Float Missouri's Big Piney River

Big Piney River is relatively quiet and offers respite from the summer heat.

By Vivian Wheeler

May 2019

Canoe or float down Big Piney River in Missouri
Photo by Josh BeecherEscape to the peaceful serenity of the Big Piney River.

The Big Piney is a great river for beginning floaters, families or anyone looking for an easy, leisurely float filled with peaceful scenery. Fed by numerous springs, the Big Piney is typically floatable all summer, except in very dry years. Along the upper and middle parts of the river you’ll see limestone bluffs topped with pine trees, and probably some wildlife, too. Deer, turkeys, otters, beavers, minks, raccoons, muskrats and a variety of birds live along the water’s edge here, so keep your eyes out. The Big Piney forms near Cabool in Texas County and runs north for 114 miles, 90 miles of which are accessible and floatable. A good portion of the river runs through Mark Twain National Park, which means much of the land on the river is undeveloped and undisturbed. Dense forests line the banks, and you’ll find few signs of civilization on your trip. The Big Piney is one of the least crowded rivers on our list, and because it tends to have good water flow throughout the year, this is the river to float if your only option is a weekend in the middle of summer. In fact, Jennifer Tarrons, co-owner of Boiling Springs Resort, says even on weekends there’s a chance you might not see another soul.   

Although most of the river is floatable, we’re particularly fond of the stretch between Sandy Shoals and Boiling Springs. At 8 miles long, this float is super easy and ends near Boiling Spring, which is one of the highlights of the Big Piney. Boiling Springs stays a cool 50 degrees all year long and pumps out 10 million gallons of water a day. For many, it has become a rite of passage to jump into the clear, cold spring at the end of their float. If you do decide to go for a dip in the springs, you’ll be joining a time-honored tradition. Native American artifacts have been found surrounding the spring, and it’s thought that Boiling Springs has been a popular swimming hole for hundreds of years (check out other popular swimming holes here)

Make it easy on yourself and stay at Boiling Springs Resort. You can float right back to your campsite, and you won’t have to worry about meeting a bus by a specific time. As long as you make it back by dark, you’re in good shape. Another good reason to stay at Boiling Springs Resort is the $20 shuttle to Piney River Brewing that runs on the weekend. While you’re at the brewery, don’t forget to pick up a six pack of beer to enjoy on your float. We like the aptly named Float Trip Ale.

Big Piney River Float Trip Recommendations

Sandy Shoals to Boiling Springs Resort | Length: 8 miles | Difficulty: Easy

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The Ozarks has an abundance of rivers that crisscross the region. Check out the best float trips in Missouri.