James River Information

James & Finley Rivers


Photo Courtesy of Visual Thoughts © 2009 D L Ennis, All rights reserved

Float trips, for which the Ozarks are famous among smallmouth bass fishermen, originated at Galena on the James. Jonboats 18-24 feet long and 4 feet wide were used long before canoes and kayaks became popular and are amazingly maneuverable craft for their size. Some anglers still prefer the stability they provide for casting while standing and the comfort of folding arm chairs which they can carry. Before the days of Table Rock Dam a five-day float of about 125 miles was available from Galena to Branson, but now little, if any, of the river is floatable below Galena. However one of the fine fishing floats always has been the 22-mile section from “Hootentown” to Galena and this may still be floated even with jonboats. In high or medium water paddlers can run another 40 miles above this as well as some of the larger tributaries. Most of this water provides fine fishing.

(I’ll step in here on this write up and state, the river below Galena still is floatable.  It isn’t as swift but it still is good fishing especially when the white bass are running and you can float it.)

Difficulty: I; a few places on upper river rate up to III due to obstructions.
Gradient: general- 4.5; Hwy. 125 to Lake Springfield – 6.3; dam at Lake Springfield to Hwy.14-4.3; to Galena – 4.
Counties: Greene, Christian, Scone.

Missouri’s Finley Creek

This James River tributary can be floated in high or medium high water. A floating-wading technique is better for lower water and fishing. There are dams to portage, but the pools they form are short.

The gradient of the lower 18 miles is 6.5.

Difficulty: I; a few places rate up to III due to obstructions.
Gradient: general- 6.5.
Counties: Christian, Stone.



James River – Mile-By-Mile Description

0.0 Hwy. 125 Bridge. McCraw Ford. Access under bridge.2.7 Hwy. D Bridge. No access.
2.9 Turner Bridge. Old Hwy. D.
3.0 San Francisco St. Louis R.R. Bridge.
6.8 Joe Crighton Access on right, at Kinser Bridge on Farm Road 164. No ramp, but easy canoe/kayak access.
9.5 Hwy. 60 Bridge. Lake Springfield backs up water beyond this point.
9.7 Farm Road 181 Bridge. No access.
10.0 Southwood Access (Springfield City Utilities) on left downstream from Hwy. 65 Bridge. Off Hwy. 65. take Evans Road to Southwood Road.
12.1 Public park and access on right.
12.3 Kissick Darn. Fair access.
12.4 Tailwaters Access (Springfield City Utilities) on right, off Hwy. 65 to Evans Road to Kissick.
15.8 Hwy. 160 Bridge. Fair access.
18.7 Owens Bridge.
20.3 Shallow rapids caused by rock ledge, with brush and logs at bottom. Walk or line!
21.3 Blue Spring on left. Not safe.
23.2 Country road bridge. No access.
25.2 Wilson Creek on right.
26.3 Stone piers of old Delaware Bridge.
26.7 Spring branch on left.
27.0 Delaware Town Access on left, on County Road 14-31.
27.5 Hwy. 14 Bridge Access.
28.3 Blue Hole.
29.3 Rock ledge at old fotd site makes good riffle.
31.9 Frazier Bridge on county road. Access.
33.5 Shelvin Rock Access on left, on Shelvin Rock Road.
33.9 McCafferty Hollow Creek on left.
36.2 Jamesville Bridge. Hwy. M and U. No access.
36.3 Finley Creek, on left. 37.9 Tory Creek on left. Montague Spring, 2.5 miles up creek, reached via Hwy. O from Hwy. 65. The spring has a flow of nearly 2 million gallons per day, is used to supply a private trout hatchery and is one of the largest springs in this river drainage.
39.4 Silver Lake Branch on right.
39.7 Hootentown Access on right, on Hootentown Road.
40.8 Hooten Hill, on right (high bluff).
42.6 Watch for down trees in river along right bank. Use caution, particularly in high water.
44.3 Cole Pit Hole access on County Road V-70 off Hwy. V.
44.7 McCall Bridge.
45.0 Old Stillhouse Hollow, which is spring fed, on right.
46.1 Access on left where extension of Hwy. V parallels rivet.
46.3 Goff Creek on left. No access. Fast run just below.
50.4 Private access on right side, off Hwy. AA near O to church.
52.8 Crane Creek on right.
53.8 Wheeler Branch and Hwy. AA on right. No access.
56.6 Horse Creek on left. H.L. Kerr Access on Horse Cteek Road.
58.3 Yocum’s Camp on right. No access.
61.0 Hwy. 248-13 Bridge. Access.
61.3 Hwy. 13 Bridge. No access.
61.6 Y Bridge at Galena. Supplies in town. Lake fishing regulations apply downstream from here. 61.7 Access on right. When Table Rock Lake is not at full reservoir, the river may be floated beyond this point. Inquire locally about conditions and accesses.

Finley Creek – Mile-By-Mile Description

0.0 Hwy. 125 Bridge below dam of Lindenlure Lake.
2.8 County road bridge. Access.
4.0 Smallen Cave Branch on right. The commercialized Civil War Cave has one of the largest entrances in the state.
4.7 Bridge at former Riverside Inn. No access.
6.2 Hwy. 65 Bridge and mill dam. Finley River Park (Ozark). Portage.
12.5 Dam at Riverdale. Portage. Access at bridge just below dam from the east side.
13.5 Hwy. 160 Bridge. moderate access.
15.7 Aspen Road Bridge (Hawkins Bridge). Access.
17.5 Craig Hollow Creek on left.
18.7 Ford. Access.
18.9 James River confluence.


This is an electronic reprint of a Missouri Department of Conservation document. More or updated information on this topic can be found at the Missouri Department of Conservation web site located at: mdc.mo.gov. Copyright 2003 by the Conservation Commission of the State of Missouri.


Canoeing, Rafting, Camping, Swimming, Fishing and Shuttle Service.
Family Owned and Operated By Steve & Diane Newman
at the old Hootontown Bridge, Crane, Mo.

Hootontown Canoe Rental & Campground
1254 Hootentown Road
Crane, MO 65633

Float trip on James River ends far too soon


November 28, 2008 12:54 am

— By Silas Gray
Brad Cardwell and I were sitting beside the campfire holding plates mounded with scrambled eggs, sausage, and potatoes.
The morning was cold, and I was sitting a little too near the fire when some of the ash from the campfire drifted into my eggs. I removed what I could, and the remainder, I justified, only added to the flavor…(More)

The Old Bridge At Hootentown

The Old Bridge At Hootentown

Floating Away

By Matt Lemmon

The James River

A decade ago the James River had a bit of a murky reputation, mostly due to murky water. The primary waterway between Springfield and Table Rock Lake, the James was a bit of a mess. But that has changed. “It was a lot of effort by a lot of people,” says McClung, with primary credit going to the James River Basin Partnership. That said, it’s still more of a floating river than a swimming river, as are its tributaries (like the Finley River—technically a creek— which flows through Ozark) and wider spots like Lake Springfield. The James’s primary attraction is that it’s super close; you can wake up on a nice Saturday with no plans made and still be in the river by noon.

Where to float: Early in the year (read: right now) you’ll probably find a great float between Shelvin Rock Access (easily found a few miles west of Nixa just off Highway 14) and Hootentown, a seven-mile float. Later in the year your best bet might be to put in at Hootentown and float to Galena. Diane Newman, co-owner of Hootentown Canoe Rental, says the river is a nice mix of fast water and deep holes, where you can fish for smallmouth bass. Newman says the river has gotten a bit of a bum rap. “People still say ‘You don’t want to eat the fish’,” Newman says. “And that’s not right.”

Where to camp/get stuff: We suggest Hootentown Canoe Rental (1254 Hooten Town Road, Crane; 417-369-2266). You can rent canoes for $27.50 per person, which includes all the gear you’ll need, shuttle service and camping. Hootentown covers 47 miles of the James River, all the way from Nixa to Galena, so you can float whatever portion you like; they’ll either drop you off and let you float down to Hootentown, or pick you up farther downriver. Even if you’re not camping, or if you have your own canoe, you can park at Hootentown and hitch a ride to your put-in point (they’ll even haul your canoe) for $5–10. Camping is $5 per tent, and some spots have electricity hookups. Alcohol is allowed (no drugs or underage drinking, Newman says.) The Hootentown grounds also include a general store (The Watering Hole) and restaurant (Smokin’ on the River.)

How to get there: The James River flows right through south Springfield, but you don’t want to put in there. Hootentown is only 20 miles away. Take Highway 160 south through Nixa and Highlandville, then turn west on Highway O before you get to Spokane.


5 Responses to “James River Information”

  1. Jessica June 13, 2010 at 11:08 pm #

    how much do you charge for canoes and/or just us bringing our own inner tubes and floating? It is for my husbands birthday on June 21st.

  2. Jessica June 13, 2010 at 11:09 pm #

    Never mind, it sais it here

  3. Lillian Fitzpatrick July 13, 2010 at 12:08 am #

    FYI–you’ve probably heard this one before, but the “Aspen Road Bridge” is actually called Hawkins Bridge. That’s not a new name, it’s been called that for a hundred years or so. The road has only been call Aspen Road for about 15 years.

    I do have one question–do you know how tall the Riverdale Dam is?

    • earthmonster August 18, 2010 at 1:03 am #

      Thanks for the heads up Lillian, yes you are right, folks from these parts know it as Hawkins Bridge. I made that addition. Is the Riverdale Dam question a “trick question”? 🙂 The dam to the best of my recollection is roughly 12′ to 15′ however it does have damage the last time I saw it and has been knocked down on the mill side so the water pretty much has come to terms with the dam. Sorry for the late response and thanks for visiting.


  1. Fishing The Ozarks « Explore Missouri - February 28, 2011

    […] and very difficult to describe. Overnight float trips down rivers like the Current, Eleven Point, James River or The Big Piney are treasured for the memories they provide. Just the trip planning alone makes my […]

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