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Elk River, Missouri
Report by Marc W. McCord

Elk River, Missouri

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SOAR Inflatable Canoes - Somewhere On A River

The Elk River forms east of Pineville in the Ozarks of McDonald County in the far southwestern corner of Missouri, then flows west by northwest across the Oklahoma State Line to Grand Lake of the Cherokees. Its upper reaches are popular with retirees and others who have summer cottages along its banks from around Pineville down to Noel, after which point it again becomes an isolated, remote stream. Along with its tributaries, Indian Creek, Big Sugar Creek and Little Sugar Creek, the Elk River is fast becoming a popular place to paddle on Class I to III water just south of Joplin and southwest of Springfield. These streams also provide excellent fishing, hiking, camping, bird watching, cave exploration and other outdoors activities that attract millions of annual visitors, though (thankfully) only a fraction of them paddle these waters, which are spring-fed, and augmented by runoff from local rainfall.

The Elk Rivr and its tributaries flow largely within the confines of Big Sugar Creek State Park, where heavily-forested hills enclose clearwater streams that offers a moderate gradient, steady current and many twists and bends. The higher difficulty rating comes from potential dead-fall strainers and log jams in the bends rather than from large rapids or big drops. Boaters with competent skills should have no problems in normal conditions, but extra caution is urged in high water conditions. The state park is relatively new, and facilities are still being devveloped, so this area is going to get a lot more attention in the near future. Paddlers are treated to a pristine and very natural area of exceptional water that is fun to paddle in canoes, kayaks and rafts. There is also the close proximity to other great paddling streams in Missouri and Arkansas that makes coming here a delight and a photographer's paradise.

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

[ Elk River ] [ Indian Creek ] [ Big Sugar Creek ] [ Little Sugar Creek ]

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