Missouri National Recreational River- Flatwater Paddling

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59 miles of paddling available on the scenic Missouri River from Yankton to Ponca State Park.

Written by

Chris Allington


59.0 miles

A full 59 miles from Yankton to Ponca State Park can be paddled. However journeys as short as a few miles or as long as a full multi-day trip can be customized using different put in/ out points on the river.

Destination Distance From Downtown

304.7 miles


2 of 5 diamonds

Time To Complete

6 hours

The river flows at 3-5 mph and a paddler can travel a good bit faster than this.


Spring, Summer, and Fall



The Missouri National Recreational River offers almost 60 miles of river from below Gavin's Point Dam west of Yankton, South Dakota to Ponca State Park, on the Nebraska side of the river northwest of Sioux City. The upper portion from the dam site to Yankton is well developed and makes for a great day trip. 

What Makes It Great

The wide range of put in/ take out points give paddlers many options to enjoy the day. A family looking for a quick afternoon float will like the developed portion from Gavin's Point back to Yankton. Those with experience and wanting to enjoy the wilderness can combine a kayak trip with some primitive camping. The undeveloped sections from St. Helena to Ponca State Park are perfect for exploring and camping. Wildlife and a wide range of scenery from lowland flats, sand bars, and woody chalkstone cliffs give this area natural charm.  

Who is Going to Love It

Any skill or experience level could have a great time here. Rent a kayak from one of the outfitters near Yankton to have an afternoon float on a nice summer day, or plan your multi-day trip starting near Yankton and continuing the 59 miles to Ponca State Park and load up the packs for a challenging multi-day camping trip. 

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

From US 81 travel to Yankton, SD. Riverside park offers a boat launch in town, or head west on South Dakota 52 to the tailwaters below Gavin's Point Dam. There are numerous put in/ take out points along the river but these are the most popular. To plan your trip or access the other various but less common access points use the following guide: https://www.nps.gov/mnrr/59guide.htm

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Missouri National Recreational River

508 East 2nd Street
Yankton, South Dakota , 57078
42.868919, -97.384615

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