Best Float Trips 417

Dated: 06/26/2020

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Explore 10 scenic float trips that can only be enjoyed in the Ozarks. Find tips for floating the Big Piney River, Jack's Fork, Current River, James River, Niangua and the North Fork in Missouri and the Kings River in Arkansas among others.


May 2019

Canoe or float down Big Piney River in Missouri Photo by Josh BeecherEscape to the peaceful serenity of the Big Piney River.

One of the best parts of living in the Ozarks is the abundance of rivers that crisscross our region. All across our little corner of the world, hundreds of miles of river flow through Missouri and Arkansas that are just waiting to be enjoyed. In order to help you get out on the river, we did the hard work for you and planned 10 incredible float trips for you to experience this summer. Whether you’re a paddling novice or have been canoeing for years, there’s something for everyone on this list. The only challenge will be finding enough time to float them all.

Float Beaver Creek in Ava Missouri
Length: 5 miles | Difficulty: Easy

Float Beaver Creek in Ava Missouri

Located in Ava, Beaver Creek offers family friendly floating fun that's not too far from Springfield, MO.

  Canoe or float down Big Piney River in Missouri
Length: 8 miles | Difficulty: Easy

Float Missouri's Big Piney River

Big Piney River is relatively quiet and offers respite from the summer heat.

  Boze Mill Spring on the Eleven Point River in Missouri
Length: 14 miles | Difficulty: Moderate

Float The Eleven Point in Alton Missouri

The Eleven Point River is wild and free and floatable all summer long.

For Those New to Floating

Get your feet wet with these resources for floating newbies.

Learning the Ropes

If you’re looking to learn the basics of floating, check out the Ozark Mountain Paddlers. This nonprofit holds a number of recreational canoe and kayak clinics throughout the summer. For details, visit their website. 

Practice Makes Perfect

If you want to practice before heading out on the river, rent a canoe or kayak from the Lake Springfield Park and Boathouse. Lake Springfield is a calm, relaxed environment where you can develop your river legs. 

Get the Gear

Wanting to purchase your own gear? Both Bass Pro Shops and Ozark Adventures carry anything you might need to get river-ready.
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Float the Jacks Fork and Current Rivers
Length: 15 miles; 11 miles | Difficulty: Moderate; Easy

Float Missouri's Jacks Fork & Current Rivers

We would argue that some of the best floating in the Midwest is found on the Jacks Fork and Current rivers.

  Float the James River near Springfield Missouri
Length: 7 miles | Difficulty: Easy

Float Springfield Missouri's James River

Our hometown river is often overlooked as a floatable river, but thanks to the efforts by the James River Basin Partnership, the James River is once again a viable option for a leisurely paddle downstream.

  Canoe or float down Kings River in Arkansas
Length: 8 miles | Difficulty: Easy

Float the Kings River in Eureka Springs Arkansas

With easy floating and the option for Class III rapids, this Arkansas river is called Kings River for a reason.

Try Something New

We’ve rounded up float trip options that offer a little something different.

Float After Dark

The Outdoor Initiatives branch of the Springfield–Greene County Park Board offers two overnight floats each year. Enjoy a guided float and experience the outdoors in a whole new (lack of) light. These trips typically happen in June and August. Details are at 

Two-Day Overnight Float

Depending on rainfall you might have missed it this year, but one of the coolest, most scenic stretches of any river in Missouri and Arkansas is only floatable in early spring. The upper section of the Jack’s Fork River is said to have more beautiful bluffs than even the Buffalo River. See what the fuss is about on a two-day float running from Buck Hollow Access to Bay Creek. This trip is not recommended for  inexperienced floaters. 

Paddle and Sip

Throughout the months of May and June, 37 North Expeditions offers several trips that pair floating with a brewery or distillery tour.
Fishing in a kayak on the Mulberry River
Length: 7.25 miles | Difficulty: Moderate to Challenging

Float The Mulberry River in Ozark Arkansas

For those looking for a float trip that's a bit more adventurous, the Mulberry River in Arkansas awaits.

  Bennett Spring on the Niangua River in Missouri
Length: 11.5 miles | Difficulty: Easy

Float Missouri's Niangua River

Prime fishing and gorgeous scenery make the popular Niangua River worth the trip.

  Canoe or float the North Fork in Missouri
Length: 12 miles | Difficulty: Moderate

Float Missouri's North Fork

Take the plunge and enjoy floating 12 miles of spring fed, gorgeous scenery on the North Fork in Missouri.

Floating Do's and Don'ts

What you need to know before you start to float down river.

Always check the water level. If the water is too high, floating can be dangerous. If it’s too low, you might not be able to float. Due to rain, rivers can vary wildly day-to-day.

Wear sunscreen. Missouri summers can be brutal, and you don’t want to be stuck on a multi-hour float without proper protection from the sun.
  Littering is illegal. Secure your trash in a trash bag that is tied to your canoe in case you tip over. You don’t want to spill your garbage all over the river. 
Glass bottles are illegal on all rivers. It’s illegal to have them in your boat or on a gravel bar. If you’re caught with glass bottles, you could face a hefty fine for each bottle in your possession.
Wear water shoes for wading. Need we say more?
  If you do tip, move to the upstream side of your canoe to avoid being trapped between your boat and an obstacle. 
Reserve your boat ahead of time. On popular weekends, outfitters can book up. Pay attention to the reservation policy. Some outfitters require advance cancellation to get your deposit back.

More Ways to Get Out on the Water

Paddleboarding in Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Go Floating in Eureka Springs

Audience Development Intern Corin Cesaric took a trip to Eureka Springs, AR for a weekend getaway and floated the afternoon away on an inflatable stand-up.

  cliff jumping into water

Your Guide to the 13 Best Swimming Holes in the Ozarks

Explore the coolest places to swim the the great outdoors—that you can only find in Missouri and Arkansas.

  Nars Millsap campers Arkansas

Summer Camp on the Buffalo River in Arkansas

Growing up, Chuck Travers attended yearly float trips on the Buffalo River that turned into a lifelong passion for the outdoors.

  Things to Do in Summer in Springfield, MO

Cool Off with Water Activities This Summer

With things finally heating up and the water looking so appealing, it’s time to celebrate the arrival of summer with some new activities.

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Jolene Parham

Jolene is a Listing and Buyer Specialist on the Michelle Cantrell team. She has four years of experience in selling real estate in the Springfield area. She has over twenty years in customer service r....

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