Float the White River Through the Ozarks

Of all the rivers that wind their way through southwest Missouri, the White River reigns for its impact on the Ozarks in Missouri and Arkansas.

by Sony Hocklander

Jun 2024

North Fork of the White River
Photo by Josh Beecher

Of all the rivers running through southwest Missouri, the White River reigns for its impact on the Ozarks in Missouri and Arkansas. The damming of this river and its watershed tributaries literally shaped the land and lakes we enjoy today, especially Table Rock, Taneycomo and Bull Shoals near Branson, and Beaver Lake in Arkansas. That also includes Norfork Lake (formed by damming the White River’s North Fork in Arkansas. Most are border lakes straddling Missouri and Arkansas, and all are great spots, along with the White River itself, to boat, swim, fish, camp and hike.

Boating and Floating

Boating on Table Rock—whether pleasure-cruising, waterskiing or bass fishing—is a lake life summer staple. If you don’t own a boat–rent! The lake is lined with small resorts that offer rentals, as does Table Rock’s State Park Marina, where you’ll find ski boats, bass boats, pontoons and WaveRunners, plus tubes and skis. Or book a guided Catamaran Cruise. Find similar amenities at the other White River Watershed lakes.

Fishing on the White River

Anglers choice: Whether fishing on the White River or one of its lakes, anglers have options! Fly- and spin-cast on the river near any of its dams, or at Lake Taneycomo, to land cold-water trout. Or fish for bass, crappie, walleye and catfish in warmer river and lake waters.

Camping Out on the White River

Summer is the best time for lakeside camping and there are endless locations. But you better book early! Popular Corp of Engineers campgrounds at Table Rock that fill up fast include Mill Creek, Old Highway 86, Cricket Creek, Indian Point and Baxter, as does Table Rock State Park.

Camp, Fish and Float All in One

One of the most versatile parks to camp, fish, boat and paddle is the Bull Shoals-White River State Park in Arkansas, which straddles the lake and river. Find a great overlook of the dam at the visitors center and visit Big Spring in the White River campground where fly fishing is the sport of choice.