The Audubon Center at Riverlands aims to connect people to the beauty of the Great Rivers confluence.

How to Connect with St. Louis’ Great Rivers

Monday March 11, 2024

By Rachel Huffman

St. Louis is located just south of the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. Majestic and steadfast, they’re the two largest moving bodies of water on the continent.

From the Missouri’s role in Lewis and Clark’s 18th-century expedition to the Mississippi’s history as America’s blues highway, our region’s rivers have been instrumental in the nation’s development.

While you’re in St. Louis, connect with our historic rivers – they’re a wellspring of natural beauty and outdoor recreation. Let’s dive in!

Forward Paddle

A group paddles a canoe down St. Louis' Great Rivers with Big Muddy Adventures.
Photo courtesy of Big Muddy Adventures

Paradise is a paddle away, and Big Muddy Adventures can prove it. The world-class St. Louis-based adventure company 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 at the base of the Gateway Arch, embark on a full moon float to an 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.

All Aboard

The Riverboats at the Gateway Arch glide along the Mississippi River at dusk.
Photo courtesy of Riverboats at the Gateway Arch

The Riverboats at the Gateway Arch provide unparalleled views of St. Louis’ working riverfront from the waters of the Mighty Mississippi. Tom Sawyer, a replica 19th-century paddle steamer, transports riders back to a time when steamboats ruled the river. Onboard adventures include the one-hour St. Louis Riverfront Cruise, which highlights the important role of the Mississippi River in our past, present and future, and the two-hour Skyline Dinner Cruise, which features a chef-driven menu, live music and illuminated views of the St. Louis skyline.

Go with the Flow

Flowering dogwoods add color to Gateway Arch National Park in the spring.
Gateway Arch National Park | Photo by Debbie Franke

Working to make the St. Louis region a more vibrant place to live, work and play, Great Rivers Greenway has constructed 128 miles (and counting) of greenways that make it easy – and fun – to spend time outside. The 15-mile Riverfront Trail, which you can access via Washington Avenue or Chestnut Avenue through Gateway Arch National Park, rewards amblers with unique views of the industrial landscape along the Mississippi River. Welcoming people of all ages and abilities, the paved path is mostly flat and entirely sunny. Make sure to bring water and your camera, so you can document your journey along the greenway, which ends at the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge.

River Crossing

The Old Chain of Rocks Bridge was the original Mississippi River crossing on Route 66.
Old Chain of Rocks Bridge | Photo by Midwest Nomad Family

Spanning the Mighty Mississippi on the north edge of St. Louis, the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge was the original Mississippi River crossing on Route 66. Although cars no longer run across it, you can! The one-mile-long pedestrian bridge has a dramatic 22-degree bend at the middle of the crossing, making it possible to spot wintering bald eagles if you’re in town at the right time.

Wing It

The Audubon Center at Riverlands aims to connect people to the beauty of the Great Rivers confluence.
Audubon Center at Riverlands | Photo by Gregg Goldman

The Audubon Center at Riverlands aims to connect people to the beauty of the Great Rivers confluence and inspire conservation of the rivers’ rich diversity of birds, other wildlife and natural resources. While you’re here, take a guided tour of the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary, which is part of the Mississippi Flyway, a migration route used by 60 percent of all North American bird species, including 40 percent of all waterfowl. The area includes more than eight miles of trails traversing prairies, marshes and bottomland forests, where you might spot an American goldfinch, bald eagle, hairy woodpecker, peregrine falcon, red-winged blackbird, ruby-throated hummingbird, snowy egret, spotted sandpiper, trumpeter swan or turkey vulture in flight. To make Riverlands even more friendly to native birds and insects, St. Louis Audubon Society members maintain a native plant garden at the Audubon Center, which visitors can enjoy, as well.

Ride in Style

Miss Augusta is a luxury yacht that offers public cruises and private charters through Missouri wine country.
Miss Augusta | Photo by Gregg Goldman

During a day trip to Augusta, make time for a river cruise aboard Miss Augusta, a 105-foot Skipperliner yacht. Touted as the most elegant luxury yacht in Missouri, Miss Augusta departs from Klondike Park, guiding passengers through Missouri wine country in style. The boat has three stories, including two enclosed, climate-controlled levels and a sun deck, where you can enjoy the breeze, photograph fall foliage, search for bald eagles or watch the sunset. The daily public cruises will give you a new perspective of the Missouri River. On the narrated sightseeing cruises, you’ll be treated to a first-class experience, but if you want to further indulge, look into the lunch or dinner cruises. Miss Augusta also offers private charters for a variety of events – think memorable company outings, large family reunions or intimate marriage proposals.

Float On

Brookdale Farms offers canoe, kayak, raft and inner tube rentals so that outdoor enthusiasts can experience the magic of St. Louis' Great Rivers on a float trip.
Photo courtesy of Brookdale Farms

Sprawling across almost 300 acres of pristine farmland, nestled among rolling hills and situated on the banks of the Big and Meramec rivers, Brookdale Farms offers an abundance of outdoor adventures no matter the season. During warm weather, rent canoes, kayaks, rafts or inner tubes and experience the magic of Missouri’s storied rivers on a float trip – a summer rite of passage for locals and visitors alike. Daily float trips are offered from May through September, and they take you down a calm stretch of the Meramec River, where you’ll encounter sparkling swimming holes, gorgeous bluffs, gravel beaches and fascinating wildlife. Don’t miss this chance to spend a carefree day on the water. In cooler months, enjoy hayrides, corn mazes and ice skating.

For more outdoorsy fun, check out our guide to hiking, biking, swimming, skating, climbing and more in the St. Louis area.