It’s OK to Get Wet
Warm weather means activities on and in the water. One thing Missouri is not short of is water sports. From the Lake of the Ozarks, with more miles of shoreline than the Pacific coast of California, to more than 30 floatable streams to the first federally designated National Park dedicated to the preservation of a wild river system, Missouri has a water sport for everyone.
When we think of water sports, our brain usually tunes in to things such as fishing, skiing, surfing, parasailing, synchronized swimming – well, not so much the last one, but surely someone pictured that – and curling (hey, it’s on ice; that’s water).
There are a large variety of lodging and dining choices around the lake. The Lodge of Four Seasons is an award-winning resort with golf, a day spa, shopping, dining and a full service marina with boat rentals. Voted the lake area’s best seafood restaurant and lounge (they also serve great steaks, vegetarian dishes and other menu items), JB Hooks restaurant sits on a bluff-top with an awe-inspiring view of the lake.
For a more relaxing, peaceful vacation “away from it all,” consider floating a spring-fed stream in a canoe, kayak or raft. Missouri offers more than 30 floatable waterways, with outfitters standing by to supply you with everything you need for floats ranging from a couple of hours to as long as five days. Most have camping & RV facilities and a camp store; some have a full service restaurant. A shuttle service to and from the river is always available. You may see bald eagles, kingfishers, great blue herons, beaver, mink, otter, turtles and other critters.
Here are some prime examples of Missouri’s canoe outfitters. Akers Ferry Canoe Rental, 30 minutes south of Salem, can transport your car across the Current River. Richards' Canoe Rental, 15 minutes north of Alton, serves more than 100 miles of the 11-Point River. They were one of the first operations to receive an outfitter permit by the U.S. Forest Service. Route 66 Canoe Rental, located 15 minutes east of St. Robert, offers floats on the Big Piney, Little Piney and Gasconade rivers. In the far southwest corner of the state, two miles north of Noel, Two Sons Floats & Camping has a huge beach on the Elk River. Visit the Missouri Canoe & Floaters Association’s website for details, along with lists of rivers and outfitters. Note: Missouri law prohibits the use of glass containers, glass bottles of any kind and all foam-type coolers and containers on and near any waterway.
You don’t have to travel to Australia to go “down under.” Bonne Terre Mine, one hour south of St. Louis – 20 minutes north of Farmington, has five levels (mining operations closed in 1962). It is now a world famous scuba diving venue. The upper two levels of the mine are toured on foot; and a fascinating tour it is. The lower three levels form a one billion gallon, seventeen-mile long lake, illuminated by stadium lighting above the water’s surface. Boat tours are available on the crystal clear water, with spectacular views of the abandoned shafts and equipment below. Now comes the water sports part. The mine is home to the largest fresh-water scuba diving venue in the world. West End Scuba Diving Adventures offers scuba lessons and diving excursions in the clear, 58-degree water. More than 500,000 watts of illumination from above afford divers visibilities more than 100 feet down. Diving is conducted in groups, always accompanied by two guides. Reservations are required for the school and the dives.