Paddling the Jacks Fork River, Missouri

My wife and I set out on a two day trip down the Jacks Fork river in Eminence Missouri. The Jacks Fork is part of the Ozark National Scenic Rivers. It’s truly a beautiful river.

We put in at Bay creek and floated back to Eminence. I wish we had gone a little higher as the river was flowing really fast.

The first day was filled with adventure and we hit a couple of sets of Class II. We mostly just drifted along with the current making correctional strokes to keep the canoe moving in the right direction.

We made it to Alley Spring and started looking for a camp site but all the good ones were taken so we kept moving downstream. We finely found a spot and set up camp.

We were surrounded by cadis flys or something similar so we escaped into the tent pretty early. I woke up at 4am to the sound of lightning and quickly put the rain fly on the tent. It rained until about 8am then we packed up and got back on the river.

We got caught in a light rain about a half hour downstream and donned our jackets and continued to paddle. We ran into a group that had floated from the Prongs and chatted with them for a while. They were on a five day trip.

Unfortunately, the river was flowing very fast and we made it to the take out before noon just as the skies began to clear.

Overall it was a great trip down the river. You can see photos here


Details man, detals!
Just curious. How many miles and how many on-water hours? Where would you start if you moved the put-in upstream? What kind of water conditions do you need to be able to use an upstream put-in?

I ask because Jacks Fork has caught my attention and I’d like to paddle it. I’d like some info for planning.



About the highest you could put in is at the Prongs. This is where the North and South fork (prong) come together. It’s best paddled in the spring but we’ve been getting a lot of rain. You can check the water levels at USGS, about 1.5 feet on the gauge is good.

Floating from the Prongs will give you 44 river miles until you join the Current River. There are a lot of caves, bluffs and springs along the way. It is one of the most beautiful rivers I’ve ever paddled. You could easily make a 3-5 day trip out of it. You can resupply in a small town named Eminence and continue downstream on the Current river for another 50 or so miles.

I would guess on our trip we averaged 3 MPH with only some steering and correctional strokes letting the river do the work. The water was particularly high, but clear, at 3.5 feet. And we realized we should have gone a little further upstream.

If you want to paddle something in the next couple of weeks I’d suggest the Current River as it has more springs and the watershed catches more rain. If you get there and the Jacks Fork is flowing then you could do that too. What I’m getting at is go to Eminence, check the stream flow data and pick a river. You won’t be disappointed with either river.

You can find info on both rivers on my site or on the National Parks site

Both the Jacks Fork and Current rivers are National Parks, are well maintained and beautiful. Southern Missouri has a lot to offer.

If you have any other questions post them here or on my site.


I started out just looking at the Current, with takeout near Van Buren. Looking at the shuttle route, it looked like maybe you crossed Jacks Fork, and that you could half your shuttle time by starting on Jacks Fork instead of the current. Is there much difference in geography and attraction between Jacks Fork and the corresponding part of the upper Current?

Must get the map up and look up Eminence. Then your suggestion will probably be self-explanatory.


Couple of things…
1.5 on the gauge in Mountain View is too low for a comfortable float from the Prongs.The upper section is really rain dependant, but I wouldn’t float less than 2.2 or so with a loaded canoe.

In my humble opinion, if you could catch the Upper Jack’s Fork at a good level (by the way, I think flood level is 3.9) you will be in for a treat!! The upper section is what I think the most beautifaul float you could do other than the Upper Buffalo in Ar.

I have floated the Upper section 3 times, 2 in the last 3 months and took some pictures- Here are the links if you are interested:

And here is a link to my trip report:

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask-

You should find a plainer looking woman
who does more useful work.

I mispoke
Glory is correct. 1.5 is probably a bit low to enjoy the upper parts of the Jacks Fork without dragging it a lot. Before you head out check the water levels here:,63160,00060

If it doesn’t look good then head over to the Current River.