Missouri National Recreational River
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Introduction

Featuring the longest river in North America, Missouri National Recreational River is indeed the place to observe the vestige of the untamed American West. Located along the border of two states - Nebraska and South Dakota, this 52 sq. mile national recreational river is dubbed the “place where imagination meets reality”. As a result, visitors and campers are treated to amazing views, wonderful historical perspectives, and great opportunities to have fun at the park.

From flora observation, to nature viewing and bird watching, there are plenty of nice things to see at Missouri National Recreational River. Thanks to the park’s collaboration with external organizations and agencies, hiking enthusiasts can enjoy plenty of opportunities to hike to various scenic points within and outside the park. Different fish species available in the river also provide recreational and game fishing options for angling enthusiasts at the park. Boating, canoeing, and kayaking are other ways to explore the park.

There are no camping options available at Missouri National Recreational River, besides primitive campsites at Bow Creek Recreation Area. Missouri National Recreational River was established in 1978.

Park Alerts (1)

[Park Closure] Bridge Closed on Nebraska Hwy 121 [+ Info]

The bridge located on Nebraska Hwy 121 just west of Hwy 81 near Yankton, SD is closed for repairs. Please check the Nebraska 511 Traveler Information page for updates.

RV Rentals in Missouri National Recreational River

Transportation in Missouri National Recreational River

Driving

The Missouri National Recreational River, located on the border of South Dakota and Nebraska is accessible via various roads and highways. You’ll be able to access the Park Headquarters via Highway 81, while the Lewis and Clark Visitor Center can be accessed via Highway 121.

Most of the roads in the park, particularly those around the river corridor are paved. Roads that lead to river accesses in the park, however, are gravel, often hilly and winding.

Parking

Vehicle parking spaces are available at Missouri National Recreational River.

Public Transport

Public transportation services to Missouri National Recreational River are provided by Vermillion Public Transit and Yankton Transit in South Dakota.

Campgrounds and parking in Missouri National Recreational River

Campsites in Missouri National Recreational River

Reservations camping

First-come first-served

Alternate camping

Bow Creek Recreation Area

Primitive camping opportunities are available at Bow Creek Recreation Area in Missouri National Recreation River. This camping spot is about 30 miles from the Lewis and Clark Visitor Center.

Located along the Bow Creek, campers can access the area via winding gravel roads. No developed campgrounds or camping facilities are available at the recreation area and campers are urged to bring all their camping gear and necessary supplies.

Seasonal activities in Missouri National Recreational River

Spring

Boating

A wide variety of boating opportunities and scenic views await boating enthusiasts at Missouri National Recreational River. In addition, public access sites for river access and boating are provided in the Missouri River Outdoor Recreation Guide, available at the park.

Because the river depth varies considerably from time to time, from a few inches to more than ten feet, boaters are urged to pay attention to the water level when choosing the watercraft to use on the river. Personal watercraft are prohibited within the park, and only allowed behind the dams.

Summer

Canoeing/Kayaking

One of the best ways to explore the Missouri National Recreational River and discover what Lewis and Clark possibly experienced during their travels in the early 1800’s is by canoeing and kayaking. The experience promises to be fun and memorable. Note that access to the river by canoes and kayaks is only available at the few public launch sites in the park.

If you wish to learn how to paddle at Missouri National Recreational River, you can visit Lake Yankton in July and August to participate in the free kayak clinics offered by the park.

It may interest you to know that local outfitters at the park provide canoe/kayak and tube rentals.

Flora

Missouri National Recreational River is a great place to enjoy viewing of beautiful flora species. Two major plant species constitute the abundant natural vegetation at the park - floodplain forest of willow and cottonwood, and elm and oak woodland that are typical of the bluffs bordering the floodplain in Nebraska. As a result, be prepared to find sedges, seedling willow, cottonwood, and other plant species around the floodplains in the park. On the other hand, oak, mulberry, ash, and walnut are some of the vegetation along the slopes in the park.

Fall

Fishing

RV campers who fancy angling are treated to remarkable adventures along the two reaches of the Missouri River at Missouri National Recreational River. The two spots, one is eight miles of the lower Verdigre Creek, and the other is 20 miles of the lower Niobrara River, offer campers and visitors the opportunity to catch walleye, catfish, paddlefish, sauger, and more game fish. Smallmouth bass and northern pike are available too.

All anglers must be aware of the license and regulation requirements for both South Dakota and Nebraska, as the river borders both states.

Hiking/Biking

Many hiking and biking opportunities are available at Missouri National Recreational River, a feat made possible by the park’s collaboration with various federal, state, and local agencies and organizations. As a result, campers and visitors can enjoy various parts of the park on foot and on bike.

The Yankton Trail System, consisting of more than 30 miles of trails, allows campers and visitors explore the city of Yankton and the riverfront. Gavins Point Dam area also offers wonderful hiking and biking opportunities for enthusiasts at the park.

Winter

Bird Watching

The Missouri National Recreational River lies along the migration pathways of lots of birds, making the park a significant destination for bird lovers and watchers.

The bottomland areas in the park serve as great feeding, staging, and breeding grounds for a great diversity of bird species. Examples of birds you’ll find in the park include the American bald eagle, piping plover and least tern. These birds are listed as endangered species and are commonly sighted in the park.

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