The Extensive Guide to Floating

The Guide

Floating and How It Works 
What to Eat 
What to Pack  
Etiquette & Safety 
Tips & Suggestions 
Floating Trips & Outfitters Directory

What is floating?

Floating is one of the most enjoyable experiences in the United States. For the uninitiated, it is the act of cruising down a slow moving river by way of canoe, kayak, raft, or tube. A trip normally involves friends and family, good food, and a relaxing atmosphere. In fact, the goal for some is to paddle as little as possible. It is popular in states like Missouri and Texas, but can be found in many other areas of the U.S. as well.

How It Works

The floating season usually begins late May/early June and extends to September. A float trip can be as little as a few hours or as long as a week. The average trip is around 5-7 miles in distance and is generally considered an all-day float. The most convenient way to plan a trip is to go through a local rafting outfitter because they take care of all your floating needs. They will provide your raft, life jackets, paddles, trash bags, and transportation to and from the river. A full day on the river is usually followed by a relaxing night at the local campground.

The Planning

Floating is a great time, but the fun can be derailed with a poorly planned trip. Book your rentals and camping spots in advance, especially on holiday weekends. Plan your meals, what you’re bringing, and your transportation well ahead of time. Communicate with your group so you don’t bring duplicate items and come up with a plan B in case of rain or flooding.

What to eat and drink?

Watermelon, Strawberries, Pineapple. All these fruits contain high concentrations of water and will help keep you hydrated. You should still bring plenty of water, but these are a perfect addition to your lunch and a great snack, too!

PB&J’s & Ready-Made Sandwiches. PB&Js and sandwiches are simple to make and provide a quick and easy meal. Make a giant sub sandwich before your day on the water. Slice your sandwich ahead of your trip and easily handout to your group for a quick bite on the water.

Burgers n’ Brats. Grilling gets a little tougher on the water. However, it is possible for those willing to bring the necessary equipment. Make and season your burgers the night before the trip. Bring ketchup and mustard packets instead of big containers and don’t forget the charcoal! If you’re tight on space, ditch the BBQ grill, but bring the grate. Dig a hole on the river bank or find large rocks nearby to create a makeshift pit. It works perfect for your grilling needs and saves you space in your canoe or raft.

Water. Bring enough clean water for a full day’s float. Consider a LifeStraw if worried about running out.

Alcohol. Some rivers do allow adult beverages on the water. Be advised, many float trips have been ruined by it. You may want to save the alcohol consumption for the late-night campfire.

Snacks. Lunch is important to a successful day on the water. However, it’s not always convenient to pull over on a river bank to have a quick bite. Take some snacks to hold ya over until break time. Granola bars, jerky, and trail-mix are great option and have sealed packaging to keep from getting wet!

What to pack?

Towel. You’re on the water, expect to get wet.

Cash. Some rivers have concessions available during the day. If you do come across a place on the river selling food or drinks it is most likely cash only.

Waterproof Phone Case. A waterproof case/bag is a cheap solution to take pictures from your phone in a semi-safe way.

Sunglasses. Protect the eyes. Look cool.

Sunscreen. Nobody is immune from the sun on an all-day float trip.

Hat. A good addition to the sunscreen.

Water Shoes. Flip-flops should be left at home. Water shoes, Tevas, and Chacos work best.

Swimsuit. A no brainer. You’ll be wearing it all day. Don't forget it.

Trash Bags. Your rafting outfitter may provide some floating-specific trash bags, but bring a couple just in case.

First-Aid Kit. Hope you don't need to use it, but bring it along anyways.

Straps & Bungies. Tie down your bags, trash, and coolers. It will prevent your valuables from floating away if you tip.

Dry Bag. Best for your valuables, towel, and keys.

orange dry bag


Some more helpful tips to make your day as stress-free and enjoyable as possible.

  • Expect to get wet.

  • Double-bag/waterproof your food.

  • Tie down all valuables to your canoe or kayak. If you tip your items won’t go floating downstream.

  • Secure your cooler lid with a strap to ensure food and drinks don’t go swimming away in the event of a capsize.

  • If possible, bring an extra paddle. Sometimes paddles get lost during swift sections. You don’t want to be on the river without a paddle.

  • Print out directions or save your route offline. Service is poor in many floating areas. Play it safe and have directions and information which doesn’t rely on cellular service.

  • Don't make post-float plans. A full day on the water will wear you out. It's best to stay the night at the nearby campground.

  • Put everything you don't want to get wet in a dry bag.

  • Have a pre-float and post-float meeting spot (i.e. campsite, parking lot).

  • If not camping, plan a safe ride home.

  • Check the weather and the river levels before you head down.

Etiquette & Safety

Don’t Bring Glass or Styrofoam

Glass is never a good idea around water and it’s strictly prohibited on most riverways. Stick to aluminum cans and plastic drinkware to stay hydrated! Styrofoam beverage coolers are not allowed either.

Don’t Leave Your Trash

Leaving your trash on the river bank or tossing it in the water is strictly prohibited and hurts mother nature! Tie a trash bag to your raft to avoid littering. There will most likely be dumpsters at the end of your float to dispose of your trash.

Don’t Float Sideways Down Stream

Keep your watercraft parallel with the flow of the river. Floating down river sideways is dangerous, primarily in canoes and kayaks; Doing so can cause your watercraft to capsize much easier, especially if caught on tree roots or rocks.

Be Cautious When Stopping on River Banks

It’s only natural to want to pull over and take a break while on the river. When stopping at an empty gravel bar or river bank be weary of privately owned land. Some trespassing laws prohibit pulling over on privately owned river banks. Look for signs identifying state parks or private land. Avoid the banks with no trespassing signs.

Don’t Tie Your Rafts Together

Tying your raft to your buddies’ raft is an all too common theme among floaters. Floating down the river next to your friends may seem harmless, but can cause safety concerns for yourself and those around you. Rafts/canoes tied together make it difficult to steer and are at the mercy of wherever the current directs them. Avoid tying rafts together to maintain control and safely navigate downstream. The best way to safely socialize with your group is to take a break on an empty gravel bar or river bank.

Respect Your Fellow Floaters and River-Goers

You will see plenty of floaters and other groups on the river banks. Everyone is out there to have a fun, enjoyable time. Give a friendly wave to all around and be careful to avoid fishing lines and other boats!

Two Rules to Live By

1. Leave it better than when you found it.

2. Don’t bring what you’re not willing to lose.

Floating Trips & Outfitters

A quick list of some of our favorite floats. We have also included a directory of most rafting outfitters in every state here.

Float the Current River (near Salem, MO)

Rafting Outfitter: Jadwin Canoe Rental

Suggested Trip: Cedar Groves to Aker’s Ferry (8 Miles, 4-6 hours)

Trip Attractions: Medlock Spring Cave, Welch Spring

Directions from Pine Valley - 1 hour trip

Float the Jack’s Fork River (near Eminence, MO)

Rafting Outfitter: Windy’s Canoe

Suggested Trip: Alley Spring to Eminence (7 miles, 3-5 hours)

Trip Attractions: Alley Spring 

Directions from Pine Valley - 1.5 hour trip

Float the Black River (near Lesterville, MO)

Rafting Outfitter: Black River Outfitters

Suggested Trip: Black River Outfitters to Bearcat Getaway (7 miles, 4-6 hours)

Trip Attractions: Live Music, Fishing

Directions from Pine Valley - less than an hour trip

We hope you enjoyed the floating guide. Please reach out to us for suggestions or concerns. We are always open to improving the guide.