Me and 3 buddies took a 4-day canoe trip down the Current River in southeast Missouri in late May 2012. We did this trip during the week, as all 4 of us work only on weekends. Because it was in the middle of the week the week before Memorial Day, there were very people on the river (we only saw 1 pair of kayakers one day and not a single other person doing overnight camping during the entire trip). The weather could not have been any better- high temperatures in the upper 70s, lows in the 50s, a few stray clouds and a light breeze.
We did the section that starts at Cedar Grove and we took out at Two Rivers. The trip would normally only be a 3-day trip, but we hiked and went caving (all 4 of us on the trip are cave tour guides) during one of the days.
The trip got off to a slow start, as we put in about 200 yards upstream of a low water bridge. So a whopping 5 minutes into the trip, we had to portage. It's kind of a pain of a portage- very short distance, but nowhere good to take out. Best bet is to put in at the low water dam itself if you are going to do the 3-day trip we did. We took out at Two Rivers on the 4th day. We used Two Rivers Canoe for our shuttle service with no problems.
The river was fairly swift flowing, with not much strenuous paddling during the whole trip. The water is super clear and the scenery the entire way was really nice. You really are in the middle of nowhere through this whole stretch. At no time did we go through any town, and the only signs of civilization were 2 developed campgrounds along the way. There was also no phone service throughout the entire trip- awesome! Beware, though- we saw a TON of shuttle buses with a bunch of canoes on trailers at each of the campgrounds. This river must be PACKED during summer or weekends. I doubt the trip would have been as enjoyable with a ton of people on the river. When we did the river, it felt more like we were in remote wilderness out west- probably not the same experience during summer.
There was no shortage of gravel bars to camp on. With literally no one else to also use riverside campsites, we had the luxury of the whole, "well, let's just paddle a little bit farther to find a better one" thing. We had great sites all 4 nights (including the put-in site).
This is definitely a fun river- easy paddling most of the time, some fun shoals and quite a few small rapids. None of the rapids were dangerous or tough. Only a few spots required some decent maneuvering ability. This might not be the best river for a new canoeist doing their first trip, but you certainly don't need to be an expert canoeist.
At quite a few spots the river braids and it's difficult to scout the best route. We chose the wrong braid a few times and had to drag a little bit, but none of the times that we chose wrong was it really a big deal- it just would've been more fun to run the other side. It was usually more of a "oh man, we shoulda went the other route- that rapid looks fun".
We saw a ton of wildlife on the trip- a bunch of turtles on rocks (that didn't even jump into the water when we passed). We actually got close enough to one that one of my friends scooped it up with his paddle and it got a short ride in the canoe for about 100 yards or so. We saw a lot of beavers and some otters, a pair of bald eagles flying LOW right over us and what we thought was a fox (not 100% sure but couldn't think of what else it could've been).
There are some great swimming holes and rocks for jumping off of, and caves. As a caver, I have to say don't go into the caves without a helmet with headlamp, actual shoes (not the Chacos I was wearing in the boat), gloves and backup sources of light. Although we didn't, you can camp at the developed campgrounds if you prefer that type of thing.
Overall, it was a GREAT trip, but again it was in the offseason. Those outfitters wouldn't have hundreds (yes, hundreds) of rental canoes if they didn't use them. There aren't many 4-day trips (and you can do longer trips, too) in the eastern U.S. that don't go through some type of town along the way. Definitely a recommended trip.
Two Rivers Canoe for shuttle service, we used our own canoes (Old Town Penobscot 16 and Mad River Reflection 16)
none, unless you camp at developed campgrounds