1. The Black, Meramec, Courtois, Huzzah, Niangua, White, North Fork, Eleven Point, Elk, Current and Jacks Fork are among the Ozark streams perfect for float trips. The Missouri Canoe & Floaters Association lists outfitters for those and other rivers at www.missouricanoe.org.
2. Eight to 10 miles is a good length for a leisurely day on the river. With a stop for lunch on a gravel bar, an eight-mile float should take four to five hours.
3. Wear the right shoes, a hat and sun screen. A tight-fitting water shoe keeps out gravel and has a sole with protection for short hikes. Do not wear flip-flops; you’ll end up losing one or both.
4. Missouri law prohibits glass containers and foam coolers on the water. Coolers must fasten shut to avoid spilling the contents. Keep everything in your boat tied down in case you dump. Children must wear floatation vests.
5. The Current and Jacks Fork are federal rivers as part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, a national park. They have restrictions on loud stereos, cliff jumping, rope swings, air horns, Mardi Gras beads and dry ice bombs.
6. Alcohol is permitted on all rivers. State law bans beer bongs and containers holding four or more gallons of alcohol. Federal restrictions ban beer bongs, kegs and Jell-O shots.
7. Outfitters hand out mesh bags for aluminum cans and other litter. Help keep the rivers clean by picking up debris left behind by more thoughtless boaters.
8. You may see bald eagles, kingfishers, great blue herons, beaver, mink, otter and turtles on an Ozark float trip. Most of the snakes are harmless banded water snakes. All wildlife is protected; leave it alone
9. A float trip is not a license to party. Law enforcement officials watch for drug us, underage drinking and nudity. Most floaters are on the river to enjoy nature. Respect others by controlling your noise.
10. If you want to float with a crowd, go on summer Saturdays. On most other days, you’ll have the river to yourself. Spring and fall floats are the best. A warm winter day can be special, but bring a dry bag with a change of clothes in case of a mishap.