Floating three rivers really pulls perspective on how lucky we are in Missouri to have so many choices of waterways to explore. Each has its own mood, depth, and natural variety. We floated three that can be easily accessed and floated in a day whether you are using an outfitter or shuttling your own kayaks or canoes. The float is approximately 5 miles with plenty of places to stop on the way. See our safety tips for season, weather, and gear below.
Courtois Creek (Huzzah Conservation Area)
WES ANDERSON MOVIE VIBES
“I wonder if it remembers me.”
Bill Murray, The Life Aquatic…
Our journey began at the Huzzah Conservation Area access on Courtois Creek, commonly called “COAT-AWAY”. On this day, at the confluence of summer and fall, the water was crystal-clear, and the sun was shining. Except for a lone angler, the river was uncluttered from the crowds of summer.
The vibrance of this float felt like being in a Wes Anderson movie. The colors from sky to bluffs, trees to dappled waters were bursting and complimenting. You couldn’t take a bad picture. Quirky characters were all around from giant turtles sunning on fallen logs to a screeching pileated woodpecker with its Woody Woodpecker bright red head. It was an adventure to navigate through deep enough channels to keep moving. Shallow waters here can ground your float on gravel, requiring loosening or portaging. Pointing our kayaks to where the waters come to a “V”, guided us into deeper areas and also avoid underwater obstacles. This advice has worked well for floaters new and old.
SUCCESSION TV SHOW VIBES
"I love you. But you are not serious people”.
Logan Roy, SUCCESSION
In Succession, billionaire father Logan Roy tells his children that he loves them but does not think they are serious enough for the family business. The Huzzah River is a favored float by many, and once you’ve prepared and are serious about safety, you can have an un-seriously good time.
The Huzzah River has a wealth of natural wonders and refreshing waters. The river has some faster moving riffles and twists and turns, along with straight stretches. It has all the drama and subtext of a great show. We saw belted kingfishers gliding across the river to dive and spear fish. They will fly back to a tree perch and beat the fish on a branch before swallowing whole. How’s that for drama? Looking up, we glided underneath overhanging Sycamore branches with white bark and emerald leaves. The bluffs were textured by dappling water reflections and cardinal flowers.
Navigating swift moving waters around extreme bends requires readiness and fast thinking. Some bends had fallen logs, with some submerged and harder to see. A few of our kayaks seemed very attracted to these. Our best tips included slowing down your speed before heading into a fast bend by backpaddling or paddling on the side of the direction you do not want to go. This helps make course adjustments easier and faster. Making sure everything is tied down and secure, alerting fellow paddlers behind you to obstructions, and not panicking help make these bends fun and thrilling. The river was shallow enough to stand in most areas of the float with great spots to pull off and snack and swim. The clear waters are stunning, and cooling on warm days.
“Worth playing for?”
Jeff Propst, Survivor
You don’t have to eat bugs, although some are a good source of protein, nor compete in crazy challenges to have an immersive reality experience on the Meramec or any other Missouri river.
The Huzzah flows into the Meramec and the wider river provides amazing views and a slower, relaxed float. You can unplug and unwind to a playlist of sounds like wind blowing through leaves, water lapping, fish splashing, birds chattering, and the laughter of good friends. In a relaxed setting, it’s amazing how much easier thoughts and ideas flow and how much better you can get to know your travel friends through the adventure. We spent some time debating whether armadillos had an engineering flaw in their design. They jump up when startled which is not good if on roadways with traffic. It also helps build strength, especially the arms.
The float passes by caves, bluffs, and gravel bars. We were surprised to watch a squirrel swim across the length of the river while turkey vultures soared above. We came off the river right by Onondaga Cave State Park. If there’s time left in your day, you can take in a guided cave tour. Since this float forms essentially a “C” shape on the map, the put in and takeout points are fairly close for those shuttling canoes or kayaks.
Serious Safety and Timeless Tips
Your float will be safer and way more fun if you’re fully prepared. Whether you have a “ludicrously capacious” dry bag or smaller zip lock bags that are fully secured, a safe float guarantees more floats in the future.
- Always check the weather and water conditions before floating.
- Have/Wear a life jacket/personal flotation.
- Bring a First Aid Kit. Help is farther away.
- Wear sturdy water shoes.
- Pack plenty of water to stay hydrated and food for long floats.
- Bring sunscreen and insect repellent depending on the season.
- Wear a hat, shades and other outer wear to warm or shade from the elements.
- Bring rope and bungee cords to tie things down and help free a stuck float.
- Use dry bags and other waterproof gear to secure keys, phones, and more. They will get wet or possibly lost otherwise.
- Take floating courses or events where you can learn. Check MDC's Events Calendar for floating workshops near you.
- If you’re new to floating, go with a guide or skilled friends.
- Enjoy. Rinse. Repeat!