Kayaking in Missouri

I have a huge desire to get out on the water and explore our country. Right now I am in the Branson area, and I am going to focus on Kayaking in Missouri.

Kayaking _Missouri_map

While I am relatively new at the whole kayaking thing, there are a bunch of peeps out there that are not. Thankfully, they too are willing to share their knowledge and adventures.

The Best Places to Kayak

I really do not know if there is a best place to kayak in Missouri. I do know that the part of the state that I have explored, either by foot, by car or by kayak is amazingly beautiful. The Ozarks are a world unto their own and have a beauty that is undeniable.

There are places that make you feel like you are in a fairy wonderland and there are the stunning blue lakes and streams that you can see every rock on the bottom.
Branson_bridge

Missouri has a ton to offer kayakers. Everything from beginner to experienced. There are small streams, large rivers, lakes full of fish, and historic sites all throughout the state. Rocky bluffs and caves sneak up on you. Waterfalls and pools of crystal clear water.

The Ozarks are a popular place to enjoy many outdoor activities. Kayaking/canoeing, hiking, fishing, and camping are just a few of the fun things to do. There is a wide array of State Parks and natural areas to explore.

kayakinginmissouri_tablerocklake

So, lets get started and check out some popular places to go with our tiny boats.

Southeast Missouri

In Southeast Missouri, there are several hot spots for paddlers and kayakers alike. From the popular Current River to the Eleven Point River to the Meramec River. These are just a few that I found listed. There are so many to explore. You can find a full list of Missouri rivers here.

The Current River starts in the Southeastern part of the Ozarks and joins up with the Black River and flows into Arkansas. It is a popular river for floating, fishing and camping.

The Current River is approximately 184 miles long and in 1964 about 134 miles of the upper course and its tributaries were federally protected as the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. This was the first National Park to protect a river system.

The Current River begins in the Montauk State Park. The Montauk Spring combined with the confluence of Pigeon Creek make up the headwaters of the Current River. After leaving the Montauk State Park the river passes by many springs, several tributaries and flows through the beautiful Ozarks.

About 52 miles from the headwaters, the Current river receives its largest tributary the Jacks Fork River near the small town of Eminence, Missouri.

The Current River also boasts as having the largest spring in the Ozarks dumping into its waterway known as the Big Spring. This happens a few miles after passing by Van Buren, Missouri and under US Rt. 60.

From there the river travels Southeasterly out of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways 105 miles from the headwaters. It eventually runs through the Mark Twain National Forest and into Arkansas where it runs into the Black River.

The Current River is a very popular summer destination for all kinds of outdoor activities. While it is considered a mostly calm river with some class 1 rapids, there are a few that could be considered class 2 rapids.

Some awesome things to look out for along your adventure are: The Montuak State Park (trout park), The Current River State Park, Welch Spring and Abandoned Hospital, Akers Ferry, Cave Spring, Devil’s Well, Deer Leap, Rockhouse Cave, Pulltite Spring, Round Spring, Jack’s Fork, Blue Spring, and Big Spring.

Keep your eyes open as you will see beautiful rocky cliffs and dolomite bluffs, caves, springs, hardwood trees and gravel bars.

Take your fishing pole and camera, you are sure to catch some great shots and possibly a fish or two. Also, watch out for those motor boats. Summer weekends will get busy for sure.

The Eleven Point River is another popular river in the Southeast portion of the Ozarks. In 1968 a 44-mile stretch of the Eleven Point River starting in near Thomasville, Missouri and ending near the Highway 142 bridge was selected to be added as one of the original eight rivers in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Although, the river is about 138 miles long in total and eventually runs into the Spring River in Arkansas.

The Eleven Point is considered a year round river with approximately 30 natural springs feeding it. The largest is also the second largest in the Ozarks, known as Greer Spring.

Even though, in drought circumstances, some areas may need you to do a little walking. It is generally an easy river for the experienced paddler, but with some Class 1 and Class 2 rapids on the International scale, it is recommended that beginners be cautious.

Be prepared also for some spectacular scenery and the occasional wildlife encounter, as it runs through the Mark Twain National Forest.

The area below Greer Spring is known as the Irish Wilderness. Full of lush greenery and rolling hills, caverns and sinkholes. It is totally recommended to take a camera along, but make sure you have it in a dry bag.

Also, on certain parts of the river be prepared to meet up with the occasional boat with motor. As they are allowed to have up to a 25 hp motor on certain stretches.

The Meramec River is one of the longest free-flowing waterways in the state of Missouri. From its starting point at near Salem till it dumps into the Mississippi River near St. Louis, it is 218 miles long and encounters 14 Missouri counties.

While the Meramec is a rather large river and can be navigated pretty much year-round, the majority of paddlers stick to a 67-mile stretch of the river between the Maramec Spring to the Meramec State Park. There is excellent access and many outfitters situated along the route.

The Meramec winds its way through the Mark Twain National Forest, through the limestone Meramec caverns and several tributaries intersect with the river for your delight.

The Meramec is a Class 1, mostly flat water river that offers great fishing, scenery, wildlife and caverns. The Meramec State Park offers hiking trails and over 40 caves to explore, in addition to other outdoor activities to keep you busy off the water.

The Meramec is surrounded by history. The earliest explorer of the river was a French Jesuit Priest by the name of Jacques Gravier. He was a missionary to the new world and traveled the river between 1699-1700.

It is also hard to believe that at one time the Meramec was labeled as one of the most polluted rivers in Missouri. Since then state and local governments have taken extensive measures to clean it up and it now has a great diverse ecology and is home to many species of fish and other wildlife.

The tributaries include the Big River, Bourbeuse River, Courtois Creek and the Huzzah Creek. All of which are great flat water waterways for exploring the Ozarks.

Southwest Missouri

The Southwest portion of Missouri is just as beautiful as the Southeast portion.

The White River is an interesting river with many tributaries and many lakes along its path. The White River is not solely in Missouri. It actually begins its journey in Arkansas in the Boston Mountains In the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest southeast of Fayetteville.

The White River then travels northward into Southern Missouri. Many modifications have been made to the river between its start in Arkansas till its end at the Mississippi River, again in Arkansas. Since 1913 there have been 8 dams erected on the White River, two in Missouri and six in Arkansas.

With that we now have Beaver Lake, Table Rock Lake, Lake Taneycomo and Bull Shoals Lake. While they are all man-made reservoir lakes, Lake Taneycomo still resembles a river.

Lake Taneycomo is still very river-like, even though there is a dam at both ends. It flows from the bottom of Table Rock Lake and is held in place by Powersite Dam.

It flows through Branson, Missouri and Rock-Away Beach and is a gem. From Table Rock to Powersite it is about 22 miles.

Many kayakers enjoy floating down Taneycomo. It is home to some of the best trout fishing in Missouri, as well as many bird species including Bald Eagles.

Kayaking in Missouri_Lake Taneycomo

Taneycomo is a flat water float and easy for beginners, but I think even experienced kayakers would enjoy the scenery and the fact that you can pull out right at the Branson Landing for food and drink.

The only real hazard on Lake Taneycomo is the onslaught of powerboats and fisherman that really do not pay much attention to who is on the water with them.

There are several small tributaries on Taneycomo that are worth the short jaunt off the lake. Turkey Creek and Roark Creek are the best known and do not have the boat traffic.

Lake_Taneycome

I have personally floated Lake Taneycomo several times and love it. There are several places to launch from and pull out. You can read all about my adventures on this website.

The James River, also a tributary or at least part of the White River Watershed Basin, is another great spot to check out. Before the formation of Table Rock Lake I am sure this river ran right into the White river.

Now it runs from northeast Webster County and dumps into Table Rock. Along the way it forms Springfield Lake, in Springfield Missouri.

Large portions of this river are used for recreational activities and when water levels are right you could potentially paddle from the access on the downstream side of the dam at Springfield Lake for 3 solid days to Galena.

KayakinginMissouri_James_River

The James River winds southward through the Mark Twain National Forest and flows near the Wilson Creek Battlefield in Missouri. This site has significant history from the Civil War.

While the James is not as big on the paddlers list of rivers, it is still worth the trip and if you like to fish it is a great one to catch some fish on.

You can learn more about the James River from my post titled “Kayaking in Missouri-The James River”.

The Niangua River named by the Osage for a tribal leader {Neh-hem-gar} meaning bear, is a very popular river in the summer for floating and paddling.

The Niangua is a tributary of the Osage River and runs about 125 miles. It starts in Webster County and runs northward through 3 counties and runs through the Bennett Springs area, Lake Niangua and Ha Ha Tonka State Parks. It flows into the Osage River as an arm of the Lake of The Ozarks.

There are roughly 113.8 miles of river that are easily accessible to kayakers and paddlers. The Niangua River is wonderful for fishing as the Bennett Spring State Park is home to a trout hatchery for rainbow and brown trout. There are also many other species available for the anglers to harvest.

Bennet_Springs
Bennett Springs State Park

The river is surrounded by mostly state-managed conservation areas that hosts a number of hunters seeking deer, turkey, rabbits and other edible creatures. So I imagine that the scenery is just stunning and a camera is going to be a must.

Northeast Missouri

The Cuivre River in northeast Missouri is about 41.6 miles long. While, technically not considered to be in the Ozarks, it has all the trademarks of the foothills. As the northern part of Missouri is not as popular as the southern Ozarks, you likely will not be faced with as many people on the Cuivre River.

Most folks stay at the Cuivre State Park when visiting this neck of the woods. There are no campgrounds along the river other than this as far as I could tell. From my research, access is limited but some local outfitters can get you into some other spots other than the few public areas if you ask.

Fishing is a popular activity on the Cuivre as there are 71 species of fish in the river. So take your fishing pole and your camera to back up those fish stories.

The Salt River is a very history rich river. It is about 55 miles long, but since the construction of the Clarence Csnnon Dam in 1983, the first 15 miles of the river are contained in the Mark Twain Lake. Below the dam you can access this river and float its winding path towards the mighty Mississippi.

Mark Tain was born on the Salt River back in 1835 in the town of Florida. The Salt River was called the “Ohaha” by the Native Americans that lived along its course. So, you history buffs will really enjoy this adventure.

According to my research and some helpful folks here on the internet I have discovered that the water levels on the Salt River are primarily controlled by how much water the Corp. of Engineers are letting out that day. So, this river is probably a great one for beginners looking for a smooth float.

Also, they said that the scenery is beautiful and full of birds, butterflies and even the occasional otter. Fishing is also something worth trying while you are drifting along. So, a pole and a camera are a must.

Northwest Missouri

Okay, so floating in the northwest portion of Missouri is doable, but more of a challenge. Access to a lot of the rivers may be limited and you are not going to find the crystal clear waters of the Ozarks. But do not give up yet.

The Platte and The Grand Rivers are both tributaries of the Missouri River and are unique in their own way. Both are rich with history and offer gentle flowing waters for leisurely floats. They say the best time to float the Grand River is in the spring and fall while the migration of the birds is in its height.

The Grand River as several wildlife refuges along its course, so it attracts many bird species.

The Platte River is a playground for Kansas City, but offers many gravel bars and places to pull up and camp. While the northern portion has been channeled, the lower portion between Agency and Platte City can be twisty and navigable most of the year.

Then we have The Missouri River. It is the longest river in North America and enters Missouri in the northwest corner and winds its way south then southeast then east till it reaches the Mississippi River on the northern side of St. Louis.

The Missouri serves many purposes and offers floaters many opportunities to float its waters in many location throughout the state. It has a massive amount of tributaries along its path and many of them offer kayaking adventures for people to enjoy. The “Float Missouri” website offers an extensive list of access points for people to utilize.

That is the Short List

So, here is a very short list of some great places to get you started in the great state of Missouri. I have a huge bucket list my self of places I want to explore while I am here. As I check off my list, I will add more info about them on this site. My research here has just increased the size of my list and I can’t wait to get started.

If you have floated any of these or other rivers in Missouri, please leave you opinion in the comments or on my Facebook Page. I would love to hear of your adventures and see pictures.

Until Next Time!


20 thoughts on “Kayaking in Missouri”

  1. I love Kayaking, It is such a great way for me to just get away from it all and embrace myself with nature. However, you gotta know how to do it correctly or you will hurt your back like I did lol. Missouri sure has many places to kayak and that is amazing! Thank you so much for sharing all the spots. I will be sure to check them out when I visit my relatives in Missouri. 

    Reply
    • Yes, kayaking is great for clearing the mind and soul and getting out in nature.

      You are right about the back. Learning to paddle and sit straight are very important. 

      Missouri is a beautiful state and I only highlighted a few of the amazing places it has to offer. If you do get a chance to visit and try out any of the rivers here, please come ack and let me know your thoughts and stories of your adventure.

      Reply
  2. Hi Annette,

    Great article, thank you.  I love Kayaking.  My highlight was spending a week kayaking the Rio Grande – it was so peaceful, and with some minor rapids exhilarating too.  

    The rivers you describe sound beautiful.

    Do you plan on shorter trips, or longer, e.g., a week at a time?

    Hope you enjoy these, let us know how it went.

    Reply
    • Thank you for stopping in and reading. The Rio Grande would be a load of fun, I am sure.

      Right now I only do day trips, maybe in the future I wouldn’t mind trying something a little longer. Hopefully in the near future I will get a chance to actually explore all of these rivers. The bucket list keeps growing.

      Reply
  3. Thanks for the post. This is an activity that we all need right now. To get away from the stress of everyday life and to relax and be one with nature. I appreciate the information you put into the post. This will keep me busy for some time.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    • John,
      I think everyone should try kayaking at least once in their life. It is so much fun and a great way to get out in nature. It also has health benefits. Join us here again for more adventures and updates and share your adventures as well.

      Reply
  4. What a nice post you wrote Annette! I really enjoyed reading it and could not be silent about your post so I decided to leave my comment here and say Thank You for sharing this quality post. Actually I was looking for information about the kayaking in missouri and when I landed on your website and read this post, it answered all my questions in details and it was exactly what I wanted to know.
    I’m happy that you’ve decided to write about this topic and share it with others. It’s very useful post in my opinion and can definitely be used as a great source for everyone who is interested to know about this topic.

    I will definitely come back to your site again to read more posts. Keep up quality articles! 🙂

    Best,
    Ali

    Reply
    • Ali,
      Thank you for your kind words and I am so glad you found it helpful. I certainly hope you get to do a little kayaking in the area.
      Please do return often and share your adventures with us here. We would be excited to hear about them.

      Reply
  5. Hey there Annette!
    I really found a lot of value in your article about kayaking in Missouri!

    I love the fact that you are talking about a place you have personal experience with and have also taken the knowledge of experienced kayakers. Though I too am a newbie at the whole kayaking thing, I really enjoy it.

    After reading your article, I might consider going to Southeast Missouri for a fun and enjoyable kayaking experience.

    Thank you for sharing such great information!
    Anyways, I hope more people read this and benefit from it!
    With regards,
    Faiz

    Reply
    • Faiz,

      Thank you for stopping and reading my post. As I was doing research for this article my personal bucket list kept growing. There are so many places to take a kayak and enjoy the beauty of the Ozarks. 

      Reply
  6. For any nature lover, like me, I would imagine kayaking is a great way to experience its beauty, invigorating, and peaceful quality.  I enjoyed discovering in your article a nearby region as I live in Illinois, and this inspired me to venture there if I have (or take) the opportunity. Kayaking is something I would love to try.  I have canoed before, how is it different? 

    Vincent

    Reply
    • Vincent,

      I urge you to try kayaking. While canoeing is very similar, kayaking is a little easier to do as a single individual. Canoes tend to be heavy and cumbersome, while kayaks (depending on what you get) can be easier to manage. In my article I only touched on a few of the places near you. Missouri has so much to offer and I am sure Illnois does as well.

      Reply
  7. Hello dear, thanks for sharing this topic with us all, I was actually doing some reviews online when I saw your post, I believe these post has been of great quality to me, i went to kayak in Missouri last year with my family I Remember spending quality time with them it was so amazing, thanks for sharing these with us, can’t wait for these pandemic to get over, 

    Reply
    • Where did you kayak at? I would love to hear about your adventures in Missouri. It really is a beautiful place to kayak.

      Reply
  8. I couldn’t help feeling real left out, my country doesn’t have all these kayaking waters that my pieces, water loving nature requires to be that happy. I wouldn’t want to lose a chance to go to Missouri when we allowed to cross boarders I’m just a fan of kayaking and being out in the waters, those are the moments i feel alive and I’ll consider this for my next vacation. Thanks for sharing this 

    Reply
    • Donny, I hope you get a chance to visit Missouri some day and check out the beautiful kayaking adventures here. You will have to let me know if you do and share your adventures.

      Reply
  9. OMG!!! I’m so freaking glad I found this article. I live in Kansas but I can very easily travel over to MO for kayaking! I love going Kayaking with one of my close friends, I’m going to be sharing this with her. We should really consider some of these places. I’m exciteddddddd, thank you so much for this article!

    Reply
  10. Thank you for a great post on kayaking. I haven’t been on the water for many years in a kayak but your article has certainly wet my appetite to return. You have some amazing scenery over there and just that one page has so many interesting facts it would take hours to work out and navigate a trip. I would certainly be interested in the safer areas where you are not likely to get annoyed with powerboats and those that don’t respect other river users. Are there any locations that you would personally recommend that are purely for kayakers ? Certainly food for thought for the future. 

    Reply
    • David I am so glad that I could wet your appetite for kayaking again. There are several places in the Ozarks that are kayak friendly without the interference of big boats. Check out my article on the James River. It is just one of many.

      Reply

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