Based in St. Louis, Big Muddy Adventures guides people on canoe trips on the Mississippi River.

Big Muddy Adventures Invites You to St. Louis for Big River Recreation

Wednesday May 17, 2023

By Rachel Huffman

Is it safe to paddle the Mighty Mississippi? Big Muddy Adventures, a world-class St. Louis-based adventure company, is often asked that question, and the answer is a resounding yes.

The professional outfitter provides access to the wild wonders of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers with its full fleet of canoes and kayaks. Whether you want to do a microadventure in downtown St. Louis, embark on a full moon float to a beautiful, uninhabited river island or add a bike ride along the Katy Trail to your aquatic adventure, river trips with Big Muddy Adventures are always memorable.

“Everything from driving to hiking to snowboarding has risk,” Roo Yawitz, general manager of Big Muddy Adventures says, “but we appropriately manage the risk of paddling so that people can experience the upside of the big rivers. Once people get on the rivers, they begin to revere them rather than fear them.”

Big Muddy Adventures takes paddlers down the Mississippi River to the Gateway Arch.
Photo courtesy of Big Muddy Adventures

“Big Muddy” Mike Clark founded Big Muddy Adventures in 2002. “He’s our spirit animal,” Yawitz says. “He’s one of the most accomplished river paddlers alive – he’s paddled the length of the Missouri River twice and the Mississippi River once – and he ran the company for 12 years.”

Yawitz, who owns The Gramophone in The Grove, met Clark at the sandwich pub in 2008. “Like so many people in St. Louis, I was outdoorsy,” Yawitz says, “but I didn’t think that you could paddle on the big rivers. I don’t know why I assumed that, but I didn’t think that you could do it.”

After his first river trip in 2010, he was hooked. He kept going on journeys with Clark, and in 2016, he started managing the business side of Big Muddy Adventures.

Yawitz aims to get people to try at least one trip because he knows that they’ll be back for more. “As soon as we’re settled in the canoe, a lot of people say, ‘I can’t believe I didn’t know about this,’” he explains, “and by the end of the day, they say, ‘I can’t believe everyone doesn’t know about this.’ They become cheerleaders for what we do because they’ve experienced the magic firsthand.”

River trips with Big Muddy Adventures gives paddlers epic views of the Gateway Arch.
Photo by Mark Hermes

Whether you embark on a 45-minute trip or an overnight adventure, you’ll never forget your time on the big rivers.

Some trips, including the STL Riverfront Adventure, Full Moon Float and Rivertime Supper Club, feature gourmet campfire meals in an unparalleled natural setting, where you might spot bald eagles, egrets, great blue herons, deer, beavers, river otters, wild turkeys and more.

“The river corridors are wild, so you can potentially see anything that’s native to the St. Louis region,” Yawitz says, “and that can happen on an island across from north St. Louis, which illustrates the juxtaposition of what we do.”

The overwhelming support for those trips persuaded Big Muddy Adventures to give thrill-seekers another opportunity to enjoy the river and a meal alfresco. Big Muddy & Friends, the outfitter’s newest trip, which lasts six hours, includes a collaborative dinner with local farmers, growers, makers, chefs, distillers, musicians and hospitality professionals.

“When you sign up for Big Muddy & Friends, you don’t know who the ‘friend’ will be,” Yawitz explains, “but we’re going to bring someone with us who will make it different than any other dinner trip.”

As you meet some of the guides’ friends, you’ll also see beautiful stretches of river and secret spots that people don’t typically visit on regularly scheduled trips.

Big Muddy Adventures hosts Full Moon Floats on the Missouri River in St. Louis.
Photo courtesy of Big Muddy Adventures

Although the big rivers are powerful, they only move at 5.5 miles per hour, meaning each experience maintains a sense of serenity. “Paddling on the big rivers is not like the X Games,” Yawitz says. “People expect a heart-pumping activity with six-foot waves and bull sharks, but it’s nothing like that. The paddling is gentle, and you have time to observe the changing scenery along the way.”

You can also set the vibe of the excursion. While half of the trips that Big Muddy Adventures guides are open to the public, the other half are reserved by youth groups, corporations and other private groups.

Anything that gets kids outside and off their devices – or adults out of the office and away from their computers – is worthwhile. “Initially, some people are nervous,” Yawitz says, “but they get more out of the activity because when you do something that scares you, you experience personal growth.”

Big Muddy Adventures leads river trips on the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.
Photo courtesy of Big Muddy Adventures

Majestic and steadfast, the Mississippi and Missouri rivers are the two largest moving bodies of water on the continent. They’ve built the country, and they’re a source of civic pride for St. Louis residents.

Thanks to Big Muddy Adventures, the two regal rivers are also a wellspring of amusement. “St. Louis is a funner city when you enjoy recreational activities on its rivers,” Yawitz says. “We don’t have to build a new stadium or design a new entertainment district when we have a natural playground in our backyard. The rivers are our greatest assets, and I just want to see more people use them.

“Personally, I’ve become obsessed with what you can do without leaving St. Louis,” he continues. “I continue to discover new possibilities, new adventures, new ways to connect with nature, and I’m happy to share that with St. Louis residents and visitors alike.”