A few Missouri waters where kayaks are great to paddle
There are many advantages to a kayak. They’re usually light, making them easy to transport and control. One person can handle most. You can take them anywhere. They’ll fit on top of most vehicles. Kayaks also provide exercise. They don’t use gas or batteries, so they’re environmentally sound. The list can go on. Here are a few Missouri waters where kayaks are great to paddle.
Urban areas rarely receive the recognition they deserve in terms of outdoor opportunity. Visual perception often clouds reality causing many otherwise perfectly sane outdoor-minded individuals to turn up their noses at natural enjoyment within city limits. To do so is a mistake. The Missouri River is not to be messed with. You need to respect her enormity and power. However, the Missouri is one of the grandest rivers in the world and to ignore the opportunity to float along her course would be a shame.
The Missouri River makes it’s way through two major urban areas in our state – Kansas City and St. Louis. Between the two cities, she courses through the countryside, passing by wonderful communities like Boonville, Jefferson City and Washington. Those with some experience in a kayak should not overlook this incredible river. Just be sure to use precautions, like always wearing a life vest and paddling with a friend whenever possible.
North Fork of the White River
The North Fork of the White River is a scenic gem. Tucked away deep in the Missouri Ozarks, this fast flowing river is a perfect destination to get away from it all, as well as an amazing fishery. Combine the two, and the North Fork is ideal for kayaking.
The North Fork flows for 67 miles across Douglas and Ozark counties before emptying into Northfork Reservoir near Tecumseh. It is heavily spring fed and has long stretches of riffles and even some class II whitewater. Smallmouth bass, goggle-eye and sunfish can be caught throughout the river. The lower 12 miles of the North Fork are trophy trout sections.
Since the North Fork is so far south and located a great distance from any large population base, it remains rather less crowded than some of the more northern float rivers in Missouri. Don’t mistake less crowded for not crowded. The North Fork does have its floaters, but it’s not as crowded as many rivers closer to large cities.
The Niangua flows through a beautiful landscape of looming forest and unique rock features. There are many access points where you can launch a kayak. The Bennett Spring area is a hub for this river, where you can rent a kayak from one of many local liveries.
Bennett Spring is one of the most popular State Parks in Missouri, with visitors coming from all across the Midwest each year to fish, camp, picnic and more. The spring from which the park derives its name is the third largest in the state, producing an average of 100,000,000 gallons of water a day that pour into the Niangua River. Camping in the park or staying in one of the cabins is a great experience. This is a great place to camp for the weekend and spend a couple of days kayaking different sections of the river.
Rocky Fork Conservation Area
Whether you call them strip pits, lakes or ponds, the waters of the Rocky Fork Conservation Area are worth a visit. Located just six miles north of Columbia on Highway 63, Rocky Fork is an easily accessible, outstanding place to paddle a kayak.
Rocky Fork CA consists of 2,200 acres. About 1,200 of those acres were strip-mined before the Missouri Department of Conservation acquired the property in 1979. Today, the reclaimed land consists of roughly 60 strip pits. Most of the strip pits are small, as in less than a few acres. For the most part, the pits are secluded, with heavily forested shorelines. The water often drops off deep from the bank. You can bring a camera on this kayak trip and likely find some nice nature scenes to photograph.
See you down the trail…
Brandon Butler is the Executive Director of the Conservation Federation of Missouri