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The Ozarks area is known for its many clear, often cold, swift-flowing rivers and
streams. Many people are attracted to these streams--canoers, swimmers,
waders, picnickers and those who like to fish. Great views of bluffs, forests,
skies and wildlife add to the enjoyment.
If you're new to the Ozarks or would like to try out a new stream or maybe go
with your family on a canoe trip for the first time, then check out one of the
many river guidebooks at the local library. The guide will help you plan a trip
to one of these streams, whether you want to just wade and play in the water
on a quiet section of a stream, go fishing, learn to paddle a kayak or maybe
find a section your family can enjoy canoeing safely. There is some stretch of
an Ozarks stream waiting for you.
In addition to the information from a guidebook, there are outfitters on most
of the streams who will provide canoes, kayaks, and transportation, as well as
information about river conditions--too high, too low, too fast, too slow.They
can also suggest what section of the stream is best for your activity and where
to "put in" and "take out" of the river if you are boating. Guidebooks, outdoor
shops and the internet are all possible sources for information about outfitters
on any particular stream.
Information from friends and others who are familiar with the stream can also
be helpful, but river conditions can change a lot from time to time, depending
on the weather, so up-to-date information is necessary to be safe. A calm slow-
moving stream can become a swift-moving and dangerous body of water after
a heavy rain.
Being prepared is very important. Getting wet in a cold stream on even a mild
winter day can cause you to slow down, lose some coordination and even
become disoriented if you are not prepared.
Beginner Canoe Tips for Families
Complete a class in canoeing; your trip will be safer and more enjoyable
Pick a slow-moving steam at normal to slightly lower water levels
Pick a warm day, with no rain in the forecast
Plan to canoe with at least one other canoe, or still better, with a group
Use personal flotation devices, one for each occupant
Carry food, water and extra clothing in waterproof containers that float
Bring sunscreen, hats, sunglasses and a first aid kit
Enjoying Ozarks Rivers
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A cell phone could also be helpful, but reception is often poor on rivers and it
must be kept in a watertight container; cell phones typically do not work when
If you are canoeing for the first time, start with a day trip only; save the
overnight trips for when you are more experienced. Canoe classes, often pro-
vided by local outdoors clubs and organizations, can be very helpful. Knowing
how to paddle the canoe and how to "read" the river will make the trip easier
and safer, and small classes of this kind are often a lot of fun. Outdoor shops
can often help you locate any classes that might be available locally.
There are a number of really outstanding Ozarks streams for family trips, with
great views, lots of quiet pools in between the riffles in which to swim and play
and plenty of nice gravel bars for lunching, sunbathing or just watching the
river go by. The upper parts of most Ozarks streams are faster, narrower and
have more obstructions; so start your search for the perfect Ozarks stream
with the lower parts of the North Fork in Missouri and the Buffalo River in