A man and a woman paddling a red boat on calm waters carrying fishing gear

The serene backwaters of the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers offer paddlers reprieve from the bustling urban center of St. Louis, just 20 miles away.

Know before you go – Before you head out to Two Rivers for your next canoe, kayak, or paddle board trip here are a few things to consider:

1) Local weather conditions – check the weather before you head out, a slight change in wind speed can turn an easy paddle into a rough one. Hot, full-sun conditions call for sunscreen and plenty of water, while cold conditions require insulated, waterproof attire, and rain and fog can obscure identifying features on your route.

2) Local water conditions – check water conditions in Mississippi River Pools 25 (for Clarksville and Batchtown divisions) and Mel Price Locks and Dam (Pool 26; for the Portage Island Division), and the Alton Reach of the Illinois River (for Calhoun and Gilbert Lake divisions) as floods and droughts can quickly alter water levels. Management activities can alter water levels in Swan Lake, call ahead to see if current conditions are conducive to non-motorized boating activities.

3) Know your path – consult a map and make a plan before your trip. Bring the map or have a way to know your location to stay on course.

4) Communicate – have a way to communicate with someone in case something goes wrong on your trip, and communicate your plan with someone before your trip. If you’re relying on an electronic device to communicate, bring a dry bag or a waterproof, floatable phone or GPS case.

5) Know if hunting is open in the area you want to visit on the refuge, and be aware of adjacent non-refuge lands open to hunting. When hunting is open, make yourself visible by wearing bright colored clothing.

6) The length and direction of your trip – how much time are you spending paddling upriver? Changes in weather and water conditions can make paddling, especially upriver, labor intensive. Know your skill-level and plan for the unexpected.

7) Main channel navigation – Barges use the main channel to ship goods throughout the Mississippi and Illinois river systems, passing through locks and dams designed to control water levels for the passage of shipments. Accessing some of our locations by watercraft could mean you have to pass through, or next to, the main channel. Always yield to barge traffic and never travel close to a lock and dam. If a problem arises, call 911 or the U.S. Coast Guard for assistance.