River Etiquette: The Dos and Don’ts of Floating

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River Etiquette: The Dos and Don’ts of Floating

Summer is upon us and what better way to experience the outdoors than a relaxing float on one of Missouri’s rivers. There are 29 floatable streams and rivers throughout Missouri and each one offers it’s own unique adventure. These tips will insure you have a safe and fun-filled experience when you go on your own float!

Wear Appropriate Attire
Bring sunscreen, hat, and a pair of water shoes. Floats can last for hours and it’s important to stay protected from the sun or you’ll feel the pain of a sunburn later. Although you’ll be in the water for the majority of your float, it’s important to wear water shoes. The river bed and gravel bar can be unforgiving to your feet.

Tip: Keep an extra set of dry clothes in your car for the end of your float. Pack plastic bags to store all your wet clothes for your ride home.

River Bank Pine Valley

Be Cautious When Stopping on River Banks
It’s only natural to want to pull over and take a break while on the river. When stopping at an empty gravel bar or river bank be weary of privately owned land. Some trespassing laws prohibit pulling over on privately owned river banks.

Tip: Look for signs identifying state parks or private land. Avoid the banks with no trespassing signs.

Pack Enough Food and Water
Most float trips last for hours with little to no interaction with others. It’s important to have enough food and water for the duration of your trip. Pack accordingly for your group.

Tip: Prep your meals before you head out on the water. Premade sandwiches and snacks will make lunchtime on the river a breeze!

Tie Down All Your Valuables
Strap down all your possessions before you begin your float. The water might be rough or you could accidentally tip. Either way, it’s important to keep your valuables tied to your raft to avoid losing them. Generally, the rule on the river is don’t bring anything you’re not afraid to lose.

Tip: Place a strap over your cooler lid to avoid losing food and drinks if you accidentally tip over. Beer and soda cans float, but your food may not!

Bring a Dry Bag and Towel
Face it, you’re on the river and you’re bound to get some water in your canoe or raft. Bring a dry bag and towel to keep you and your personal items dry for the duration of the float. If you tip, you’ll wish you had them!

Tip: Keeping an air pocket in your dry bag will help keep it afloat in case it falls into the water.

PVO Dry Bag

Don’t Float Sideways Down Stream
Keep your watercraft parallel with the flow of the river. Floating down river sideways is dangerous, primarily in canoes and kayaks. Doing so can cause your watercraft to capsize much easier, especially if caught on tree roots or rocks.

Tip: If you flip in calm waters, grab onto your canoe/kayak and swim it to shore. It will be much easier flipping your watercraft on solid ground.

Don’t Leave Your Trash
Leaving your trash on the river bank or tossing it in the water is strictly prohibited and hurts mother nature! Tie a trash bag to your raft to avoid littering. There will most likely be dumpsters at the end of your float to dispose of your trash.

Tip: Floating companies will provide reusable mesh trash bags for floaters who rent from them.

Don’t Bring Glass or Styrofoam

Glass is never a good idea around water and it’s strictly prohibited on most riverways. Stick to aluminum cans and plastic drinkware to stay hydrated! Styrofoam beverage coolers are not allowed either.

Tip: In Missouri, alcohol is permitted on all rivers, as long as it is not in a glass bottle or jar. State law bans beer containers holding four or more gallons.

Don’t Schedule Your Float on a Holiday
Some of us love floating with drunken buffoons. Some of us may be those buffoons. However, for many it’s something you’ll want to avoid. Holiday weekends like Memorial Day and Labor Day weekend are notorious for the “spring break” crowd. Schedule your float trip for a weekday or on non-peak weekends for a more quiet and relaxing experience.

Tip: Check your local floating company’s website. Discounts may be offered for weekdays and group specials.

Pine Valley Outfitters Dos and Don'ts of Floating

Don’t Tie Your Rafts Together
Tying your raft to your buddies’ raft is an all too common theme among floaters. Floating down the river next to your friends may seem harmless, but can cause safety concerns for yourself and those around you. Rafts/canoes tied together make it difficult to steer and are at the mercy of wherever the current directs them. Avoid tying rafts together to maintain control and safely navigate downstream.

Tip: The best way to safely socialize with your group is to take a break on an empty gravel bar or river bank.


Check out some more outdoor adventures Missouri has to offer! 

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  • Joe

    If you smoke cigs. Duct tape that first empty brewskie or soda can to the inside of your boat. Put your butts in it.

  • Dale Atchley

    Would like to see more safety on the river. Make mandatory the safety pamphlets read out loud to all floaters before launch.

  • John Buijs

    I tell my kids,Leave it better than it was when you arrived.So if we see trash,we pick it up.Plastics,cigarette butts,bottles so on and so forth.No matter where we are.

  • Kim

    Also, please understand if you are floating where there are boats, boats can’t slow down in shallow water. Boaters aren’t being rude; just keeping vessel on top of water (and will only throw a small wake). Please respect each other’s rights to be there.


    If on an overnight float , an old metal ironing board laying in the bottom of your canoe keeps your gear out of what ever water collects there and it makes for a great cooking table when you camp.

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