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Little Niangua River, Missouri
Report by Marc W. McCord

County Highway BB Bridge to Camden County "J" Road
~ 35 miles

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SOAR Inflatable Canoes - Somewhere On A River

General Description

Rising in Dallas County of southcentral Missouri and flowing about 59 miles north-northeast to Lake of the Ozarks is the Little Niangua River, a major tributary of the Niangua and Osage Rivers in the southern Missouri Ozark Mountains. This class 1 flatwater stream is an excellent paddling and fishing river amid naturally scenic and undeveloped wilderness where outdoors enthusiasts can escape the hustle and bustle of daily life and enjoy a quiet float trip on a remote river without large crowds. The full length of the river is much longer than the decribed reach of about 35 miles, which ends just above Lake of the Ozarks.

The water flows clean and clear, offering an abundance of fishlife for anglers to pursue, and surrounding land areas are home to many forms of wildlife including deer and eagles. Towering bluffs and riverbanks lined with a variety of hardwood trees offer picturesque photo opportunities all along the river. Public access is excellent along the 35 miles between Dallas County Road 200 just east of Highway BB and Camden County "J" Road just west of Lake of the Ozarks. Along the way are three caves (Almon Cave, Burnt Mill Cave and Blue Spring Cave) to explore for those looking to enhance their experience while paddling the river. At least three outfitters offering canoe and kayak rentals, as well as campsites, are located along the river for the conveninece of visitors to the area.

The Little Niangua River is conveniently located close to numerous other Missouri paddling streams including the Niangua, Pomme de Terre, Gasconade, Osage, Osage Fork, James and Spring Rivers, all of which are within a couple hours drive. The river has a near perpetual flow, so you can paddle just about anytime of the year, weather conditions permitting. It is a little-known gem among very beautiful Missouri rivers that will beckon you back once you have been here.


Dallas, Hickory and Camden Counties of southcentral Missouri, just a few miles northeast of Springfield and Joplin. Pomme de Terre, Harry S. Truman, Bennett Spring, Ha Ha Tonka and Lake of the Ozarks State Parks are all nearby.

Distance from major cities

St. Louis 210 miles; Joplin 137 miles; Springfield 65 miles; Kansas City 147 miles; Oklahoma City 353 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 to your put-in on the river and route taken.)

Water Quality and Flow Rates

Water quality is usually very good to excellent most of the time flowing clean, clear and cold from springs that feed the river and runoff from local rainfall. Navigable levels are usually found year-round except during periods of prolonged drought.

Best Times to Go

The Little Niangua is generally navigable year-round except during droughts. Seasonal conditions make paddling and camping best from April though November, though wearing proper attire and being properly outfitted will allow trips just about anytime, weather permitting.

Hazards to Navigation

There are no serious hazards to navigation located along the Little Niangua River. The low warter bridge at about mile 33 could pose a hazard to safety in high flow conditions, and will probably have to be portaged at any time (no public access is allowed.) Its shallow gradient and modest current provide an easy paddle that almost any boater can enjoy.

River Access Points

Dallas CR 200 (N 37° 55' 02.58" / W 093° 05' 37.34") east of Highway BB on river right at 0.0 miles; SH 54 Bridge (N 37° 56' 06.31" / W 093° 03' 59.58") on river right at about 2.75 miles; Highway 96 Bridge (N 37° 59' 16.82" / W 093° 06' 00.14") on river right at about 8.6 miles; CR 66 bridge (N 38° 00' 43.83" / W 093° 04' 59.19") east from County Highway F on either side at about 12.7 miles; Green Ridge Drive, aka N-142D/ Nn145 (N 38° 00' 47.01" / W 093° 00' 30.02") on river left at about 19.7 miles miles; Nn 145R / N-166R (N 38° 01' 10.74" / W 093° 00' 31.04") on river right at about 20.5 miles; Highway N / Bannister Hollow Road (N 38° 02' 16.96" / W 093° 00' 11.06") on river left at about 22.3 miles; Highway CC / N-165 (N 38° 02' 30.69" / W 092° 59' 05.68") on either side at about 26.2 miles; Private Road / low water bridge (N 38° 04' 19.66" / W 092° 55' 59.20") probably requires portage - no access at about 33.0 miles; Camden County Highway J crossing (N 38° 03' 55.38" / W 092° 54' 31.42") on river right at about 35.0 miles. Additional access points are available at the commercial outfitter campgrounds located along the river.

Campgrounds and Accommodations

There are at least three known commercial campgrounds located along the river offering a variety of accommodations and amenities. Camping is also available nearby at Pomme de Terre, Harry S. Truman, Bennett Spring, Ha Ha Tonka and Lake of the Ozarks State Parks.

Liveries, outfitters and shuttle services

There are at least three known outfitters located along the Little Niangua River offering canoe, kayak, raft and jonboat rentals, shuttles, guided paddling and fishing trips and other services.

Reviewer's comments

The Little Niangua River is one of those pristine streams that has much to offer for outdoors adventurists, yet is little known to most people who enjoy camping, paddling, hunting, fishing, photography and other outdoor recreation activities. Located just an hour's drive from Springfield, this river is an easy paddle trip for almost anybody regardless of skills or experience. There are no major rapids or waterfalls, and the flatwater generally has a good current and adequate flow for paddle trips year-round, provided you are dressed for the weather and climate conditions. There are three caves and numerous springs to see and explore. Eagles, deer and other wildlife are abundant along the river where fishing is excellent and the quiet solitude of a remote setting is all around. If you are searching for a place a little off the beaten path where you will not be surrounded by large, rowdy crowds, then the Little Niangua awaits your arrival. Be sure to bring along your camera because there is plenty to see and photograph here.

Technical Data
Class Rating I
Length 35 miles
Minimum Flow cfs
Optimum Flow cfs
Maximum Flow cfs
First Put-in Dallas County Highway BB
Lat. / Long. N 37° 55' 02.58" / W 093° 05' 37.34"
Last Take-out Camden County Road J
Lat. / Long. N 38° 03' 55.38" / W 092° 54' 31.42"
Elevation 829 - 668 feet msl
Gradient 4.6 fpm
USGS Gauge Web: Near Mack's Creek
Boats Canoes, Kayaks, Rafts
Season Year-round, weather permitting
Permits No

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

Little Niangua River map

Looking downriver to the Highway J Bridge just above Lake of the Ozarks
Looking downriver to the Highway J Bridge just above Lake of the Ozarks
photo courtesy Copyright © 1997-2005. All rights reserved

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

Lone Star Paddler - the paddlesports web site of Marc W. McCord

Click the links below for information regarding the other sections of the Niangua River where you want to paddle.

[ MDC Charity Access to MDC Big John Access ] [ MDC Big John Access to Bennett Spring State Park ]
[ Bennett Spring State Park to MDC Leadmine Access ] [ MDC Leadmine Access to Lake of the Ozarks ]

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

[ Missouri River Homepage ] [ Missouri River ] [ Chariton River ] [ Crooked Creek ] [ Blackwater River ]
[ Gasconade River ] [ Osage River ] [ Big Piney River ] [ Osage River ] [ Platte River ] [ Little Platte River ]

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