Flowing Waterways: Rivers and Streams in Missouri

A state where rivers run, Missouri is home to thousands of places to enjoy the water year-round. As you travel the state, you’ll discover each stream has its own idiosyncrasies. Fishing, boating, floating, swimming . . . all are here, in Missouri. Let us introduce some iconic waterways, plus just a few attractions along the way, to help you get a feel for what we have to offer on rivers and streams in Missouri. Oh, and this doesn’t even mention our fantastic lakes.

The Missouri River in Hermann
The Missouri River in Hermann

The Missouri River

The river that defined the American frontier in the 19th century winds its way across the state, from the Iowa border, merging with the mighty Mississippi River in St. Louis. The Katy Trail State Park (the longest rail-to-trail walking/bicycling path in the U.S.) parallels scenic stretches of the Missouri River. Venture back to the Wild West in St. Joseph, at the Pony Express National Museum and the Jesse James Home (where the infamous outlaw was gunned down in 1882); relax and enjoy the spectacular river views at Les Bourgeois Winery in Rocheport, Canterbury Hill Winery in Holts Summit (just across the river from Jefferson City), OakGlenn Winery in Hermann and Montelle Winery in Augusta. Tour the Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City.

The Mississippi River

The Mark Twain Mississippi Riverboat in Hannibal.
The Mark Twain Mississippi Riverboat in Hannibal.

There are adventures aplenty on the mighty Mississippi. Take a paddle-boat ride aboard the Mark Twain Riverboat (Memorial Day-Labor Day) in Hannibal; shop for handmade treasures in the artisan colony of Clarksville; see where the Missouri and Mississippi merge, at the Confluence Point State Park in St. Louis; visit the Gateway Arch in St. Louis and ride the tram to the top for breathtaking views; tour the French village of Ste. Genevieve, the oldest European settlement west of the Mississippi; view the murals in Cape Girardeau, guardian of the river during the Civil War; walk “onto the river,” on the Observation Deck in New Madrid.

8071835959_7e3e585bb0_bOzark National Scenic Riverways – A National Park

Two of America’s clearest and most beautiful spring-fed rivers – the Current River and the Jacks Fork River – anchor the 80,000-acre Ozark National Scenic Riverways, America’s first congressionally-designated national park for the preservation of a wild river system. Canoe/kayak outfitters have everything you need for an hour, a day or several days of floating and exploring these (and other) beautiful rivers. The non-commercialized shorelines and gravel-bars afford great spots for a quiet picnic, a refreshing swim, an invigorating hike and plenty of nature watching.

Terrific Trout Fishing Streams

Three Missouri State Parks are outstanding spots for rainbow trout fishing in cool, spring-fed waters. In addition to fishing, Bennett Spring State Park, Roaring River State Park and Montauk State Park feature swimming pools, nature centers, playgrounds, dining options, lodging and camping. In addition to these parks, the Missouri Department of Conservation stocks rainbow trout in 18 Missouri lakes; one trout-park, owned by a philanthropic foundation (Maramec Spring Park); and more than 120 miles of non-commercial, spring-fed streams. Annually, MDC releases more than two million trout in rivers and streams in Missouri.

North Fork of the White River
North Fork of the White River near Caulfield.

Certified as one of the most crooked rivers in the world, the Gasconade River is the longest river completely within the boundary of Missouri, winding 265+ water-miles from its source near Hartville before emptying into the Missouri River near the town of Gasconade – in a straight line, it is only 120 miles. In an area near Waynesville, you can float for 15 water-miles and be only two miles overland from where you started. There are caves and abundant wildlife along the way; the river is popular for family floats and its largemouth and smallmouth bass fishing.

Floatable Rivers & Streams

Missouri is blessed with more than 30 floatable waterways. For details and maps on all of them, plus a directory of outfitters and facilities, check the Missouri Canoe & Floaters Association website.

“Water, water everywhere,” is more than accurate — and there are plenty of activities to keep you busy on the rivers and streams in Missouri. Have fun, year-round. I’ll cover lakes another time.

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