Wow, this is a close one. If it were springtime or the water levels were high enough, then the far upper Jacks Fork 8-mile stretch from Buck Hollow (hwy 17) to Rymers would be a top contender due to its extreme rugged beauty and huge Jam Up Cave, but for a year round float I feel that the best (and most popular) single day float in the Missouri Scenic River region is the 10-mile upper Current River stretch from Akers Ferry to Pulltite Spring campground. This will average about 6 hours, but if you like to stop a lot and for longer periods to explore and enjoy the river (like me), then it can be turned into an 8 hour trip. You will average about 2 miles per hour + any stops. It has just about everything that you could want. See the Ozark National Scenic Riverways (Current River & Jacks Fork) zoomable map here. At the beginning you will get to see the car ferry at Akers which is the last 2 car ferry in the state of Missouri. This river stretch’s centerpiece is the famed Cave Spring …. a large 140 ft. deep spring cave which is a brilliant blue color that you can float into with your watercraft. This is located about 5 miles down on the left in your 10-mile journey. This stretch has a larger number of gravel bars for you to stop (or camp) on. More than on the next stretch from Pulltite to Round Spring. (Fact: The Eleven Point River has far fewer gravel bars than the Current River, especially above Turners Mill). This Akers Ferry to Pulltite stretch also has a nice a set of minor rapids which many call the “fun” section of rapids on the upper Current River. If you don’t like crowds, then avoid this stretch on Saturdays between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekend. The BEST days to float this stretch with the fewest floaters are Tuesdays and Wednesdays. This stretch does not have any roads within any distance of the stretch of river that you can hear any vehicles, unlike the next stretch from Pulltite to Round Spring which as you get nearer the Round Spring bridge you can hear road traffic. If you would like to float this stretch then I would recommend that you call Current River Canoe Rental located at Pulltite campground. That way your vehicle is right there at the end of the trip near the river waiting for you. The store there opens at 8am and the first bus goes up to Akers about 8:30am, then about every hour or two afterwards through lunchtime.
There are 3 stretches that I would recommend. The first is the 6 mile stretch from Alley Spring to Eminence on the Jacks Fork (Call Windy’s Canoe Rental). The next is the 2.5 mile stretch from Welch Spring to Akers Ferry on the upper Current River (Call Aker’s Ferry Canoe Rental). The last is the 1.5 mile stretch from Sinking Creek to the Round Spring bridge on the upper Current River (Call Carrs Canoe Rental). These are short doable stretches since tubes only go about 1 to 1.5 mile per hour + any stops. Slower than a canoe or kayak which travels 2 to 2.5 miles per hour + stops. If you don't mind motor boats, then the lower Current River also has 2 stretches also that are popular for tubers. The 7 mile stretch from Waymeyer to Van Buren and the 4 mile stretch from Van Buren to Big Spring.
There are 3, one for each scenic river. My personal favorite is the 18-mile Cedar Grove to Pulltite Spring campground stretch (Call Current River Canoe Rental). Not only do you get to see Cave Spring, but also Welch Spring and its old hospital ruins. On the Eleven Point River the 20 mile stretch from Greer Spring to Riverton is nice and the crowds are less than the Current River or Jacks Fork (Call Hufstedlers Canoe Rental). Keep in mind though that the Eleven Point River has far fewer gravel bars at the other 2 scenic rivers (especially above Turners Mill), but that is negated by its beauty and plethora of sites to see (Turner Mill, springs like at Boze Mill and some awesome rapids to name a few). There are float camps to stay at though on the Eleven Point River for overnighters. Some even do this 20-mile stretch in a day. If you put in early enough in the summer, then it can be done in 8-10 hours. See the Eleven Point River map here. If it were the spring-time when the water levels are higher, then I would recommend the far upper Jacks Fork 18 mile trip from Hwy 17 (Buck Hollow) to Bay Creek (Call Harveys Canoe Rental).
The 44-mile Cedar Grove to Two Rivers or the 51-mile Baptist Access to Two Rivers is the absolute best extended day float. This spectacular 3-day trip has it all …. Caves, springs, rapids, historic sites and more! Contact Two Rivers Canoe Rental for this trip. The first 8 miles from Baptist to Cedar Grove is trophy trout territory and is low in the summer, but doable year-round. You may have to walk in a few places above Cedar Grove, but it is doable. You will have to portage your watercraft over the lower water bridge at Cedar Grove if you put in at Baptist Access vice putting in at Cedar Grove. Below Round Spring you may encounter an occasional motorboat due to the higher horsepower limit set there between May 1st and Sep. 15th, but that becomes much more prevalent below Two Rivers and the further down river you go toward Van Buren. Between Round Spring and Two Rivers you will not encounter that many floaters, which makes that 18 mile stretch even more awesome!
In the summer months there are actually 3 sections that are equally the most floated (and busiest) sections of river in the Missouri Scenic Rivers region. On the Jacks Fork the Alley Spring to Eminence, MO 6-mile stretch is super busy, especially on Saturdays. The same goes for the 10 mile Akers Ferry to Pulltite Spring campground since everyone wants to see Cave Spring. And lastly, the 8 mile Cedar Grove to Akers Ferry on the upper Current River is highly travelled since many people want to see Welch Spring and the old hospital ruins. If you don't like crowds, then avoid these 3 sections on Saturdays between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends. I personally only float these sections on weekdays for that reason. If you want to experience smaller crowds on a weekend but still experience amazing views and sites, then go to the lesser floated Eleven Point Missouri Scenic River and float any stretch between Greer Spring and Riverton (Call Hufstedlers Canoe Rental).
The lower Current River is the best option if you like to run a motor boat. Below Big Spring johnboat Landing down to the park boundary and below through Doniphan there are no horsepower limits. Also, on the Eleven Point River below hwy 142 at the Narrows there are no horsepower limits. Many boaters also take advantage of the 40HP limit above Big Spring generally up to Two Rivers (where the Jacks Fork meets the Current River), but the 40HP limit extends further up river to Round Spring and up the Jacks Fork to Alley Spring. You will encounter an occasional motor boat on those sections, but they become much more prevalent BELOW Two Rivers due to regular floaters on the upper sections. See the ONSR horsepower limits for the Current River and Jacks Fork here. So, if you are a regular floater (kayak, canoe, raft or tube) and would prefer to not encounter motor boats, then stay above Round Spring on the Current River or above hwy 142 (the Narrows) on the Eleven Point River where the HP limit is 25, or above Alley Spring on the Jacks Fork when the water is high enough to float it.
Overall the Eleven Point River has the better fishing of the 3 Missouri Scenic Rivers (especially between Greer Spring and Riverton), but the far upper Current River stretch from Baptist Access to Cedar Grove is the best stretch "on the Current River" to float and fish for either Rainbow or Brown Trout. This is a blue ribbon trophy trout section where hard lures are only allowed and the daily limit is 1 with an 18 inch minimum. These stretch is floatable year round, but in the dead of Summer you will drag in spots and there are a few sections that you may have to walk your watercraft through. Contact Jadwin Canoe Rental for this section. For Bass the best section is the upper Jacks Fork above Alley Spring. However, above Alley Spring may be too low to float in the summer months. Contact Harveys Canoe Rental for any stretch above Alley Spring.
It is pretty much a tie between July and October. July for the hot summer month in the cold spring fed waters and October (mid to late) for the stunningly beautiful color changes in the fall.
It's a tie between Tuesday and Wednesday for the least amount of people on the rivers. On the flip side, Saturday's are the absolute worst day to float due to crowds.
The 20 mile stretch from Greer Spring to Riverton is the best stretch, but in my opinion it is too long for one day (but people do it). If you are doing just a 1 day float, then Turners Mill to Riverton (15 miles) would be the best long one day float, but put in early. If that is too long for you then do Whitten to Riverton (8 miles). You will miss Turners Mill, but will still see the Halls Bay Shoal rapids. If I were doing an overnighter, then I would do Greer to Riverton and camping below Turners Mill since there are more gravel bars/float camps than above Turners Mill. Contact Hufstedlers Canoe Rental.