Planning a Black River float trip is super exciting but can be a little bit difficult if you’ve never been before. Most of the information is spread out all over the internet and so it can be a real pain trying to find what you’re looking for.

Jess and I went on a Black River float trip recently and we’re going to make things super easy for you. We’ve compiled all of the most up-to-date information that you need to know right here.

We’re going to cover everything from camping and outfitters to when’s the best time to go on a Black River float trip and what you’ll see!

This post may contain affiliate links. For more information read our disclaimer here. Distances to the river are approximate.
Keep reading for everything you need to know to plan your Black River float trip!

Where is the Black River, MO?

The first step in planning your Black River float trip is knowing where you’re going.

The Black River is 300 miles long and starts out as three different sections. It covers an area that includes four Missouri counties before continuing on into Arkansas and eventually meeting up with the White River.

The three sections of the Black River (The West Fork - The Middle Fork - The East Fork) all meet up around Lesterville Missouri.

While the upper sections have a lot to offer, if you’re looking to go on a Black River float trip then the section between Lesterville and Highway K west of Annapolis is where you want to be!

Most of the campgrounds, rental houses, and cabins are in either Lesterville or Annapolis Missouri. We would recommend staying in Lesterville if you can because that's also where most of the Outfitters are. But Annapolis is only about 20 minutes away and there are more options for rental cabins there.

Distance from major cities

St. Louis - 108 Miles
Kansas City - 297 Miles
Springfield Missouri - 183 Miles

Looking for More Missouri Rivers to Float?
Check Out Our Guide to the Top 10 Best Float Trips in Missouri!

When is the Best Time of Year For a Black River Float Trip?

One of the best things about a Black River float trip is that the section of the Black River that most people float is navigable year-round. However, it is southern Missouri and so in July and August, things are going to get pretty hot.

Most people plan their Black River float trip for either the Spring or the Fall. From about April till June or September till October.

Personally, Jess and I like to float the Black River in the fall because things have started to cool down and all of the beautiful fall colors start to come out!

Ron and Jess on a Black River Float Trip

The Best Black River Float Trip

There are two primary sections of the Black River that are used for floating. The area between Lesterville and Mill Creek. And the area further south closer to Annapolis, Missouri. They both have their pros as well as their cons and picking the best Black River float trip for you will depend on what you're looking for.

Lesterville Area

The area near Lesterville is more popular. This is where you'll find most of the Outiffters as well as a lot of campgrounds. It's a great option if you have a big group and are looking for a more traditional fun float trip experience! With everything close by it's also the easier area to float.

The downside to this area is that because it's the more popular area things tend to get booked up. There will also likely be a lot of other people on the river with you, especially if you decide to go on a weekend. So if you're not looking for crowds this may not be the area for you.

Annapolis Area

The second section is further south closer to Annapolis, MO. Like any river the further you go downriver the bigger it gets. This area of the Black River is even calmer and somewhat less populated which makes it great for overnight float trips. There are fewer Outiffters in Annapolis, but if you're looking to get away from the crowds we would recommend floating further downriver.

There are still some campgrounds in this area, and also some really great rental cabins. Keep reading for some of our favorites!

Want to go on a Float Trip in Arkansas?
Check Out Our List of the Top 10 Best Float Trips in Arkansas!

Planning Your Black River Float Trip

Now that you've decided what part of the Black River you would like to float, the next step is figuring out where you would like to stay. Either camping or a rental cabin is usually the best way to go. Camping is great because it gives you more of the traditional float trip experience and there will be plenty of people to hang out with around the campground!

But a rental cabin can be an even better option depending on what you're looking for. They're more comfortable, you'll have a kitchen for easy cooking, and depending on how many people you're going to stay with a cabin can actually be a cheaper way to go if you get a big cabin and split it between more people.

Black River Float Trip Cabins and Rental Homes

Cabins and rental homes are a great option for your Black River float trip if you’re not interested in camping. Since both Lesterville Missouri and Annapolis Missouri are close by there are some great retail choices available!

Here are some of the best places that we’ve found to stay when we go on a Black River float trip!

Black River Float Trip Cabin Rental
Photo Credit:
Best Group Cabin

We absolutely love this cabin for so many reasons! It’s a really great deal, especially considering that it sleeps 12 people. It’s also extremely private. The cabin was built in 2016 and sits on just over 100 acres of private property.

The views are absolutely amazing since the cabin sits up on a bluff so you can look out over the valley and the Black River down below. If you’re planning on bringing a big group for your Black River float trip then this is the cabin you’re looking for!

Budget Cabin Rental for a Black River Float Trip
Photo Credit:
Best Budget Cabin

If you’re going on a Black River float trip with a smaller number of people then Jess and I would recommend this cabin. It’s located actually in Annapolis Missouri which makes it a great option if you would like to be closer to some things.

It has an awesome front porch which is great for relaxing while you drink your morning coffee or after you get back from your float trip. And even though it’s far closer to Annapolis than other options it’s still extremely private.

Black River Float Trip Rental Home
Photo Credit:
Closest to the Float Trips

While there are some really great options for Black River float trip cabins, Jess and I also love this house because it’s located in Lesterville. Lesterville is where most of the outfitters are and while Annapolis is only about 20 minutes away, we really like not having to drive very far after our float trip at the end of the day.

It sleeps 6 people, has a firepit which is awesome, and is literally only blocks away from Parks Bluff Campground which is a really great Black River outfitter. If you’re looking for a great rental with plenty of space, a reasonable price, and super close to not only the Black River but also the outfitters then this is the option for you!

Where to Camp for a Black River Float Trip

Black River Float Trip Camping

Camping for a Black River float trip is a great option for a lot of different reasons. Not only is it far cheaper than a rental home or a cabin, but most of the best Black River outfitters are also campgrounds.

This makes it super convenient because you won’t need to wake up even earlier so that you can drive to the Outfitter before you head out on your float trip. You can simply wake up, walk over to the office and hop on the bus! Some campgrounds will even start you on your float further upriver so that you float back to the campground and then you don’t need to go anywhere at all when you're done!

Parks Bluff Campground

Camping Options

  • Tents Sites
  • Tent Sites with electric
  • 30 Amp RV Sites
  • 30/50 Amp Full-Hookup RV Sites

Contact Info
Parks Bluff Campground Website

Parks Bluff Campground is one of the most popular options in the area, not only as an Outfitter but also as a camping option. Because they are very popular they do recommend that you make a reservation in advance, you can do that by calling the number listed above.

The campground is located right where the West Fork and the Middle Fork connect and they even have a large private beach so you can enjoy the Black River right from the campground! They have over 100 sites and even a “Noisy Group Site” if you know that you’re planning on getting loud and having a little fun!

If you have a group of 10 or more people coming they’ll even give you a 10% discount if you pay altogether.

Riversedge Campground

Camping Options

  • Tent Sites
  • Tent Sites with Electric and Water
  • Equestrian Sites
  • Group Sites

Contact Info
Riversedge Campground Website

Located just south of Lesterville near Mill Creek, Riversedge Campground is another great option for camping right on the Black River. They have over 100 campsites and many of them are right on the banks of the river. They have these sites labeled on the campground map on their website as “Beach Front Sites”

Riversedge Campground is not only a great option if you're planning a Black River float trip but also if you’re planning on bringing a horse along! They have lots of horse stalls and over 25 horse campsites that are located close by.

They also have a General Store, a Play Area, two Bathhouses, and a Pavillion so you’ll have everything you could possibly need for a great weekend on the river!

Black River Campground

Camping Options

  • Tent Sites
  • Tent Sites with Electric and Water
  • Electric & Water Sites with 30/50 Amp Hookups

Contact Info
Black River Campground Website

Black River Campground is a great option if you’re looking for something a little smaller and family-friendly. They’re conveniently located just west of Lesterville on Horse Shoe Ranch Rd so you’ll be close to everything you need!

The campground itself is located on the West Fork of the Black river and so while there is river access directly from the campground it’s further upriver from the area that most people float and so it’s quieter and often not quite as crowded.

While the Black River Campground is without a doubt one of the smaller options in the area it can be just what you’re looking for if you’d rather not come back to a campground full of hundreds of people after you spend all day on the river!

Twin Rivers Landing

Camping Options

  • Tent Sites
  • Electric & Water Sites with 30/50 Amp Hookups
  • Full Hookup Sites with Sewer
  • Cabins
  • Lodge

Contact Info
Twin Rivers Landing Campground Website

Twin Rivers Landing is a great place to camp for your Black River float trip if you’re looking for some options. They have tent camping as well as RV sites like most other campgrounds in the area. But they also have some cabins as well as a lodge that sleeps up to 16 people that you can rent out.

They have a playground, volleyball court, horseshoe pits, and a general store. There are some campsites that are close to the river, but only the primitive campsites so you likely won’t be right on the water unless you’re planning on tent camping.

They have well over 100 sites so you’re sure to find exactly what you’re looking for! Just be sure to make a reservation as far in advance as possible, since like most campgrounds in the area they book up pretty fast.

Black River Float Trip Outfitters

Black River Float Trip Outfitters canoe

Going on a Black River float trip with an Outfitter is by far the easiest way to go! Not only will they provide you with everything you need, but they'll also shuttle you to the launch point and then pick you up at the end of the day. This is super convenient because you won't need to worry about parking a car at the beginning and the end of your trip so you can get home once you've floated downriver.

Pretty much every Black River Outfitter in the area has a ton of different rental options. Tubes, Canoes, Kayaks, big inflatable rafts, you name it, they have it all! They'll also provide you with a lifejacket and paddles if you need them.

The biggest thing to remember with planning your trip with an Outfitter is that you should try and schedule as far in advance as you can. Float trips in Missouri are extremely popular and so most of the good Outfitters will book up pretty far in advance for popular weekends. We recommend calling ahead to reserve your trip as soon as you know what weekend you plan to go. 

Standing on the banks of the river and watching everyone else float by because you didn't rent gear in time just isn't very much fun.

There are a few really great Outfitters in the area, most of them are also campgrounds. I've put together a detailed list of them below with what all you can rent from them, their contact info, and more to help you choose the right Outfitter for your trip!

Black River Outfitters Near Lesterville

Parks Bluff Campground

What they Rent

  • Tubes
  • Canoes
  • 1 and 2 Person Kayaks
  • 4, 6 & 8 Person Rafts

Address - 199 Elm Street, Lesterville, MO 63654
Phone Number - 573-637-2290
Website - Parks Bluff Campground Website
Private Portages - Yes (Tubes Only)

Parks Bluff Campground is arguably one of the largest Black River float trip outfitters. They’re conveniently located right in Lesterville and a great option if you’re looking for an Outfitter. They have a 6-mile float that ends at a privately owned takeout point so there won’t be quite as many people all stopped in the same place when you end your float.

However, they are one of the more popular options and so definitely call and book in advance as soon as you know when you’re going to go.

Riversedge Campground

What they Rent

  • Tubes
  • Canoes
  • Kayaks
  • 4 & 6 Person Rafts

Address - 2100 Peola Rd, Lesterville, MO 63654
Phone Number - 573-637-2422
Website - Riversedge Campground Website
Private Portages - Yes

Jess and I really like floating with Riversedge Campground because they start your float trip further upriver and then you float back down to the campground. They also have a 6-mile floating option and that normally takes about 4 to 5 hours depending on the water level and how quickly you’re moving.

They have a ton of different rental options with everything from tubes to rafts and kayaks, but they’re also another very popular Outfitter and so if you would like to float with them then we would recommend calling and making a reservation as far in advance as you can.

Twin Rivers Landing

What they Rent

  • Tubes
  • Canoes
  • Kayaks
  • 4, 6 & 8 Person Rafts

Address - 375 Twin Rivers Rd, Lesterville, MO
Phone Number - 573-637-2274
Website - Twin Rivers Landing Website
Private Portages - Yes

Twin Rivers Landing is a wonderful option for an Outfitter. Everyone is super friendly and they have tons of experience with Black River float trips!

Their float is 5-miles long and you start from their own private beach. This is really nice because it makes it a little less chaotic when you’re trying to get started. After your beautiful float down the Black River, they meet you at the pullout spot and then you ride a bus back to where you started.

Black River Outfitters at Horse Shoe Ranch

What they Rent

  • Tubes
  • Canoes
  • Kayaks
  • 4 & 6 Person Rafts

Address - 5727 Co Rd 354, Lesterville, MO 63654
Phone Number - 573-637-2302
Website - Black River Campground Website
Private Portages - Yes

The Black River Outfitters at Horse Shoe Ranch is located at the Black River Campground. While they may not be as big as some of the other Outfitters in town they still have everything you need and they have a ton of experience with Black River float trips!

They have tubes, kayaks, rafts, and canoes so you can float the black river however you choose. They also offer private portages and will even come to pick you up from another location which is really nice. Not all Outiffiters provide private portages and even most of the ones that do will only bring you if you first come to them.

Deer Creek Campgrounds

What they Rent

  • Canoes
  • Rafts
  • Additional options on request

Address - 628 Co Rd 200, Lesterville, MO 63654
Phone Number - 573-838-4430
Website - Deer Creek Campgrounds Website
Private Portages - Unknown

Deer Creek is further up the river near Pershall lake. They are under new management but to be honest they have some very mixed reviews. Jess and I have never personally camped there or used them as an Outfitter, and so I can’t really speak to what it’s like now. I only know that in the past some people have been somewhat unhappy with the service.

Franklin Floats

What they Rent

  • Unknown

Address - 32294 Highway 21 Lesterville, MO 63654
Phone Number - 573-637-2205
Website - Franklin Floats Website
Private Portages - Unknown

Franklin Floats could be just what you’re looking for. It does require a bit more planning because they don’t have anywhere near as much information about themselves available. Basically the only way to book is to call them and see what they currently have available.

That being said, you would have a hard time trying to find a Black River Outfitter with more positive reviews than Franklin Floats. They have almost 100 reviews that are almost all 5 stars! So if you don’t mind making a few calls first and you really want to make sure you’re going to be in good hands, then give Franklin Floats a call!

Black River Outfitters Near Annapolis

Jeff’s Canoe Rental

What they Rent

  • Tubes
  • Canoes
  • Kayaks
  • 4, 6 & 8 Person Rafts

Address - 17276 Highway K, Annapolis, MO 63620
Phone Number - 573-598-4555
Website - Jeff's Canoe Rental Website
Private Portages - Yes

Jeff’s Canoe Rental is just about one of the only Outfitters near Annapolis, BUT they’re a great option to float with. They offer several different float trip options with everything from a 6-mile float to a two-day float!

If you’re looking to get away from the crowds a little, but still want to be in great hands with a very experienced Outfitter we would recommend going with Jeff’s Canoe Rental for your Black River float trip!

What to Pack for a Black River Float Trip

Black River Float Trip Campsite

Being prepared for your Black River float trip is a must! There’s nothing worse than getting to the river, setting up camp, and realizing that you’ve forgotten something! Jess and I have been going on float trips in Missouri for years and we still forget things every once in a while!

The biggest thing to remember when packing for a float trip is that you're going to be out in the sun basically all day. So packing a good hat, a pair of sunglasses and some sunscreen is a must! The Black River also has plenty of really great gravel bars to stop and explore along the way, but they're not the easiest to walk on so we recommend bringing a nice pair of water shoes. We really like our Chacos but I have a pair of these as well and they're really great for the price.

If you're planning on having a few beverages while you're out on the river you have to get one of these drink holders! A friend gave me one as a joke a few years ago and it's actually really useful! It has a strap that goes around your neck so you can keep your bottle of water (or you know...whatever other beverage) close by and stop it from spilling everywhere as you float down the river!

If you'll be camping you can bring basically nothing at all or virtually everything in your house, it depends on how you like to camp! But there are a few things you're going to want to bring no matter what.

Having a good tent is a must because a cheap tent that leaks can ruin an otherwise great trip to the river. Waking up cold, wet, and damp is not a great way to start your float trip. Jess and I put together a guide to choosing a great 4 person tent that will keep you dry so you can get a great night's sleep. If you're going with a bigger group or some kiddos check out our guide to picking the best 6 person tent to give yourself a little extra space!

Not all campsites will be in the shade and so having a nice pop-up canopy will be a lifesaver at your campsite. Jess and I have had one just like this for years and it works great!

Taking just a few moments to plan ahead for your Black River float trip will make everything go so much smoother! So if this is your very first float trip or you’ve been floating since before you can remember! Take a second to check out our Float Trip Packing Guide (link below) for a complete list of everything you’ll need to pack so you can head out with confidence knowing that you haven’t forgotten anything!

We've Made Packing For a Float Trip Super Simple!
Check Out Our Float Trip Essentials Packing Guide so That You Won't Forget a Thing!

Overnight Black River Float Trip

Going on an overnight Black River float trip is a whole other level of fun! If you've never been on a float trip at all I would recommend going on a short 5 or 6-mile day trip to start with. But if you've been on a few, you're a big fan of camping, and maybe even done a little backcountry camping before then an overnight float trip could be just what you're looking for!

For most float trips you will meet the Outfitter in the morning, they will take you to the launch point, you'll float 4-10 miles downriver over the course of maybe 4-8 hours and then they bring you back at the end of the day.

An overnight float trip is a completely different experience that takes at least two days. You'll bring all of your camping gear with you and will most likely need to be in a canoe so you can keep everything dry. It takes a little higher level of skill since canoes are easier to tip than kayaks or tubes and the last thing you want is to flip your canoe and watch all of your camping supplies float downriver or worse, sink to the bottom.

BUT all of that aside, they are so much fun! There is something really great about canoeing downriver all day and then getting to pull up on the banks of the Black River and just set up camp. You can relax and enjoy the evening completely alone and then when you wake up in the morning continue downriver to meet your Outfitter and go home.

While they're definitely not a great option for first-timers if you have a little experience under your belt and would like to try an even bigger adventure, consider going on an overnight Black River float trip!

Going On Your Own Black River Float Trip

Jess and I always recommend going with an Outfitter for a float trip on the Black River, especially if you've never floated the area before. BUT if you’ve been out a few times before and you’re ready to strike it out on your own it can be a far cheaper option if you go frequently.

Most Black River Outfitters are going to charge you anywhere from $30 to $150 each time you go depending on if you’re just renting a tube or going big with a canoe or a raft. And so if you’re planning on going a few times then buying your own equipment really does start to become a better option!

Jess and I recommend starting with a Kayak because they’re the easiest to control and a good kayak will last you a lifetime!

Thinking About Buying a Kayak?
Our Guide to Buying The Best Kayak For You Will Make it Super Easy!

Tubes are far cheaper and so for bigger families with kids that are a little older they can be a great option. But tubes are far harder to steer and so you’ll want to make sure you’re picking an easy section of the river to float because you’ll be more or less at the mercy of the river!

Floating the same section of the Black River as most of the Outfitters is normally the best option. This also helps with transportation because some of the Outfitters will provide “Private Portages”. Meaning that you can pay them only for a ride to either the start or end of your float. This saves you from having to park cars in two places and is often much cheaper than also renting equipment from the Outfitter.

Check the list of Outfitters above to see who provides Private Portages.

Checking river conditions is a MUST before you head out on your own! You can see the daily river conditions including water levels on the United States Geological Survey’s Website. They have a monitoring station in Lesterville for monitoring the Black River water level.

Now Go Plan Your Black River Float Trip!

A Black River float trip is without a doubt one of the best ways to spend the day in the beautiful Ozarks region of southern Missouri. Jess and I have been living here for almost 6 years now at this point and going on float trips has become one of our favorite things to do over the summer!

There’s no arguing that Missouri has a ton of great rivers to float on, but if you’ve never been to the Black River before we would highly recommend it! It’s not nearly as crowded as some of the other rivers in Missouri and the super clear water makes it a great option for swimming, smallmouth bass fishing, floating and so much more!

Have you been on a Black River Float trip! Click the button below to share this article on Social Media and tag us in it to tell us all about your Black River float trip!


Ron Sefcik is a co-founder of Unearth The Voyage. He enjoys outdoor adventures like camping and hiking as well as city travel. Over the last 10 years, he’s traveled to 14 Countries, 30 States, and 23 National Parks. He’s worked as an English Teacher in South Korea. Lived out of a camper for a year and backpacked Southeast Asia. His passion is sharing the things he has learned from his travels with others to help them make their travel dreams a reality as well.

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