The best way to soak up the sun and sin on a St. Louis float trip


Oh, us poor landlocked Midwesterners. It's no wonder beach bums on the coasts think of us with pity, imagining our sad little lives without ocean views and killer waves.

While we may lack sand in every bodily orifice, we make up for it with river water in our veins. With many of the region's best rivers situated just 45 minutes to two hours outside St. Louis, floating is a way of life for those in the Show-Me State. Best of all, our water adventures are shark-free, salt-free and seasick-free.
Take that, San Diego and your temperate maritime climate!

When planning your next summer trip to St. Louis, steal a day away from the city to soak in the natural beauty, crystal clear streams and rocky bluffs from the comfort of a raft. But if you're a newbie, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Decide if you want to bring holy water or Firewater
Are you looking for a little relaxation? Or more of a floating Mardi Gras parade? It's important to read up on the resorts before you plan your trip. While all resorts offer quiet spots for nature lovers, wallflowers and families, some can also get downright rowdy in the party areas. At spots like Bass' River Resort and Huzzah Valley Resort in Steelville and Ozarks Outdoors Riverfront Resort in Leasburg, the liquor often flows as fast as the currents.

Choose your vessel
Your choice of floatation device depends on the resort and the river. Kayaks and canoes give you a little more control and can get you through the journey faster. But tubes and rafts are more suitable for relaxation. Many resorts offer six-man rafts — just bungee up your cooler and your raft turns into a nautical tavern for the entirety of your trip.

Dress for the occasion
If there's one thing to take away from my experiences, skip the flip flops and stick with water shoes or sports sandals. Seriously. The river bottoms are comprised of knife-sharp rocks that Mother Nature installed to punish us floaters for drinking on the Sabbath. The moment my flip flops turned on me and floated away, I was rewarded with a nasty gash on the bottom of my foot, miles away from civilization and Band-Aids.

Leave the bottles at home
Critical lesson number two. Water patrol does not take too kindly to glass bottles on their rivers. And the translucent water does little to hide your evidence. Case in point, my bottle of Mike's Hard Lemonade quickly turned into a $50 ticket. Load up your cooler before you go with canned selections from St. Louis' renowned microbreweries or fill a flask with locally-distilled craft vodka from St. Louis Distillery or Mastermind.

For all that is good and holy, wear a life jacket if you need it
Our rivers may look quiet and serene, but travel down a mile or two and you can hit some pretty wicked rapids that even experienced floaters have trouble maneuvering. My husband and I rescued one young woman who was quickly snatched up by river debris. We saved her, but lost our Styrofoam cooler of booze to the rapids. If you can't swim, life jacket up. If you plan on drinking, be sure it's secure.

My favorite floating getaways are always the St. Francis River at Sam A. Baker State Park and the Current River in Van Buren, but a full lineup of offerings is served up at missouricanoe.org.

Nicole Plegge is a freelance writer and pop culture aficionado based in St. Louis. While she's busy writing for a variety of websites, magazines and blogs, she still can't get over never being able to attend the Eastland School for Girls.