Thinking about a relaxing trip, float with the current on one of Missouri's cool, spring-fed streams? Canoe and floating outfitters operate on 29 rivers and streams throughout Missouri. The Missouri Canoe and Floaters Association lists floatable streams, outfitters, restrictions and other float-specific information.
Here are some points you should keep in mind when planning an outing, so you can enjoy a safe, enjoyable day (or more) on the river.
- Eight to 10 miles is a good length for a leisurely day on the river. With a stop for lunch on a gravel bar, an eight-mile float will take four to five hours. (Trips of as long as five days can be arraigned.)
- Wear proper shoes, a hat and sunscreen (you’ll sunburn much more quickly on or near water). Tight-fitting, water-resistant shoe keeps out gravel and have a sole for protection on side trips and hikes. Do not wear flip-flops; not only are they dangerous, you will probably lose one or both. Worth repeating: Do not wear flip-flops.
- Take a dry bag, with a change of clothes, in case you top your canoe. Also to keep camera, phone, drivers license and other important items dry.
- It’s a law: children must wear a flotation device (not those tiny rings that go around each arm); adults must have flotation devices within reach. Remember, your life jacket won't save you if you aren't wearing it.
- On and near any waterway, Missouri law prohibits glass containers and glass bottles of any kind, and all foam-type food and beverage coolers.
- Coolers should fasten shut to avoid spillage.
- Keep everything tied to the boat in case you turn over.
- The Current River and the Jacks Fork River are federal waterways, part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, which is a national park. There are restrictions on rowdiness, loud stereos, cliff jumping, rope swings, air horns, dry ice, beer bongs, kegs and Jell-O shots. Streams are patrolled.
- Alcohol is permitted on all rivers, as long as it is not in a glass bottle or jar. State law bans beer containers holding four or more gallons.
- Remember the golden rule: if you carried it in, carry it out – do not leave litter behind. Outfitters supply mesh bags for collecting trash, aluminum cans and other litter. Keep the rivers clean by picking up debris and disposing it in the proper place.
- If you have a fire, be sure it is completely extinguished before you leave it.
- Do Not Carry In Your Own Firewood! Moving firewood around the country helps spread forest pests like the Emerald Ash Borer and Gypsy Moth. Instead, gather any dead and downed wood along the stream, and purchase local firewood at roadside stands, stores and canoe rental outfitters. (What you don’t use, leave it behind; don't take it home with you.)
- You may see bald eagles, kingfishers, great blue herons, beaver, mink, otter, turtles and other critters on an Ozark float trip. Most of the snakes are harmless water snakes, but be cautious. All wildlife is protected; leave it alone. Fishing is permitted if in season; state limits apply.
- A float trip is not a license to party. Law enforcement officials watch for drug use, underage drinking and nudity. Most floaters are on the river to enjoy nature. Respect others by controlling your noise.
If you don't mind a crowd, go on Saturdays and Sundays during summer. If you don’t like a crowd, go on weekdays. Spring and fall floats are the best; and a sunny winter day can be very special. The key is . . . get outside and enjoy the quiet, the countryside, and all that nature has to offer. Discover your family all over again.