Missouri and Illinois are home to some of the nicest float streams in the country. Most people from the St. Louis and the Columbia metro areas head south-southwest to the Gasconade, Meramec, Big Piney, Current and Jacks Fork rivers for a day or a weekend of leisurely paddling. There is little doubt that the Current an Jacks Fork are very special streams, and nationally recognized as "scenic".
If you have not tried it, add a trip to the North Fork of the White River, in far southern Missouri to your future plans. Sections of this river, in my opinion, rank near the top of all Missouri or Arkansas streams for recreational value and for scenery.
The North Fork arises just south of Cabool, Missouri (near Highway 63) and is fed by Indian Creek and numerous springs to make it a beautiful float stream. It enter Norfork lake just north of the Arkansas border. In the springtime, it is floatable from above Missouri Highway 76 downstream; as the spring wears on the highest put-in point is Topaz (an old ghost town with a water mill, 6 miles downstream. Finally by late summer, unless you are interested in wade fishing, Twin Bridges becomes the highest practical put-in point. Even in near drought years the river is even floatable from Rainbow Springs downstream to Dawt Mill, a long one day float.
This river has many Class 2 stretches at the spring water levels; but is fun even in late summer. The bedrock along this stream creates ledges which produce large standing waves (they will enter the canoe or kayak) all summer long. The volume of flow is high and constant due to the large springs. The water is crystal to blueish in color and very cold (due to the influence of the large springs along the way).
Because of the water temperature below Rainbow Springs (aka. Double Springs), the Missouri Department manages a fantastic "Blue Ribbon" trout fishery. Rainbows reproduce naturally in this stream and in great numbers, and frequently reach a length of 22" or more. In addition, Brown trout are stocked several times per year, and reach weights of up to 15 pounds. If you are planning to fish below the springs, check the regulations.
The upper section of the river is a very good smallmouth bass fishery; with plenty of 20+ inches in length.
The scenery is magnificent to near wilderness from Hammond Camp to Kelly Ford. Black bears are becoming more common in that section. the bird life along this river is phenomenal; with a hundred species of wood warblers, vireos, shorebirds, swallows, and a nice population of nesting Bald eagles.
Spanish Moss hangs from many old cedars on the top of bluffs. Maidenhair ferns cling to the rocks at water level on the same bluff.
If you are planning to camp along the way, gravel bars are nard to find, so begin looking for a suitable location early in the evening. Because of the spring-fed nature of this stream, it is also ideal for wintertime float trips. Call the Alpine Shop for detailed particulars on put-in, take-out points. outfitters, fishing regulations, etc.
You will not be sorry you made the 3 1/2 hour trip to the North Fork.