canoeing the Jack's Fork River/Missouri

Planning on floating/paddling the Jack’s Fork River in Missouri, but now have to wait until the first part of May…anyone paddled the upper reaches (from the Prongs) that late in the spring without too much lining out and walking? Any tips one needs to know about paddling this ClassI-II stream?

thats one of the better times to go

may should still be early enough for the water level to be adequate. I doubt you will have many problems, if at all. I did that trip last year in july/august without researching the river level… just decided to go one day. Well we ended up walking/ carrying or kayaks as much as we paddled them since it was too shallow. that wasnt pleasant. check with local outfitters, there are several

Thats a beautiful section of river also, and id say its definately top 3 in my favorite paddles. Simply breathtaking scenery there

couple of things to consider… Im not sure where you are from, but here in MO we have had alot of rain and flooding the last month or so. Southern MO was hit very hard. I know all of the rivers up towards St Louis that were flooded have alot of new logjams and downed trees in new spots, id imagine the jacks fork is the same way. I have not paddled it yet this year, so I cannot tell you for sure.

I plan to make that same trip in the next month or so, and I have organized a trip with a group of friends to paddle that section the 2nd to last week in april so I will def be there then. Ill post back up and let you know how it is.

also, I know that there are several road closures and detours during the flood, and several are ongoing as roads are damaged/ washed out. I know for sure that a section of hwy 106 near the jacks fork is washed out, plan an alt if that road is one you will travel. not sure on other closures but search Mo dept of transportation website (google it I dont know the adress) to find out any closures.

check out yahoo groups, and search for st louis canoe and kayak club. Im not a member but read their message board and they had a trip planned there last weekend. they should be able to provide more info.

tips on paddling the river…

bring enough beer… sucks to run out halfway through a trip.

bring a camera… youre freinds wont have any idea how beautiful it is when you try and describe it in words.

only cautions id give… if the water level is higher, the river isnt as forgiving in that section. its a narrow valley almost completely for the first 25 miles. Flash floods and high water levels will get you in over your head in a hurry there.

NORMALLY that water is crystal clear. it may be muddy if the level is up or weve had reent rains… that would mean you need to be extra catuios and on the lookout for submerged rocks.

beware of submerged rocks, and any sort of logjam or obstruction. Those are the only difficulties i ever have paddling that river. The rocks just under the surface you can barely see, and navigating my boat through/ around some of the tighter turns/ obstructions are about it

Be safe and paddle with a buddy or 2, youll be fine

hope you find this info somewhat helpful :slight_smile:

The Prongs…
Been there/done it.

Bob Marley gave you some “good” advice.

In May you would be doing yourself a real favor to closely monitor the weather forecast, and the river level. That ares “is” a pain in the butt when it is low, and it can be a “real” danger to anyone up there if heavy rains occur.

Another piece of advice: Don’t park/leave your vehicle at the Prongs put in…bad spot for thievery, and also a bad spot to have your vehicle parked if river rapidly rises. Park to close to the river & it may not be there when you get back, if rapid river rise occurs.

Unlikely that you’ll see very many people up there; be prepared to take care of yourself. Have never seen a park ranger up there.

It’s pretty up there.


last time I was down there, there was an illegal mexican family picinicing at the prongs put in, and they got their car stuck on the beach. We spent an hour helping them get it out (didnt speak one word of english) because I didnt want them trying to make camp in the bed of my truck.

I felt bad leaving my vehicle their for a couple days, but thankfully nothing happened to it. Are there any alternate spots to park around that area?

My situation is i would be down with a freind, or a small group and we run our own shuttles since we dont need to rent boats. so one car will be left at the take out, and the one carrying the people and boats gets left at the putin until we are done.

is there any other way to go about it I havent figured out yet?

do you know any local outfitters that run a reasonably priced shuttle? most people seem to want $30 + per boat if they have to haul your personal boats… and with several that ads up and its no way cost effective.

im from STL area and only get down that way a few times a year to paddle… so any local ‘pro tips’ you could give me would greatly benifit me. Hope to share a beer with ya on the river someday bob, I enjoy your posts on here :cheers:

Hey BOB!
Yeah! I know what you mean…kind of like being caught between a rock & a hard place if you’re putting in at the Prongs.

Some IFS…

If you have 2 vehicles, and 3 or 4 paddlers; go up to the Prongs put in, unload all gear,leave one, or two? person with all the gear. Run your 2 vehicles to the livery up by Alley Spring Campground; I think the livery is called Harveys? Leave your vehicles there at the livery, or at Alley Spring Campground. Have the livery run the vehicle drivers back to the Prongs put in…everybody on the trip pays a percentage of the cost of the ride back to the Prongs. Cuts cost a lot.

Of course that necessitates you doing 31 miles of paddling; Prongs to Alley. That is definitely doable for a 2 day/1 night trip, if you don’t dawdle on the river. 15 miles in a day is easy on the Jacks Fork unless river is real low.

Heck! We might have already passed each other out there…and just don’t know it!

I’m from Lake of the Ozarks, and fairly regularly paddle with guys from Columbia & St Louis. If I don’t have a beer or two with me, I’ll have a little Tulamore Dew. I’ll probably be in a red Wildfire, or a red Argosy.


Jacks Fork Trip Report
I just got back from a 3 day 30 mile trip from the Prongs to Alley Springs. I went on March 7-10th and it was a perfect float (very cold, but perfect water level) We left our car at the bridge and had no problems, but you just never know? The water level read at 3.6ft and 900 cfs on the gauge at hwy 17 when we left. We both had kayaks (mine is actually a Mad River Synergy 12 SOT with cover)and it was definitely a fun run. Some pretty narrow chutes with strainers caused the biggest challenge for us. When the water was this level it opens up several chutes to choose from along the way- sometimes you cannot see around the corner of which one will be best, but we only had 1 problem the entire trip. Shortly after the hwy 17 bridge there is a house on river left- there are 3 chutes to choose from- well, what we could not see was a tree had fallen and knocked down the powerlines (insulated) but black and we could not see the line about a foot above the water level. Lets’ just say we got hung up and had to bail out and portage the kayaks- Maybe they have cleared it by now, but it was a little scary. The river remained swift with some class II’s all the way until about 10 miles from Alley Springs. It was a great float- Bald Eagle, Deer, Swift water, great camping sites… I could go on and on but if you have any other questions, shoot me an e-mail.

foldup bicycles for shuttle travel
you all ever thought about using foldable bicycles for completing a shuttle, then folding the bike up and putting it in your canoe? I’ve never done it but have seen it successfully pulled off as long as one doesn’t have a super long distance with big hills.

the shuttle…
The shuttle that is under discussion is in excess of 35 miles(probably closer to 40), in the middle of the Ozarks.

Whoever runs that shuttle on a bicycle had better be in damn good condition.


yeah I was thinking it took us 45 min or so to make that drive to shuttle last time… and I dont exactly drive the speed limit. Its get to the put in at light speed so we can get on the water sooner… I take my time on the way home lol

even on twisier rivers up towards st louis that I frequent… I cant think of one id try on a bike. Especially after a full day of paddling 20+ miles :doh: