Floating in the Ozarks

A group of kayakers pull onto the side of a river.
The upper Current River is a popular floating destination. The park's interpretive floats cover the river from Akers to Round Spring.

NPS Photo / Jessica Poppa

 
 

Ways to Float

There are two main ways to float the Current and Jacks Fork Rivers: renting equipment or bringing your own. "Equipment" includes everything needed to float: Watercraft, paddles, and life jackets. In this article, "watercraft" refers to canoes, kayaks, rafts, or tubes.

Renting equipment is the easiest and most popular way to float the river. Renting can be done through our "outfitters." These are officially licensed businesses that work with the National Park Service. They will put you in, provide you with all the equipment you need, and pick you up at the end of your adventure. Some outfitters will even pick you up at your campsite (or room) and return you afterwards.

Prices are competitive. Most outfitters also host small stores, where you can purchase snacks, drinks, sunscreen, river shoes, bait, and other necessities for a day on the water. Some businesses offer rafts and tubes in addition to canoes and kayaks. For information on the rental process, click the "Renting From An Outfitter" tab below.

If you have your own watercraft, you can use it free-of-charge! There are no fees for floating on the Current or Jacks Fork River within park boundaries. Just be sure to follow the rules of the river, including all state and federal regulations. Click the "Private Vessels" tab below for more information.

Our park's outfitters have decades of experience from floating the Ozarks. Renting from these businesses is the quickest and easiest way to get on the river. Here's how it works:

  1. Pick a section of the river that you want to float. If you can't make up your mind, you can always call an outfitter or a park ranger for recommendations.

  2. Choose a date and time when you want to float.

  3. Call an outfitter that serves your chosen section. A full list can be found below. Call far in advance to guarantee availability. The outfitter will let you know which times they have available (if any) and the price for each watercraft.

  4. Lock in your reservation. The outfitter will let you know where and when to meet. They will also explain how transportation works: you will be shuttled either before or after your float. Depending on the date and size of your group, you may need to pay a deposit ahead of time. 

  5. Show up for your reservation at the agreed time and place. Outfitters often run tight schedules; showing up late could result in delay or cancellation of your trip.

  6. Grab your equipment from the outfitter. Remember to always wear a personal flotation device (life jacket)!

  7. Enjoy your float! Be sure to respect the rules of the river and be courteous to your fellow floaters.

Remember to also respect the rules of the outfitter. They have the final word on what is allowed/disallowed on their watercraft or shuttles. For example, pets or fishing equipment might not be allowed on rafts. When in doubt, ask the outfitter about their policies before booking a reservation.

There are no fees for floating the Current or Jacks Fork Rivers within national park boundaries. However, there are basic rules and procedures that everyone must follow.

  1. Remember to arrange transport ahead of time. You are responsible for moving your own people and equipment. Some outfitters offer paid shuttle services, but they are not obligated to provide them. Also, keep in mind that cell phone service is limited in the area: Set up a second vehicle or discuss pickup in advance.

  2. Only use designated river access points and follow any posted signs. Areas designated as a "boat launch" are prioritized for jet/motor boats. Also, in the summer, certain areas may be restricted to outfitter vehicles only. Help us maintain a smooth operation by following the posted signs.

  3. Unload vessels and move your vehicle in a timely manner. If you have a setup that requires more than a few minutes, please pull out of the flow of traffic before unloading. Extended parking at river access points is not permitted.

  4. Park in designated areas only. Be courteous to your fellow visitors: Do not leave your vehicle in loading zones or parking spots reserved for other services. These include picnic shelters, day use areas, campgrounds, stores, etc. Improper parking could result in towing or fines.

  5. Enjoy your float! Remember to follow the rules of the river, including all state and federal regulations.

 

Outfitters

Click an outfitter name to visit their website. Call the associated phone number to make a reservation.

UPPER CURRENT RIVER JACKS FORK &
MIDDLE CURRENT RIVER
LOWER CURRENT RIVER
Akers Ferry Canoe Rental
(573) 858-3224
Harvey's Alley Spring Canoe Rental
(888) 963-5628
Big Spring Canoe Rental
(573) 323-8156
Carr's Canoe Rental
(800) 333-3956
Two Rivers Canoe Rental
(888) 833-4931
Current River Outfitters
(573) 323-8156
Current River Canoe Rental
(877) 858-3250
Windy's Canoe Rental
(886) 889-8177
Float Current River
(formerly Big Spring RV Camp)
(573) 323-8328
Jadwin Canoe Rental
(800) 937-4837 or
(573) 729-5229
Hawthorne Canoe Rental
(573) 323-8156
Round Spring Canoe Rental
(573) 729-5229
The Landing Canoe Rental
(573) 323-8156
Running River Canoe Rental
(800) 226-6394
Silver Arrow Canoe Rental
(800) 333-6040
Wild River Canoe Rental
(573) 729-5229
 
A park ranger floats in a river. Trees cover the background.
River Safety

Learn about safe floating on the riverways!

Two red canoes float in shallow water. There are two adults, two kids, and a dog.
Estimated Float Times

Plan the timing for your ideal float trip.

A river flows towards a hill then curves out of view.
River Levels

Check river levels and stay safe in extreme conditions.

 
Two park rangers look down at a river and surrounding woods.
Rowdy behavior by a small minority of floaters has been a problem in the past. Law enforcement efforts have been increased, new rules are in place, and serious efforts are being made to control those who would ruin others' experience with their behavior. If you have not been to the riverways for some time, now is the time to come back!

NPS Photo / Shaun Heise

 

Rules and Expectations

When visiting the riverways, everyone must show respect for other floaters and the world around them. All state and federal laws apply, and disruptive or dangerous behavior are not tolerated in the park. We ask all visitors to read the park regulations before visiting.

For floating specifically, read the list of river rules below:

Lashing tubes or vessels together is strictly prohibited. Clusters of vessels greatly increase the risk of drowning, as people can become tangled in ropes or get stuck underneath the group. This rule applies to unmanned vessels as well (for example, a tube with a cooler).

In the past, serious injuries have been caused by people slipping, falling, or simply landing too hard. Trees and rope swings are common locations for these accidents. While jumping into the water from small heights is allowed, visitors are responsible for their own safety. Always search the water for roots or rocks beforehand, and never tie or use rope swings along the water.

State and federal law require one Personal Flotation Device (PFD) on board per person, if the vessel is less than 16 feet in length. To prevention drowning or injury, the park encourages visitors to wear a PFD at all times.

By law, children under 7 years of age must wear a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) at all times while in a vessel.

To prevent litter and injury, glass and styrofoam are not allowed in any vessel prone to capsizing. This includes kayaks, tubes, canoes, rafts, and most other non-motorized vessels. They are also prohibited on trails, in caves, and within 50 feet of rivers.

For the safety of your pet, the park does not allow animals to be tied to vessels while on the water. Leashes/tethers pose a drowning risk for both themselves and people. Consider bringing a dog life jacket instead.

With that in mind, owners are still expected to control their pets while on the water. Dogs are not allowed to chase wildlife or otherwise disrupt the river experience. As soon as the vessel is back on land, the dog must be on a 6-foot leash at all times. This also applies when pulling onto the side of the river, no matter the duration. Visit our Pets in the Park page for more information.

Public intoxication and use of drinking "paraphernalia" are not allowed in the park. This includes items like beer bongs. State and federal alcohol laws apply as normal.

Also, while the state of Missouri has legalized recreational marijuana use, Ozark National Scenic Riverways is on federal land. Regardless of personal opinion, law enforcement rangers have a duty to enforce federal marijuana laws. Please leave any marijuana products or paraphernalia at home.

While floating the riverways, you will see many bluffs, caves, and other features. In order to protect bats, all caves within the park are closed to entry. Humans can spread white-nose syndrome, a deadly fungal disease, or interrupt hibernation / rest cycles. Since 2014, local bat populations have seen losses of 90-100% of their previous total. Help us protect the remaining bats by leaving caves undisturbed.

The only exceptions to this rule are Round Spring Cave (summer only), Devils Well, and Cave Spring. Round Spring Cave is open for tours during the summer season. Devils Well and Cave Spring may be visited year-round. Cave Spring is located halfway between Akers and Pulltite; visitors may float or walk inside. We ask that you preserve this beautiful site by treading lightly.

 
Cartoon graphic of guy in canoe with dog on the river. Text reads Ozark Riverways Foundation
The members of the Ozark Riverways Foundation have years of experience exploring and caring for the park's riverways.

Ozark Riverways Foundation

Guided Activities

Ozark Riverways Foundation

Guided and instructional float trips, hikes, and fly-fishing clinics are provided by the Ozark Riverways Foundation, the official Friends Group of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. Visit them at ozarkriverwaysfoundation.org or email at infoozarkriverways@gmail.com for more information on private, guided activities.


Other Guided Activities

Scenic Rivers Guide Service (573) 225-3390

Big Creek Trail Ride (877) 932-4846

Tightline Fly Fishing (573) 364-7633

Trail Ride Guides (573) 226-3492

 

"The song of the river ends not at her banks but in the hearts of those who have loved her." - (Buffalo Joe)

Last updated: January 23, 2024

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 490
Van Buren, MO 63965

Phone:

573 323-4236

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