Looking for a new place

We usually go to current river twice a year. a 3 day trip and a 5 day trip. I love it there but have also wanted to try a new river, but im always concerned that I will be disappointed after the current. I take my own canoe but others in my group rent. I also like how there are stops on the current to refill on ice (my main concern) and let the girls shower (their main concern). these stops are not needed but something that the current offers that just helps the trip out.

well this year in may I have finally talked myself into taking one of the trips somewhere else but now I need help finding another river to fall in love with. I need something that is in about a 6hour drive from Evansville, IN or close to. is there any options for us?

canoe tripping rivers near Evansville
Well, if you haven’t done a trip on the Eleven Point River in MO you should certainly consider it. It is no farther than the Current. The most popular stretch is from just below Greer Spring (at highway 19 crossing) down to Riverton (highway 160 crossing)which is a distance of about 19 miles, but you could continue another 9 miles or so down to The Narrows at the highway 142 crossing, and if the water is high enough, you could start above Greer, at Cane Bluff, say which is 7+ miles upstream of highwy 19.

The Eleven Point has a somewhat more remote feel than the Current and although there are quite a few float camps, I don’t think you will be able to procure ice and showers very easily from the river.

The North Fork of the White River and nearby Bryant’s Creek is a popular southern Missouri paddling local, although better suited for day trips than multi-day down river trips.

Although it is a couple of hours farther away from Evansville, you should certainly consider a trip on the Buffalo National River in Arkansas.

Another consideration would be the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River which flows northward in eastern Tennessee (near Oneida) into Kentucky. There is a great canoe camping section that begins at Leatherwood Ford and runs 27 miles to Blue Heron. This river is considerably more remote running through a gorge so forget about ice and showers. It also has a couple of significant rapids (Class III-IV depending on level) which most canoe trippers portage.

I have heard the Red River in Kentucky is very scenic but I haven’t done it so I can’t make any personal recommendations.

I second Pete’s recommendations
of the Eleven Point and Buffalo and also add North Fork of the White and the White.

The Buffy needs to be on your bucket list since you like canoe camping, and there are liveries that can provide everything from boats to shuttles to showers at pretty reasonable rates. Do keep in mind that it’s not spring fed like the Current so you’ll have to watch the water levels. That said, the lower section from Rush to the mouth of the Buffalo at the White river is an incredibly remote and gorgeous float that can be done at a relaxed pace over three days pretty much any time. However, unlike the Current there’s nothing in those thirty plus miles in terms of showers, supplies or access or for that matter even hiking out. It’s completely wild and scenic. That’s a good thing IMO, but to each his own. That said, there are two resort type camprounds at the takeout. Also, if the water were to cooperate, which is always a possibility, you could launch higher for a longer trip and take advantage of resupplying opportunities along the way before reaching Rush. Take your fishing pole and a sack of jig heads and tubes and you’ll have all the smallmouth fun you can stand.

For something different you could also put together a “lodge camping” or campground camping (as opposed to gravel bar) type float on the White. Many opportunities for that I can help you with if you’re interested.

Another option if you want to keep it in the five day range is to overnight on two rivers, Eleven Point and North Fork of the White with a night in a campground, cabin or room in between.

All sorts of possibilities, and I’ll be glad to help with advice and anything else within my abilities.

thanks guys I will start going over these. the Cumberland looks amazing but portages with heavily loaded canoes are a big pain. I did find the updated paddlers guide to MO 2013 edition last night. so glad they updated it again and its available on the gov website. I was getting pretty close to buying one of the older ones on amazon for a ridiculous price.

please keep the suggestions coming!

Pete I was reading more on the Cumberland and I see no alcohol on the river is allowed. how well is this enforced? as one of the best parts of camping on the river instead of a campground is being able to let loose a little a night.


– Last Updated: Jan-21-14 2:14 PM EST –

If alcohol is prohibited in the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area it is news to me, and all I can say is that if this rule exists, in my experience it is not enforced at all.

Alcohol is prohibited in all Tennessee State Parks (although this rule is widely disregarded) including national wildlife refuges in Tennessee, and is prohibited in the Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky. But the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area is managed by the National Park Service, much like the Current River in Missouri.

I do not see anything on the National Park Service website for the BSF NRRA about a global prohibition on alcohol. If you look at the "horse regulations" for the Bandy Creek campground within the BSF NRRA you will see that "drinking alcohol while on horseback is prohibited". It would seem silly and redundant to state this if alcohol was globally prohibited in the BSF NRRA.

If you go to an outfitter's site that runs trips on the Big South Fork, such as Sheltowee Trace Outfitters, yes, they will tell you that alcohol is prohibited on the river, but that may be specific for their trips:

As for portages on the Big South Fork from Leatherwood Ford to Blue Heron or beyond, the only two rapids you would consider portaging would be Angel Falls (a couple of miles below Leatherwood Ford) and Devil's Jump (a short distance above the Blue Heron take-out, and you would not be doing those the same day. Everything else is generally nothing more than some wave trains with possibly a few big haystacks which can usually be avoided. What I would typically do is portage the gear, or some of it, around these two rapids and then run the unloaded boat through.

It has been a few years for me, but as I recall the portage at Angel (on river right) is not all that bad. The main part of the rapid is where the river necks down to a pretty juicy chute partially blasting against an undercut rock on the left, as shown in this video of someone who did not run it too well:

If you have decent boat control and balance it really is not that hard to run in an empty boat at normal water levels.

Devil's Jump is again basically another place where the river necks down to a chute that drops several feet. Although it can get quite frisky at higher water levels, it is not that tough at more moderate levels. Here is a video of a 75 year old guy running it in an open boat with no flotation, with a good view of the approach. He does pretty well with the exception of a little "oopsy" at the end when he lets the eddy goblin grab the bow of his boat:

Here is another Devil's Jump video showing several heavily laden tandems paddled by what appear to be duffers, the first tandem team demonstrating some classical gunwale-grabbing technique:

I think the videos give you some impression of the natural beauty of this river gorge.

The portage at Devil's Jump is a bit tougher, but the trick there is to get out on on river left well above the drop, leave your boat and scout for the best place to portage your gear. At normal flows, you can paddle quite close to the drop at Devil's Jump and get out (on the left) just above it which makes the portage shorter and less steep. If you are taking out at Blue Heron you don't need to repack the boat that well because the take-out is just a short distance downstream.

Buffalo and others…
As has been pointed out, the Buffalo in AR is a premier river for float camping, but dependent upon water levels. I don’t know exactly when you would like to float, but the upper river is usually floatable until sometime in May, the middle river until sometime in June, and the lower river is pretty much floatable year-round. If you’re floating it in the summer, you can do a five day trip from Gilbert to the White River, and even go on down the White to Norfork, 11 miles on it. If the river is high enough to float from Buffalo Point or Rush, it will be floatable from Gilbert, and in fact when it’s really low, it’s actually a little easier floating from Gilbert to Buffalo Point than from Buffalo Point on down, because the volume of water is nearly the same in both stretches but the upper portion has narrower riffles.

There are other Ozark rivers that are less floated than the Current or Buffalo. It all depends upon what kind of water you like. The Big Piney River in MO (not the AR Big Piney Creek) is a very pretty river that’s less crowded. It’s a little slower than the Current, but has some excellent scenery. You could do it from Boiling Spring access to Ross Bridge, which makes a nice three day trip. There are canoe rentals and campgrounds on both ends. It’s also nice because in lower mid to late summer water levels it’s floatable but not runnable by jetboats, so you won’t be bothered by the motorheads.

The Gasconade is a very long river (the Big Piney is a tributary). It’s slow, but quite scenic. Lots of possibilities for long floats.

The Meramec is very popular with locals and St. Louis people, but is usually overlooked by out of staters. It moves along okay, has plenty of water, and you could do a float of at least five days and be in scenic country the whole time, from Maramec Spring to Meramec State Park. It will have about the same number of people (and jetboats) as the Current.

There are others, far less well known…but I’m keeping them to myself!

Big Piney
I need to add it to my list of float camping streams I haven’t done but need to. Did a short float on it last October and it was enchanting. Looks like it could be some great fishing too.

I like the upper current as its pretty much perfect for us. flow and scene are right and the people don’t really bother us as we are a fairly younger group 24-29 and its enjoyable when even at night you get new people to come over and hang out at the camp site. especially when we are all in the same mind set of canoeing and having a good time and we are a very sociable group. so I like to stay out of the regular camps cause you never know what kind of people are going to drive up instead of float down.

I appreciate you talking a little about the flow rates as well as it needs to have a decent flow so when we want we can all hold on and just float down the river without much work on occasion. another reason we like upper current though is because there is no boat traffic till you go down further this part is nice but not really a requirement.

If you could drive that far,
the Niobrara in northwestern Nebraska would be an interesting contrast to the Current. There’s an upper section below Valentine which runs partly through a wilderness area, and then a lower section that is well-served by outfitters, campgrounds, showers, and has some spunky class 2 rapids at decent intervals. The Niobrara runs west to east, and so you’d be assisted by prevailing winds.

The Upper Cedar River in NE Iowa can make a good multi-day trip. I don’t know about camping, however.

Someone mentioned the Red River in KY. The upper Red is kinda class 3 and seldom has enough water. The Lower Red is usually runnable through late spring, but no showers that I know of, and maybe not as long as you want.

The Green River in KY is long enough, has enough water at most times of the year, and ends opposite Mammoth Cave National Park.

On the showers, maybe you could get some of those solar heated shower bags. Hate to see anyone limited by availability of public showers.

thanks for the information. Showers aren’t really required but its nice to be able to stock up on ice and in some cases restock the drinks. me personally just jump back in the water but some of the females like to get all the sunscreen junk off of them and refresh. it makes them happy so i cant complain. I don’t mind being a little gamey from long canoe or hunting trips. just part of life.

Agreed on Big Piney
My experience on Big Piney River last summer was great. Cold springs kept us cool in the 100 degree heat, great smallmouth and goggle eye fishing, and excellent sightseeing.

I do also love Sugar Creek or Big Walnut Creek back in Indiana. Best to run in springtime - they are some beautiful waterways. Have you tried either?

sugar creek
Thanks for reminding me of sugar creek. I think some of us will do a quick overnighter up there in early may as I have a family reunion in indy that weekend. not really right for the main trip we want but usually when I have time in late summer sugar creek is pretty low so im told so haven’t had the chance yet.

we usually do about 2 long trips and 1 day trip a year and I would like to add in some quick overnights so for this year sugar creek can fill in one of the quick ones.

Thank You Everyone
I just wanted to thank everyone for all of their help My eyes have been opened. I am going to try and add 4-5 new rivers this year. some day trips, mostly overnighters to see how I like them. then possibly make them a new location for the long trips.

I am still open to new ideas so if you have something to add please don’t hesitate.