Canoe and Kayak Travel in the Midwest

The Midwest, dominated by the Missouri River, offers a wide variety of canoe and kayak travel experiences. The state parks in the region provide a number of hidden gems. Take a look at any one of these canoeing and kayaking sites, which are suitable for paddlers of every skill level.

Blue Licks Battlefield State Resort Park: Mt.Olivet, KY
The campground is located within a few hundred yards of the Blue Licks boating ramp. Paddlers can bring their own canoes, camp in the campground and have free access to countless miles of the scenic Licking River. Those without their own canoes can choose from several different guided trips whether it be a beginner paddling class, a moderate paddle upstream visiting historic locations or one of our 23 mile overnight excursions. The Licking River overnight canoe trip is an all inclusive package that is ideal for those wanting to experience an exciting overnight trip for the first time. The trip includes transportation, life vests, snacks, an evening meal, camping equipment and sleeping gear and breakfast the following morning.

Buckhorn State Park: Necedah, WI
Buckhorn State Park and Wildlife Area is a 4,500 acre peninsula jutting into Castle Rock Flowage. Many campers canoe or kayak to backpack sites located on the shoreline. The Friends of Buckhorn have a canoe and kayak rental during the summer and early fall months. Canoeists can check out the 1.8 mile canoe trail. 10 numbered stops correspond to a brochure that interprets the wildlife and plants of the flowage. The trail is an inlet from the lake, and the shallow, slow water makes it a great place for visitors to learn and have fun canoeing.

Ponca State Park: Ponca, NE
Situated astride the picturesque Missouri River bluffs in northeast Nebraska, Ponca State Park is the eastern gateway of the Missouri National Recreational River. Designated under the Scenic River Act in 1978, this 59 mile section of the Missouri gives visitors a rare glimpse of how this river looked prior to modern changes.  

Ponca State Park encompasses over 2,166 acres of eastern deciduous forest, upland prairie and bottomland wetlands and meadows. The park has two canoe and kayak sites available for public use.   

It doesn't matter what level of a paddler you are, Ponca State Park is a great place to test your skills. With multiple access points upstream and two access points within the park you can choose the length and time you want to spend on the river. The two access points in the Park are seven river miles apart, which provide a good two hour trip for all paddlers.  

The park not only provides excellent access to the Missouri River but the park includes three miles of backwater channels, which allow the beginner to test the waters before dipping a paddle in the river's channel. While paddling, visitors get a chance to view the fauna and flora. If you're quiet you might be able to sneak a peek at the bald eagles which have a nest along the river. Ponca State Park also provides public kayak lessons and interpretive programming.  

Smith Falls State Park: Valentine, NE
Smith Falls State Park is located 15 miles east of Valentine, NE along the Niobrara River.  
Because of the Niobrara's striking scenery, recreational use and biological significance the Niobrara was designated a National Scenic River. Many people consider the park and the river a scenic natural wonder with Nebraska's largest waterfall and its unique biological features found nowhere else in the state. The Niobrara River is considered one of the top 10 family canoe rivers in the United States.

Smith Falls State Park is located on both sides of the Niobrara River which is connected by a historic bridge. The south side, where Smith Falls is located, is maintained in its natural condition. On the north side the park offers many amenities for paddlers, including picnic sites, primitive camping areas and restroom facilities. The Niobrara River is the ideal river for the family, with its slow stream flow and limited depth. Depending on the location of your entry point your trip could last two hours or two days.

Stanton/Meramac KOA: Stanton, MO
This KOA may be relatively small-nine rural, woodsy acres-but it's big on friendly service. Let the on-site Crosseyed Cricket Canoe Company outfit your gang with everything you need for a float down the Meramec River. Ride the gentle currents past beautiful bluffs in a canoe or raft.

Afterward, dive into southern Missouri barbecue from the on-site Cricket Café (April-Nov.1) Eat there or carry out to your pull-thru, Kottage, Kabin or tent site. Ramp up the fun at KOA's pool, playground, kids' fishing pond and game room. You're close to Meramec Caverns, golf, horseback riding, the Antique Toy Museum and the Riverside Reptile Ranch. Head for Six Flags St. Louis, just 35 miles away, or the myriad attractions in St. Louis, 60 miles northeast.

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