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

Big Spring Campground to Doniphan City Park
~ 34.8 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 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. While most recreational paddlers prefer the popular reach from Montauk State Park to Big Spring Campground, the river can be paddled all the way into Arkansas. Below Big Spring, the river is wider, deeper and often congested with motorboat traffic, especially on weekends. However, the journey through Mark Twain National Forest is rich in natural beauty and diverse in wildlife to be seen everywhere you look, and natural, primitive campsites can be found all along the way. Float Camp, a USFS improved campground a few miles above Doniphan, offers additional camping opportunities. Paddlers will find far less motorboat traffic during the week than on weekends, so consider this reach from Big Spring Campground to Doniphan City Park as a mid-week run of 2-3 days whenever possible. Of course, all boaters should always wear their PFD's (lifejackets), but the deeper water on this section makes that even more important than on many streams where, if you fall out of the boat, you can just stand up.

While Doniphan is the last practical take-out in Missouri, the Current River continues its journey all the way to its confluence with the Black River just east of Pocahontas, Arkansas. The Eleven Point River flows into the Spring River just southwest of Pocahontas, and the confluence of the Black River and the Spring River (Arkansas) confluence is just south of Old Davidsonville State Historical Park, bringing together four major Missouri rivers whose waters eventually flow into the White River near Jacksonport, Arkansas. This beautiful river offers much in the way of paddling and camping opportunities, and will always rate high on most paddlers' list of favorite places to go. Bring your camera and use it often! If coming from November through March, then be sure to bring plenty of warm clothing, and be prepared for wet weather, as well. You just never know what to expect from Mother Nature.


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 southcentral Ripley County. Doniphan is the last Missouri take-out point for all practical purposes.

Distance from major cities

St. Louis 160 miles; Springfield 155 miles; Kansas City 324 miles; Tulsa 333 miles; Oklahoma City 510 miles; Little Rock 240 miles; Dallas 565 miles; Austin 755 miles; San Antonio 835 miles; Houston 674 miles; Albuquerque 1,121 miles; Phoenix 1,565 miles; Denver 1,181 miles; Salt Lake City 1,678 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 natural 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. This reach also may include the hazards of motorboat traffic, including jet skis, so take care to avoid becoming swamped and/or capsizing. This man-made hazard is more prevalent on weekends in warmer months.

River Access Points

Big Spring Access on river left at 0.0 miles; Clubhouse Landing off US Highway 60 over rough road at about 4.3 miles; Hickory Landing, off Highway E from Hunter at about 8.6 miles; Catarac Landing, off Highway Z from SH 103 near Van Buren, on river right at about 8.8 miles; Gooseneck Campground on river right at about 15.0 miles; USFS Campground on river left at Bagamaw Bay at about 16.6 miles; Deer Leap (USFS) Access on river left at about 29.6 miles; Dun Roven unimproved access on river right at about 31.1 miles; US Highway 160 bridge at Doniphan at about 34.6 miles; MDC Doniphan and T.C. Wright Memorial Access (two concrete ramps) on river left at about 34.8 miles; (Additional access points are available below Doniphan, including access points in Arkansas.)

Campgrounds and accommodations

Shady Lane Cabins & Motel (573-226-3893) offers a motel, cabins, laundry and other services near the Current River; Big Spring Campground (USFS) on river right at 0.0 miles offers campsites, a restaurant, access, conventional lodging and other amenities; Clubhouse Landing, at about 2.3 miles, offers campsites and access; Bog Hollow on river right at about 14.0 miles, is a favorite campsite of many paddlers; Gooseneck Campground, on river right at about 15.0 miles, offers campsites and access; USFS Campground on river left, adjacent to Bagamaw Bay on river right at about 16.6 miles, offers campsites; Cedar Creek (USFS) Campground, on river left at about 21.3 miles, offers campsites; Compton Campground (USFS) on river right at about 23.8 miles, offers campsites; Float Camp # 7 (USFS) Campground, on river left at about 30.1 miles, offers campsites; US Highway 160 Bridge access is adjacent to stores, lodging, restaurants and other amenities. Call (573) 323-4236) for USFS campgrounds information.

Liveries, Outfitters and Shuttle Services

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

Reviewer's comments

Below Big Spring Campground, near the south end of the Ozark National Scenic Rivers section of the Current River, paddlers will often find more motorboat traffic than they usually want to have around them when canoeing or kayaking. Motorboats are more prevalent on weekends, and especially in warmer months. This section also has a more shallow gradient and slower current with deeper water, but offers a really enjoyable float trip on leisurely Class I water year-round. Numerous great access points and campgrounds, most USFS-operated, make finding places to put in, take out and camp along the way easy. Trips can be taken according to time available, paddler skills and stamina, from several very short trips to the entire 36 miles, or even on down into Arkansas for those who want to spend more than 2-3 days on the river. This reach is nowhere nearly as popular with canoes and kayaks as the 90.2 miles above, but offers much the same gorgeous Ozark topography and a trek through a largely undeveloped area in the Mark Twain National Forest of southcentral Missouri. It is a great fishing stream, so bring your valid Missouri fishing license and tackle if you are an angler. If you just want to paddle a beautiful flatwater stream, then you will find everything you need along this reach - great access and excellent campsites in a natural environment with few signs of civilization.

Technical Data
Class Rating I
Length 34.8 miles
Minimum Flow cfs
Optimum Flow cfs
Maximum Flow cfs
First Put-in Big Spring Campground
Lat. / Long.
Last Take-out Doniphan City Park
Lat. / Long.
Elevation msl
Gradient 3.2 fpm
USGS Gauge Web: Akers
Boats Canoes, Kayaks, Rafts
Season Year-round, weather permitting
Permits No

Steve King's Missouri Scenic RIvers Resource Website

Canoeman River Guide Services - guided river trips, trip planning, and instruction on rivers in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah

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

[ Current River Homepage ] [ Montauk State Park to Big Spring Campground ] [ Jacks Fork River ]

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