Float trips are a summertime staple in Missouri, but until recently, you had to drive into the backcountry to get the quintessential experience. The recent opening of the Dardenne Creek Blueway — the first trail of its kind in the Show Me State — offers an opportunity much closer to home.

The scenic waterway winds 3.5 miles from 370 Lakeside Park in St. Peters to Riverside Landing in St. Charles. As a blueway, the route includes mile markers to guide and reassure users along the way (think of it like a hiking trail on water). The St. Charles County Parks Department maintains the stretch, ensuring it remains clean and free of debris and trash. 

“This is a previously untapped area of recreation for the community,” said Andy Fleck, assistant director at St. Charles County Parks. “We want to introduce more people to paddling and make sure they know there are opportunities right in their backyard.”

The blueway’s mission goes deeper than recreation, however. “We also want to educate the public about conservation of our waterways,” Fleck added. “It’s important that people understand the impact they have on our watershed. When you litter or use chemicals on your yard, that eventually makes its way into our streams and rivers.” 

Dardenne Creek Blueway

What To Expect
The Dardenne Creek Blueway may be close to town, but it still offers paddlers the feeling of being out in nature. Noise pollution is minimal, the scenery is beautiful, and you’re likely to see a variety of wildlife, such as deer, foxes, turtles, and birds — including eagles. Plan for several hours to complete the trip, and be sure to wear lifejackets, advises St. Charles County Park Ranger Ashley Maue.

The area wasn’t always so scenic, according to a press release from St. Charles County.

“When we purchased Riverside Landing in 2018, we began planning for this water trail, but debris and litter impeded the connection and flow between the creek and the river,” said Steve Ehlmann, St. Charles County executive. “Our Parks Department has been working diligently to clear tree and log jams, brush, trash, and other debris to provide an improved recreational opportunity for residents and visitors.”

The blueway can be experienced via canoe, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard. Small motorized vessels like personal watercraft or jon boats are also allowed. “The Dardenne Creek Blueway connects with the Mississippi River, so boat owners can use the blueway to access a much bigger body of water,” said Maue.

If you don’t have access to any of those types of water vessels, no problem. You can rent a kayak from the iPaddle station at Riverside Landing — reserve a single or tandem model online, then access the craft from a locker by the entry ramp. It’s recommended that you reserve early, as the paddle share program has been popular (see our July/August issue for more). Another iPaddle rental station was previously available at 370 Lakeside Park but was recently closed due to low water levels; the St. Charles County Parks Department is unsure when the station will reopen.

St. Charles Blueways Map

More Blueways Planned
With the opening of the Dardenne Creek Blueway, St. Charles County embarks on a larger initiative to make its bountiful waterways more accessible to recreational users. (For the record, St. Charles has around 1,300 miles of streams and rivers.)

The 3.5-mile stretch is just the beginning; when completed over five phases, the entire proposed blueway will be 19 miles long, ending at O’Fallon Sports Park. St. Charles County Parks also plans to create the Big Creek Blueway, a 12.3-mile trail from Indian Camp Creek to Cuivre River. Additional kayak rentals may also be added.  

The second phase of the water trail is expected to open in November 2022. It will connect to St. Peters’ Lone Wolf Park 5.2 miles to the southwest.

So far, the public has responded enthusiastically. “The feedback has blown us out of the water, and we’ve had a lot more interest than we initially expected,” said Fleck. 

New Boat Launch at Flatwoods Park

Flatwoods Park, located off Highway 79 in St. Charles County, recently added a new boat launch for access to the Cuivre River. The boat launch is accessible to kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddleboards but is not designed for motorized vehicles. 

St. Charles County Parks recommends two routes starting from the Flatwoods Park boat launch:

  • 4-mile option: Paddle along the Cuivre River to a private, self-serve boat launch in Old Monroe. Located at East Sycamore Road, paddlers must pay to use the ramp upon arrival. 
  • 8-mile option: Paddle along the Cuivre River and into the Mississippi, ending at the Dalbow Boat Ramp in St. Peters. 

For more information, call the St. Charles County Parks Department at 636-949-7535.

Author: Stephanie Zeilenga is a regular contributor to Terrain Magazine.
Images: Courtesy of St. Charles Cunty Parks.