Look at the photo above. The Missouri River seems to stretch on forever. After all, at nearly 2,500 miles it is the longest river in the United States. But, as rivers go, or flow, the Big Muddy has to take a back seat (do rivers have seats?) in the longest river completely inside Missouri category. That distinction belongs to . . . wait for it . . . the Gasconade River.
Entirely within Missouri, the Gasconade is reputed to be one of world’s most crooked rivers. Crooked? You be the judge: the Gasconade winds 265 miles from its source (253.1 from the first access point) to the Missouri River; however, if you draw a straight line from source to finish, it’s about 120 miles; on one stretch near Waynesville, you can float 15 miles by water but you’ve only traveled two miles overland, as the crow flies. (Why do we say that? Do crows really fly in a straight line?)
The Gasconade River begins in the Ozarks, 12 miles west of Hartville. It flows generally north-northeast, passing through portions of the Mark Twain National Forest, before emptying into the Missouri River near the town of Gasconade.
Although it has a few fast sections in times of high water, it is generally easy and slow moving. The Gasconade is considered a good, family float stream where there is usually no heavy congestion of canoes, so it is not uncommon to float many miles without seeing another boat. There are towering bluffs, hairpin turns, lazy pools perfect for swimming, gravel bars for a picnic lunch (don’t leave a mess behind—everything you carry in you should carry out). Caves and an abundance of wildlife are found along the river; and it’s a good stream for bass fishing.
The Missouri Canoe and Floaters Association Web site gives details about access points, gradients and canoe outfitters on the Gasconade as well as 28 other floatable rivers. Why am I telling you this now, with winter quickly approaching? Because floating a Missouri stream has no season—it is a year-round activity. You may not want to do much swimming right now, but the scenery, the quiet and the solitude are very relaxing. Try it—you’ll like it.