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Elk River in Missouri

A self-supported trip created by guest-paddler

Trip Overview

We started our weekend planning a float trip for my wifes birthday that we could take our 4 yr. old and our friends children ages 2,4, and 7 years old. We have done most all the rivers in our area and decided on the Elk because we knew the river was easy to float and most other rivers were a little high because of the recent rains.

The Elk River starts in Pineville, MO from the Big and Little Sugar rivers. The trip down the Big Sugar is a little narrow and when the water level is high can be tricky. So we decided not to do the Big Sugar part of the trip and stick with the Elk from Pineville to Eagles Nest Campground which is about a 8 mile float. We used the campground but shuttled our own boat.

We got to the campsite late Friday night, We set up our tents at about 10:00 and went to sleep. The next morning the kids were excited and like small children do, they got up early. About 7:30... They were a little loud and we tried to quiet them down but 10 minutes was about all that they could stand before hide and seek turned into tag and most parents can understand that. Anyway a few of our neighbors got a little upset at the kids and said some choice words and that was it. I understood a little, I wanted to sleep a little longer myself.

We got around, ate some breakfast and headed off to shuttle our boats and get on the river to start our day of swimming, fishing, craw dad hunting Etc. We started right at the Big Sugar entrance to the Elk. It's a nice start for a day float where the river is clear and a current runs thru to give you a little nudge into the right direction. The children were having a good time and everything was going off without a hitch. Until... We ran into the college football game. The Nacar race. The Metallica concert. The interstate Highway in Mad Max Road Warrior. The clear river was clear enough to show all the remnants of the tail gate party before the game. Cans littered the bottom of the river and full beers floated on top like the debris of a beer truck roll over. You looked down the river to see the fruit flavored colors of a skittles commercial. The river vanished and canoes and kayaks covered what seemed to be every square foot. 11:00 Happy hour treated our family to beer bongs, men screaming "show us your boobs!" F words used as conjunctions to merge words together like "I'm" and "wasted."

The easy flowing river we once new turned into a Demolition derby. We dodged Rafts with people passed out over the edge. People with huge floating caravans of tied together boats with the sole purpose of getting hammered and collecting beads from the efforts of showing there breasts. I seen a few fish, but I think they preferred the taste of floated potato chips rather than my spinner. The children were pre occupied and could of cared less. They were busy splashing each other, chasing minnows and swimming in the cool shallows.

We finished our float in about 4 hours. We had many delays along the way. Lunch, fishing swimming and the occasional rescue of inexperienced canoes being swamped by what should of been a easy log to paddle around. We got back to our camp and started a fire for dinner. The kids were playing kick ball in the grassy field and we were fixing food and talking about our canoe trip wife heard our neighbor talking to our son about the f'n green kick ball and f this and f that. Our son who was little confused walk away and we decided to join their conversation. We asked him to please not throw down the f bomb as much and show some respect for the children. He decided not to since our kids did not respect him in the morning and his use of the f word was the same as their laughter in the morning. That did not set well, but I knew nothing was going to change his mind and that the later it got the worse it would get. Sure enough it did so we packed up all our stuff with children upset about leaving and not fully understanding why and left. Told the management about the whole deal and he said "oh yea I heard about that." With no offer to refund our last nights stay.

So, I will never return to the Elk River or Eagles Nest campground. It is not the family friendly river I thought it was. My Bad.


Eagles Nest - Primitive campground.


Buffalo 16 ft.

Old town Pack

Ocean Kayak 14'


65.00 two nights w/ 4 adults 4 children


South of Joplin on 71 to Pineville

Trip Details

  • Trip Duration: 2-3 Day Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)

Trip Location