Joan McKee has been canoeing since she was a kid. On vacations her dad took her on the Elk River in southwest Missouri and the Jacks Fork. When the family traveled to Africa, they plied the deep waters of Angola’s Kwanza River in wooden dugout canoes.
“When I came back to the United States from West Africa in 1969, I started canoeing on the Ozark waterways using Oz Hawksley’s book,” McKee said.
When the Missouri Department of Conservation decided to update Hawksley’s “Missouri Ozark Waterways,” a staple of canoeing since it was first published in 1965, McKee was called on to edit the new publication, titled “A Paddler’s Guide to Missouri.”
McKee, a canoeist and a white-water rafter for 45 years, is also a volunteer canoe instructor certified by the American Canoe Association. The Columbia resident works as an editor and designer with the conservation department in Jefferson City.
The research of the original Hawksley volume remains intact. While Hawksley’s book covered mostly waterways in southern Missouri, the new guide includes the Missouri River and streams in the northern part of the state. The new book is a guide for anyone who wants to explore streams beyond those in the Ozarks.
Enlarged maps and black-and-white photographs accompany the text, changes designed to make the guide more user friendly. McKee said people using Hawksley’s book might have been frustrated because the maps went in all directions, making it confusing to use. “In the new book, we have north at the top of all maps,” she said.
Another user-friendly feature is keeping text about features of the streams on the same page as the map.
County lines are indicated, making it easier for people to know where they are and which way to drive to the river. There is also a key, or locator map, letting users know in which part of the state they are. The maps have mile markers that highlight Department of Conservation areas and other public lands and help paddlers avoid private property.
“If people know which are the public lands and want to get out and hike on public land or camp, they can do so easily now,” McKee said.
Jeff Pennock, programs coordinator with Missouri Department of Conservation, contributed his knowledge of the Missouri River to the new guide. He sees inclusion of the Missouri River in the update as a significant event in light of Lewis and Clark’s historic expedition because of the bicentennial celebrations next year.
“By adding the Missouri River, it offers the people to get somewhat of that historic feel,” Pennock said. “With that event in mind, people, I am sure, will go out and float in the river. Depending on what the family wants, the river can provide a long float for a few weeks or a short float.”
The guide includes safety tips — such as what to do when a barge is spotted — specifically for canoeing on the Missouri River. “Almost all the spots along the Missouri River are covered by cell phone coverage,” Pennock noted. “You can be in contact with whomever you want to,” he said.
Ken Drenon, an ombudsman for the conservation department who contributed research on northern streams, points out that they are unique in their own ways. Some of the northern streams have not been altered and remain natural.
“They present a different view,” Drenon said. “Scenery is different. Fishing is going to be different, mostly catfish. Usually, here we are not looking at a fast rate of flow. Water clarity is different — you will find less clear streams as a rule.” The Chariton River is unchanneled in its extreme northern stretch, which Drenon recommends.
McKee said the guide will be updated more regularly. There’s a page calling for comments and information on new rivers, which readers can fill out and send to the conservation department.