Best Places To Kayak In Missouri

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If you are looking for some outdoor adventures this summer, kayaking in Missouri is the perfect way to spend your sunny days. With no shortage of lakes and rivers, there is enough variety for both experienced kayakers and beginners to have some fun.

Missouri has an abundance of different rivers and lakes that kayakers of all skill levels can appreciate. Whether you are a novice paddler or have been kayaking your entire life, everyone can enjoy a day on the water in Missouri. There are several outfitters where you can rent a kayak for the day.

Whether you just want to spend a day on the water or have a weeklong kayaking trip planned, the different landscapes and scenery while kayaking in Missouri is not something you want to miss out on. However, there are several essential things that you should consider researching before booking your trip.

10 Of The Best Places To Go Kayaking In Missouri

While there are numerous lakes and rivers in Missouri, a few certainly top the rest. Below are some of many kayakers’ personal favorites, and for a good reason.

Big Creek / St. Francis River

The Big Creek and the St. Francis River can be found in the Sam A. Baker State Park. The Big Creek is only available for floating when the water is high enough. The rapid classification for this creek is Class II-III, so if you are a beginner, you should go with a guide.

The St. Francis River is an easy float with class I rapids. This river is perfect for beginners, as there are three options available. Which option you will pick is dependant on how long you want to be on the water, a four-mile, fourteen-mile, and eighteen-mile float.

Meramec River

Many kayakers thoroughly enjoy floating down the Meramec River. With stunning scenery and the high chance of seeing a variety of wildlife, it’s no wonder this river is one of the more popular waterways in the area.

The Meramec River is located an hour away from St. Louis Meramec State Park. This river is ranked with Class I rapids, so it is ideal for beginners not yet experienced kayakers. There are multiple campgrounds with cabins and camping sites if you intend to stay longer than a day.

Black River

The Black River is a beginner’s paradise. With Class I rapids, there’s not much to worry about except enjoying the astonishing scenery. The crystal-clear water of the Black River cuts through high cliffs scattered with caves and dense greenery.

While floating down this river, you will experience everything from densely wooded forests to clear green meadows. If you are planning a longer kayaking trip and wish to stay the night, the Johnsons Shut-In State Park has the option of roughing it out with their campgrounds or relaxing in one of their cabins overnight.

Eleven Point River

This breathtakingly scenic river is not one you want to miss out on. Found in the picturesque Ozark hills in Southern Missouri, there’s nothing this river doesn’t offer. With rich green scenery, captivating crystal springs, and Class I & II rapids for those who want to be a bit more adventurous.

Current River

The Current River is situated within the Current River State Park. Paddling down this river gives kayakers the chance to see the jaggedness of the Ozark landscape while allowing them to practice their paddling techniques.

The scenery is unusual, with limestone cliffs against crystal clear water accompanied by frequent gravel bars. There are several caves and underground springs in the area, as well as a large quantity of birdlife that can be observed while paddling.

Roaring River

The Roaring River, situated in the Roaring River State Park, has a section perfect for kayakers that is 5.8 miles long. This river has Class I-II rapids, so it is ideal for anyone with little to no experience kayaking.

Big Piney River

The Big Piney River is perfect for novice kayakers, entire families, or anyone searching for a leisurely float down a river with breathtaking scenery. Due to the numerous springs that lead into the river, it is suitable for floating all through summer, except for extremely dry years.

Elk River

With Class I-II rapids, and the option of a long or short float, the Elk River has something to offer for everyone. The Elk River is a personal favorite for many kayakers. The river cuts through McDonald County and is a huge attraction for anglers due to the sizeable population of bass.

Due to the popularity of this river, there is an abundance of outfitters in the area. This is the ideal river for those looking to extend their trips into several days on the water from kayak rental companies to numerous campgrounds and resorts.

North Fork River

Situated in Southern Missouri Ozarks, the North Fork of the White River offers several exciting kayaking opportunities. You can choose between a 7.5 mile and a 12-mile trip, with a 3-6 hours float time.

The upper areas of the river flow through the Mark Twain National Forest; this offers kayakers many outdoor recreational activities. The North Fork River has Class I-II rapids, so whether you’re at the beginning of your kayaking journey or have been paddling before and are looking for a little more adventure, this river is the perfect choice for you.

The Lake Of The Ozarks

The Lake of the Ozarks is defiantly one of the more interesting places for kayaking. With a shoreline that stretches over 1,100 miles, you can expect it to be quite busy with lots of boating activity. However, there are several quiet inlets and coves for paddlers to explore.

This lake is Class I rapids, so you can expect a relatively peaceful time while kayaking. There are plenty of sandbars surrounding the lake, so anytime you feel tired or just want to check out something on the shore, it’s easy enough to pull over and go exploring on land.

How Much Does Kayaking In Missouri Cost?

Kayaking in Missouri is relatively affordable. With either full-day options averaging around $30 for a single kayak, to $5 hourly rentals, and numerous campsites from which you can pick your spot for the night, even on a low budget, you can enjoy a fun-filled weekend.

AreaSingle KayakCamping Rates
Big Creek / St. Francis River$30$23 / night
Meramec River$32$36 / night (2 Adults)
Black River$30$12 / night ($10 per person)
Eleven Point River$35$25 / night
Current River$35$10 per person
Roaring River$5 / hr$24 / night
Big Piney River$35$10 per person
Elk River$35$12.50 per person
North Fork River$44$15 / night
The Lake of the Ozarks$30$23 / night

What Time Of Year Should I Go Kayaking In Missouri?

Plainly speaking, one of the best times for anyone to be out paddling on the water is in the early summer months or during late spring. This is because, during this time of the year, the weather isn’t so cold that you will need to dress warmly with layers and wear a wetsuit, but it also isn’t suffocatingly hot and humid, which would prohibit you from having fun in the sun.

One of the main things that could potentially be hazardous when kayaking in the late spring or early summer months is that there might be a possibility of rain showers and even severe thunderstorms. However, these adverse weather events can easily be avoided by planning your trips properly and thoroughly checking the weather during the time you plan on kayaking.

One of the most dangerous times of the year when you want to go kayaking is in the winter months. If the temperature drops below freezing and it gets so cold that the lakes and rivers freeze over, this could become extremely dangerous water to kayak in. Therefore, it is generally a good paddling practice to never try and go kayaking in the middle of winter.

However, suppose you are considering planning a trip in the late summer months or early fall. In that case, it is still completely possible to have an amazing kayaking experience (as long as you dress warmer or rent a wetsuit). The early fall is actually some of the more experienced paddlers’ favorite times of the year, as the scenery of the changing color of the leaves when kayaking is absolutely spectacular.

Essential Items Needed For Kayaking In Missouri

Whether this is your first time going kayaking, or if it has just been a while since you’ve been out on the water, there are a few things that are absolutely essential if you want to thoroughly enjoy your day paddling.


You should consider water as one of the single most important items you should bring with you when kayaking. The golden rule for spending an entire day in the sun and exercising is to stay hydrated.

For shorter kayaking trips, you should remember to bring an adequate amount of water, enough to last you the entire time while you’re paddling. For longer trips, it is highly recommended that you bring a water filter or iodine tablets with you on the kayak. These will purify the water from the river or lake, making it safe for human consumption.


Sunscreen is absolutely essential for any outdoor activity where you will be spending a lot of time in direct sunlight. Not only will it prevent immediate sunburn, but it will also protect you in the long term from developing skin cancer. If you’re spending multiple hours on the water in direct sunlight, there’s nothing that could ruin your experience more than severe sunburn.

Dry Bags / Boxes

Suppose your trip lasts several days and is long enough that you would want to have some form of communication with friends/family members while paddling. In that case, dry boxes are perfect for storing your cellphone in a safe and secure area where it won’t be in danger from water damage.

Dry boxes are also ideal if you’re bringing a camera with you on your trip to snap some amazing shots of the local scenery. They can also store food items or small snacks while on the water, as the box is made of plastic and is fitted out with a rubber seal to make it watertight.

Dry bags, however, are considered a better option by most experienced kayakers. This is because the shape of the bag can be manipulated to form any shape that will stay in your kayak while you are paddling. 

These bags are created in such a way that they roll closed to form a watertight seal. They are also made out of completely waterproof materials. Kayakers will generally use dry bags to store a change of dry clothing and the majority of their food items.


For the extremely hot and sunny days during the middle of summer, the best item of clothing you can wear is a polyester t-shirt and a pair of shorts. This is because it is the quickest drying fabric, and unlike cotton clothing, it won’t leave you feeling soaked and uncomfortably wet for an extended period of time.

It is worth the extra money spent buying or renting a proper wetsuit during the fall or early winter. You could also look into using a drysuit. A drysuit is similar to a wetsuit, except that you can wear your normal clothing underneath.


Missouri is an excellent place for anyone looking for a bit of outdoor water fun. With multiple lakes and rivers that all have different rapid classifications, kayaking in Missouri can be enjoyed by almost everyone.

With breathtaking scenic views from the lakes and rivers, a dry box to keep your camera safe, sunscreen to protect you from sunburn, and enough water to stay hydrated, an unforgettable paddling experience is just around the corner.