Rural Missouri Magazine

Missouri Whitewater Championships
Millstream Gardens Conservation Area, Madison County

by Jason Jenkins

For much of the year, the St. Francis River gently meanders through the Millstream Gardens Conservation Area in Madison County. Water trickles through a spectacular canyon known as Tiemann Shut-Ins, spilling over granite boulders worn smooth over time.

However, in late winter and early spring, the tranquility of the gardens is interrupted as a torrent of water comes rushing down the St. Francis, turning the granite gorge into the most reliable stretch of publicly accessible whitewater rapids in all of Missouri.

For more than 40 years, members of the Missouri Whitewater Association have taken advantage of this geologic curiosity, holding the Missouri Whitewater Championships here the third weekend in March.

For two days, racers and fans alike line the shut-ins’ rocky outcroppings to watch novices and experts compete in a number of slalom, downriver and boatercross races sanctioned by the American Canoe Association.

Depending on the river’s flow, the major rapids can vary from Class II to Class V. Races are held along the most challenging portion of the shut-ins, including major drops with colorful names such as Big Drop, Cat’s Paw, Double Drop and Rickety-Rack. In 2008, Jo Aerne of St. Louis conquered Big Drop (as seen on this month’s cover) and the slalom course to take second place in the women’s single open-canoe class.

This year’s races will take place March 21-22. Admission and parking are both free, and concessions will be available. For more information, visit the whitewater association’s Web site at or e-mail the race director at

Millstream Gardens Conservation Area is located roughly halfway between Fredericktown and Arcadia off Highway 72.


Rural Missouri | June 2020 Issue

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