COLUMBIA, Mo. — The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) encourages Missourians to find ways to connect with nature this fall, in ways consistent with COVID-19 health guidelines.
Careful use of conservation areas and canoeing or kayaking on public waters in Missouri can provide excellent opportunities to embrace isolation, get some exercise and reap the health benefits of spending time in nature.
Since COVID-19 imposed lockdowns and social-distancing requirements this spring, consumers have flocked to paddle sports. According to market research from The NPD Group, sales of kayaks, paddleboards, rafts and canoes faced declines prior to the pandemic, but have spiked in 2020.
“Kayaking is a great way to get exercise and enjoy nature, and there are hundreds of public boat accesses on rivers and lakes in Missouri,” said MDC Recreational Use Specialist A.J. Campbell.
Whether watching wildlife, catching a few fish or just relaxing and taking in the fall colors as trees begin to change, MDC offers plenty of recreational paddling opportunities, just a short drive from home.
Always paddle safely on Missouri waters:
- Wear a Personal Floatation Device (PFD).
- Make a float plan and tell someone where you’re going and when you plan to return.
- Use caution and yield to larger boats.
- Pack food, water, sanitizer, flashlight, dry clothes and anything else you may need if your trip takes longer than planned.
- Maintain physical distancing, wear a mask when appropriate and protect yourself from disease by following latest health guidelines while on the water, and while traveling to and from your destination.
Missouri’s longest river completely within the state winds nearly 300-miles from its source near Hartville to the Missouri River only 120 miles away. For a tame, daylong float in Osage County, put-in at Rollins Ferry Access and take-out at Pointers Creek Access. This 7.4 mile float offers stunning views of steep bluffs and forested hills. Both accesses offer primitive camping sites and disabled-accessible privies.
This Missouri River tributary meanders through rolling farmland, and provides good fishing and wildlife viewing opportunities. Three river accesses within Lamine River Conservation Area offer the following options for floating near Otterville:
- 5-mile float — put-in at access just north of Old Route 50; take-out at Wildlife Road bridge.
- 5-mile float — put-in at access just below US Highway 50; take-out at access just north of Old Route 50.
Great for kayakers of all skill levels, this stretch of the Lamine River has sand and gravel bars, riffles and pools. May encounter some dragging in riffles when water levels are low.
This small, accessible lake presents an ideal option for beginners. The City of Columbia owns and maintains this lake in partnership with MDC, who manages the fishery. The lake offers a boat ramp, courtesy dock, a disabled-accessible fishing dock, restrooms, and a two-mile walking trail loop with picnic-table shelters. Good fish populations of bass, bluegill, and catfish make this a great place to practice kayak fishing.
The City of Mexico owns and maintains this 80-acre lake in partnership with MDC’s management of the fishery. Another excellent community lake for beginner paddlers and kayak fishing. Teal Lake offers a boat ramp, fishing dock, pavilion with picnic tables, and disabled-accessible parking and restrooms. The lake contains bass, catfish, crappie, and sunfish. A walking path to the lake’s island and a trailhead to asphalt walking paths in neighboring Green Estate Park. Lowe (William) Conservation Area also abuts the park, which features a half-mile walking loop through a restored prairie — a great place to view wildflowers and songbirds.
MDC owns and manages this 155-acre lake in Jefferson City. It features a boat ramp, three docks, a disabled-accessible fishing jetty and restrooms. The lake contains bass, catfish, crappie, and sunfish. Jefferson City owns and manages the surrounding 644-acre Binder Park, which offers playgrounds, RV camping, pavilions, picnic shelters and tables, as well as hiking and biking trails.
Learn more about these, and other public paddling opportunities at nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/places, download the MO Outdoors App for mobile devices, and get a copy of A Paddler’s Guide to Missouri from the MDC Nature Shop.