There’s no better time than Spring or Fall to take a Missouri float trip, especially if you’re kayaking and don’t want to fight the crowds. Kayaking is a great way to see Missouri’s great outdoors, get some exercise and enjoy some quality time with your family and friends. But with hundreds of rivers to choose from, deciding which river to paddle can be daunting. Based on scenery, wildlife, exit and entry points, camping and level of difficulty, here are our suggestions for the best rivers to kayak in Missouri.
Cut in the shadows of steep bluffs, the Eleven Point River has kayakers paddling through sloping forested valleys and low lying riparian ecosystems. Established in 1968 as a 44 mile float river, the Eleven Point River is free of impoundments and has a largely undeveloped shoreline and watershed. In the spring and fall the Eleven Point River is one of the most picturesque floats through the Ozark hills of southern Missouri. Deep clear pools and stretches of rapids meander through shading bottomland hardwood trees for one breathtaking float. There are eleven access points by vehicle, 7 with boat ramps and vault toilets. There are 8 camps available for river users who wish to stay overnight and a six mile blue ribbon trout section.
If you prefer being surrounded by undeveloped land when kayaking, the Little Niangua River is ideal for kayakers wanting to get away from civilization looking for the opportunity to see wildlife. A 64.4-mile-long tributary of the Niangua River, the Little Niangua River flows northeasterly through Hickory and Camden counties. Bannister Hollow and Fiery Fork are two of multiple river accesses on the Little Niangua River. North of Macks Creek on Route N is a campground, boat rental, recreation and rental cabins.
The Wyaconda River in northern Missouri is another river that’s well worth kayaking. The put-in is at the iron bridge just outside LaGrange, MO. There are three reaches on this float — the prairie, rocky flats and the mouth. You’ll see mud/sand bottom and mature trees along the prairie section, several deer and even woodchucks. Once you reach the rocky flats you’ll encounter shallow rapids where you’ll need to find a place deep enough to pass through so you don’t scratch your boat. Some sections require you to pull your boat through some shallows. In the rocky flats you may also encounter softshell turtles. The rapids end at the mouth where the Mississippi River backs into the mouth of the Wyaconda. Here you’ll sometimes see Asian carp jump out of the water.
If you’re an experienced kayaker, the Little St. Francis River offers plenty of challenges. Rough waters after heavy rains make it an experienced kayakers dream. Consider carrying rope to line your kayak should conditions become too dangerous. Lots of clean river banks to sleep on overnight make the Little St. Francis River a favorite among kayakers. A popular put-in spot is a short drive from Farmington with plenty of campgrounds nearby.
If you plan to kayak with your family, the Current River is ideal to take kids kayaking. The Current River is one of the few that allows you to leisurely float through caves and enjoy all the beauty offered by the Ozark Mountains. Little wonder all 90 miles of the Current River are included in the National Scenic Waterways. Salem and Eminence, Missouri are two popular put-in spots. With the exception of challenging S-bends and riffles upstream, there are no strong rapids to worry about. Because most of land is publicly owned, finding a campsite is easy.