Missouri National Recreational River

Missouri National Recreational River

Quick Facts

Missouri National Recreational River

Nebraska

(228) 497-6322

Map Directions

Things To Do

Overview

There was a time there was just the river. Then people came. People and the river have been connected ever since. And now it's your turn. Missouri National Recreational River offers natural beauty: the forested buff-colored chalkstone bluffs to gently rolling range bottomland; the brilliant white of migrating pelicans to the rich blues of prairie asters; the soaring majesty of resident bald eagles to fleeting glimpses of the wily red fox. It offers an exciting past for your enjoyment and enrichment, from Plains Indian tribes to Lewis and Clark to steamboat captains such as Grant Marsh. Here, you can experience the dynamic character of the river's ever-changing nature, with its islands, shifting sandbars, sloughs, and treacherous, deadly snags. Both the upper 39-mile reach and the lower 59-mile reach along the Nebraska-South Dakota border combine to form one of few sections of this once vast ecosystem along the "Big Muddy" that remains in a relatively natural state.

Map of Missouri

Latitude, Longitude: 42.862502, -97.392941

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Activities

  • Boating

    The Missouri National Recreational River offers scenic views and a variety of river opportunities for all boaters. The depth of the river varies considerably, from a few inches to ten and twelve feet, with a few holes up to forty feet. The less water your boat drafts, the easier it will be to navigate. Keep in mind that the channel is not marked and that it can shift from week to week, that there are sunken sandbars, snags and sawyers, and other hidden obstacles.

    The use of personal watercraft, commonly known as jet skis, is prohibited within the Missouri National Recreational River. They are allowed on the large reservoirs behind the dams and on the river below Ponca State Park.

    Canoeing is increasing in popularity as a means to experience the Missouri River. However, it is not recommended for the beginning paddler. Exploring the "Big Muddy" by canoe or kayak is something you'll never forget. It is an adventure that is beginning to draw travelers from around the world. This recreational activity, however, is not for the novice paddler. If there is one thing that the Missouri demands, that is respect.

    The Missouri is a big river that on windy days looks more like a large reservoir with white-capped waves that can easily swamp a canoe. There are no rapids, but sunken sandbars, snags--uprooted trees stuck in the river bottom--that may or may not be visible above the water's surface, and other obstacles abound. An eddy is a sure sign of an obstacle just below the water's surface. The Missouri is also deep--20 feet or more in places. Know your paddling ability and don't exceed it.

    Canoe Access: Access to the river is available only at public launch sites. These are few and unevenly spaced along both reaches of the park.

  • Auto/Motorcycle

    The two major highways paralleling the park, Nebraska 12 and South Dakota 50, are paved. In the winter be alert for snow and ice on the surfaces. Winds are primarily from the north-northwest, with snow being driven across the east-west highways.

    Most of the roads leading to river accesses are gravel or dirt. These surfaces can turn slippery--similar to icy roads--in the spring and after heavy rains. Drive carefully and slowly on these roadways. During the summer months, these roads can turn very dusty. Stay back from any vehicle in front so as not to impede your vision.

    The area surrounding the park is rural and primarily agricultural. Always be alert for slow moving farm vehicles, regardless of the season.

  • Camping

    The National Park Service operates no campgrounds along the park. However, park partners do have plenty of sites and locations up and down the Missouri River corridor from which to choose. Reservations are recommended for summer weekends.

    Primitive camping is normally allowed on islands and sandbars. Please adhere to the "pack-it-in, pack-it-out" (Leave No Trace) ethic. On the Nebraska side of the channel, the adjacent landowner owns all the land (this includes islands, bottomlands and even the riverbed). On the South Dakota side of the channel, the landowner owns up to the mean high water level. In several locations along the river, the state border is still undetermined.

  • Fishing

    The Missouri National Recreational River includes the two reaches of the Missouri River, 20 miles of the lower Niobrara River, and 8 miles of the lower Verdigre Creek. Catfish, walleye, sauger, paddlefish, and many more game species await your angling skills in these bodies of water.

    For walleye/sauger, the best times are May to June and mid-September through November. Just downstream of the Fort Randall and the Gavins Point dams seems to be popular with anglers for this fish species. For small and largemouth bass, the best times are May, June, September, and October near Springfield (SD) and Niobrara (NE). For crappie and northern pike, the best times are early April after ice out and in late summer near Springfield and Niobrara. For catfish, the best times are late June, July and August near Springfield and Niobrara.

  • Hiking

    Most of the state parks along the river corridor have a variety of recreational trails including Niobrara State Park, Ponca State Park, Lewis & Clark State Recreaton Area.

  • Horseback Riding

    Most of the state parks along the river corridor have a variety of recreational horsetrails including Niobrara State Park, Ponca State Park, Lewis & Clark State Recreaton Area.

  • Hunting

    Hunting is popular year-round activity along the river. Both South Dakota and Nebraska state hunting regulations apply. Duck blind permits for the upper end of Lewis and Clark Lake can be obtained from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Applications are taken from August 1 to September 1 and are available at the Lewis and Clark Visitor Center.

  • Picnicking

    Pack a lunch and enjoy a leisurely picnic alongside the "Big Muddy". Multiple locations offer beach access.

  • Water Sports

    Canoeing is increasing in popularity as a means to experience the Missouri River. However, it is not recommended for the beginning paddler. Exploring the "Big Muddy" by canoe or kayak is something you'll never forget. It is an adventure that is beginning to draw travelers from around the world. This recreational activity, however, is not for the novice paddler. If there is one thing that the Missouri demands, that is respect.

    The Missouri is a big river that on windy days looks more like a large reservoir with white-capped waves that can easily swamp a canoe. There are no rapids, but sunken sandbars, snags--uprooted trees stuck in the river bottom--that may or may not be visible above the water's surface, and other obstacles abound. An eddy is a sure sign of an obstacle just below the water's surface. The Missouri is also deep--20 feet or more in places. Know your paddling ability and don't exceed it.

  • Winter Sports

    Most of the state parks along the river corridor have a variety of recreational xc ski and snowshoe trails including Niobrara State Park, Ponca State Park, Lewis & Clark State Recreaton Area.

Seasonality/Weather

Open year round. For fishing enthusiasts, the best time of year for walleye/sauger is May to June and mid-September through November. For small and largemouth bass, the best times are May, June, September, and October near Springfield (SD) and Niobrara (NE). For crappie and northern pike, the best times are early April after ice out and in late summer near Springfield and Niobrara. For catfish, the best times are late June, July and August near Springfield and Niobrara.

Directions

Driving

South Dakota Route 50 and Nebraska Route 12 parallel the park for much of its length. Most of the public accesses to the river are off these two highways. NPS Rangers are stationed in the Lewis and Clark Visitor Center, which is located on Nebraska Route 121 about four miles west of Yankton, South Dakota.

Public Transportation - No public transportation is available within the park corridor. Limited taxi service is available in Yankton (605/665-4551 or 605/668-9808).

Phone Numbers

Primary

(228) 497-6322

Links