Natural Water Areas

Missouri has pools, spas and water parks just like any other state in the union, but when it comes to natural recreational water sites, Missouri has a unique set of sites that attract thousands of visitors from around the country and the world on any given day. The Missouri River runs from west to east bisecting the state. The “Big Muddy” Mississippi defines our eastern border. Many pristine rivers designated as national scenic water ways flow through the southern part of the state. Man made lakes, reservoirs and ponds abound. On any given day, the recreational activities in these waters may include fishing, swimming, boating, sailing, canoeing, tubing, wading or just sitting by the bank enjoying the scenery.

Natural water areas are dynamic, ever changing. Streams and rivers continue to deliver downstream what ever they have picked up upstream. Lakes, ponds and reservoirs are affected by currents and winds pushing water and what ever contaminants it contains from one area to another. A perfectly safe and healthy recreation spot on a river or lake can change in a matter of minutes to hours into one that presents real risks to its users. Many people do not make the connection to unsafe natural waters outside of industrial areas where water contamination concerns are more on people’s minds. Ironically, it is the very scenic beauty of our natural bodies of water that may be contributing to periods of risk in using them for recreational activities. The rustic beauty brought on an influx of tourists and new permanent residents. The increased population density means more pollutants from fertilizers, household cleaners, and sewage, to name a few, have to be dealt with. Often times, runoff after rains or inadequately functioning waste treatment plants (private home or city) contribute to the pollutant load that ends up in a stream or lake. These pollutants, can cause real and significant illness such as rashes, eye, ear, nose and throat infections and gastrointestinal illnesses.

Some recommendations for a safe and healthy trip to one of Missouri’s many natural recreational water sites include: