for its clarity, the river has several floats out of Lesterville. The East Fork of the Black goes through Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park. It’s not floatable, but well worth a visit. Wilderness Lodge Resort has rustic cabins on the river and serves home-cooked meals in its vintage dining hall.
Niangua – The river begins at Bennett Spring State Park near Lebanon, and is popular with floaters from Kansas City and Springfield. Can be crowded on summer Saturdays. Lodging is available at the park and at nearby motels that cater to the trout anglers.
North Fork of the White – A fabulous float but less crowded because of its location near the Arkansas border in south-central Missouri. A good day float begins at the Hammond Camp access near Dora and ends at River of Life Farm, a resort with a restaurant and cabins at the river’s edge. The latest addition, the River Lighthouse Cabin, has two bedrooms, both with jetted tubs, a gas fireplace and a covered porch that looks down on the glistening water.
Elk – In southwest Missouri, the river is popular with floaters in that section of the state. There are many gravel bars and the water is extremely clear.
Eleven Point – A gorgeous float, especially from the Greer Spring access to Turner Mill. The spring adds 220 million gallons of clear, cold water to the river each day, making for good floating throughout the year. Take the mile-long hike down to the spring and see one of Missouri’s most beautiful spots.
Tom Uhlenbrock writes travel stories for the Missouri Division of Tourism.