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Current River, Missouri
Report by Marc W. McCord
Significant contributions made by Steve King

Montauk State Park to Big Spring Campground
~ 89.3 Miles

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SOAR Inflatable Canoes - Somewhere On A River

General Description

The Current River, located in Dent, Shannon, Carter and Ripley Counties, Missouri, is a year-around stream with adequate flow almost anytime. It is a flatwater river that is fed by more springs than any other Missouri river, keeping its flow constant. The Current River drops at a rate of about 4.4 feet per mile (fpm) on average, with a high rate of 8.7 fpm from Montauk State Park down to Akers, and a low rate of 3.2 fpm from Big Spring Campground to Doniphan.

Due to some phenomenon of nature, the Current River almost never freezes, making it accessible for cold weather paddling, if you are so inclined. The spring-fed water flows at a constant 58-60 degrees, which is probably why it seldom freezes. Most recreational paddlers prefer to paddle the top 89.3 miles down to Big Spring Campground (but NOT in one day!), below which point the river widens, deepens, slows down and becomes a traffic pattern of motorboats and other motorized watercraft, none of which are too hospitable to open canoes or sit-on-top kayaks. Besides, there is plenty to see in the top 89.3 miles to keep you busy for a week or more, if you have the time. Numerous outfitters offer rentals, shuttles and other services along this upper reach of the river, and there are many places to pitch a tent or stay in more conventional accommodations, if tent camping is not your cup of tea.

Its designation as part of the National Scenic Riverways program protects the Current River under federal law from over-commercialization, damming or otherwise obstructing the flow of the river or disrupting natural plant and biological life on and around the river. Surrounding the river are dense stands of maples, hickories, oaks, elms and many other species of hardwood trees, all of which provide a visual feast during the fall season when the colors begin to change. The Current River is known for its astounding natural beauty amid Ozark vistas that were made for photo postcards. With many springs to see, and some are quite amazing for the volume they pump into the river, and other topographical wonders to explore there is plenty to keep you busy and interested on any part of this beautiful river. Be sure to bring along a camera (and drybag!) with plenty of film, compact flash cards or disc memory for the photos you will surely want to take.

Location

The Current River flows northwest to southeast from just above Montauk State Park in Dent County, about 25-30 miles from Salem, Missouri, through Shannon and Carter Counties to its passage into Arkansas in Ripley County. Doniphan is the last Missouri take-out point for all practical purposes.

Distance from major cities

St. Louis 120 miles; Springfield 115 miles; Kansas City 284 miles; Tulsa 293 miles; Oklahoma City 470 miles; Little Rock 280 miles; Dallas 605 miles; Austin 795 miles; San Antonio 875 miles; Houston 714 miles; Albuquerque 1,161 miles; Phoenix 1,605 miles; Denver 1,221 miles; Salt Lake City 1,718 miles (all distances are approximate and depend upon starting point, destination point on the river and route taken.)

Water Quality and Flow Rates

Excellent quality. There is usually an adequate flow for an enjoyable trip without dragging. The spring-fed water is clean and clear, with a constant temperature of 58-60 degrees, supporting many species of fish.

Best time to go

You can paddle the Current River almost anytime of the year. The springs that feed the river maintain a good flow and fairly warm water temperature, even when the outside air temperature is much cooler. Proper paddling clothing is recommended for colder months.

Hazards to navigation

There are no hazards on the Current River at normal water levels. The primary hazards at high flows are a fast current, dead-fall debris piles and low-water bridges, all of which MUST be avoided.

River Access Points

Tan Vat access on river left at 0.0 miles; Baptist Camp Access on river left at 1.2 miles; Cedargrove at the low water bridge on river left at 8.1 miles; Akers Ferry (Hwy. K) on river right at 15.8 miles. (There are good camping areas upstream from Akers Ferry, on the left.); Pulltite Campground Access on river left at about 25.3 miles; The Sinks (on Sinking Creek) on river left at about 32.8 miles; Round Spring Access on river right at 34.3 miles; Jerktail Landing on river right off SH 19 at about 46.7 miles; Jacks Fork River confluence at 51.6 miles (locally known as "Two Rivers" - this is NOT a take-out, but rather a point of reference); Old ferry site access on river right at 52.4 miles; Highway 106 Bridge on river right at about 58.8 miles; Log Yard Access on river left at 69.1 miles; Beal Landing on river left at 70.9 miles; Paint Rock Bluff Access on river left at about 72.6 miles; Chilton Creek Access on river right at about 77.8 miles; Watercress Park (USFS) off U.S. Hwy 60 at Van Buren at about 84.4 miles; US Highway 60 (Van Buren) bridge on river left at 85.0 miles; and Big Spring Access on river left at 89.3 miles.

Campgrounds and accommodations

Shady Lane Cabins & Motel (573-226-3893) offers a motel, cabins, laundry and other services near the Current River; Montauk State Park (573-548-2201) offers camping, meals and lodging. NPS Campgrounds (tent camping only) are available at Cedargrove, Akers Ferry, Pulltite, Boyds Creek, Round Spring, Big Creek, Bee Bluff, Jerktail Landing, Two Rivers (Jacks Fork River confluence), Log Yard, Watercress Park, US Highway 60 bridge in Van Buren and Big Spring Access - call 573-323-4236 for information. Numerous other commercial campgrounds, motels and other accommodations are available along the Current River or nearby.

Liveries, Outfitters and Shuttle Services

There are many commercial outfitters offering rentals, shuttles and river information along the Current River.

Reviewer's comments

The Current River is one of those you want to paddle because it is just so beautiful that you want to know you have been here, and you will want to shoot a lot of photos as reminders long after you leave. There are many short stretches that can be paddled in a day or less, as well as the entire 90 miles that can be made into a multi-day downriver excursion filled with cave exploration, bird watching, photography, hiking, and paddling a gorgeous river.

Typical of all Ozarks rivers, you will want to bring along appropriate clothing as the temperatures may change from very warm in daytime to very cool, or even cold, at night. Access to the river is better than on most rivers, with plenty of places to restock supplies or even rent a cabin for the night if you get tired of tent camping (or in the event inclimate weather blows in.) If you are running the Current River, then you might also want to take the time to run the Jacks Fork River that parallels the upper part of the Current before reaching the confluence at 52.5 miles below Montauk State Park.

The Current River is fed by several huge springs, some pumping over 2 million gallons of water per day into the river. These springs are responsible for the relatively warm, constant flow of the Current, and add great scenic beauty to the adventure. See the photos at the right for some examples. The Current River flows all the way into Arkansas, but as previously stated, most boaters in canoes, kayaks and rafts do not go past Big Spring at 90.2 miles below Montauk State Park due to the river being slower, wider and more rife with motorized boating traffic. This is a river to which you will want to return many times.

Technical Data
Class Rating I
Length 89.3 miles
Minimum Flow cfs
Optimum Flow cfs
Maximum Flow cfs
First Put-in Montauk State Park
Lat. / Long.
Last Take-out Big Spring Campground
Lat. / Long.
Elevation msl
Gradient fpm
USGS Gauge Web: Akers
Boats Canoes, Kayaks, Rafts
Season Year-round, weather permitting
Permits No

Click HERE for Current River slideshow
(Slideshow opens in a new window)


Shady Lane Cabins & Motel


The Current River running through Montauk State Park


Jill Britt paddling below Baptist Camp


Medlock Spring in the Cedar Grove area of the Akers section


Current River below Pulltite Campground




Steve King's Missouri Scenic Rivers Resource Website

Click the links below for information regarding the section of the Current River and its tributaries where you want to paddle.

[ Current River Homepage ] [ Big Spring Campground to Doniphan ] [ Jacks Fork River ]

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