One of the best fishing streams in the state, the Niangua also has the advantage of being closely associated with Bennett Spring State Park and one of the Conservation Department’s trout hatcheries.
Those who prefer floating to trout fishing in the park often make the park their headquarters while floating the upper sections of the river or the section immediately below the park.
However, the river itself provides many fine campsites for put-in-and-go type floats. In high water, a float could be made from as high as Hwy. M, but the river above Hwy. 32 is seldom floatable. This river is usually crowded on hot, summer weekends.
• Difficulty: I and II.
• Gradients: General – 4.6; Hwy. M to Hwy. 32 – 6; to Hwy. K -P Bridge – 4.2; to Bennett Spring State Park – 4.1; to Prosperine (Mountain Creek) Access – 3.5; to Mill Creek – 5.2; below Tunnel Dam – about 3.
• Counties: Dallas, Laclede, Camden.
Niangua River –
• 0.0 State Hwy. 32 Bridge.
• 1.3 Big John Access. Low-water bridge. Good canoe/kayak access. Off Hwy. 32 and County Road 32-79 to County Road K-161.
• 3.4 Greasy Creek on left. Lower few miles sometimes floatable.
• 3.9 River divides. Left channel shatter, but inspect.
• 4.8 Watermill Bridge, offHwy. DO.
• 8.4 Durington Creek on left.
• 12.2 Williams Ford Access, off MM, to County Road MM-123 to County Road K-143. Poor canoe/kayak access due to high embankment.
• 13.9 Indian Creek on left.
• 16.2 Hwy. K-P Bridge. Four Mile Creek on right.
• 20.1 Cave Creek on right.
• 22.3 Moon Valley Access, on County Road 00-126. Gravel ramp.
• 23.8 Fort Niangua private access and campground on left.
• 26.5 Cat Hollow on left.
• 29.0 Spring branch on left.
• 29.5 Bennett Spring Branch on right. No access. Outfitters are available, adjacent to the park. The spring, 1.5 miles up the branch, is sixth largest in the state. A large trout harchery provides fishing for rainbows. Daily trout tag required.
• 29.8 Hwy. 64 Bridge. Spring branch on left. No access.
• 30.2 Bennett Spring Access on left off Hwy. 64.
• 30.5 Danceyard Creek on right.
• 35.0 For next two miles there are several private accesses and campgrounds on left.
• 36.2 Spring branch on right. River turns abruptly left along bluff.
• 36.5 Barclay Conservation Area and access, on left, off Hwy. 64 and County Road 64-152.
• 37.5 Prater Spring Branch on left. Spring 0.4 mile up branch.
• 38.0 Low Gap. Fast rocky riffle area.
• 38.2 Ho Humm private access and campground.
• 38.3 Old bridge piers.
• 40.0 Gilbettson Ford. No access.
• 40.8 Mountain Creek on right. Prosperine Access, at mouth of creek on County Road AA-980. Gravel bar. Private campground next to access. Good swimming hole just upstream from mouth of creek. Rocky riffle below mouth of creek.
• 42.0 Indian Grave Point on right.
• 44.0 Guthrie Bluff on right.
• 44.9 Oldham’s private access.
• 47.4 Smith Ford. No access.
• 48.0 Blue Spring (also called Big Blue Spring) on right. A canoe can be paddled 200 feet up the branch to the spring. Private resort.
• 50.7 Mint Spring branch on left. 53.9 Jakes Creek on left. Lead Mine Conservation Area. Poor canoe/kayak access due to embankment.
• 54.3 Herrick Ford Access. No ford here, but old mill dam site produces a fast shoot. Gravel bar provides good access.
• 56.1 Berry Bluff Conservation Area and access on right. Mill Creek on left.
• 57.1 Berry Bluff, on right, particularly beautiful in fall colors.
• 59.1 AB Creek on left.
• 61.1 Chapel Bluff, on left, is mostly unwooded.
• 61.9 Lake Niangua backs water to this point.
• 63.3 Woolsey (Wilsey) Creek on right. Private access road at creek mouth.
• 63.8 Private access on left.
• 65.3 Private cabins on east side of lake.
• 66.0 Tunnel Dam. Public access and boat ramp on west side. However, there is often no water running in the river between the dam and power house, a distance of about 6 miles. At the dam it is only 0.2 mile across the ridge to the other end of this river meander, but it is no place to portage. End trip here unless water is flowing below the dam. The power house is located on the notth side of the ridge because the original tailrace used a cave that perforated the ridge. It is now replaced by an artificial tunnel.
If the “dry channel” section is floatable, the following distances apply:
• 68.0 Ford (slab). South of Edith off Hwy. U. Good access.
• 72.2 Power house on right. Power line. Area dangerous when water is coming through turbines. Use caution.
• 73.5 Power line crossing.
• 74.7 Rodger Ford may be reached from both north and south sides. No crossing here.
• 77.0 Lake of the Ozarks may back water to this point.
• 79.5 Access near mouth of Bank Branch, reached by paddling along right shore of lake.