Dogs in a raft

Life jackets for dogs

One of my favorite things to do in the summer is to go floating with friends.

Now that I have a dog, I want to take him with me when I go floating. You can float with a dog in a canoe anywhere. But, it is hard to find a river outfitter that will allow dogs in rafts.

Years ago I floated in canoes, but those years are long gone. Rafts are so much more comfortable and more social. You can move around, lazily float down the river on a seat cushion while everyone else is still in the raft, and you are floating with 3-8 of your friends instead of with just one other person. And there is no fear that you’ll flip over and lose any of your things.

When I was ready to plan a rafting trip this summer, I scoured the internet and found some options for dog owners who want to float in the comfort of a raft with their dog. Since me and my friends only to go campgrounds with cabins, my list only includes campgrounds that offer cabin lodging.

SEE ALSO: My Dog Milo Went Kayaking and Rafting

Take Your Dog on a Raft Float Trip in Missouri:

It’s hard to find float trip operators that will allow dogs in rafts in Missouri.

These companies DO allow dogs in rafts.

Bass River Resort

Bass River Resorts:

Location: Steeleville, MO
Rivers: Courtois River Huzzah River and Meramec River
Cabins: Yes
Wifi: Yes, at the campground office
Cell Phone Service: No (the campground staff directed us to a spot on the way back to the highway where we were able to get service on AT&T and Verizon)
Dog Policies: Officially, dogs must be kept on leashes at all times, though there were lots of loose dogs near the cabins. There is a $25 fee for dogs to stay in the cabins. No fee for them to float in rafts but you are responsible if the dog would damage the raft.

I stayed at Bass River Resorts this summer in the Cozy Cabins. Each cozy cabin has air conditioning and heat, bathroom with a shower, 2 full size beds and a kitchenette that includes a mini fridge, hotplate, microwave and coffee maker. The cabins are 2 per building and share a deck, plus there is a fire ring and picnic table for each cabin. The Cozy Cabins are split into 2 areas. The ones we stayed in overlooked the river (Units 1-4). I loved the location, though wasn’t thrilled how the picnic table and fire ring were on a steep hill. The weekend we were there we got rained out for the float and the campground flooded a bit, so we opted not to sit in the grass or build a fire. It was nice to have a deck to sit on where we could relax and eat. That said, if there were strangers in the cabin that we shared the deck with, we probably would have ended up by the fire ring on the steep hill. The other set of Cozy Cabins was on flat ground, but they were crammed together and had the look of a trailer park. I don’t think I would like staying in them.

The campground office was fully stocked with everything you might need while you are there. There was also a large porch at the office where you could sit while you checked into email and Facebook on wifi.

I definitely liked this campground better than others where I’ve stayed. Later this summer I’m going back to actually float the river since we got rained out and have credits to use by the end of this year.

Bird’s Nest Lodge:

Location: Steeleville, MO
Rivers: Upper Meramec River
Cabins: Yes
Wifi: No
Cell Phone Service: Yes (Verizon and AT&T worked at the campground office and at our cabin)
Dog Policies: Officially, dogs must be kept on leashes at all times, though dogs were loose everywhere. There are no fees for dogs to stay at the cabins or float in the rafts.

Bird’s Nest Lodge has a large variety of lodging options. They have cabins and tent sites on the campground and a number of other cabins nearby. We stayed in their Meramec River Lodge which is located 2 miles from the campground at the site of the boat put-in spot. We also signed up for their package deal which included 2 nights of lodging, floating (whatever type of boat you want) and meals (dinner and 2 breakfasts).

I took my dog Milo and we kayaked on Friday, then floated in a raft on Saturday. The river float was typical of the Meramec. It’s not the prettiest or swiftest river near St. Louis, but it is still a fun day. The water was shallow in the first part of the float, and we had to get out a couple of times when we hit gravel. By noon, we were in the deeper sections of the river for the rest of the day.

I liked that they didn’t charge extra for dogs. And we had a good time on the river. That said, I won’t ever go back to this campground again.

The staff was extremely disorganized. They didn’t make it clear which rooms we were supposed to be in at the lodge. The end result was that I ended up carrying all of my stuff up to the 3rd floor, then moving it back to the 1st floor, then carrying it back up again.

There was trash from the prior week that hadn’t been emptied that was all over the place, and one of the rooms that I was supposed to stay in just had mattresses laying on the floor (which is why I moved again after I complained!).

I will say that the lodge does have a nice wraparound porch and a fabulous great room with a pool table and ping pong. What they didn’t tell us when we booked is that the good rooms, the ones off the great room that have access to the porch, are only available to large groups who rent out the whole place. My complaining and the fact that all of these rooms were empty resulted in them letting me pick any room I wanted.

Oh, and none of these 3rd floor rooms could be locked. How could they think anyone would want to leave their belongings unlocked all day when they are floating the river.

It also was a pain to be 2 miles from the main office. Speaking of the office, it’s the worst I’ve ever seen at a campground. Normally the campground office is also a store where you can buy anything you forgot to bring. Not at Bird’s Nest. They had ice and that’s about it. They also didn’t have wifi, which is rare.

The office is where you go for meals (a real pain when you are staying at the Meramec River Lodge 2 miles away). I signed up because I thought it would be nice not to have to pack all the food and cook. But the quality of the meals was so poor that I would have been better off bringing a breakfast bar and a sub sandwich. We were also told that the dinner would be pork steaks. Not so. We were served chicken which was ok, but not what we were expecting or wanted.

The other thing we all really disliked is that this was not one of those campgrounds where you enjoy your visit to nature. Everywhere you looked there were tents or cabins, all right on top of each other.

Bottom line is I won’t stay here again. If you are looking for a day float with your dog, it’s a good option. But think twice before you sign up to stay at the campground. 

Riverview Ranch:

Location: Steeleville, MO
Rivers: Upper Meramec River
Cabins: Yes
Wifi: Yes
Dog Policies: Dogs are allowed in the campground, cabins and rafts. I didn’t have a dog when I stayed there (but my friends did) so I’m not sure if there were any fees for the dogs.

I’ve stayed at Riverview Ranch twice now. It’s a smaller campground which I liked, as there is a lot more open land and it doesn’t feel crammed with people. The campground office had all of the necessities you might need to purchase, and there was wifi available so you could check your email. I don’t remember if I was able to get phone service, but I’m thinking I probably wasn’t able to connect via Verizon.

The cabins at Riverview Ranch are more basic than at the other places where we have stayed, but they were nice enough that I would go back. The small 4 person cabins are really tiny, but are also economical and gave us what we needed. They don’t have private bathrooms, but they do have air conditioning and a refrigerator. They have 2 sets of bunk beds, a chair and space to bring in a cooler (which makes the ice last a lot longer). There is plenty of space for parking and to sit around a campfire at these cabins.

The larger cabins sleep 7 and have a full bathroom inside. They also have air conditioning and they have a mini kitchen with a stove, microwave and refrigerator. The cabin is one big room with 2 sets of bunk beds and a single bed, plus a large table in the middle. There is also a small bedroom with 2 single beds.

I would definitely stay in these larger cabins if I returned. The extra space in the middle of the cabin and the dining table came in handy one night when it started raining just as we were ready to sit down to dinner.

The one downside to this campground is that you have to take a bus both to put in and take out. Since the bus picks up by the tents, we actually drove to that spot and left our cars there. This setup means that it is critical that your group sticks together so you have a ride back to the cabins when you get off the bus at the end of floating.

The dogs in our group were off leash at the campground. The cabins had a lot of open ground around them and the tenting area was far away, so the dogs had some room to roam.

While Riverview Ranch is more rustic than other campgrounds and involves 2 bus rides plus cars to get to and from the river, the cheaper prices make it a good option if you are on a budget and want to stay in cabins with your dog. 

Huzzah Valley Resort:

Location: Bourbon, MO
Rivers: Courtois River Huzzah River and Meramec River
Cabins: Yes
Dog Policies: They request that dogs be kept on leashes in the campground. There is a $25 fee for dogs to stay in the cabins.

I have not every been to Huzzah Valley Resort. If you have been there, share with us your experiences in the comments below!

Ozark Outdoors:

Location: Leasburg, MO
Rivers: Courtois River Huzzah River and Meramec River
Cabins: Yes
Dog Policies: You may bring your pet with you to Ozark Outdoors Riverfront Resort, as long as they are under your control at all times. Dogs should be on a leash while on property, but never tie them to a boat. Pets are allowed in boats, but NOT tubes, as long as nails are clipped and filed smooth. Housebroken pets are allowed in ALL lodging units. $15.00 plus applicable sales tax per pet per night in all lodging units. Costs of damages will be charged to reservation owner in addition to basic pet reservation fees if necessary.

I have not every been to Ozark Outdoors, but based on their website, they seem to be the most welcoming to pets. If you have been there, share with us your experiences in the comments below!

Final Thoughts:

Of the 3 campgrounds I have visited that allow dogs in rafts and have cabins with air conditioning, I like Bass River Resorts best. Riverview Ranch, while far from perfect, would be a backup option for me. Bird’s Nest is one that I won’t return to.

I’m looking forward to trying the other 2 campgrounds. If you know of any place you can float in a raft with your dog that is a day trip from St. Louis, let me know in the comments below so I can check it out!

Disclosure: This blog post contains advertising. If you click the link for the dog life jacket and decide to buy something (the life jacket or something else), I will get paid a tiny amount of money which will help me get closer to my dreams.