I don’t know about you, but I like to get out of the house and enjoy nature, no matter the weather. Thankfully, the entire Show-Me State offers outstanding outdoor activities; in fact, Missouri is home to one of the most popular outdoor recreational areas in the Midwest.
Any time of the year, Ozark National Scenic Riverways, in southeast Missouri, is a great place to spend some time. This is the first federally designated National Park dedicated to the protection of a wild river system. Created by an Act of Congress in 1964, the park encompasses two of America’s clearest and most beautiful spring-fed rivers: the Current River and its tributary, the Jacks Fork River. For outdoor enthusiasts, these streams are two of the finest floatable rivers you’ll find anywhere, winding through a landscape of rugged hills, wilderness areas and towering bluffs.
Spring-fed, cold and clear, these rivers are a delight to canoe, kayak, fish and camp beside year-round – swimming is great in warmer months. Thanks to national park regulations, the shorelines are not commercialized and primarily remain in their natural state. In addition to these two famous rivers, the park is home to hundreds of freshwater springs, caves, hiking trails, gravel bars and historic sites.
Exploring nature encourages physical activity and offers many health and psychological benefits that have been recognized for centuries. The calming effects of spending time in nature’s great outdoors can reduce stress, soothe aches and pains, increase mental acuity and even lower your blood pressure. How great is that? In fact, many doctors are issuing “green prescriptions” to some patients, directing them to get in touch with nature. Breath some clean air, watch the birds and other critters, listen to the quiet and get healthy.
Sometimes you just need to get away from it all. To help you accomplish that, here are some suggestions for enjoying floating and camping in Missouri.
Experience the Current River and the Jacks Fork River the best way you can, by canoe, kayak, tube or raft. Nearly 20 canoe outfitters service these two protected rivers.
Akers Ferry Canoe Rental (20 miles south of Salem) is an excellent location to start your adventure. At this point, the last two-car ferry operating in Missouri takes you across the Current River. Floats can be booked ranging from a couple of hours to as long as two days. In addition to the floating outfitter, Akers has dining, a general store, hot showers, modern restrooms, camping, RV sites and cabins.
Spend some quality time with a three-day excursion (trips ranging from a half-day to a week are available) from Two Rivers Canoe Rental, eight miles east of Eminence.
But these are not your only choices, not by a long shot. There are more than 30 floatable streams scattered across Missouri, most in the southern half. They are serviced by upwards of 60 canoe outfitters who will set you up with everything you need. Most have camping/lodging facilities, a general store and shuttle services.
Bass’ River Resort, 12 miles east of Steelville, serves three rivers: the Courtois, the Huzzah and the Meramec.
Boiling Spring Canoe Rental, fifteen minutes south of Dixon, can send you off on the Big Piney River and the Gasconade River.
(Interesting side note: The Gasconade is one of the most crooked rivers in the world. Entirely within Missouri, the river winds 265 miles from its source to where it joins the Missouri River; but that is only about 120 miles in a straight line measurement. In an area near Waynesville, you can float for 15 miles and be only two miles overland from your put-in point.)
The Eleven Point River is one of the original eight rivers set aside for preservation by Congress in 1968, under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act; it is free of impoundments, with shorelines still largely primitive and undeveloped. Eleven Point River Canoe Rental in Alton offers floats as short as three hours to as long as three days.
In extreme southwest Missouri, the Elk River, and its scenic tributary, Big Sugar Creek, are very popular. Four outfitters serve this area. Two Sons Floats and Camping, just two miles north of Noel (not the song, the town) has all of the facilities you need for a long stay, including a large beach.
I could go on and on, but this post would become a book. Hopefully, this sampling gets you thinking. Remember, this is a year-round adventure. For information and listings, check the website of the Missouri Canoe & Floaters Association. The key is, get outdoors and take advantage of nature’s abundance.
For detailed information and some dos and don’ts, read the article Floating Tips and Restrictions.
As we say: Missouri . . . enjoy the show.