The Mighty Meramec

Blog Category
Discover Nature Notes
Published Display Date
Jun 27, 2024

Cool off with a trip down the Meramec River, one of the longest free flowing waterways in Missouri. 




Historical Note: The Meramec River was considered for dam projects beginning in the 1930’s.  Canoeists, cavers, floaters, anglers and Bourbon/Sullivan residents voted against a dam in the late 1970’s by a 2-1 margin and by the 1980’s, the proposal had run its course and the river flows freely today.  

The Meramec River runs for 218 miles from its headwaters near Salem to the Mississippi where it empties.  It’s an important tributary and watershed that drains over 2,000 square miles. Nearly 300 aquatic and aquatic dependent species provide abundant biodiversity, including rare and protected species.  According to the Nature Conservancy, more than 30 of these are “of global significance, found nowhere else on earth.”  Some of the richest mussel beds are in the river and surveys have identified eight species of crayfish. The Meramec also supplies drinking water for thousands of households. The names origin is unknown, although some claim it comes from Algonquian for "river of ugly fishes" or "ugly water", which couldn't be further from reality for most outdoor adventurers.


The Meramec River is a popular destination for recreational pursuits and scenic beauty. Many outfitters, ramps, and gravel bars offer access to floating, boating, and swimming.  Make sure to check the safety tips below before you go. 

A wealth of fish species keep anglers happy and fed, including catfish, crappie, bass, walleye, trout, bluegill and more.  Trout lovers can check the red ribbon area of the Meramec for stocking information and tips. 

Many trails wind over bluffs and along the river for hiking enthusiasts.  

Here are some areas to check out along the Meramec River.

Meramec Conservation Area
Maramec Spring Park
Onondaga Cave State Park


Like many rivers, the Meramec can be prone to flooding.  Although it’s regarded as a Class I (sometimes Class II) waterway, currents and obstructions can cause issues if you’re not prepared.  Make sure to check the weather and river conditions/levels before heading out.  Here’s a brief safety list to keep in mind for a safe and fun outdoor adventure.

  • Life Jackets 
    Sunscreen and Repellents
    Plenty of Water/Snacks
    Appropriate attire for the weather, water, and rocky surfaces
    Dry bags/Bungee Cords/Rope
    First Aid Kit

Keep our waterways clean by taking out all litter and our species safe by not stacking rocks or disturbing sensitive habitats.

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