Watercress Recreation Area


Area Status: Open

Watercress Recreation Area is an ideal place to relax and enjoy a few hours, or a few days. Located within the town of Van Buren, the campground and day use area are adjacent to the Current River, which flows past scenic bluffs, springs, caves as it meanders through the Mark Twain National Forest toward Doniphan, MO.

Watercress Campground lies on the banks one of the forest’s greatest treasures; the Current River. Floats on the river provide views of southeastern Missouri that otherwise can't be seen. The area is home to a variety of birds and wildlife and recreation opportunities are plentiful in the surrounding area.

Boating and canoeing on the Current River, as well as on other nearby rivers, are popular activities. A boat ramp for both motorized and non-motorized boats is available on the east bank of the Current River. Anglers enjoy fishing for bass, sunfish and the occasional catfish. 

Big Spring, Missouri's largest spring, is just seven miles from the campground. Hikers at Watercress area enjoy the Songbird Trail, a 1/2 mile loop that leads to Watercress Spring, passing remnants of Civil War-era earthwork that overlook the Current River.

The campground offers 17 campsites for tent or RV camping and the sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. 

The campground is adjacent to the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, which is a series of protected rivers in the area managed by the National Park Service.

At a Glance

Operational Hours:
  • Day use area is open year-round, 6AM to 10 PM.
  • Campground Quiet Hourse from 10 pm to 6 am
Reservations: All campsites are first come, first served
Rentals & Guides: There are no outfitters authorized to operate at this location.  Check with the http://www.missouricanoe.org/ for information on rentals.
Area Amenities: Accessible, Boat ramp, Tent camping, Camping trailer, Fee charged for some activities, Picnic tables, Toilets, Drinking water, Parking
Fees: Campsites:
  • Single Sites: $10/night
  • Double Sites: $20/night
There is a 50% discount for camping for anyone with an Interagency Access or Senior Pass.
Open Season: May 1 - October 1
Usage: Heavy
Restrictions:
  • No OHVs/ATVs/UTVs allowed to operate at this recreation area.
  • 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.
  • Maximum Stay Permitted (days): 14.
  • No fireworks
Closest Towns: Van Buren, MO
Water: Drinking Water
Restroom: Vault
Passes: Pass information can be found on the Passes and Permits page of the website.
Operated By: USDA Forest Service
Information Center: Eleven Point Ranger District
Email | Phone and Address

General Information

Directions:

From Van Buren: 

  • Take US 60 to James St
  • From James St. turn right onto Main St./Business 60
  • Proceed .25 mile and turn left onto Watercress Rd.
  • It is .5 mile from the turn to the recreation area. 

Accessibility:

The tables, grills and fire rings are accessible.


Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information

Activities

Campground Camping

Recreation areas with activity Campground Camping:

Amenities include: pressurized water system (no individual hookups), flush toilets, picnic tables, fire rings and lantern posts. 

No. of Sites
  • Single Sites: 15
  • Double Sites: 2
Reservation Info Pavilion only
Fire Information Yes
No. of Accessible sites 6
Sleeping Shelter No
Status: Closed
Difficulty Level: Easy

RV Camping

Recreation areas with activity RV Camping:

No hookups available at this location.

No. of Sites
  • Single: 15
  • Double: 2
Vehicle Clearence No restrictions
Size Restrictions Can accommodate up to 40' RVs.
Pavement Type of Parking Asphalt
Status: Closed

River and Stream Fishing

Recreation areas with activity River and Stream Fishing:

Smallmouth bass, sunfish and catfish may all be caught in the Lower Current River.

Fishing Mode bank, boat
Fish Species bass, panfish
Water Temperature 45 - 70 degrees
Fishing Method Rod & Reel
Water/Flow Level 1 - 8 feeet

Day Hiking

Recreation areas with activity Day Hiking:

Songbird Trail, a ½ mile trail, begins in an open, grassy area between campsites #11 and #12, Watercress Spring is just at the start of the trail near the campsites. From the spring the trail climbs up a hillside, from there you go south to the Watercress entry road. You follow the road back to the campground to make a loop. 

A range of habitats along the trail, from wooded uplands to riparian area. The remains of Civil War earthworks can still be seen high on a hill that overlooks Current River. 

Picnicking

Recreation areas with activity Picnicking:

Amenities available are: Picnic tables, pedestal grills, trash receptacles, drinking water, flush toilets

No. of Sites 5 individual picnic sites throughout the recreation area.
Reservation Info www.recreation.gov
Fire Information None
No. of Accessible Sites tables and small pedestal grills at each site are accessible
Sleeping Shelter None
Status: Closed
Difficulty Level: Easy

Boating - Motorized

Recreation areas with activity Boating - Motorized:

The Watercress Boat Launch is situated on the west bank of the Current River and provides a double-lane, concrete boat launch for motorized and non-motorized boats. This access is less remote than some other sites on the Current River.

This is a very busy site for launching, year-round. 

 

Motor Type There is a 40 HP limit on some sections of the Current River, please be aware of any size limits as you travel up or down the river.

Boating - Non-Motorized

Recreation areas with activity Boating - Non-Motorized:

Floating and tubing on the Current River is very popular, and the river may be crowded, especially on hot summer weekends. Motorboats are also common on this portion of the river.

The Watercress Boat Launch is situated on the west bank of the Current River and provides a double-lane, concrete boat launch for motorized and non-motorized boats. This access is less remote than some other sites on the Current River.

This is a very busy site for launching, year-round. 

Swimming

Recreation areas with activity Swimming:

There is a beach access to the south/left side of the boat ramp. Throughout the day use area there are two concrete river access areas that have stairs, with railings, leading to the beach. The sidewalk to the stairs is made from pavers. 

The river is immediately deep at the concrete at the access to the right. This access may not be suitable for wading. 

The river is very popular with boaters, so be aware of other traffic on the river if/when you are wading.

 

Tubing

Recreation areas with activity Tubing:

Floating and tubing on the Current River is very popular, and the river may be crowded, especially on hot summer weekends. Motorboats are also common on this portion of the river.

The Watercress Boat Launch is situated on the west bank of the Current River and provides a double-lane, concrete boat launch for motorized and non-motorized boats. This access is less remote than some other sites on the Current River.

This is a very busy site for launching, year-round. 

Amenities

Parking: Day Use: 4 parking lots, one is designated boat and trailer parking only.

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities

Location

 
  Latitude : 
37.001944

  Longitude : 
-91.018611