Length: 10.3 miles
Elevation gain: N/A
Route type: Down river
Difficulty: Easy - Medium
Ozark National Scenic Riverways is one of my all time favorite float trip destinations! Featuring beautiful scenery, clear blue water, and natural caves and springs all along the rivers, Ozark National Scenic Riverways will leave you awe-struck at how it all could have come together in such perfection. With not one but two state parks in the area and countless other recreation areas, book yourself a campsite and prepare yourself for the most amazing getaway you could ask for! Although there are many float trip coordinators along the river, my preference is Carr's Canoe Rental. At my last visit, pre-pandemic, they would allow you to rent a boat or pay to have them carry your boat for you. I've had them carry my kayak for me on more than one occasion and, best of all, while staying at Round Spring campground at least, they will come pick you up at your site! Regardless of whether you use your own boat or not, you float your way to the Round Spring take out at the campground, essentially where they came to pick you up earlier in the day. How great is that?
The trail is pretty easy! Float trips on rivers, unlike lakes, don't require a lot of work paddling to keep your speed. That's the best news ever if you're looking for a more relaxing time or want to focus on something else like photography, fishing, or enjoying your companions should you have any with you. If you didn't catch it above, you will want to focus on everything around you! You might even be inclined to head upstream in a few spots just to make it to a feature you floated passed and want to take a closer look. Totally acceptable as I have definitely done this myself! Even when the river splits around an island, I tend to paddle back upstream and try the other side just because it is worth exploring such a place to the fullest! Be aware there are shallow spots that might require you to hop out and portage. Other than that, just enjoy the trip!
Be prepared! The Current and Jacks Fork rivers are spring fed and, therefore, are cold. Be ready for a major shock to your body if you go for a sudden swim. It'll definitely catch you by surprise if you aren't ready for it. The rivers can be swift in some areas with submerged trees, rocks, and other debris in the water that you can be hung up on. If you decide on taking a swim, be sure you have a way to keep your head above water in case you get caught on something and get dragged under the swift waters.
This is a federally protected area! Do not litter. DO NOT LITTER. DO NOT LITTER. If you use a service like Carr's to get you to your starting point, they will almost certainly provide you with litter bags. If you choose to ignore my warnings and opt not to pack out what you pack in, you will likely see the most incredible fine you never knew you could get by engaging in such a stupid act as littering. Seriously. It's stunning, it's beautiful, and doesn't need you leaving your garbage behind to spoil this natural treasure.
Side note! Really pay attention to your surroundings in the water. There are submerged obstacles you can get hung up on and, if you aren't careful, you'll find yourself swamped like I did! First time swamping my kayak too and, I won't lie, it was fun but the water was cold and I simply wasn't ready for it to all come pouring into my boat.
This is where it pays to learn to Eskimo Roll or, at the very least, exit your flipped kayak without getting hung up on something!