With its breathtaking bluffs, lush hardwood forests, plentiful wildlife and long pools of slow water, the Gasconade River is one of Missouri’s best rivers for a family float trip aside from a photographer’s paradise. Flowing 350 miles northward from the Central Ozark Mountains to the Missouri River, there are so many access points you can plan a trip to match any amount of time you want to spend on the river. You just have to know the best access point for you and your group.
Many small springs in the surrounding region provide the Gasconade River with a moderate flow of clear, cool water. While most of the Gasconade River is generally floatable, because of its long pools of slow water, the river’s upper section is a typical winding Ozark stream becoming slower and wider as it draws away from the Ozark Mountains. Like other rivers in Missouri, the Gasconade River has a number of outfitters that provide some of the same recreational and scenic values. But the Gasconade doesn’t have the same official designations or protections that are enforced on other rivers in the state. As a result, the Gasconade isn’t as recognized for float trips as other rivers. The benefit is that the Gasconade isn’t as crowded as other rivers. But locals regularly float and fish its clean and calm waters.
If you plan to canoe, Buzzard Bluff MDC Access, in Wright County off Highway E (south of Manes), is a good place to drop for dependable canoeing. River levels vary from year to year but you can plan to cover 10-15 miles per day. If you plan to take an extended float trip for a week it’s best to drop in the middle section of the river at the Hazelgreen Access. From the I-44 bridge to Highway 42 near Vienna you can cover 104 miles. If you go further to the mouth of the Gasconade there’s a public boat ramp where you can take out. However, if you continue on to the Missouri River just 11 miles downstream is Hermann, MO where there’s a public landing just below the bridge.
There are plenty of places to camp along the Gasconade too. Many folks camp along the river on gravel bars, especially on the upper and middle Gasconade. However, gravel bars dwindle the closer you get to the Missouri River. There are also several riverside access parks that allow camping in remote areas. In the village of Fredericksburg, at the lowest section of the river, primitive camping is allowed on the grounds.
What makes the Gasconade River so picturesque are its bluffs, hardwood forests and springs, especially in mid-October when oak and hickory trees paint landscapes with red and orange foliage. Many spend the day snapping photos and exploring the few caves in the upper section. In Fredericksburg, you can take in the beautiful scenery as you ride a car ferry across the river. In late fall and early winter bald eagles soar over Gasconade shores. You’ll see agriculture and grazing cattle along the river’s flat bottomlands.
The Gasconade River is one of Missouri’s best kept secrets, a playground for float trip goers and a photographer’s paradise. With many access points, you’re bound to find the perfect stretch to see and experience Missouri’s majestic landscape along the Gasconade River.