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Courtois Creek, Missouri
Report by Marc W. McCord

CR 657 to Highway E Bridge
21.5 miles

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SOAR Inflatable Canoes - Somewhere On A River

General Description

Forming in the Mark Twain National Forest of Washington County, Courtois Creek offers paddlers a beautiful, small Class I flatwater stream that flows to the Meramec River in Crawford County. This reach is 21.5 miles between Washington County Road 657 near Brazil and the Crawford County Highway E bridge just above the Meramec confluence. The creek is a very popular paddling destination for recreational canoe, kayak and raft paddlers who venture there for the enjoyment of beautiful, but gentle streams in the Missouri Ozarks. The creek is bordered by dense stands of gorgeous trees and indigenous vegetation giving it a remote feel that offers seclusion from signs of civilization in an area with abundant wildlife and little commerical or residential development. Courtois Creek closely parallels Huzzah Creek, which has very similar characteristics, and is just north of the splendid Current River and its Jacks Fork River tributary. Even closer to the south is the 1,772 foot tall Taum Sauk Mountain, the highest point of elevation in Missouri.

Though basically hazard-free, the tight, narrow character of the creek lends itself to trouble in high flow conditions. When the flow approaches 1,000 cfs paddlers should objectively assess their paddling skills before venturing onto this stream. Overhanging brush and trees suddenly become potential strainers, and strong cross currents and eddies can develop, sending a boat out of control, possibly leading to capsizing and/or pinning or wrapping. This is shallow creek boating at its finest under normal flow conditions, as many local paddlers already know.


Eastern Washington and western Crawford Counties in the Mark Twain National Forest of the southcentral Missouri Ozarks. The Community of Brazil is near the headwaters and Washington CR 657, where runs begin.

Distance from major cities

St. Louis 130 miles; Joplin 127 miles; Springfield 145 miles; Kansas City 251 miles; Little Rock 364 miles; Oklahoma City 433 miles; Dallas 569 miles; Austin 759 miles; San Antonio 839 miles; Houston 945 miles; Albuquerque 975 miles; Phoenix 1,433 miles; Denver 835 miles; Salt Lake City 1,379 miles (all distances are approximate and depend upon starting point, destination point to put-in on the river and route taken.)

Water Quality and Flow Rates

Water quality is generally very good to excellent, flowing clean, clear and slow. A normal flow will be 100-150 cfs, and the creek will be too low a little below 100 cfs. Above 1,000 cfs paddlers should expect strong currents that make controlling the direction of a boat very difficult for beginner or novice paddlers, though boaters with at least intermediate level skils should have little or no trouble.

Best Times to Go

Weather permitting, Courtois Creek can be paddled year-round, though it may run low in the dead of summer, especially in below normal rainfall years. Expect cold air and water temperatures in the Ozarks late-fall through early-spring months.

Hazards to Navigation

Normally, there are no significant hazards on Courtois Creek. However, the narrow channel and tight turns make this stream very dangerous at high flows approaching or exceeding about 1,000 cfs. Trees and brush along the banks can become strainers or places to pin and wrap a boat, sending paddlers swimming in strong, fast currents. If the creek flows out of its banks, then the channel becomes undefined and paddlers can easily find themselves in places where they should not be. Use caution and good judgement on this, or any narrow, stream when the flow rises above the optimum level which, in this case, is about 500 cfs for less experienced paddlers, or 800 to 1,000 cfs for more experienced boaters.

River access points

CR 657 low-water bridge east of Crawford County Highway Y and the Town of Brazil at 0.0 miles; Hazel Creek on river right at about 2.4 miles; USFS access on river right at about 3.0 miles; Lost Creek on river right at about 6.7 miles; SH 8 bridge (difficult access) at about 6.9 miles; Low-water bridge at Courtois Creek roadside park at about 11.5 miles; Crawford County Highway E bridge at about 21.5 miles. There may be other access points along Courtois Creek.

Campgrounds and Accommodations

Primitive Camping is available at the Hazel Creek access on river right at about 2.4 miles; Primitive camping is available at the USFS access on river rights at about 3.0 miles; Primitive camping is available at the SH 8 bridge at about 11.5 miles (fee required); Primitive camping is available at the Crawford County Highway E bridge tak-out at about 21.5 miles. Additional primitive campsites are available along Huzzah Creek to the west. Improved camping is available to teh northeast at Onondaga Cave State Park, or a little further to the northeast at Meramec State Park, both located along the Meramec River.

Liveries, outfitters and shuttle services

There are no known liveries or outfitters operating along Courtois Creek. At least two known commercial outfitters offer rentals, shuttles and/or river information on nearby Huzzah Creek. Bring everything you need and run your own shuttles, or connect with other boaters to arrange shuttles, if not renting from one of the local outfitters.

Reviewer's comments

Courtois Creek is simply gorgeous - and very popular with local paddlers. Its normal character is that of a lazy stream that flows to the Meramec River between Meramec Springs Park and Meramec Caverns. Paddlers have the option of taking out at the Crawford County Highway E bridge at 21.5 miles, or continuing on down the Meramec River to any of the numerous outfitters operating there. Depending upon flow, paddler conditioning and time available, the Courtois Creek run will be a full day on the water for many boaters. Redundant though it may be, this is another great place to bring your camera and save some wonderful memories. Another excellent characteristic of Courtois Creek is its very close proximity to Huzzah Creek to the west, which flows into Courtois Creek just above the Meramec River confluence, so paddlers can run any of these three waterways without having to drive very far between them.

Technical Data
Class Rating I
Length 21.5 miles
Minimum Flow 100 cfs
Optimum Flow 250-500 cfs
Maximum Flow 1,000 cfs
First Put-in Washington CR 657
Lat. / Long.
Last Take-out Crawford County Highway E Bridge
Lat. / Long.
Elevation msl
Gradient fpm
USGS Gauge
Boats Canoes, Kayaks, Rafts
Season Year-round, weather permitting
Permits No

Courtois Creek and Huzzah Creek map modified from MDC map
Courtois Creek and Huzzah Creek map modified from MDC map

Canoeman River Guide Service - Guided river trips in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah

Missouri Whitewater Association - promoting whitewater paddling in the Ozarks

Ozark Wilderness Waterways Club - a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of Ozark streams

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

[ Meramec River Homepage ] [ Short Bend Bridge to SH 231 Bridge ] [ Big River ] [ Bourbeuse River ] [ Huzzah Creek ]

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