Kansas City, Mo. – Dip your kayak paddle into waters at wild places this autumn. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) offers many opportunities for people to enjoy this paddle sport at conservation areas and river accesses. Prairie rivers and lakes in western Missouri offer a variety of scenery for floating, fishing, and exploring.
Kayaks can take you to popular float destinations or waters rarely visited. They put paddlers close to the water and open to the sky and vistas, close contact with nature.
“Kayaking is an immersion in nature unlike anything else,” said Emily Porter, MDC regional recreational use specialist. “A lot of our conservation areas have smaller waters that kayakers can use. For anglers, they will be able to fish in areas that are not accessible to larger boats.”
MDC maintains access points at lakes, ponds, and rivers. Often, a boat ramp makes launch and take out easier. Some river accesses let kayak paddlers visit upland streams, such as the Little Platte River at the Lathrop Access, upstream from Smithville Lake. Paddlers will want to make sure water flow is high enough to support floating from this access east of Plattsburg in Clinton County. But when it is, they’ll find a lightly traveled small stream where shallows connect deeper pools. Other streams in west Missouri traverse lowlands and offer deep water for float trips.
A popular easy-to-reach paddle destination in the Kansas City and St. Joseph areas is on the Platte River at the Platte Falls Conservation Area, east of Platte City. Several river accesses are found along the Platte. But the river segment at Platte Falls known as the “duck head” offers a chance to launch and take out at two different boat ramps without having to ferry vehicles. The river makes some sharp bends that on a map resembles the shape of a duck’s head. A high ridge with a parking lot on top separates upstream and downstream ramps, which are a few hundred yards apart. The float takes two to four hours, depending on a paddler’s chosen speed.
Prairie streams in western Missouri have their own charms of trees, wildflowers, wildlife, and solitude in a natural setting. Some streams still meander in the ways that the Lewis and Clark Expedition found them. They are not clear-water streams like the Ozarks. But the stained waters with varied flow speeds harbor fish and wildlife.
Kayaks are popular because they are relatively light, easily maneuverable, and can give paddlers access through shallows or downed timber that stop larger boats. They’re easily launchable in lakes as well as rivers. Some places seem especially suited to kayaks.
For example, MDC’s Haysler A. Poague Conservation near Clinton in Henry County has 14 floatable and fishable strip pits. Parking lots near walk-in access points give kayakers a place to launch. They can then paddle easily to remote waters. There is no current to navigate and they are sheltered from the wind.
“Poague has gravel shallows for launch and takeout, you won’t sink in mud,” Porter said. “They are similar to canoe and kayak specific accesses at rivers.”
These are a few examples of the many lakes, ponds, and rivers at MDC conservation areas that paddlers can use as kayak launch sites. Dry conditions in September and October have left many streams running low this fall. Check water conditions before you go. Also check each area’s regulations, as boating may be prohibited at some conservation area lakes or ponds.
Autumn color makes this a delightful time to paddle a kayak or canoe in Missouri’s outdoors. To look for MDC lake and river accesses near you, visit https://nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/places. MDC provides information about float streams at https://short.mdc.mo.gov/Zcn