IMG 0652Below is a list of day trips in and around St. Louis.


I Shuttle less trips

1 Creve Coeur Lake

St. Louis County Park with a 320 acre lake. There are two separate parking and launching areas. One favorite paddle is from Sail Boat Cove to levee separating the two lakes.

Park web page;

Map of park;

2 Simpson Lake

St. Louis County Park with a 72 ace lake. There is a nice beach to launch just off the main parking lot.

Park Web Page:

Map of park;

3 George Winter Park

St. Louis County park with two boat ramps leading to a large wide section of the Meramec River. River is wide due to old sand mines on the river.

Park Web Page;

Map of park;

4 Rockford Beach Park/House Spring Access

Jefferson Count Park Missouri Department of Conservation River Access. Launch above old damn and paddle 4 miles up stream to Byrnesville Damn.

Park web page;

5 Horse Shoe Lake State Park Madison county

Illinois State Park has many small shallow lakes to paddle on.

Park web site;

6 . Great River Project Mississippi River Army Corp of Engineers

This is a protected bay and lakes off the Mississippi river with choices to paddle.

Army Corp Web site;

7 Hide Away Harbor St Charles County Park

This park has access to the Mississippi river with easy paddling to back sloughs and pods. There is a section that has a large annual bloom of lotus blossoms.

St. Charles County Park;

8 Pere Marquette State Park

This is a park on the Illinois River. You can paddle upstream to various lake leading to the river full of bird life.

Park Web site;

II Paddles with shuttles

A Big River

Rising in Iron County, Missouri, and flowing from southwest to northeast just an hour's drive from St. Louis, is the Big River, a Class I run in a slow currrent. The river begins near Elephant Rocks State Park in the Mark Twain National Forest and flows 138 miles down to St. Francois State Park, then through Washington State Park and on down to the confluence of the Meramec River about 1.5 miles (as the crow flies - about twice that by canoe) north of Hoene Spring. The most popular section paddled is from Turkey Creek near Bonne Terre to the Meramec, about 83.2 miles. It has a gentle gradient, from a high of 3.6 feet per mile between State Highway E and State Highway 21 above Washington State Park, to a low of 1.5 feet per mile as it enters the Meramec River.

The Big River has plenty of access all along the 83 mile section described here. Campsites, both natural and public, private or commercial, are abundant along the river. Washington State Park is located about 20 miles below the Bonne Terre put-in on Highway E, and provides an excellent stopover for a two or more day trip.

The closer you paddle to St. Louis the more you encounter the effects of urban growth and pollution. Many paddlers prefer not to paddle that section even when there is plenty of water. But, the sections from 20 miles above to about 63 miles below Washington State Park are scenic and ideal for canoe/kayak or canoe/kayak-overnight camping trips of one to several days. Considering the normal flow, the entire 83 miles could require 5 to 10 days, depending upon physical condition of paddlers, headwinds, or just a more leisurely trip enjoying the interesting sights to see on parts of the Big River, things like old mills and sites of former mills from the days of the Industrial Revolution that improved lifestyle conditions for many people around the world.

1 Mammoth Bridge to Merrill Horse Access 5.4 miles

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2 Merrill Horse to Browns Ford 5.3 miles

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3 Morse Mill Access to Cedar Hill Access 10.8

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B Bourbeuse River

There are probably rivers somewhere more twisting, turning and compacted than Missouri's Bourbeuse River in the Ozark Mountains just southwest of St. Louis, but I have no idea where they are. The Bourbeuse may well be the king of crooked rivers - one stretch through Franklin County spans 107.6 river miles in a straight line (as the crow flies) distance of only 27 miles.The Bourbeuse rises near St. James in Phelps County, the flows through Maries (very briefly), back into Phelps, then Gasconade and finally Franklin County to the confluence of the Meramec River.

The Bourbeuse is a slow, meandering stream of a total 138 miles with a few Class I rapids, excellent scenery, great bass fishing and few paddlers. The section most frequently paddled starts at the SH 19 bridge in Franklin County and flows to the Meramec at the MDC Chouteau Claim Access 107.6 miles downriver. Few roads cross the river meaning that you aren't much bothered by cars, but you are also not all that close between access points. The water is not quite as clear as on some other Missouri rivers, partly due to its shallowness and slow current that don't flush it out and partly due to natural and man-made elements that seep into the watershed.

Anybody can paddle the Bourbeuse River. There are no hazards bigger than running out of film, but the trek is long and slow. Distance between access points range from about 8.4 to 30 miles, with several sections in the 18 mile range, so plan your trip carefully. The natural beauty of the river and surrounding area will make you want to just keep on paddling. The Bourbeuse is a year-round stream that can generally be paddled anytime, weather permitting.

1 MDC Reiker Ford Access to Mayers Landing Access 11 miles

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2 Mayers Landing Access to MDC Union Access 8.4 miles

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3 Uhlemeyer Access to Chouteau Claim Access 5.3 miles

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C Meramec River

Rising near Salem in Dent County of southeastern Missouri the Meramec River flows 207 miles to the confluence of the Mighty Mississippi River about 20 miles below St. Louis. Along the way it cuts through the limestone Meramec Caverns and Meramec State Park and the counties of Dent, Crawford, Phelps (briefly), Franklin, Jefferson and St. Louis. Its headwaters rise above Short Bend in Dent County, with substantial volume added from Maramec Spring and numerous other springs that feed the river on its journey to its mouth at the Mississippi. Along the way the Meramec is joined by its tributaries streams, the Big River, Bourbeuse River, Courtois Creek, and Huzzah Creek, all excellent and beautiful flatwater streams that paddlers can enjoy in the Missouri Ozarks. This report will describe the reach on the Meramec River starting at Short Bend Bridge off SH 19 about 10 miles northeast of Salem to the SH 231 bridge near Flamm City a few miles above its confluence with the Mississippi River in St. Louis. Tributary streams are linked at the bottom of this page for your convenience.

The Meramec River is a Class I flatwater river that can be paddled almost year-round. The most commonly paddled section lies between Maramec Spring and Meramec State Park, a distance of about 67 miles with excellent access and outfitters located every few miles along the run. Paddlers sometimes boat as far as St. Clair or Pacific, though industrial, commercial and residential development beyond Pacific are moving in and may make the river unattractive to those who cherish the solitude and isolation usually found on rivers. While the Meramec can be paddled above Maramec Spring that is only recommended during periods of above normal water flow. The river is boatable in canoes, kayaks and rafts by almost any able-bodied person regardless of experience, though it certainly helps!

Most of the river is beautiful and very interesting. The water is clearer than that of the Bourbeuse to the north, and there more minor Class I rapids to to be found than on any of the tributary streams. The Mark Twain National Forest, through which the river flows, is another attraction for paddlers with a bug for shooting photographs. imaginable. It is a great place to spend some time off the river.

1 River Round to Chouteau Claim Access 5.2 mile paddle

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2 Chouteau Claim Access to Robertsville State Park access 3.6 miles

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3 Pacific Palisades Conservation Area to Allenton Access 6.9 miles

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4 Route 66 State Park to Castlewood State Park 8 miles

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Honorable mention

Mississippi River Water Trail

Missouri River Water Trail

Council Bluff Recreation


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