Shane Camden isn’t your typical canoe shuttle service provider. His background is a combination of art and engineering, as he crafts gorgeous wooden longboards designed for racing as well as recreational use on rivers and lakes.
When Camden decided to relocate his operation from Webster Groves to the Missouri River town of New Haven last summer, he thought it would make sense to open a canoe rental and shuttle service, with guided tours as an option. After all, few outfitters service the Missouri River (Big Muddy Adventures being the main one), so he figured there would be an audience for his services.
Camden was right. Despite COVID-19, he’s been busy most of the summer shuttling canoe and kayak enthusiasts to various starting points along the Missouri, such as Hermann, Washington, St. Charles, and other places paddlers want to be picked up or dropped off. His Paddle Stop New Haven business has a fleet of canoes for rent, but it also transports privately owned boats for those who prefer to use their own.
Camden hasn’t had as much time to work on his handmade boards, which he sells throughout the Midwest. (See our July/August 2019 issue.) He decided to concentrate on his large stand-up paddleboards, which are engineered to be more buoyant in order to handle the waves and currents of big rivers like the Missouri, and he’s also making kayaks and repairing boats.
Getting Out on the Missouri
Most casual canoeists and kayakers would never consider floating the Missouri River, with its deep channel and the occasional barge. Yet its beauty is undeniable as it meanders through the middle of the state along farmland and forests. The river rolls past small and mid-sized towns that offer a nice respite with casual eateries and wineries.
Camden wants more people to experience its beauty, so he offers guided tours that include safety and navigation courses.
“The whole purpose of [Paddle Stop New Haven] is to get people on and comfortable with the Missouri River,” he said. “I’d like to see dozens of people here on weekends, enjoying the river and this town. I strongly believe this is an underused gem.”
He understands why people float the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, but “we have a lot to offer here, too. The Missouri River has an allure to it. It’s so pretty and awe-inspiring. It’s a magnificent feeling to be out there,” Camden said.
His class starts with a lecture on floating the Missouri River from a boat captain’s point of view, including knowing how to read the navigation signs and understanding wing dams, which are rock structures the Army Corps of Engineers installed every quarter mile or so to keep the flow of the river in the center. He reviews the basics of being safe on the river, common mistakes people make, and proper fit of vessels, paddles, and lifejackets. Then he leads the group on a trip from Hermann to New Haven. The cost is $50 per person including the shuttle.
“These trips are a way to engage with New Haven, Washington, Hermann. Anybody can come. We’ve had families, but for the most part it’s a bucket list item people have checked off. They’ve always wanted to try kayaking, they want to know they’re safe, they want someone to go with them. That’s a good crowd; having a healthy respect for the river is a good thing. Many have kayaked before but were too afraid to try the Missouri River,” Camden said.
He adds that once people get out there, they’re surprised at how peaceful and calm the Missouri is. “It almost feels like you’re sitting still,” he said of the river, which moves at about four miles per hour.
He says there’s a sandbar every three or four miles between Hermann and New Haven, where you can get out of the boat and stretch your legs or take a lunch break.
The Katy Trail parallels that portion of the river, making it an easy setup for people who want to bike and paddle. Camden shuttles cyclists and their bikes across the river to Treloar, where they get on the trail and ride to the Hermann riverfront. Then, they paddle the Missouri back to New Haven, where their bikes wait, thanks to the shuttle service.
One of the special things about this area is the little towns along the way, Camden says. “You can eat, explore a winery, then get in a canoe and paddle down.”
He describes New Haven as a smaller version of Hermann. “We have a distillery, three wineries, bed and breakfasts, and a hotel,” Camden said. “We have restaurants, coffee shops, glass blowing, a dozen or so little shops.”
Paddle Stop New Haven also leads sunset and full moon trips and is planning fall foliage excursions. “I have a lot of sticks in the fire,” Camden joked.
Author: Terri Waters is a regular contributor to Terrain Magazine.
Photos: Stacy Camden, courtesy of Paddle Stop New Haven.