The Missouri Department of Conservation reminds paddlers that kayaks and conservation areas go together in the fall.
With a kayak and a two-bladed paddle, a floater 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.
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.
A list of kayak-friendly public 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 nature viewing. Species that caught 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 an angler can fish for largemouth bass, bluegill and channel catfish.
• Bushwhacker Lake Conservation Area: This 4,790-acre area in Vernon and Barton counties features Bushwhacker Lake and Willow Lake where paddlers can fish for bluegill, channel catfish, crappie, largemouth bass and redear sunfish. 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, Mo. 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 cuts through the hills of southern Missouri and northern Arkansas. Floaters should be aware of changing water levels from Table Rock Dam as well as power-boat 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.
Kayakers should always wear a life jacket. It's also best to kayak with others or let others know where you'll be.