Watercress Recreation Area

Area Status: Open
This area is Open

Watercress Recreation Area is located on the Current River in Van Buren MO. Recently renovated, Watercress Recreation Area is an ideal place to relax and enjoy a few hours, or a few days. Watercress Recreation Area offers many different forms of fun; pavilions for parties or other special occasions, camping, fishing, hiking, boating, and wading to name a few. Within the city of Van Buren MO. Watercress is a short drive to many interesting locations on the Current and Jacks Fork Rivers, including Big Spring, Missouri’s largest spring, just 5 miles away. The two pavilions each have electricity and lights for evening use and have a few amenities such as; trash dumpster, barbeque grill, tables, drinking water, and flush toilets. They may be reserved in advance by calling the National Reservation system at 1-877-444-6777 or by visiting online at www.recreation.gov. There is also camping in Watercress Recreation Area. Water is available, no electrical hook ups and sites are available on first come first served basis. There are no reservations. There are 15 single unit and 2 double unit camping sites in Watercress Recreation Area. Watercress Recreation Area also has a concrete boat launch available suitable for launching canoes and johnboats. The boat launch, parking and day use areas are free at Watercress. If you're fishing at Watercress Recreation Area you can be on the lookout for small month bass and walleye, as well as sunfish, and catfish. Fishing is permitted year round and controlled by the Missouri Department of Conservation. If a hike is what you're in the mood for, Songbird Trail, a 1.2-mile loop leads to Watercress Spring and passes remains of Civil War earthworks overlooking Current River.

At a Glance

Operational Hours: Campground is open April 24 through October; day use area is open year-round, 6AM to 10 PM. 
Rentals & Guides: There are no outfitters authorized to operate at this location.  Check with the VanBuren Chamber of Commerce or http://www.missouricanoe.org/ for information on rentals.
Fees The cost of the reservation is currently $25.00 plus a $9.00 - $10.00 reservation fee. If not reserved in advance, the pavilions may be used on a first come, first served basis for $25.00. Parking is free. Reservations are posted at each pavilion. Camping fees are $10.00 for single units, $15.00 for double units with a 50%discount for anyone with a Golden Age or Golden Access Passport, Senior Pass, or an Access Pass. 
Usage: Heavy
Restrictions: Activities must end by 9:00 p.m. and start no earlier than 7:00 a.m. No more than 8 people are permitted at any one site (16 for double sites). When fishing at Watercress Recreation Area, all limits apply and necessary permits are required. Drinking water and flush toilets are not available from 10/1 through 4/30. Rate: $10 per day for single $18 per day for double. Maximum Stay Permitted (days): 14. Power boats are limited to 40 HP.
Closest Towns: Van Buren, MO
Water: Drinking Water; May 1 through October 1 only.
Restroom: Vault
Operated By: U.S. Forest Service

General Information

Directions: Take Highway 60 to Van Buren. In Van Buren, proceed along US60/Main Street to the National Park Service Office on Watercress Road; follow the black-topped road past the Office; making a left turn to the bottom of the hill, approximately 1/3 mile. Directions to the Pavilions: Sycamore Pavilion is located closest to the boat launch (on the approach into the area). Old Hickory is located more towards the north or up river nearer the camping areas.


Camping & Cabins

Hide detail HIDE

Campground Camping

There are 15 single and 2 double sites. Amenities include: pressurized water system (no individual hookups), flush toilets, picnic tables, fire rings and lantern posts.

Sleeping ShelterNo
Reservation InfoPavilion only
Fire InformationYes
No. of Sites17
No. of Accessible sites6
Status: Closed
Difficulty Level: Easy

RV Camping

Can accommodate up to 40' RVs. No hookups available at this location.

Status: Closed


Show detail SHOW


Show detail SHOW

Nature Viewing

Show detail SHOW


Show detail SHOW

Water Activities

Show detail SHOW
Areas & Activities


  Elevation : 
320 ft