Float Missouri's North Fork

Take the plunge and enjoy floating 12 miles of spring fed, gorgeous scenery on the North Fork in Missouri.

By Vivian Wheeler, Nevada Moenning, Sony Hocklander

Jun 2024

Canoe or float the North Fork in Missouri
Photo by Chuck Travers

When summer starts to get too hot, cool down in the spring-fed North Fork. Forming in Texas County in the Mark Twain National Forest, the North Fork of the White River offers floating options for beginning and experienced paddlers alike. Newbies can easily float the calmer sections, while those looking for a bit of adventure can play in the riffles and falls.  

The upper section of the North Fork is less crowded, but not quite as scenic. The most popular section of the North Fork runs from State Highway 14 to just below US Highway 160 in Tecumseh, Missouri. Here you’ll find several large springs, idyllic scenery and very few signs of civilization—although the river can get crowded in the spring and summer months.

Twin Bridges on the North Fork in Missouri
Photo by Chuck Travers

When the water is low, pass below the towering Twin Bridges.

Blue Spring on the North Fork in Missouri
Photo by Chuck Travers

Be sure to pull aside for a dip in the chilly yet refreshing Blue Spring.

An ideal day float in this section of the river is the 12-mile stretch from Hammond Mill to Sunburst Ranch. Shortly after you put in at Hammond Mill, you’ll come across Blue Spring on your left. The spring is surrounded by a semicircle of small bluffs, and it’s easily spotted from the river. Paddle your canoe into the spring and take a dip in the 40-degree water. The water here bubbles up from the ground and creates a stunning turquoise blue color you’re more likely to find on a tropical beach than on a river in the Ozarks. The spring is a popular jumping spot, but be sure to check for rocks in the water, as they can be hard to spot. 

Farther down the river you’ll pass McKee Bridge, which can be dangerous when the water is high, so stay alert. Toward the end of your float you’ll have to navigate The Falls, a 2- to 3-foot rock ledge, but if you stay to the right you should be fine. Once you see Blair Bridge, you’re less than a half-mile from the takeout.

North Fork Float Trip Recommendations

Hammond Mill to Sunburst Ranch | Length: 12 miles | Difficulty: Moderate

More About the North Fork

By Sony Hocklander
If you love to paddle and fish, head with friends or family to the North Fork of the White River in Southeast Missouri.

A Blue Ribbon Trout Area from Rainbow Spring to Patrick Bridge, the North Fork lures anglers from all around the Ozarks. Whether fishing from the bank, wading the stream or casting from a kayak, you’ll find lots of trout thriving in this river’s cold water.

Guided Trout Fishing on the North Fork

Not sure where to find the best trout spot? Book a guide through River of Life Farm, located along the banks of the Blue Ribbon area. Your guide will take you out on the river, provide equipment, teach you how to use it and even cook you lunch.

Visit One of the Springs on the North Fork

The North Fork—especially popular with paddlers along its lower section—is fed by nine major springs, some of which can be accessed while floating. That includes Blue Spring, which emits seven million gallons of water daily. Paddle to the spring just downstream from Hammond Camp or reach it by hiking a short trail from the North Fork Campground. Another spring, Althea, can be accessed via a short path from Patrick Bridge.

Riverside photo of the North Fork river
Photo by Josh Beecher