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Salt River in Missouri

by  coelhjo

A self-supported trip created by coelhjo

Trip Overview

I jumped at the chance to kayak the Salt River, as it had been on my list for a long time (part of my quest to kayak all of northeast Missouri's streams). I was asked by my fellow photographers Jim & Marcia Lewellen. Jim grew up in the area, knew its history and lore, and I knew that would make the trip special. We shuttled our kayaks using Jim's Jeep with a trailer and my pick-up truck. We dropped my truck at the take-out, an obscure site known as the Cincinnati Road Access, and drove to the put-in, the Spillway Recreation Area.

This site is just below the Clarence Cannon Dam which forms Mark Twain Reservoir. The flow on the Salt depends on how much water the Army Corps of Engineers is letting out of the dam. This day the flow was strong, which would make for some good current. Most of the streams in this area have slow current, at least when they're safe to float. It was a nice change to be carried along. Fish were jumping in the foamy water downstream from the dam, and Double-crested Cormorants were taking full advantage of them. Fishermen in bass boats were patrolling the shores as well. I tried fishing myself a bit on the way down, but had no luck.

Other birds we saw included Bald eagle, Great Blue Heron, Belted Kingfisher, Pileated Woodpecker, and Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Butterflies were abundant, especially Giant Swallowtail, Monarch, Red-spotted Purple, Eastern Comma, Common Buckeye, Pearl Crescent, Eastern Tailed Blue, and the rare American Snout. Wildflowers were in bloom, including various sunflowers, cup plants, morning glories, swamp milkweed and the bright red cardinal flowers. The real bonus wildlife we saw were three river otters that crossed in front of us at some distance. I took some photographs, but as I was digging out my long lens, for greater magnification, they dove under the surface and we never saw them again.

The water level was a bit too high. There were no exposed gravel bars, which would have provided a nice break for our legs and rear ends. It would have been nice to take a swim as well, since it was a sunny, blazing hot day. A greater disappointment was that Jim knew where some Indian pictographs were located up on the bluffs, but we had no place to safely land and hike up to look at them. The stream is very scenic, having very few signs of human use. Power lines cross in one spot, and there are a couple of cabins on the bank. Otherwise, it is heavily tree-covered, green and beautiful. We completed the 7 mile stretch in 2.5 hours, averaging 3 mph.


There is a launch ramp, large paved parking lot and a launch ramp at the put-in. The take-out has a launch ramp and a gravel parking lot




From Center, MO, go north on H, west on A, and south on Cincinnati Road to the put-in. Return north on Cincinnati Road, west on A, and south on J to the Spillway Recreation Area.

Trip Details

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

Trip Location