Migratory birds, fall foliage, and clear water are all reasons fall is a great time to paddle.

Whether you enjoy fishing area streams or simply like to relax by spending a day floating, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) wants to remind area paddlers that kayaks and conservation areas go together in the fall.

With a kayak and a two-bladed paddle, you can easily scoot into shallow areas or skirt places where clear water meets vegetated banks. The navigability a kayak offers an angler makes paddling up to a root-wad or into a secluded area not accessible from a bank an easy task that may lead to a day of fishing fun. The same holds true for floating into a marshy shallow-water area to snap a picture of a heron, egret, or some other type of wetland wildlife. Kayaking takes on added pleasures in the fall as migratory birds use streams and lakes as stop-overs on their southerly journeys and the leaves of trees at water’s edge change from green to brilliant shades of yellow and orange.

Some people view kayaks as a stream vessel, but their navigability makes them great for exploring sloughs and other backwater areas of lakes, too. Southwest Missouri features a number of MDC areas where the combination of a kayak and either a fishing pole or a pair of binoculars and a camera (or all three) will lead to a memorable float. A list of kayak-friendly MDC areas in southwest Missouri includes:

Shawnee Trail Conservation Area: This 3,635-acre area in Barton County has Pin Oak Lake, 10 ponds and 29 strip mining pit lakes where a kayak can lead to a great day of fishing and/or nature viewing. Species that can be fished for include largemouth bass, bluegill, redear sunfish, and channel catfish.

Robert E Talbot Conservation Area: This 4,360-acre area in Lawrence County features two lakes where you can fish for largemouth bass, bluegill, and channel catfish.

Bushwhacker Lake Conservation Area: This 4,790-acre area in Vernon and Barton counties features tow lakes (Bushwhacker Lake and Willow Lake) where you can fish for bluegill, channel catfish, crappie, largemouth bass, and redear sunfish. Anglers who utilize kayaks have easier access to all of the water resources as Bushwhacker Lake is the only body of water on the area with a public boat ramp or a nearby road access.

Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery to Cooper Creek Access. This five-mile stretch on Lake Taneycomo in Taney County provides good opportunities to catch trout and great views of the bluffs that border the lake. Taneycomo follows the course of what once was the White River, which cut a scenic course through the hills of southern Missouri and northern Arkansas. Floaters should be aware of changing water levels from Table Rock Dam as well as motorboat traffic.

Bennett Springs Access to Barclay Conservation Area. This six-mile stretch on the Niangua River in Dallas County features fishing opportunities for rainbow trout, brown trout, and smallmouth bass. This stretch of river is an easy float with moderately swift runs and deep, clear pools. The fall foliage provides a pallet of color along the rock bluffs that line the stream.

“Kayaking is an excellent way to experience the natural beauty of Missouri,” said MDC Southwest Regional Recreational Use Specialist Phillip Stearns. “Fall is also a great time to get outside and explore. Whether you are kayaking or not, every MDC area is unique and provides and different adventure.”

Regardless of where they put in, kayakers should remember to always wear a life jacket. It’s also best to kayak with others or, at the very least, let others know where you’ll be. Get information about other MDC areas to kayak at:

https://nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/places