Full-service River Resorts
Dawt Mill offers canoe, kayak, tube and raft rentals, plus lodging, dining and a fascinating history. Dawt is still a working grist mill, and demonstrations are given regularly throughout the summer season. The dam and waterfall at Dawt are a sight to see, and some folks like to brag about “shooting” the dam; however, this is strongly discouraged—especially in a rental canoe. One of the most popular floats for Dawt guests is Blair Bridge to Dawt Mill.
Lodging options range from romantic cabins overlooking the river to newly remodeled suites at the Cotton Gin Inn. Campsites are also available. Enjoy fine dining at the GristMill Restaurant and listen to live music at the Gravel Bar, where swimsuits are welcome on the deck. Grab a sandwich or an old-fashioned hand-dipped ice cream cone at Sawyer’s Deli.
The Mill Store carries souvenirs, gifts and some signature food items; river essentials can be found in the General Store. Visit dawtmill.com or call 417-284-3540.
River of Life Farm offers float trips and world class trout fishing guide services year-round. But it’s the lodging at River of Life that gains a lot of attention. Called Tree House Cabins, these houses are literally situated high off the ground among the trees, giving guests a spectacular view. One of the newest cabins here—the River Lighthouse—is so high, in fact, that it is not recommended for children younger than 12 (or anyone with a fear of heights, for that matter). Catch a glimpse of eagles as they soar up and down the stream each day.
If fishing the North Fork interests you, you’ve come to the right place. The guide service is stellar, and as a guest at River of Life, you’ll have exclusive access to a mile-long stretch of the river to wade out and fish in the Blue Ribbon Trout Area that begins just upstream at Rainbow Spring. Ask about in-room therapeutic massages, horse-drawn wagon rides and catering. Visit riveroflifefarm.com or call 417-261-7777.
Sunburst Ranch boasts two miles of riverfront property that is great for fishing or swimming. Here you’ll find canoes, kayaks, tubes and rafts, plus an array of lodging options. Some of the lodging options are on the property, and two more are downstream. The RiverHouse is the largest house on the property. It’s located on the upper end of Sunburst Ranch and sleeps 14 with room for tents out back. The Log Cabin sleeps eight and is tucked away up on the hillside—nice if you like a little more privacy.
The Lodge at Trout Island is Sunburst’s newest lodging. Located just a mile downstream from the ranch on the right, The Lodge is a 4,000-square-foot home overlooking the river. It’ll sleep up to 14 guests. The Landing is located about seven miles downstream from Sunburst on the left just before Dawt Mill, and it sleeps nine. There is a private gravel bar here that also serves as a take-out point for folks staying at Sunburst. You can start your float at Sunburst Ranch and take out at the Landing, hitting Althea Spring along the way
Campsites and sleeper cabins are also available at the ranch. Two of the most popular floats for folks staying at Sunburst are Hammond Mill to Sunburst (12 miles) and Sunburst to The Landing (7 miles). Visit sunburstranchcanoe.com or call 417-284-3443.
Pettit Canoe Rental offers canoe, kayak, tube and raft rentals, as well as camping and sleeper cabins. It is located near Blair Bridge, south of Dora in Ozark County. Visit pettitscanoerental.com or call 417-284-3290.
Twin Bridges Canoe & Campground offers canoes, rafts and single and tandem kayaks, as well as camping, cabins, general store and catering services. They can accommodate short, half-day floats up to several-day floats. Twin Bridges is located near West Plains. Visit twinbridgescanoe.com or call 417-256-7507.
Riverside Canoe Rental, in Caulfield, offers canoe and kayak rentals on the North Fork River and also runs shuttles to Bryant Creek on Saturdays (see more about the Bryant, page 83). Also on-site is a campground and motel, Riverfront Store and some weekend food service. Visit riversidecanoe.com or call 417-284-3043.
The Falls (historically known as “Horseshoe Falls”) is a horseshoe-shaped series of rock ledges and boulders that drop off two to three feet at a time into the main channel. It’s best navigated by paddling to the right of the largest rock or staying to the far left. Many a canoe has flipped here, so be cautious. The Falls is located at River of Life Farm.
North Fork Spring is only accessible from the river and is located just upstream from Rainbow Spring on the right. If you don’t know it’s there you might actually miss the spring itself, as it bubbles up out of a gravel bar. The gravel bar is a particularly great spot to stop and swim or have a picnic. It’s also a good camping spot if you’re looking for a place to float in and spend the night.
Dawt Mill is a full-service river resort on the North Fork with lodging, dining and outfitter services. It’s a historic site with a working grist mill. You can tour the mill and see demonstrations daily. Visit dawtmill.com or call 417-284-3540.