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Chariton River, Missouri
Report by Marc W. McCord

Rebel's Cove Conservation Area to Dalton Bottoms Access
~ 107.5 miles

Two very prolific characteristics of the Chariton River are deadfall debris and sand bars, the latter of which probably outnumbers the amount of trees in the river. In low water conditions these become more pronounced and require careful navigation to avoid. In moderate water conditions they could be hidden just below the surface and cause problems. In high water conditions the deadfall, especially when it creates log jams, could ne serious hazards to navigation, especially on river bends where they may be hidden from initial view. Caution should be exercised to avoid log jams, though the sand bars could be more of a nuisance that a real problem.

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SOAR Inflatable Canoes - Somewhere On A River

General Description

The Chariton River forms in far southcentral Iowa, then flows south into Missouri at Coatsville in Putnam County on its way to the confluence with the Missouri River near New Frankfort in Chariton County. The Chariton is the most channelized river in the state, with much of its water diverted for agricultural, municipal, residential and commercial purposes. In fact, the river now enters the Missouri River about 10 miles to the northwest of its original mouth, and it no longer receives flow from the East Fork of the Chariton, which now is, for all practical purposes, a separate river. Its confluence is between those of the Grand River to the northwest and the East Fork to the southeast. The Chariton River flows about 280 miles, about 112.5 miles of which is in Missouri, and is a major north-to-south tributary of the Missouri River. About 107.5 miles is accessible by the general public for recreational boating. Thousand Hills State Park is located along the banks of the river in Adair County.

The river offers at many public access points above its mouth with several more in the planning stage and a few others that are private or potential accesses, though some are very primitive and difficult. The river offers excellent canoeing, kayaking and rafting opportunities, as well as great fishing. Surrounding wilderness lands offer immense hunting opportunities for game animals and birds, in addition to vast areas for nature watching between the Missouri-Iowa State Line and the Missouri River. The upper 20 miles, from the state line to Adair County Line, features an unaltered and natural river channel. Beginning in Adair County, the river takes on a virtual straight-line demeanor, having been altered for efficient water transfer to the farming communities downstream, though it still remains a great place for flatwater paddling. While much of the river above Macon County retains its wilderness state, the area through Macon and Chariton Counties is farming country, where riverbanks are lined with pecan groves and cultivated fields. In spite of man's attempts to control the river, the Chariton River and its surrounding lands remains a great area for boating, camping, hiking, nature watching, fishing, hunting, photography and any number of other outdoors recreation opportunities in northern Missouri.

The river channel is characterized by frequent log jams and deadfall, sand bars everywhere, and often muddy banks. It flows through a forest of dense vegetation in an area devoid of development and signs of civilization. It is truly a primitive river, even with the channelization that has occurred. The actual distance depends entirely on which channels you take, so distance may vary considerably from what is stated, which is based on the channels having the larger flows.


The Chariton River forms the boundry between Putnum and Schuyler Counties along the Missouri-Iowa border, the flows through Adair, Macon and Chariton Counties to its confluence with the Missouri River between Independence and Colunbia.

Distance from major cities

St. Louis 235 miles; Joplin 345 miles; Springfield 288 miles; Kansas City 195 miles; Oklahoma City 543 miles; Little Rock 618 miles; Dallas 700 miles; Austin 890 miles; San Antonio 970 miles; Houston 938 miles; Albuquerque 972 miles; Phoenix 1,430 miles; Denver 800 miles; Salt Lake City 1,300 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 generally good to excellent, especially near the top of the Missouri run, where it comes from dam releases at Rathbun Reservoir in Iowa, decreasing slightly as it flows through the farmland of Macon and Chariton Counties to its mouth at the Missouri River. Flows are ideal for casual, recreational paddlers at 100-500 cfs, above which level the river should only be paddled by experienced boaters.

Best Times to Go

The Chariton, being a major north-to-south waterway for northern Missouri, almost always has sufficient flow for paddling. It will be, howver, optimum when the US Army CoE at Rathbun Reservoir in Iowa is releasing 100-500 cfs at the dam. Call the CoE at (515) 647-2464, 24 hours a day, for current dam release information. Optimum conditions of flow and climate will be in the spring and fall months.

Hazards to Navigation

There are no waterfalls or rapids on the Chariton River, though there are plenty of deadfall log jams and sandbars to obstruct your path or stop your boat. The river has a modest gradient averaging about 2 fpm, producing a slow current in normal conditions. Less experienced paddlers should not paddle the river when flows exceed about 500 cfs unless accompanied by experienced paddlers, preferrably with swiftwater rescue training.

River Access Points

Rebel's Cove Conservation Area (CA) boat ramp (N 40° 33' 32.83" / W 092° 42' 06.87") about 1.25 miles east of Highway N on river right at 0.0 miles; Rebel's Cove CA foot bridge (N 40° 33' 52.70" / W 092° 41' 20.39") on river right at about 0.9 miles; Rebel's Cove CA boat ramp (N 40° 32' 15.88" / W 092° 42' 14.65") on 135 Street about 1 mile east of Highway N on river right at about 4.3 miles; Archangel Public Fishing Access (N 40° 29' 07.18" / W 092° 41' 05.79") at the US Highway 136 Bridge boat ramp east of Livonia at about 12.1 miles; Lick Skillet Road (N 40° 26' 42.82" / W 092° 41' 29.47") west of Highway H in Schuyler County on river left at about 15.0 miles; Highway W Bridge (N 40° 25' 06.03" / W 092° 40' 17.75") about 5.5 miles west of Queen City at about 17.3 miles; Mullanix Ford Access boat ramp (N 40° 20' 33.87" / W 092° 41' 03.62") on SH 18 (Ivy Trail) / Highway K about 6 miles west of Greentop, at about 23.1 miles; Sand Creek Bottom Road / Highway 19A (N 40° 18' 52.39" / W 092° 41' 10.86") on river right at about 25.3 miles; Henry Truitt Access (N 40° 14' 05.69" / W 092° 41' 09.28") at the Highway 6 bridge one mile east of Novinger on river left at about 31.1 miles; Adair CR 224C (N 40° 10' 27.26" / W 092° 40' 46.40") less than 1 mile east of Highway K on river right at about 36.0 miles (access may be on private land - obtain permission before using); Elmer Cook Access (N 40° 07' 27.02" / W 092° 41' 37.29") at SH 11 bridge on river left at about 40.2 miles; Highway N (N 40° 05' 39.07" / W 092° 41' 04.42") at CR 386 on river left at about 42.9 miles; SH 156 Bridge (N 40° 01' 32.57" / W 092° 41' 26.75") on river right at about 48.1 miles; Fountain Street (N 39° 58' 17.84" / W 092° 40' 51.36") at Elmer on river left at about 52.3 miles; Dodd Access (N 39° 50' 09.37" / W 092° 41' 03.64") boat ramp at the end of Echo Avenue on river left at about 63.25 miles; US Highway 36 Bridge (N 39° 45' 35.77" / W 092° 41' 29.27") is a possible access on river left at about 69.4 miles; Fantail Street bridge (N 39° 43' 38.04" / W 092° 41' 07.18") is a possible primitive access on river right at aout 71.7 miles; Chariton CR 312 bridge (Highway P is 2 miles west; SH 3 is 1.5 miles east on Falcon Road) at about 75.2 miles (access is on private land - obtain permission before using); SH 129 Bridge (N 39° 32' 23.34" / W 092° 47' 23.99") on river left at about 87.2 miles; Dooley Ford Road / CR Uu (N 39° 26' 57.23" / W 092° 52' 19.93") is a possible primitive access on river right at about 95.5 miles; SH 5 Bridge (N 39° 24' 59.85" / W 092° 53' 42.16") between Keytesville and Salisbury on river right at about 98.25 miles; Dalton Bottoms Access (N 39° 18' 53.70" / W 092° 57' 47.60") off the end of Highway WW south of Dalton at the Missouri River confluence, at about 107.5 miles.

NOTE: All mileage markers are calculated along the new channel of the river - downriver markers will be much longer if measured on the original river channel.

Campgrounds and Accommodations

There are no known commercial campgrounds located along the Chariton River. Abundant natural, primitive campsites can be found all along the river, though many are on private land - always obtain permission prior to camping there. Thousand Hills State Park, located west of Kirksville between SH 6 and SH 11, offers excellent camping facilities with amenities. Contact the Missouri Department of Natural Resources at 1-800-334-6946, or visit their web site at for information on locations, services and facilities available, and rates.

Liveries, outfitters and shuttle services

There is at least one known commercial outfitter offering rentals, shuttles and/or river information on the Chariton River.

Reviewer's comments

Unlike most streams where we paddle, the Chariton River has been heavily channelized for commercial and agricultural use of its water starting at the top of Adair County and continuing to its mouth at the Missouri River. This diversion has resulted in the current mouth being about 10 miles west of the original confluence, and has blocked the waters from the East Chariton from joining those of the mainstream. Flow is controlled by local rainfall runoff and dam releases at Rathbun Reservoir in southern Iowa. For all the man-made intervention this stream has seen, it remains a great flatwater paddle with an almost year-round season, though novice paddler should avoid being on the river when flows exceed about 500 cfs unless accompanied by experienced moving-water paddlers. The stream offers immense fishing opportunities for channel and flathead catfish, as well as carp, in Missouri, and a greater selection near the Rathbun Dam in Iowa that includes walleye, crappie, largemouth bass, and white bass. Hunters and nature watchers will find an abundance of deer, wild turkey, rabbits, squirrels, quail, pheasants, songbirds and many other species of animals and fowl free-ranging over tens of thousands of acres, especially above Adair County in the Rebel's Cove Conservation Area. The Chariton is not widely known outside the Missouri and Iowa area as a paddling stream, but it is a hidden treasure for flatwater boaters who enjoy easy water and natural surroundings, even if the river chanmnel itself no longer retains its natural state.

Technical Data
Class Rating I
Length 107.5 miles
Minimum Flow 100 cfs
Optimum Flow 200-500 cfs
Maximum Flow cfs
First Put-in Rebel's Cove Conservation Area
Lat. / Long. N 40° 33' 32.83" / W 092° 42' 06.87"
Last Take-out Dalton Bottoms Access
Lat. / Long. N 39° 18' 53.70" / W 092° 57' 47.60"
Elevation 814 - 610 feet msl
Gradient 2 fpm av.
USGS Gauge Web: Livonia
Web: Novinger
Web: Prairie Hill
Boats Canoes, Kayaks, Rafts, Jon Boats
Season Year-round, weather permitting
Permits No

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