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Looking for secluded 4-6 day kayak camping trip with lots of opportunity of smallmouth


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Looking for secluded 4-6 day kayak camping trip with lots of opportunity of smallmouth. 4 of us make a trip every year or so and want to make a MO trip. We have done some very private waterways where we didn't see another human or manmade structure for several days, with the exception of an occasional RR bridge. We are very experienced with packing all we need and camping with hammocks wherever we can find suitable trees. I was looking at the upper end of the Osage near Schell City and possibly even putting in on the Marais des Cygnes River first. For isolation that seems like one of the best locations, however, every image I see the river is muddy, stained, and has dirt banks. Most of the info I find describes largemouth, carp, paddle fish, and catfish but leaves off smallies and rock bass. I think we may need to look at another river. What suggestions do y'all have?  

Ideal conditions are clear water, plentiful fish with a focus on smallmouth and rock bass (of course other species would be bonus), private primitive camping locations at least every 12 miles, and minimal chance of seeing other paddlers/fisherman. We will likely be coming in mid April when temps are still a bit cooler and hopefully the waterways are less popular. 

 

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Not sure how you came up with the Osage. It has 20foot high mud banksit's whole length and little flow to speak of.That many days I would consider the Buffalo putting in at rush and floating to the White River. There should be some threads on here you couldfind. Where are you coming from?

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Gasconade has the length you need for a long float like that and a good smallmouth population. Put in at Gasconade hills resort on the upper stretch and take out at Riddle Bridge Access it’s 60 miles for 10 miles a day if you do a 6 day trip.  The only issue I would see is leaving a vehicle at Riddle Bridge would be it’s sketchy and locals are known to break into vehicles left at accesses. It is a relatively short shuttle though at about a half hour. 

-- Jim

If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there'd be a shortage of fishing poles. -- Doug Larson

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Gasconade, Eleven Point, Big Piney, Buffalo...

Lots of places to choose from. None of them are going to be totally secluded but they do offer good fishing and at that time of the year there won’t be a ton of other people around. 
 

Some of the smaller rivers you would be better planning around 8 miles per day just depending on how you fish. You can either shoot for large distances each day, cover a ton of water, and catch lots of fish. Or you can do shorter distances, relax a bit, and still catch lots of fish. 

“Anybody opens their mouth, gonna get a bullet. Anybody moves a little weird, little sudden, gonna get a bullet. Not a warning. Not a question. A bullet.”  - Major Marquis Warren

 

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13 hours ago, JRich said:

Looking for secluded 4-6 day kayak camping trip with lots of opportunity of smallmouth. 4 of us make a trip every year or so and want to make a MO trip. We have done some very private waterways where we didn't see another human or manmade structure for several days, with the exception of an occasional RR bridge. We are very experienced with packing all we need and camping with hammocks wherever we can find suitable trees. I was looking at the upper end of the Osage near Schell City and possibly even putting in on the Marais des Cygnes River first. For isolation that seems like one of the best locations, however, every image I see the river is muddy, stained, and has dirt banks. Most of the info I find describes largemouth, carp, paddle fish, and catfish but leaves off smallies and rock bass. I think we may need to look at another river. What suggestions do y'all have?  

Ideal conditions are clear water, plentiful fish with a focus on smallmouth and rock bass (of course other species would be bonus), private primitive camping locations at least every 12 miles, and minimal chance of seeing other paddlers/fisherman. We will likely be coming in mid April when temps are still a bit cooler and hopefully the waterways are less popular. 

 

                 I second what Curtise said about the Marais des Cygnes. That water can and does produce some fantastic fishing in the early Spring but only once in a blue moon do you catch it right. Walleye, Whites, Hybrids and crappie. Again you have to catch it perfect during the spring spawning run. I have a love hate relationship with that stretch of water.

"We have met the enemy and it is us",

Pogo

   If you compete with your fellow anglers, you become their competitor, If you help them you become their friend"

Lefty Kreh

    " Never display your knowledge, you only share it"

Lefty Kreh

         "Eat more bass and there will be more room for walleye to grow!"

BilletHead

    " One thing in life is for sure. If you are careful you can straddle the barbed wire fence but make one mistake and you will be hurting"

BilletHead

  P.S. "May your fences be short or hope you have long legs"

BilletHead

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Elk fork and/or Middle fork of the Salt are rivers you seldom hear anything about because they are not considered "Ozark rivers", but you can pretty much check off everything on your list.  

If you don't like what you're seeing.....just round another bend and you'll probably be pleasantly surprised.   Slow muddy pools, then gravel, then slab rock and boulders with faster current...then back to mud/clay for a bit.  

Not at all a "high crime area" either.  I grew up there and don't get back nearly as often as I'd like.   LM, SM, White bass, Walleye, Catfish, Bluegill, White Crappie, Gar, Carp..... But no Goggle-eye, no spotted bass, no hybrid stripers, and NO Asian carp 👍

Odds are you won't see another floater, and if you do they'll be friendly.   

Oh, and be sure to throw something Yellow 💛

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We did the Lower Buffalo, Dillards to the White, 33+ miles in 4 days/3 nights during early Oct. and only saw two other people until we got to the White. The only two people were getting out at Rush, so we had the last 24 miles to ourselves. Lots of great spots to camp and we caught plenty of fish and saw plenty of wildlife. Our trip report and another are on the Buffalo River topic under trip report Rush to Shipps. You could float from farther up river, Maybe Gilbert to Shipps for a 6 day trip at that time of the year and not really see anybody if you go Monday - Sat. With Saturday being in the wilderness section where there are no roads or access past Rush. It is best to float down the White to Shipps, about 5.3 miles, it only takes about another hour. It is better than trying to paddle upstream for a half mile if they are flowing much water. The store at gilbert does a shuttle and your truck get dropped off the day you plan to finish, Not sure on their price. We used Buffalo River Float service when we put in at Dillards, $80 I think.

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Some good suggestions already given.  Mid-April is usually about the time that smallmouth fishing gets fairly easy...the water temps have warmed up to around 60 degrees and the fish will hit just about anything, though they will just be beginning to spawn most years. (Keep in mind that catch and keep bass season is closed then; you can catch and release, but I suggest using fast moving lures and not targeting them on the beds.) But April is one of the iffiest times to plan a long float, because of frequent heavy rains that may raise the river to dangerous levels.  It's the best time to go high, farther upstream than normal floating sections, though on some streams you can go too high and the fishing won't be good.

I don't get the fixation some people have with using hammocks on Ozark streams.  The best, and really the ONLY places to legally camp outside of established campgrounds, is on the gravel bars.  You DON'T want to go up and camp in the woods.  For one thing, once you get off the gravel bars you're on private property that you don't have a right to be on.  For another, gravel bars are bug-free, and that includes ticks and chiggers, which will be active by then.  But most gravel bars have no trees.  Sure, you can maybe find a gravel area that might have some big sycamores growing on it, but such places are not common.  And otherwise, you will have to take a frame for your hammock so you can set it up without using trees.  Technically, all gravel bars on Ozark streams are okay to camp on, even though the landowner actually owns them.  But some landowners won't agree, and think they have the right to run you off.  My suggestion is to never choose a gravel bar that has a house or cabin within sight of it, or a lane coming down onto it, or other signs of frequent use like lawn chairs or bbq grills,  or a road that you can see it from.  And especially in the spring, pay close attention to easy escape routes off the bar if it comes a gullywasher.  Ozark streams are known for flash flooding, and it can happen if there is a rain upstream from you even if you never get a drop of rain.  Make sure the gravel bar doesn't have a low spot on the back of it that separates it from the high bank, and scout out exactly where you would quickly drag yourself, your gear, and your boats up that high bank in the middle of the night if the river starts rising.

You didn't say how you planned to get your vehicles shuttled, but I assume multiple vehicles and self-shuttling.  As somebody mentioned, not all public accesses are safe to leave a vehicle for multiple days.  Some of them are still just road right of ways, and even the Conservation Department accesses have had crime problems occasionally.  So as you're planning your float, you might want to find a campground or canoe rental place that will shuttle you or at least let you leave your vehicles there and let that be your take-out.  You might also think about knocking on a door or two at the nearest houses to your put-in and take-out and ask them if you can leave a vehicle parked at their place somehow.

April is a good month for solitude IF you go during the week.  I'd plan on putting in on a Monday and taking out on Friday.  Weekends in April with good weather can be a zoo on many rivers, but most of the kids are in school (hopefully) during the week.  So I'd plan for five days and maybe 45-50 miles.  That's short enough that you have a lot of choices.  

Here is my list of the MOST popular streams, those that have multiple campgrounds and canoe/kayak liveries...these are the ones where you will least likely find solitude, so if you have to do it over a weekend, avoid them:

Meramec, Huzzah, Courtois, Big Piney, Niangua, James, Elk, North Fork, Eleven Point, Current, Jacks Fork, Black in Missouri.  Buffalo, Crooked, Mulberry, Kings in Arkansas.  But even they will be okay if you can go during the week in April.

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Many places, Big Piney, Gasconade, Jacks Fork, Buffallo. Use an outfitter to drop you in, store your vehicles, and drop one the take out on get away day. You do not want to leave vehicles for an extended period. Rarely have problems, but OOS'er tags invite them.

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