12 Scenic Places to Go Canoeing and Kayaking in St. Louis
By Natalie Ringel
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Updated June 24, 2021
When the weather is nice, there is no better way than being outside to enjoy the sights and scenes of St. Louis. Although many people think of St. Louis’ vibrant city life and booming financial district, there are tons of beautiful places just outside of city limits that are perfect for paddlers to go canoeing and kayaking in St. Louis.
From quaint lakes surrounded by greenery to raging rivers, St. Louis’ diverse outdoor areas have something for every ability level to enjoy. Out on the water, paddlers can see breathtaking views of the St. Louis skyline and even paddle past landmarks like the Gateway Arch. Both visitors and locals can appreciate this unique way of exploring the city. Below is a complete guide we have created with most scenic places to go canoeing and kayaking in St. Louis to help you get started on your paddle journey.
Best Places to Go Canoeing and Kayaking in St. Louis
Flowing through bluffs and beautiful wooded areas, Meramec State Park and Meramec River is a stunning place for all types of paddlers to go canoeing and kayaking in St. Louis. Known for its diverse landscapes, Meramec State Park is an amazing place to explore the outdoors in St. Louis.
Novice paddlers and families will especially love kayaking down Meramec River’s gentle current. The stretch of river running through Meramec State Park is calm enough for all paddlers to enjoy an easy paddle or float trip. Along the way, visitors can spot wildlife scampering through the woods.
Many visitors enjoy paddling near the park’s massive cave entrance. This geologic masterpiece, called “Fisher Cave”, is a stunning place to explore by boat or on one of the park’s guided walking tours. After a relaxing paddle on the scenic Meramec River, visitors also often hike the 13 miles of trails within the park’s limits.
With beautiful scenery all around, it is no wonder that Meramec State Park is a popular destination for kayaking in St. Louis. From family kayak trips to some solo floating time, Meramec River is the perfect place for an easy and enjoyable time on the water. If you have your own boat, you can launch your kayak in the park. Or, you can rent kayak gear from Ozark Outdoors Resort.
How to Get There: The best way to get to Meramec State Park is to drive. If you are driving take I-44 and take exit 226 for MO-185 S toward Sullivan. Then, continue on MO-185 S to the park.
Although Cuivre River State Park is located close to metro St. Louis, it is truly an outdoor lover’s paradise. This family-friendly state park is a wonderful place for an afternoon paddle or a longer float trip in St. Louis.
Cuivre River, named after a prominent French explorer, is a gentle river that is surrounded by rugged scenery. Most visitors consider Cuivre River the “little Ozarks” since it is a more gentle version of the wild Ozark waterways.
At Cuivre River State Park, the best places to go canoeing and kayaking is either the North Fork or West Fork. If you are looking for a more challenging paddle, the North Fork is the better route. The West Fork’s calm, shallow waters are better suited for beginners and flat trips. No matter which way you paddle, Cuivre River’s tree-lined banks provide a perfect path for exploring St. Louis’ nature.
Cuivre River is an ideal spot for canoeing, floating and kayaking in St. Louis. This river is especially beautiful when the dogwood trees lining the waterway start to bloom. If you have your own boat, you can launch your kayak at the Old Monroe boat ramp for free. Or, you can rent kayak gear at Cuivre River State Park. From rocky shores to beautiful bluffs, Cuivre River is a stunning place to go canoeing and kayaking in St. Louis this year.
How to Get There: The best way to get to Cuivre River State Park is to drive. If you are driving, start on I-64 W. Then, continue on MO-147 N to the park.
For those who love Lake Life, canoeing, kayaking and stand up paddle boarding at Creve Coeur Lake is the perfect place to spend time outside in St. Louis. On the smaller side, Creve Coeur Lake is a low-key and private setting for paddlers to enjoy an afternoon out on the water.
Creve Coeur Lake’s circumference is about 6 miles. While paddling along the edges of the lake, visitors can spot tons of wildlife in the wetland banks. A haven for wetland ecosystems, paddlers should be careful to not disturb these beautiful natural habits during their trip.
The 6 mile paddle around the lake is a beautiful water trail for spotting wildlife and navigating through wetland areas. However, most paddlers enjoy kayaking around the South end of the lake which has clearer and deeper waters. This side of the lake also connects to Mallard Lake if you want to try another awesome place to go kayaking in St. Louis.
This quiet and scenic spot is an underrated place to go canoeing and kayaking in St Louis. With vast wetland and lake ecosystems to explore, there are places for all types paddlers to enjoy. If you have your own boat, you can launch your kayak right off of the shores of Creve Coeur Lake. Or, you can rent kayak gear through Creve Coeur Lake Rentals.
How to Get There: The easiest way to get to Creve Coeur Lake is to drive. If you are driving, take I-270 N toward Chicago. Then, continue on Maryland Heights Expy to the lake.
Nestled between the lush green spaces of Simpson Park, canoeing and kayaking in Simpson Lake is family-friendly spot with over 70 acres of greenery to explore.
Voted “best place to take the kids fishing” by many of Missouri’s nature magazines, Simpson Lake is a hidden gem for outdoor recreational activities. Along with fishing, Simpson Lake is an awesome place to go stand up paddle boarding, canoeing and kayaking. Simpson Lake’s calm waters meet acres of lush green space which are perfect for picnics or just enjoying nature.
Since Simpson Lake is not as well-known as Meramec River or Cuivre River, it is the perfect place to reconnect with nature. With tree-lined shores, small streams and clear waters, Simpson Lake is an intimate setting for enjoying nature’s beauty.
If you have your own boat, you can launch your kayak off of the shores of Simpson Lake. Or, you can rent kayak gear and book trips through SUP St. Louis. At Simpson Lake, you can try SUP yoga and kayak fishing in a quiet and scenic environment.
How to Get There: The best way to get to Simpson Lake is to drive. If you are driving, start on I-44 W. Then, continue on Big Bend Rd. to the park.
Recognized as having awesome outdoor opportunities on both land and water, Washington State Park is one of the best places to go hiking, canoeing and kayaking in St. Louis. With acres of wooded lands and Ozark overlooks, Washington State Park amplifies all the beauty St. Louis has to offer.
The park offers access to Big River, an excellent place for fishing and paddling in St. Louis. Big River is a scenic waterway that is accessible to all ability levels, but is best suited for intermediate paddlers. Along with this beautiful waterway, the park has many rugged hiking trails and natural areas to explore.
Washington State Park also has a rich cultural history. Many visitors enjoy looking at petroglyphs and buildings constructed by African American Civilian Conservation Corps stonemasons. From these historical landmarks to miles of scenic waterways, Washington State Park is a must-visit destination in St. Louis.
If you have your own boat, you can launch your kayak in the park. Or, you can rent kayak gear and book float trips on the Big River through Missouri Park Adventures. With so much to explore, navigating the Big River and acres of lush land is an amazing way to spend your time in St Louis.
How to Get There: The easiest way to get to Washington State Park is to drive. If you are driving, start on MO-21 S. Then, continue on MO-104 E to the park.
For year-round water adventures, Sam A. Baker State Park is the best place to go floating, canoeing and kayaking in St. Louis. With access to both Big Creek and St. Francis River, there are plenty of places to explore in the park.
With the magnificent St. Francois mountains as a backdrop, canoeing and kayaking at Sam A. Baker State Park is absolutely stunning. This rugged landscape is mostly untouched by commercial development- paddling at this park is a true immersion in nature.
At the park, paddlers can explore both Big Creek and St. Francis River. Big Creek is a wonderful place for novice paddlers to try canoeing and kayaking in St. Louis during Spring and Fall when water levels are high enough. The main portion of water activities is done on St. Francis River. Here, visitors can participate in relaxing float trips and kayaking routes, each about 4 miles long. This river is accessible to all ability types and is especially enjoyed by those who like a rugged outdoor experience. Bonus- this park also has miles of equestrian trails for exploring the land on horseback!
The unfiltered beauty of Sam A. Baker State Park is one of the main reasons hundreds of visitors come to the park each month. If you have your own boat, you can launch your kayak in the park. Or, you can rent kayak gear and book guided tours through Explore the Ozarks.
How to Get There: The best way to get to Sam A. Baker Park is to drive. If you are driving, take US-67 S toward Bonne Terre. Then, continue on MO-143 N to the park.
The Black River is known as one of the most scenic places to go canoeing and kayaking in St. Louis. With its headwaters in the Taum Sauk Mountains, this crystal clear river is a wonderful way to navigate through rugged terrain.
Flowing through Clearwater Lake and Mill Creek, Black River is an expansive network of waterways that flows throughout southeastern Missouri and into Arkansas. This flat water river has some Class I rapids, but is otherwise a lazy, free-flowing river. Meandering through woods, bluffs, and Ozark landscapes, Black River’s smooth waters are accessible to all ability levels.
It is important to note that some portions of the Black River are large gorges or shut-in areas. These areas are not open to paddlers, and should be avoided due to low water levels. Most of the shut-in areas are on the East Fork of the Black River.
Many paddlers especially love kayaking the Upper Black River. Here, crystal clear waters are part of diverse ecosystems and support an abundant fish population. From mountain views to epic freshwater fishing, Black River is an outdoor destination for all to enjoy. If you have your own boat, you can launch your kayak anywhere along the Black River. Or, you can rent kayak gear and book guided tours with Jeff’s Canoe Rental.
How to Get There: The easiest way to get to Black River is to drive. If you are driving, start on I-67 S. Then, continue on Madison 517 to the river.
With two beautiful lakes on its grounds, Current River State Park has tons of opportunities for outdoor adventure. Known for its dense wooded areas, Current River State Park is a sight to see in the Spring and Fall.
This park is a haven for paddlers who want to try canoeing and kayaking in St. Louis. The smaller of the two lakes is only open to non-motorized boats which makes it the perfect place to launch your kayaks and go for a nice paddle. Or, paddlers can kayak along Current River, which is sprig-fed by Montauk Spring. The river’s slow current meanders past limestone cliffs, Ozark landscapes, and eventually empties into the Black River.
If you are interested in camping at Current River State Park, the Pulltite Campsite is a favorite among avid paddlers. Well maintained campsites and beautiful freshwater waterways make Current River State Park a wonderful place for multi-day paddle or float trips.
If you have your own boat, you can launch your kayak in the park. It is important to note that there are no boat ramps near the lakes, so visitors must launch off of the shore. Or, you can rent kayak gear and book guided tours through Current River Canoe Rental. With so many areas to explore, visitors will never get tired of paddling and hiking around St. Louis’ natural beauty.
How to Get There: The best way to get to Current River State Park is to drive. if you are driving, take I-44 toward St. James. Then. continue on MO-68 E to the park.
An authentic Ozark experience, kayaking down Roaring River is an awesome way to navigate through the Ozark’s gorgeous scenery. Winding through narrow valleys, this unique landscape is best observed by boat.
Within Roaring River State Park, the best stretch of waterway is between the park’s launch site and Highway 86 (about 6 miles). Along this route, kayakers can paddle through mountainous terrain, gorges, and even explore the park’s famous Deep Blue Spring. All ability levels can kayak down Roaring River, but some sections of the River have Class I and II rapids. With so many different elements of nature coming together at Roaring River, it is one of the most beautiful places to go canoeing and kayaking near St. Louis.
After a long day of paddling, many visitors choose to stay on Roaring River State Park’s rustic campgrounds. There are cabins, motels and campsites right on the shores of the river with excellent panoramic views of Roaring River. If you are planning a weekend getaway or multi-day trip, Roaring River has everything you need for an epic outdoor adventure.
If you have your own boat, you can launch your kayak in Roaring River State Park and choose which Fork of the river you want to explore. Or, you can rent kayak gear from Big Muddy Adventures.
How to Get There: The best way to get to Roaring River is to drive. If you are driving, take I-44 toward Bois D’Arc. Then, continue on State Hwy 248 W to the park.
With over 40 miles of nationally protected scenic waterway, Eleven Point River flows through some of the most beautiful parts of Missouri. From steep bluffs to Ozark landscapes, Eleven Point River is full untouched, rugged terrain.
Flowing through Mark Twain National Forest, Eleven Point River is one of the most beautiful and well-protected rivers near St. Louis. The extensive networks of streams and channels help you get an up close look at the diverse marine ecosystems along the river trail. Many visitors love to fish on Eleven Point River and go on multi-day trips with camping overnight on the river banks.
Eleven Point River’s smooth waters make it accessible to all ability levels, especially novice paddlers who want to try kayaking in St. Louis. Between the Ozark’s unique terrain and the Mark Twain National Forest, there is no shortage of flora and fauna to discover on your journey. It is important to note water from outside springs can significantly increase the river’s water levels, so some portions of the river may move faster than others.
If you have your own boat, you can launch your kayak anywhere along Eleven Point River. The most popular place to start kayaking is near the Highway 142 bridge in Gatewood, Missouri. Or, you can rent kayak gear fromHufstedler’s Canoe Rental.
How to Get There: The easiest way to get to Eleven Point River is to drive. If you are driving, start on US-67 S. Then, continue on MO-142 W to the river.
Surrounded by bluffs, hardwood hickory forests and the Ozark hills, the Gasconade River is the perfect place for a relaxing float or paddle trip near St. Louis. As the longest flowing river in Missouri, there is no shortage of areas to explore along the way.
This family-friendly river is slow-moving so all ability levels can enjoy its picturesque beauty. Flowing from the northern hills of the Ozarks and all throughout Missouri, the Gasconade River is far-reaching and beloved by all paddlers. It is also not as busy as other paddle destinations, so you can fully enjoy all the river has to offer without any distractions. The Upper Gasconade River is the most popular stretch of the water trail. Here, paddlers can explore large caves and paddle through valleys.
Known as the “photographer’s dream” the Gasconade River is stunning all year-round. If you are interested in nature photography or simply enjoy the natural beauty of the outdoors, the Gasconade River must be on your list of places to go canoeing and kayaking in St. Louis.
With miles and miles of this lazy river to explore, novice paddlers and experts alike will enjoy their time paddling down the Gasconade. If you have your own boat, you can launch your kayak anywhere along the river. Or, you can rent kayak gear and book tours through Gasconade Hills Resort.
How to Get There: The best way to get to the Gasconade River is to drive. if you are driving, start on I-44. Then, continue on MO-17 S toward Buckhorn to the river.
Full of twists and turns, floating down Huzzah Creek is full of excitement. This narrow creek may be less than 20 miles, but each stretch of the creek is surrounded by beautiful scenery and wildlife.
Flowing through the Mark Twain National Forest, Huzzah Creek is a wonderful place to see the natural beauty of Missouri. While paddling, visitors can spot a variety of birds flying to and from the hardwood forests that line the creek’s banks.
The Huzzah Creek eventually joins Courtois Creek and empties into Meramec River. With Ozark landscapes as backdrop, paddling along this water trail is a fun and easy way to explore the outdoors. Although there are many bends along the way, Huzzah Creek’s flat water is smooth enough for all ability levels to enjoy.
This hidden gem is packed full of nature’s beauty. Small but mighty. Huzzah Creek is a wonderful place to get away from the busy city and enjoy the outdoors. If you have your own boat, you can launch your kayak from Scotia or Highway 8. Or, you can rent kayak gear from Huzzah Valley Resort. This charming creek is perfect for families and kids to get out on the water and go kayaking in St. Louis.
How to Get There: The easiest way to get to Huzzah Creek is to drive. If you are driving. take I-44 toward Leasburg. Then, continue on Pattons Rd Fsr 21 to the river.
Additional Resources for Kayaking in St. Louis
What to Pack to Go Kayaking in St. Louis
Swimsuit: Wearing a swimsuit is essential for being out on the water! When canoeing and kayaking, chances are you are going to get wet, so best to be prepared! Click here to compare men’s and women’s styles and prices for our favorite swimsuits.
Sunglasses: Being out on the water is beautiful, but the water can really reflect light! Make sure to bring a pair ofsunglassesand croakies to keep them from falling off.
Hat: It’s best to keep the sun off of your head to keep you cool. Whether you prefer a nice bucket hat or a vintage baseball cap, keeping cool will ensure an awesome trip.
Water Bottle: Keeping hydrated is no joke! Paddling is a great way to exercise and relax, but that means it takes a lot of energy too! Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout your trip withthese cool water bottles.
Sunscreen and Bug Spray: Don’t let the elements stop you from having an amazing paddle! I recommend bringingsunscreen and bug spray in the boat with you to ward off any pests and sunburns.
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