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Scenic Kayaking on The Kiamichi River in Southeastern Oklahoma.






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Flatwater Canoe & Kayak Floating in Southwestern Missouri's Elk River

Elk River Float Trip from Pineville, MO to Noel, MO.Clear flowing water, scenic bluffs and easy paddling on the Elk River make Noel, Missouri a road trip well worth making.  The Elk River in Noel, MO is loaded with canoe and kayak livery operators and is only a short drive from the Ozarks of Oklahoma or Arkansas.  The Elk River is a great kayak trip for novice paddlers and it is close enough to Eureka Springs, Arkansas paddling or Oklahoma's Illinois River to squeeze them into the same road trip. You could also hit this river on your way to the Buffalo River National River, if you head for Harrison, Arkansas going east on Highway 412.  There is only one small riffle near the end of the most commonly paddled portion of the Elk River. The river is lined with several great canoe & kayak outfitters, campsites and cabins so you don't have to bring your own shuttle-bunny when you kayak the Elk River.

Timing is key for canoe trips the Elk River.  On Summer weekends, The Elk River is a party river popular with young folks loaded into slow moving rafts overflowing with: Jello shots, ice chests and funnels for their beer.  Most partiers travel by raft, so a kayak or canoe will usually allow you to bypass the festivities fairly quickly. If you want to join the slow moving float trip party, rent a raft.  They offer the option of having lots of friends and cargo aboard, plenty of room to stretch out plus it is easy to slide on and off the raft for the occasional bit of swimming.  These features make sunscreen even more important for rafters than for kayakers, don't play chicken with skin cancer.

A shady gravel bar rest stop on our late August Elk River Float Trip.Families and church groups looking for a more peaceful, more scenic, less PG-13, float trip should consider a weekday trip in Spring or Fall. Barring that, depart early in the morning or ask your outfitter about a float trip down Indian Creek or Big Sugar as they are not really party places in any season.  Personally, I can enjoy either kind of they tramp-stamps or Osprey...they both make fine fodder for my camera! This fairly quick, but easy kayaking on the Elk River is too much fun to ignore.  The wide, green and clear Elk River makes a great introduction to moving water for novice recreational paddlers. In fact, I rented an SOT kayak for my son's first trip on moving water.  I paddled it with no serious problems. Too bad a surprise Spring shower doused us all to the bone.  That day's kayaking lesson was to avoid cotton garments and pick modern fabrics like Heatgear for paddling ..even in the Summer.

Pineville, MO To Mt. Shira, MO on the Elk River

08-23-2009  Float Trip Report:

Recreational Kayaking on the Elk River - Our kayaks loved it!Unlike the lower Mt. Fork River, the Elk River from Pineville MO to Noel, MO drops gently but consistently. The water moves faster over the shallower areas making paddle-work nearly optional. This makes it popular with rafter during Summer Vacation. Hitting the Elk River on this Sunday morning in August, we were surprised to see more canoes than kayaks or rafts. Dianne enjoyed the river much more with the lighter traffic and more family friendly atmosphere. The eight hours of driving...not so much. Next time, we might seek lodging in Jane, MO.

There are loads of outfitters on the Elk River in Missouri and the river flow is so consistent that folks float it all year long. Visit the Elk River on a Saturday during summer vacation to see hundreds of other crafts on the water. From church group outings to bachelor parties everyone is out enjoying the summer on the Elk River.

Big Elk Camp Float Trips We put-in at Big Elk Camp & Canoe, right off Highway 71 near Pineville, MO. They charged us $30 to shuttle us and our boats back to our truck from the Shady Beach Campground at Mt. Shira, Missouri. Many outfitters won't shuttle private boats, so plan carefully and call before you drive. With so many outfitters in Pineville and Noel, you are sure to find someone to take your money. I usually end up spending more on t-shirts and other mementos than shuttling. This time, it was close.

Since I have never gotten a decent restaurant recommendation from an outfitter in Noel or Pineville (strange phenomenon peculiar to the Elk River), Dianne and I drove around in desperation seeking Sunday lunch... at 2pm when we got off the water. Right next to River Rat Pizza in Noel (they were closed), we found Rosa's Mexican Store and restaurant. The window said "Buffet, All Day, Everyday"... and the congregation shouted: "Amen!" Rosa's had the best buffet I've tried in ages and a cool little ethnic food market right next door! They make wonderful breads and pastries at the market!

Yakker didn't make this trip, so I wasn't able to test self-shuttling options in the area. Someday, when I have more time in the area, I would like to make a list of the public use areas on the Elk River. It is truly a great river for recreational paddling. Until then, consult this map for public access points on the Elk River: Elk River area map.

I don't believe I have ever seen so many baby fish swimming around my kayak as I did this weekend. As Dianne said: “the water is so clear you can read the labels of the countless beer cans that litter the bottom of the Elk River”. A small fortune in aluminum cans awaits someone in 'The Canoe Capital of the Ozarks'. Other than that it was lovely. I'll bet I saw 20 soft shelled leather back turtles. It was so cool watching them swim through the crystal clear water. It may not be challenging whitewater, but it moves along nicely through a very scenic portion of the Missouri Ozarks.

According to our outfitter, the water levels on Big Sugar and Indian Creek were too low, but we might be able to catch some deeper water this fall.

From Tulsa, you can head up north on I-44 for about an hour, then east on US 60 and finally south down Highway 71 to reach Pineville, MO. However, there are scores of routes to get to the Elk River including many slower routes popular with bikers. Don’t miss the town of Noel, Missouri…the highways there are bordered by really scenic bluffs! I can't wait to see the area when the fall colors set in, it really isn't very piney, so there should be quite a change.

Pineville, MO Kayak Float Trip on the Elk River

06-28-2008  Trip Report: Dianne, Dylan and myself drove up the Pineville, Missouri for an 8-mile float trip on the Elk River. I decided that the clear, cool Class I water of that Ozark river would be perfect for Dylan's first kayak paddling trip in current.

Elk River water flowTo save a little money we decided to wake up early for the drive, paddle the river and head straight home. This is a bit of a shame since there are loads of great paddling resources in the area. We rented an Old Town Typhoon Sit-On-Top Kayak for Dylan to paddle. He enjoyed paddling it, once his mother traded the extremely heavy outfitters kayak paddle for her lighter Carlisle Day Tripper kayak paddle. Outfitter paddling gear tends toward ruggedness more than comfort or features.

The water is fairly fast, straight and quite clear.  Gravel bars are common and the trees are a mixture of mostly deciduous trees with some cedar and pines mixed in.

Missouri Elk River Map for Canoe and Kayak PaddlersOur outfitter was Big Elk Camp and Canoe. Their store is at the put-in for the 8-mile trip down to Shady Beach Campground in Noel Missouri. Big Elk is open all year renting canoe, rafts and SOT kayaks. They are pretty easy to find right off Highway 71 and they had a wide selection of kayaking t-shirts and other paddler goodies.

We grabbed this cool shirt with an Elk River map on the back.  You know I love collecting new paddling t-shirts!  Read all about our 2008 Elk River Kayaking Float Trip on our paddling blog.


Noel, Missouri - Paddling Town in the Missouri Ozarks

We love Noel, Missouri, (heaven for canoe paddlers) but the town is small and the lodging options are pretty limited. (Jump to our Elk River Outfitters List).  Sometimes, we like to paddle the Illinois River on the same day that we paddle the Elk River.  They are that close!   Dianne and I are always looking for lodging near the Elk River that offers a Jacuzzi rooms.

FYI - In the town of Noel, MO they pronounce Noel with a silent 'e' like The Grassy Knoll, as opposed to the short 'e' sound as in The First Noel.

A new Elk River area lodging option I just stumbled upon is:

Boones Lick Lodge

Offering two locations.  One location is in Jane, MO Phone: (417) 226-1888 and the other is in Neosho, MO Phone: (417) 455-0888.

The motels have 45 rooms, 33 with two queen-sized beds and 12 with one king-sized bed. One of the rooms is a handicapped accessible room, and one of the rooms with a king bed has a whirlpool bath. The rooms have luxury bedding, in-room microwave and refrigerator, high speed internet, and free HBO. The motels also have a heated pool and hot tub.

Got lodging tips for the Noel, MO / Pineville, MO. area? 
Use the email contact link at the top of the right hand column on this page.

Longtime favorite destination of fly fishing enthusiasts, Noel, Missouri is a great little paddling town just across the border from Oklahoma. Plenty of outfitters are available to provide a number of great float trips.  Also, check out the nearby King's River in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.


Trip Report  - 6/4/05 The Elk River

The Wide and Friendly Elk River

The Elk River is rated as a Class I to II stream with no significant rapids or waterfall drops. Its watershed headwaters originate in Big Sugar Creek and Little Sugar Creek. The two streams merge near Pineville, Missouri to form the Elk River. 

In Oklahoma, the Elk River flows out of Missouri and forms the Elk River Arm of the Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees. This river has been widened in some places to improve float conditions for family canoe and kayak trips.

Dianne and I paddled the Elk River's wide and easy flatwater in a tandem canoe, but our canoe outfitter also offered kayaks and rafts. Wayside provided us with a very nice canoe complete with seat cushions and backrests, however the river proved so tame that I wish we had chosen kayaks instead.

There are loads of commercial outfitters and affordable lodging providers in Noel, MO. Since we are still um.. shopping for our own kayaks and canoes, we love to visit well-outfitted paddling rivers like this one. 


Camping and Floating on the Elk River is just across the border from Oklahoma, only a few hours from Tulsa. Take a road trip soon and find out why Noel, Missouri has long been called 'The Canoe Capital of the Ozarks'.  Fun easy flatwater float trips are on tap all summer long!




Choosing a float trip outfitter on any river often comes down to deciding on a put-in outfitter or a take-out outfitter. Down river on The Elk goes from Pineville to Noel.

Choosing a put-in outfitter in Pineville will usually get you on the water earlier, however you have to wait at the take-out for pickup. I often choose put-in outfitters because kayak photography works best early in the morning and the river offers more shade.

Choosing a take-out outfitter in Noel means you have to wait for the shuttle to get on the water in the morning, but you will probably take-out at or near the parking spot for your vehicle.  This allows you to proceed immediately to the nearest restaurant with no delay.

Noel, Missouri

Eagles Nest Campground and Canoe Rentals
417-475-3326 • 1-800-843-7080
53 Eagle Nest Lane • Noel, MO 64854

Elk River Floats / Wayside Campground
 417-475-3230 • 417-475-3561
P.O. Box 546 (Jct. Hwys 59 & 90) • Noel, MO 64854
(Tested and Approved)

River Ranch Camp & Canoe Resort  
1-800-951-6121 • 417-475-6121
101 River Drive, Hwy 59 N • Noel, MO 64854

Private kayak shuttle: 1 person kayak for $10 or a 2 person kayak $15.  Great price!

Shady Beach Family Campground  
1-800-745-6481 • 417-475-6483
P.O. Box 473, Hwy 59 N • Noel, MO 64854

FYI - Shady Beach Campground at Mt. Shira is the takeout for the Big Elk Camp - 8-mile trip.

Two Sons Floats & Camping  
1-800-693-1892 • 417-475-4774
15806 Hwy 59
Noel, Missouri 64854

Offers camping, plus rental of canoes, kayaks, rafts & tubes. Shop for souvenirs, snacks and more while you enjoy the large swimming beach. No boat rentals after 2 P.M.  Open from mid April till about the 1st of October, depending on weather & customer demand.


Pineville, Missouri

Big Elk Camp & Canoe • 
Reservations: 1-800-813-0907
402 South Hwy 71 • Pineville, MO 64856
(Tested and Approved in 2008 & 2009)

Big Elk Camp & Canoe will shuttle privately owned canoes for $30 each. Pricey, but they did a decent job. Sadly, they don't open until 9:30am on Sundays.

Kozy Kamp • 
P.O. Box 449, Hwy 71 • Pineville, MO 64856

Kozy Kamp does not allow the launching of private vessels nor does it offer shuttle service for private boats.

Three River Campground LLC • 
Reservations: 1-800-496-3261
P.O. Box 697 • Pineville, MO 64856


Nothing cools you down faster than a spring fed river or a crisp clear lake on a hot Oklahoma day. Check out our Oklahoma Canoe and Kayak Paddling Page to learn more! For more timely information subscribe to our blog.

...Oklahoma Float Trip Outfitters List


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