These scenic float trips in Missouri are perfect for a serene day trip or days-long excursion.

By Elizabeth Rhodes
August 29, 2020
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Courtesy of VisitMo.com

Editor’s Note: Travel might be complicated right now, but use our inspirational trip ideas to plan ahead for your next bucket list adventure.

When it comes to choosing an outdoor adventure in their home state, Missourians are especially lucky. The Show-me State has caverns, lakes, rivers, and waterfalls, so nature enthusiasts always have something to do. If you’re looking for a relaxing way to enjoy the state’s natural beauty while exploring one of the many rivers, opt for a float trip. With plenty of rivers and creeks across the state, there are a number of great places to choose from, with options for easy day trips from St. Louis, Springfield, and Kansas City. We’ve rounded up some of the best rivers for a Missouri float trip, but first, here’s what you need to know about this increasingly popular water activity.

A float trip is exactly what it sounds like — you float down a river atop a tube, raft, kayak, or canoe, enjoying the scenery along the way. There are group float trips facilitated by outfitters that provide guidance and materials, or you can opt to do it yourself (although you’ll need to plan out your course, including entry and exit points). Whichever way you decide to float, you won’t want to leave home without a few important things. Wear a swimsuit and water shoes, bring plenty of sun protection (including sunscreen, sunglasses, and hats), strap on a quality life jacket, and pack a cooler full of drinks (including lots of water) and food.

Courtesy of VisitMo.com

1. Meramec River

Enjoy a scenic float down the Meramec River. There are a number of outfitters offering float trips on this river, and some are just an hour from St. Louis, making this an ideal weekend day trip from the city.

2. Niangua River

This beautiful river is a popular float trip destination. Nearby canoe and float rental companies offer trips of varying lengths along the Niangua — Riverfront Campground and Canoe is located on the river's banks, and it provides cabins, camping, and float trips.

3. Big Piney River

Big Piney River, located in the middle of the state, is another great option for floating. Part of the river is located in the Mark Twain National Forest, which offers river access points.

4. Beaver Creek

This quiet creek is 44 miles long, perfect for day-long floating trips or longer excursions. Beaver Creek Campground offers rentals, and it’s an ideal place to stop if you’re planning a multiday float.

5. James River

The James River is perfect for Springfield residents looking for a nearby float trip to cool off on the weekends. James River Outfitters in Galena provides float rentals, shuttles, and even camping.

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6. Current River 

The Current River flows through the southeastern portion of Missouri’s Ozarks, giving floaters a scenic journey downstream. The Landing is located in Van Buren on the banks of this river, and it offers an array of kayaks, canoes, rafts, and tubes for rent.

7. Jacks Fork River

This Missouri river is part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways system, so it’s a great choice for those looking for a beautiful float trip. Its clear waters are surrounded by cliffs, making for a picturesque trip, but water levels vary depending on the time of year. Two Rivers Canoe Rental has several canoe trip options of different lengths on the river.

8. Gasconade River

This central Missouri river is hundreds of miles long, so you can take a short day trip or a multiday journey. BSC Outdoors even offers a 51-mile float for those who want to spend as much time as possible on the river.

9. North Fork of the White River 

Another great option for a Missouri float trip, the North Fork of the White River has mostly calm waters — and its abundance of trout also makes an ideal spot for fishing. Sunburst Ranch offers camping and float trips along this picturesque river.

10. Huzzah and Courtois Creeks

These two creeks flow nearly side-by-side in the same region before joining the larger Meramec River. Both creeks are beautiful and popular among local floaters, but their depths can change depending on the season, so be sure to check the conditions with a local outfitter before you go.