Missouri is home to some of the best rivers to float in the US. What better way to stay cool during a hot and humid Missouri summer than by planning an awesome float trip with your friends and family. Here are a few of the best float trips in Missouri to get you started!
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Float Trips In Missouri 3 Hours (or less) From St. Louis:
1. Big River
Drive Time From St. Louis: 45 minutes
The Big River is one of the best rivers for a float trip in Missouri if you are looking to also do some hiking or exploring during your trip. The Big River flows right through the banks of Washington State Park, Twin River Park, Cedar Hill Park, and St. Francois State Park.
Because of its close proximity to St. Louis, the Big River is a perfect river for a day float trip. The slow-moving waters also make it a perfect family float trip. Because there are only two outfitters that rent out floating equipment, Washington State Park & Cherokee Landing, this river is more on the quiet side (especially during the week) which makes it more of a nice nature-filled trip rather than a party river.
Where to Rent: Cherokee Landing
Cherokee Landing has outstanding customer service and great prices on their float trip rental equipment. The staff is very accommodating and will help you if you have any questions.
Where to Camp: Washington State Park
Washington State Park is a great park for setting up a tent or bringing your camper to enjoy a weekend of camping. The campground itself is small, but the sites are spaced out and well kept. You can also rent floating equipment from the concession store.
Floating Website: https://www.missouriparkadventures.com/
Floating Reservations: 636-586-2995
**Bonus Camping** - MAGIC TIPI RETREAT
Sleeping in a tipi in the middle of the woods has got to be on everyone’s bucket list. This tipi nestled on a 1,000 square foot deck high up in the trees is fully equipped with all the comforts of home so that you can have a wonderful glamping experience just 45 minutes from St. Louis. Washington Park & Cherokee Landing (where you can rent floating equipment) is a short 20 min drive.
Where to Stay: Beautiful Lakehouse/Waterfront Cabin
This Airbnb is situated right on a secluded lake and has everything you need to have a relaxing lake/river floating getaway with friends or family. This Airbnb is also right between Washington State Park & St. Francois State Park, making for a perfect home-base while you go for a float or hike in Missouri’s beautiful wilderness.
2. Black River
Drive Time From St. Louis: 2 hours
The Black River is one of the best rivers for a float trip in Missouri. The Black River is known for its incredible Ozark scenery as well as being the clearest river in Missouri. While enjoying your float trip you will pass through sandstone bluffs and you may even have a chance to spot some wildlife on the banks of the river.
If you enjoy fishing, the upper parts of the Black River are known for being great for some bass fishing. The eastern part of this river also runs through Johnson Shut-Ins State Park. You can’t reach Johnson Shut-Ins by boat, but it’s a wonderful place to go swimming and can be a great way to add on another adventure to your float trip weekend.
Where to Rent/Camp: Black River Camping & Outfitters
If you are looking for a great place to rent your floating equipment, The Black River Camping offers some great rates on float trip equipment. They also have gorgeous campsites right along the crystal clear Black River where you can walk straight from your campsite into the river.
Where to Stay: Quaint Cabin on the Black River
Looking to have an awesome float trip weekend? Look no further than Gary’s Airbnb. This quaint 3 bedroom home is situated right on the banks of the Black River. You can even arrange with the host of this Airbnb to start your float trip right at the house and be picked up a couple of miles downriver!
3. Gasconade River
Drive time from St. Louis: 2 hours
The Gasconade River is known as one of “the most crooked rivers in the world.” Although, you won’t mind navigating all the winding turns once you see the gorgeous scenery this river has to offer.
Flowing through the Ozark hills and Mark Twain National Forest, the Gasconade river can get surprisingly fast at times, but for the most part, it is a calm relaxing float trip. The waters rarely get to a level II, so it is still a family-friendly river to float.
Where to Rent/Camp: Boiling Springs Campground
Boiling Springs Campground is a clean, well-maintained campground right on the banks of the Gasconade River. Most sites are directly on the river, so you can enjoy swimming right next to where you’re camping. They also have kayak, canoe, tube, and raft rentals available. Also, if you rent 10 or more kayaks or canoes they will offer a group discount!
Where to Stay: Scenic River Cottage
This cute little cottage is perfect for a group of friends or a family looking for a fun, relaxing getaway. The cottage is fully equipped for a comfortable stay and has 3 bedrooms and each room comes with its own bathroom. Spend some time reading on the deck overlooking the river valley or take a short hike down to the Gasconade River where you will find canoes and a Jon boat for your use.
Perfect for Large Groups: Gorgeous Cabin Overlooking the Gasconade River
This gorgeous Airbnb can accommodate 9 adults and sits on a bluff looking out over the Gasconade River. The wood details of the cabin are incredible and it even has a game room complete with a pool table. For your float trip, check out Gasconade Hills Resort which is only 6 minutes down the road, and will take care of all your float trip needs.
4. Current River
Drive Time From St. Louis: 2 hours and 40 minutes
The Current River is one of the best rivers to float in Missouri. This river is spring-fed, making it a bit colder than other rivers, but great for a hot summer day. The Current River and Jacks Fork River are part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways and were the first rivers to be protected by the National Parks system.
The Current River runs through Montauk and Current River State Park which both offer some incredible scenery as you pass by on your float trip. The Current River is a popular spot for people looking to do overnight camping trips on the banks of the river. In our opinion, it can't get any better than the Current River for a float trip in Missouri!
Where to Camp: Pulltite Campground
Pulltite Campground is managed by the National Parks Service and is part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. This campsite has flush toilets and a shower house but no hookups for RVs. Pulltite is our first choice for a campground because it is located on a beautiful section of the river and lots of sites are riverfront. If you’re looking for NPS campgrounds with hookups check out Alley Spring, Big Spring, and Round Spring.
Where to Rent: Carr’s Canoe Rental
Carrs Canoe Rental is an authorized rental service by the National Parks Service and you can rent canoes, kayaks, rafts, and tubes from them. They are located at Round Spring Campground but will arrange with you to pick you up at the lodging or campground you are staying at. They can accommodate single day float trips or even two-day float trips!
Where to Stay: Riverfront Cabin Next to Montauk State Park
This cabin sits right on the Current River and is great for a family or friends looking to explore everything the Current river has to offer. Put your canoes in right at the cabin or spend the day by the river fishing, swimming, and sitting by the fire ring right on the banks of the crystal clear river.
Great for Groups: Luxury River View Cabin
This cabin is a gorgeous home with a wrap-around porch situated right along the banks of the Current River. It sleeps 6 adults comfortably and is sparkling clean and newly updated. It’s located only minutes from the town of Van Buren where you can enjoy going out to dinner, getting happy hour drinks at restaurants on the banks of the river, and float trip rental services.
Going on a camping/float trip? Make sure you have the best 4 person tent for your trip!
5. Meramec River
Drive Time From St. Louis: 2 hours
The Meramec River is one of the longest free-flowing rivers in Missouri and many other popular rivers for float trips stem from this river. The Meramac actually used to be known as one of the most polluted rivers in Missouri. Local and state governments have taken tremendous steps in cleaning up the river and now it is one of the most ecologically diverse rivers in Missouri.
The most popular sections of the river to float are between Maramec Springs Park and Meramec State Park. This is where you will find all of the ‘river resorts’ in Missouri where people go for a party weekend or a fun-filled family camping/float trip weekend. You can continue to float past Meramec State Park but many people don’t enjoy it as much as the closer you get to St. Louis there are more houses and buildings along the river banks.
Where to Rent/Camp: Ozark Outdoors Riverfront Resort
This large ‘resort’ is a great place to go if you want everything in one place. They have float trip rentals, rental cabins, a late-night campground, a family campground, a riverfront beach, an aerial park, a restaurant, and horseback riding. What stands out to us is this is the place to go for river-tubing. They have a “tube loop” that is 1.5 miles along the Meramec River that goes right along the campground. You can do this loop multiple times a day or just once- it’s up to you.
If you’re looking for more of a relaxing family getaway without all the party-goers, Meramec State Park has some beautiful campsites right along the river. You can also rent float trip equipment at the park for a reasonable price.
Floating Website/Reservations: http://www.meramecpark.com/
Where to Stay: Cute Victorian Home Close to St. Louis
If you’re looking for a super quick getaway/staycation this home is located in Pacific, which is only a 40-minute drive from downtown St. Louis. This home is tastefully decorated, and there is a ton to do in the area. For all your float trip needs check out Old Cove Canoe & Kayak just 20 minutes down the road.
This off-grid cabin is a great place for anyone looking to disconnect and spend some time in nature. It is only a short walk down to the river and is only a 10-minute drive to Ozark Trail Trailhead, Onondaga Cave State Park, Ozark Outdoors, Huzzah Conservation Area, and the Mark Twain National Forest.
Looking for a house to stay at (on the river) with 20 of your friends or a group of families? Look no further! 8 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms will make sure that everyone is comfortable. Enjoy playing in the river on your own sunny gravel bar or check out Brown Canoe Rental right down the street for float trip equipment.
Float Trips in Missouri 2 Hours (or less) From Springfield:
6. Elk River
Drive time from St. Louis: 5 hours
Located in the southwest corner of Missouri, the Elk River is a favorite float trip destination for many. This river has so much to offer in terms of the many different rental companies, resorts, and campgrounds along the river. The river also has a large bass population for those who like to fish.
The starting off point for float trips on the Elk River is the quaint town of Noel, Missouri. Floaters will love visiting this town as it’s all about the river here. You won’t find lots of tourist attractions, just Airbnbs and campgrounds situated right on the river making this place all about reconnecting with nature and having a relaxing vacation.
Where to Rent/Camp: Two Sons Floats & Camping
Two Sons is a great place to go with a group of friends to have an unforgettable weekend floating and camping. Their campground is 30 acres of tent and RV sites along with ½ mile of shaded riverfront land.
Where to Stay: Luxurious Cabin Great for Groups
This cabin is designed to keep your comfort in mind and is beautifully decorated. The cabin is located literally steps away from the river and you could even jump right off the back porch into the beautiful blue water. The porch area is great for watching floaters go by and enjoying a drink while watching the sunset.
If you’re looking for a more affordable rental cabin, this Riverbums Dream cottage is right up your alley. It is situated right on the banks of the river and you can even walk to a campground that rents out float trip gear. Couldn’t get any better than this!
7. North Fork River
Drive Time From St. Louis: 4 hours
The North Fork River is a tributary of the White River and goes through the upper part of Mark Twain National Forest, all the way down into Arkansas. The river is about a 3-hour drive away from St. Louis and is a great option for people looking to spend a day or weekend on the river.
The North Fork River is also voted as one of the top 100 rivers for trout fishing in the US. Don’t forget to check out Blue Spring while floating down this river, the water bubbles from the ground creating a gorgeous turquoise color that looks like it’s straight out of a tropical destination.
Where to Rent/Camp: Sunburst Ranch
Sunburst Ranch is located along a beautiful section of the North Fork River. The owners are super friendly and are there to help with anything you might need. They have nice, clean shower houses and bathrooms and reasonable rates for campsites as well as float trip rentals.
Where to Stay: Oak Cabin with HOT TUB
This cabin is a great place for a family or a couple of friends to stay while visiting the North Fork River. The cabin is down a secluded road where you can enjoy seeing wildlife right off the front porch. There also is a new hot tub for relaxing and having an evening drink while watching the sunset. Check out Pettit's Canoe Rental right down the street for float trip rentals and transportation.
Another great option for a group of friends or a bunch of families looking to have an awesome weekend on the river. This cabin can sleep 13 adults comfortably and has all the amenities you would need to keep you comfortable. This cabin is even walking distance to a really nice restaurant and also very close to Dawt Mill & Sunburst Ranch where you can rent canoes, kayaks or rafts, grab a drink at the bar, or enjoy a tasty dinner.
8. Jack's Fork River
Drive time from St. Louis: 3 hours
One of the two rivers that’s part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverway System, the Jacks Fork River is a tributary of Current River. Due to lack of access, it is described as one of the wildest and most scenic rivers in Missouri. This area of Missouri is also home to two herds of wild horses. See if you can spot them on the banks of the river during your float trip.
The first 25 floatable miles of The Jacks Fork river is essentially a deep valley with jagged dramatic cliffs rising along both sides of the river. This part of the river is for the more adventurous and experienced floaters as the waters are categorized as Class II. The rest of the river is considered a more relaxing float trip and is suitable for all levels.
Where to Rent/Camp: Circle B Campground
Circle B Campground sits right along the banks of a beautiful section of the Jacks Fork River. You will find everything you need for an awesome weekend camping and floating with your family and friends at this campground. Clean restrooms, shower houses, and shaded spots.
Where to Stay: Cozy Cottage Walking Distance to Restaurants
This cute little cottage is a great place to stay to be within walking distance to restaurants and things to do in the town of Eminence. Only a ½ mile from the Jacks Fork River, it’s also a perfect stay for your float trip.
9. Big Piney River
Drive Time From St. Louis: 2.5 hours
If you’re looking to go on a float trip with hops of not seeing another soul, check out the Big Piney River. A tributary of the Gasconade River, the Big Piney is a great family float trip river in Missouri and is easy to float year-round because of the high water levels.
The scenery of the Big Piney definitely won’t disappoint either- tall jagged bluffs overlook the river and there are plenty of secret swimming spots to discover along the way, making this river one of the best rivers for float trips in Missouri. Make sure to spend some time tasting beers at the Piney River Brewing Co and get a Float Trip beer while you’re at it!
Where to Camp/Rent: Boiling Springs Resort
This campground is the prime location to Boiling Springs- a spring that feeds the Big Piney River. You can jump in or use a rope swing at the springs and it’s a nice and cold swimming spot. The campsites are shaded, there are nice shower houses and toilets and they even have a swimming pool.
Where to Stay: Secluded Log Cabin on the Big Piney
This log cabin might not look like much from the outside but it's super clean and cozy on the inside. If you’re looking for a secluded retreat in the middle of the woods, O’Brien’s cabin will be right up your alley. Boiling Springs Resort is right down the road for float trip rentals.
Float Trips In Missouri 4 Hours (or less) From St. Louis:
10. Eleven Point River
Drive Time From St. Louis: 3.5 hours
The Eleven Point River is another river that you can float without seeing another soul. Probably one of the most remote rivers in Missouri, the Eleven Point is a great river to float if you’re looking for an awesome adventure. The Eleven Point is supplied by the enormous Greer Spring, which is the 10th largest freshwater spring in the world!
There are primitive campgrounds located along the banks of the river which can be great for people looking to do a multiple day float. Check out the USDA’s website for more information.
Where to Rent: Richards Canoe Rental
Richards Canoe Rental is a great place to rent all your float trip equipment and also set up camp. They are family owned and have been in business since 1976. They have shower houses and restrooms for tent campers as well as hookups for RVs. Their canoe and kayaks are rented at reasonable rates and they are on a beautiful section of the Eleven Point.
Where to Camp: Greer Crossing Recreation Campground
Greer Crossing Recreation Campground is a secluded campground located right on the banks of the Eleven Point. It is managed by the USDA and the hosts at this campground keep it super clean. There are vault toilets and no hookups. Richards Canoe Rental is right down the road where you can rent float trip equipment.
Where to Stay:
Check out some quaint Airbnb cabins in the area.