A spectacular 7-mile float on a beautiful Ozark River where you get to be fully submersed in nature, with almost no signs of civilization yet, an easy drive, merely a few minutes south of Six Flags.

Highlights

  • Easy drive, generally crystal clear water with lots of fun rapids, beautiful views, and relaxing paddling.
  • Lots of unique, natural beauty with interesting rock formations, forested hill sides, and low-land prairies
  • Several nice sections of rapids interspersed among more flat-water like sections.
  • Very easy to self-support as the put-in and pull-out are an easy 12 minute (5.7 mile) drive from each other.

Lowlights

  • You’ll need to bring your own boats. No outfitters service this section (Yet… stay tuned).
  • The lower Meramec can get muddy or cloudy at times if feeder rivers like the Bourbouse and Big River are muddy from big rains that lead to farm run-off. But it is often very clear. It is just a matter of timing.

Getting There

You'll need two vehicles to self-support this trip. Drive to the Six Flags exit off 44. Head South to Allenton Access first to drop off the vehicle w/o boats. Then, head back towards Six Flags the way you came but just before 44, turn left on Route 66 (aka Business Loop 44) to "Pacific Palisades Boat Ramp, Missouri". Make sure to specify "Pacific Palisades Boat Ramp, Missouri" or Google might try to take you to California or a parking lot in the right park but far from the river.

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Lots of folks do float trips on the upper Meramec up near Steeleville, Missouri but not nearly as many people have paddled on the lower Meramec River which winds it way just south of St. Louis. In the many times that I driven west of 270 on 44 crossing over the Meramec multiples time, I’ve always wondered what paddling on the Meramec in that area would be like. A few days ago, I saw an excellent article from the Missouri Department of Conservation with a variety of kayaking options near St. Louis and it mentioned the paddle from Pacific Palisades to Allenton Access was a very popular paddle and, with that nudge, 2 days later, I finally put my wondering to rest, it’s fabulous. And now, my goal is to explore, with friends, the many different sections of the lower Meramec and share my thoughts here. Rather than order them in a rational and contiguous fashion, I’m going to attempt to order them from my most favorite to least favorite. I’m guessing that’s going to be hard to do though since I’ll likely thoroughly enjoy most of them and mood, weather, and company can play a role in perception. But here goes…

Pacific Palisades to Allenton Access

Favorite Section So Far – beautiful, fun rapids, windy and moves nicely

This was easily my favorite close-to-St.-Louis paddle I’ve done. Beautiful scenery, great rock formations, nice rapids, nice gravel/sand beaches, clean water, and a perfect length, 7.9 miles, which we paddled in 2 hours and 45 minutes at a fairly leisurely pace with a couple short breaks.

We did the trip on October 10th, 2020 (the first of what I expect will be many). St. Louis had had quite a long dry spell but the spring-fed Meramec still had plenty water in it. I’m a huge fan of playing in rapids so I was quite pleased, and a bit surprised, to find that section had some really nice sections of Class I rapids, even without any recent rains. There were a couple spots with strainers where inexperienced paddlers might struggle a bit but I would guess most folks couple safely make it down this section at normal flow without much of a problem. There were also a lot of flatwater sections where, if you weren’t paddling, you would barely move but the surrounding scenery made them all enjoyable.

The first half (4 miles or so) of this section definitely had more flow and rapids than the 2nd half, but there are a few ledges in the 2nd half to keep it interesting. Overall though, you definitely need to be content to paddle a good bit of flatwater to really enjoy this float.

Despite being so close to St. Louis, the area was really pristine. No trash. Very little road noise. Very few signs of civilization at all for most of the route. In the beginning we did hear gun-fire from a nearby gun range but that quickly faded as we got downstream. About halfway in, there’s a bunch of historic dumped cars, apparently put there to stabilize the banks of the river there. I found that more intriguing than disturbing. But mostly, it is undisturbed natural beauty.

The effort to reward ratio on this trip is really ideal. The put-in and pull-out spots are about 10 minutes from the Six Flags exit. The whole trip, from doorstep to doorstep took about 6 hours, but I’m sure I could get that down to less than 5 hours now that I’ve done it once and wouldn’t make some of the driving errors I made.

Robertsville State Park to Pacific Pallisades – 11 miles

Summary: Beautiful, but mostly flatwater

This section is certainly beautiful but I didn’t like it nearly as much as the Pacific Pallisades to Allenton Access section because it is mostly wide, deep, and flat so the water flow is slower and, it just doesn’t have enough rapids and excitement for my taste. This section is a great workout though if you are looking to very actively paddle for 11 miles. It also has some great views of the Pacific Pallisades (which I didn’t capture because we were racing to get off the water before it got completely dark) and a variety of other interesting sites. While not my favorite section, I still loved it.