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Blackwater River, Missouri
Report by Marc W. McCord

SH 131 to SH 41
~ 55 miles

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SOAR Inflatable Canoes - Somewhere On A River

General Description

The Blackwater River forms near US Highway 50 in Johnson County between Pittsville and Lone Jack, the flows about 55 miles to the southeast, then northeast to the Laramie River confluence in Cooper County just south of that river's Confluence with the Missouri River near Boonville, a few miles west of Columbia. The Davis River flows into the Blackwater River a little west of the Lamarie River confluence and just south of IH 70 near Sweet Springs. The river flows under IH 70 and US Highway 65 in Saline County between Marshall and Sedalia. The Blackwater River is a Class I flatwater stream that is heavily channelized in the upper half, reverting to a naturally flowing river on its lower reach where the most enjoyable paddling can be found. While the river is generally navigable, it has a slow to moderate current that makes it easy enough for paddlers of any skill level to negotiate. The area through which the river flows is remote farmland with few signs of civilization to be seem along the way. This central Missouri river is not a wildly popular paddling destination, but it offers trips of solitude and natural beauty that can be appreciated by those who love remote streams away from crowds and development. With about 6 access points between its headwaters and the Laramie River confluence the river can be run along reaches of various lengths depending upon flow, time available and other paddler preferences. The river will be discussed as a paddling stream of about 55 miles from SH 131 south of Pittsville in Johnson County to SH 41 just west of Boonville in Saline County.


Johnson, Pettis, Cooper and Saline Counties of central Missouri, near US Highway 50 between Kansas City and Columbia.

Distance from major cities

Kansas City 40 miles; Joplin 140 miles; Springfield 127 miles; St. Louis 230 miles; Oklahoma City 415 miles; Little Rock 346 miles; Dallas 671 miles; Austin 866 miles; San Antonio 926 miles; Houston 780 miles; Albuquerque 817 miles; Phoenix 1,275 miles; Denver 646 miles; Salt Lake City 1,145 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 good to very good, though lowering during periods of drought when the water can become somewhat stagnant due to a very slow current. Adequate flows for paddling usually exist in the lower half of the river except during periods of extended droughts. Summers are often periods of low flow due to a lack of recent rainfall.

Best Times to Go

The Blackwater River is local rainfall dependent for navigable flows, and as such the river flows best in spring and late-fall months. Optimum conditions will most frequently be found below SH 23, which crosses IH 70 southwest of Marshall.

Hazards to Navigation

There are no major hazards to navigation on the Blackwater River at normal flows. Man-made diversion channels on the upper reaches can pose problems at higher flows, as well as detracting from the natural and scenic aspects of paddling there. The Blackwater River is a Class I flatwater stream that is generally boatable by paddlers of all skill levels.

River Access Points

SH 131 bridge between Pittsville and Holden at 0.0 miles; SH 13 north of Warrensburg and US Highway 50 at about 11.5 miles; SH 23 between Emma and Knob Noster, just south of IH 70, at about 23.5 miles; SH 127 at Sweet Springs just south of IH 70 at about 31.5 miles; Unnamed Pettis County road between County Highway H and IH 70 at about 35.5 miles; SH 41 crossing just west of Boonville in Saline County at about 55.0 miles

Campgrounds and Accommodations

There are no known commercial campgrounds located along the Blackwater 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. Knob Noster State Park, located between Warrensburg and the Town of Knob Noster, 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 are no known outfitters located along or operating on the Blackwater River. Take everything you need and run your own shuttles.

Reviewer's comments

The Blackwater River is an easy, Class I flatwater stream in central Missouri that is well suited for recreational paddling in canoes and kayaks. The easy access points at short intervals allow paddlers to pick and choose the section they want to paddle depending upon flow conditions and time available. The river flows through an undeveloped and remote section of four counties, never far from major highways, but usually far enough away to not be disturbed by traffic noise. Though about 55 miles of the river are navigable, the upper half is rife with man-made diversion channels that reduce both the quality and reliability of paddling. The lower half returns to a natural state, and offers the most enjoyable paddling. The river is also a good fishing stream for those with a valid Missouri fishing license. Be sure to check flow conditions on the USGS gauge before going to this river to avoid a trip that ends without getting your paddle wet - while there is usually a navigable flow, that is not always the case due to upstream diversions.

Technical Data
Class Rating I
Length ~ 55 miles
Minimum Flow cfs
Optimum Flow cfs
Maximum Flow cfs
First Put-in SH 131 bridge
Lat. / Long.
Last Take-out SH 41 crossing
Lat. / Long.
Elevation msl
Gradient fpm
USGS Gauge Web: Blue Lick
Boats Canoes, Kayaks
Season Anytime except drought periods
Permits No

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

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 section of the Missouri River and its tributaries where you want to paddle.

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

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