Contact Info
MNRR Water Trail
414 E. Clark Street
Science Center
Vermillion, SD 57069




The following information has been modified from the National Park Service MNRR 59-mile Reach Guide.

Paddlers on the Missouri River need to be well prepared for the adventure. Only experienced paddlers should plan to be on the river. The quickly changing weather, long distances between launch sites, and the current can create major problems for novice paddlers.

Gavin’s Point Dam regulates water flow on this reach of the river. The river channel follows a winding course. There are many snags and sandbars. Some of these are just under the water's surface and require caution. Prevailing southerly summertime winds can make this trip difficult. It is important to wear a life jacket at all times.

This segment of the river has a wildness to it that is nonexistent on the channelized river below Ponca State Park. The river is a series of meanders, chutes, and backwaters dominated by sandbars with an occasional heavily-timbered island. The river channel varies in width from a quarter to three quarters of a mile with an average width of a half mile. The depth of the channel, or thalweg, varies from a few feet to twenty feet deep. Side channels may be just inches deep while scours can create forty- to fifty-foot deep holes.

The floodplain varies in width from two miles at Gavin’s Point Dam to as much as twelve miles below the confluence with the James River. Grass plains and farmland rise above the South Dakota side; the river often runs hard against high, wooded bluffs on the Nebraska side. The unique geology--orange and white chalk and gray shale--is often exposed where the river has carved away at the bluffs.

The river is dotted with sandbars, islands and backwater marshes that are havens for waterfowl, shore birds and other wildlife. Birders may want to stop and explore these areas, but they must remember that most of the land on the Nebraska side is privately owned and permission is required for access. On the South Dakota side, private property extends down to the mean high water level. In a few stretches the state borders are still indefinite.

Two bird species are of particular importance on the Missouri, the least tern and the piping plover. These shorebirds are on the Endangered Species List and use the sandbars for nesting and raising young. These birds are protected under the Endangered Species Act, and it is unlawful to harass or disturb them. During the nesting season biologists post signs and use twine to delineate the nesting colonies. Please do not go into these areas when the birds are present.


Upcoming Events

List of upcoming paddle events on the MNRR Water Trail

Trail Sponsors

Missouri River Institute
National Park Service
South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks
City of Yankton
Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail
Lewis and Clark Natural Resources District
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
The Izaak Walton League of America
City of Vermillion
Sierra Club