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EXPLORE THE CURRENT RIVER FROM YOUR KAYAK
Kayaking adventure on the Current River from Akers Ferry to Pulltite in Missouri. Plan a float trip with tips for Ozark National Scenic Riverways!
Out of all the rivers in the Ozarks, the Current River is the most spring-fed of all of them. This makes it a great river for floating in Missouri, even during the hottest months of summer.
The Upper Current River in my home state of Missouri, the Show Me State, is a popular river for kayaking, canoeing, rafting, and tubing. This 54-mile stretch from Montauk State Park to its junction with the Jacks Fork River east of Eminence, Missouri, is actually one of the more popular float trips in Missouri, meaning it can get especially crowded on weekends.
You can float anywhere from a few hours to a few days on the Current River. Parts of the river move fast, and other parts move slow, requiring a bit more paddling than the Jacks Fork River.
We planned yet another kayaking trip with my family and set out for a full day of fun, floating on Ozark National Scenic Riverways in Missouri.
WHERE TO LAUNCH YOUR BOAT ON THE CURRENT RIVER
There are several popular float trips you can take on the Current River, with several spots to launch your boat. This trip we decided to float from Akers Ferry to Pulltite Campground, so we launched at Akers Ferry.
In order to launch your kayak at Akers Ferry, you'll need to follow the signs to the launch spot, which is down a gravel road from the general store.
There's a spot on the riverbank to unload your kayaks. Then you need to drive just a little bit further to a small parking lot where you can leave your vehicle for pickup later.
If you're launching on the weekend, you'll likely be unloading with other groups of people, maybe even a bus full of floaters. The launch spot isn't hard to miss.
WHEN TO LAUNCH FOR A FLOAT TRIP FROM AKERS FERRY TO PULLTITE CAMPGROUND
The Current River is very popular, so it can get really crowded on summer weekends, especially when it's really hot. Not only that, but people like to float and drink at the same time.
You throw drinking and inexperience into the mix, and you've got a recipe for “fun.”
Most other nature lovers and those who crave solitude will tell you if you’re floating on the weekend, to launch either early in the morning or mid-afternoon. They’ll also tell you weekdays are the most peaceful time to float.
We launched mid-morning on a Saturday in mid-September; and although it was nearly fall, there were still quite a few people floating that day, including a large group of college students.
Akers Ferry to Pulltite on the Current River is about a 5 hour float, so early in the morning is probably best, unless you're floating when the days are longer in summer.
WHAT TO EXPECT AS YOU FLOAT FROM AKERS TO PULLTITE ON THE CURRENT RIVER, MO
When you get in the river at Akers Ferry, you may launch with a small group of people. You'll paddle past the ferry and the campground, but soon you'll be enjoying the wild expanse of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways.
Being spring-fed, the river is very cold, and the water is crystal clear, though it does get darker in some of the deeper spots.
Floatable year-round, there are only a few shallow spots where you may have to give yourself a boost to keep going; but most of the time you'll have no trouble at all. I don't think I had to get out of my kayak once on this trip, besides during our little incident when I got out to help.
There are places with ripples and small sets of rapids. The Current River is rated a Class I-II whitewater river. Most of the areas with ripples are pretty easy to paddle through, though we did have trouble in one spot, and I'll get to that in a minute.
Just like kayaking the Jacks Fork River, there are places where trees stick out over the water or up from under the water. You'll sometimes come upon sunken logs or boulders submerged in the water.
While I almost felt the Jacks Fork River was more beautiful, scenery on the Current River has a beauty all its own, and it's still a beautiful river to float in Missouri.
There aren't quite as many bluffs as on the Jacks Fork, though there are still a few bluffs and quite a few caves, Cave Spring being one of them.
There really isn't any development along the river either, though you will see a privately owned cabin along the way. You’ll also likely see camping enthusiasts enjoying dispersed camping along the banks of the river.
Missouri Canoe shares a Current River map, also giving a really helpful mile-by-mile description of the Current River and sights to watch for, places like Akers Ferry, Lewis Hollow, Cave Spring, and Rock House Cave.
WHAT IS CAVE SPRING ON THE CURRENT RIVER LIKE?
Cave Spring is a stop you'll definitely want to make while floating the Current River.
A little over 3 miles from Lewis Hollow, the spring will be on your left. You can't miss it with the crowd of people who will likely already be there.
The cave is large enough to paddle your kayak into the entrance, but it doesn't go back very far.
According to Missouri Canoe, the water at the back of the cave “is 120 feet deep and comes from Devil's Well via nearby Wallace Well Cave.”
WHAT THE WATER'S LIKE ON THE CURRENT RIVER
The water is clear and cold, shallow in spots, and deeper in others with a beautiful deep blue color.
You can see to the bottom in many parts of the river. I watched schools of minnows swimming along through the water and actually wished we could do a little fishing.
The current actually felt a bit stronger to me in some areas than Jacks Fork… Then in other areas, I felt like I had to paddle more because it slowed way down.
Fed by springs, the water is really cold, so if you flip your kayak, be prepared for a cool down. Normally, you shouldn't have a problem, but this brings me to my next point.
IN WHICH WE HAD A LITTLE KAYAKING INCIDENT
Closer to Pulltite, there's a fork in the river where it can get a little sketchy. Where the fork converges on the other end, there's a tree with a tree root sticking out in the water.
As I rounded the corner and started down a small set of ripples, the current getting stronger, I could see there was a canoe stuck on the tree up ahead.
Jaden was in front of me in his kayak, but he was way ahead of me. He tried so hard to miss them, but ended up crashing into their canoe, which eventually set off a small pileup of people… Then I saw him flip and get sucked under their canoe.
I couldn't see him come up on the other side, so of course, I started to freak out just a bit, while at the same time trying to stay calm. A very nice man, an experienced kayaker (let's just call him an angel) stopped to help, which was no easy feat in the current.
In fact, quite a few people stopped to help. Jaden had come up on the other side and was clinging to the tree root; but he wasn't the only one who had flipped, and stuff was floating down the river.
It was a scary moment, and Jaden was white as a sheet by the time he finally made it to shore. But all's well that ends well, and I'm thankful for the ones who stopped to help.
I'm also thankful he didn't panic. In fact, besides the people in the canoe who were pretty much yelling and screaming, everyone remained pretty calm, for the most part.
WILDLIFE TO WATCH FOR ON THE JACKS FORK RIVER
Whether you’re a fisherman, an avid birdwatcher, or a nature lover, there are all sorts of animals, birds, and fish to watch for as you float this beautiful river in the Missouri Ozarks.
- Bring your fishing pole (and license). The Current River is chock full of smallmouth bass. You may also be able to catch catfish, walleye, hog suckers, etc.
- Mussels and crayfish
- We did not see any snakes on this kayaking trip, but don't you worry, there are 25 species of snakes, the most popular of which is the copperhead. While there aren't quite as many trees to duck under on the Current, you still need to watch out because there may just be a snake sunning itself on a low lying branch. Eek! Also, watch where you put your hands if you float up close to the banks of the river… Again, snakes love to sun themselves on outcropping rocks and boulders.
- Watch for amphibians like bullfrogs, grotto salamander, and the very rare Ozark Hellbender.
- With 198 species of birds, the Current River is the perfect place to get out your binoculars and watch for new birds to add to your bird watching list.
- You may see whitetailed deer and wild turkey.
- We saw what looked like an otter; you may also see mink, beaver, and muskrat.
- There are also a wide variety of insects and arachnids. You may even encounter a tarantula or scorpion.
- And be on the lookout for bears, mountain lions, and cougars.
The thing to remember with animals is that if you respect their space, they will pretty much leave you alone. Remember: YOU are the one invading THEIR space. Respect that and you’ll be fine.
WHERE TO GET OUT OF THE RIVER AT PULLTITE CAMPGROUND
Pulltite isn't hard to miss. It's a larger area with a huge gravel bar where you can pull up your kayaks and load them up.
We recommend parking one vehicle at Akers Ferry and one at Pulltite Campground. It's about a 30 minute drive from one place to the other.
There is at least one shuttle service that will shuttle your vehicle for you, but it costs around $50, so if you have the time, it's probably worth planning your trip so you can shuttle yourselves back and forth more efficiently and affordably.
WHAT IF I DON’T HAVE A KAYAK? ARE THERE OUTFITTERS FOR THE CURRENT RIVER?
Yes, there are several outfitters that will set you up with what you need to float the river, including shuttle service. There are also several places to stay, including campgrounds and cabins.
You can usually rent canoes, kayaks, rafts, etc.
Here is a listing of places that offer rentals:
- Silver Arrow Canoe Rental
- Carr's Canoe Rental
- Running River Canoe Rental
- Jadwin Canoe Rental
- Akers Ferry Canoe Rental
- Current River Canoe Rental
And if you don't want to rent a kayak, there's always the option to buy your own kayak, especially if you see yourself kayaking more than just one time. We do enough kayaking, especially on Beaver Lake, that it made sense for us to buy our own.
WHAT TO PACK FOR KAYAKING THE UPPER CURRENT RIVER FROM AKERS TO PULLTITE
Especially if you’re kayaking with kids, you’ll want to be sure to pack a few things for your paddle from Akers Ferry to Pulltite in Missouri.
- Sunscreen – On a sunny day and even an overcast day, you’ll burn very quickly. My friend, Lynsey from Moscato Mom, has shared her experience with basal cell carcinoma and why it’s so important to guard yourself against skin cancer.
- Life Jackets – Everyone needs a life jacket, but kids 7 and under have to wear one; it’s the law!
- First aid kit
- Toilet paper, swim diapers, and wipes (along with a trash bag)
- Find a dry bag to keep things dry, so you can pack all the gear you need.
- Bilge pump – to pump water out if needed.
- Soft case or a hard case for your phone – to keep it out of the water.
SAFETY TIPS FOR KAYAKING THE CURRENT RIVER
Be sure to check water levels and the weather forecast before floating or river kayaking. You want to make sure it’s safe and suitable for kayaking, especially if the area is experiencing drought or on the other hand, you’re floating after a heavy rainfall.
The National Park Service provides a ton of helpful information, including river levels, places to explore, and a whole lot more.
Watch out for other people in canoes, kayaks, rafts, and tubes. Make sure to give yourself and the people around you enough room to maneuver your kayaks, especially through areas where the current gets stronger and the water's swift.
Especially on hot summer weekends, there are a lot of inexperienced floaters; it's a great river to float for novice floaters. But when you couple inexperience with alcohol, it can be a little dicey.
Learn how to best use your paddle to maneuver through areas of swifter water; the water can turn you around before you even know what’s happening. And you can get into tricky areas with crowds.
In most areas, you’ll be just fine; but learning how to paddle yourself through these places and around other people can save you from experiencing any injuries or problems along the way.
You will see trees, sunken logs, and boulders sticking up out of the water, and there may be trees sticking out over the water. Watch out for these things, warn others in your group, and do your best to paddle around them.
With 25 species of snakes in the park, you’re very likely to see a few, especially on low lying branches of trees sticking out over the water or on the banks of the river. When paddling close to shore, do your best to keep yourself away from rocks and branches sticking out; snakes love to sun themselves, and we’ve actually had a few close calls.
A FEW RULES FOR KAYAKING ON OZARK NATIONAL SCENIC RIVERWAYS
Glass containers are and styrofoam coolers are prohibited on rivers, trails, in caves, and within 50 feet of the river.
Speaking of caves, all caves in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways are closed, except Round Spring. Do not go into the caves. It's also prohibited to wade or swim in any of the springs.
Per a Park Service representative, however, it is permissible to float into Cave Spring and then exit back out, since it is not a through cave.
You'll likely see people swinging on rope swings… Don't do it. It's illegal to do so.
Check with the park for more laws and policies.
LEAVE NO TRACE
Finally, leave no trace. Pack out what you pack in. The more you practice this, the safer and more enjoyable kayaking will be for everyone, including paddlers who come after you.
If you’re considering kayaking in Missouri, the Current River from Akers to Pulltite is a wonderful place to explore. It’s a great place, even for kayaking beginners to get your bearings, with the opportunity to learn how to maneuver your kayak through obstacles here and there.
And it's an opportunity to create some beautiful memories with your family… Memories you'll likely cherish for many years to come.