The Outfitters of Pulaski County

September 13, 2023

Making memorable trips possible

The riverways that carve their way through the rugged Ozark hills have been a defining trait of Pulaski County since the 1800s when the first tie rafters floated vessels constructed from railroad ties — critical railroad components that led to industrial prosperity. Of course, in a region where both history and the outdoors are so deeply woven into our identity, recreation is bound to carry some callback to our forefathers.

Indeed, floating down the spring-fed rivers and creeks of Pulaski County is intrinsic to the real outdoor experience and evocative of the adventurous spirit of those who settled along the Big Piney and Gasconade rivers. Though if we’re being fair, today’s float trips are much less perilous than those of the 19th century. The logjams that gave Devils Elbow its name are no more, nor do floaters lash together their cargo into crude rafts to move downstream. These days, friendly locals supplying top-of-the-line gear and vessels — from inner tubes to kayaks to canoes — are ready to make your own float as relaxing and memorable as possible.


join in the adventure

Varied in amenities and services, the outfitters of Pulaski County all share one thing in common: They love this place, and they want to share that love with you. That desire to show the world what Pulaski County is all about has led to a sense of camaraderie between companies that in any other region and industry would see each other as competitors rather than allies.

“I don’t see any other outfitter or campground in the county as competition. I see them as an asset,” said Larry Helms, owner and manager of BSC Outdoors. Helms, who has operated BSC Outdoors for more than three decades, said he and other outfitters collaborate by sharing equipment and recommending guests during periods of high occupancy to ensure visitors get the best Pulaski County experience and — in true sales fashion — become brand advocates. “I think that’s really good because we’re taking care of customers. If somebody comes and needs something, why not call the outfitter next to you? You make sure you give that person who came in the best experience possible. Keep them coming back.”

Helms and his family boast a long, proud connection to the rivers. His great-great-grandfather came to Pulaski County via the Big Piney River around 1840 as one of the region’s early tie rafters. Generations later, Helms recalls those halcyon days spent at the river with his family, gathering around a campfire to hear stories of the monster fish that got away, launching a canoe from the banks, or simply cooling off in crystal-clear waters. For Helms, sharing these experiences is more than just a job — it’s a family tradition.

“There’s nothing more wholesome than having a family out on the river, especially on a float trip or camping trip,” Helms explained. “It’s so inspiring to see young families come and enjoy the Gasconade. I really love doing it.”

Sheila Cook is one of those who saw Pulaski County through the lens of an outsider and fell in love. After retiring from their jobs at a large medical provider in California, Sheila and her husband, James, purchased Gasconade Hills Resort in January 2022 and had never even visited Pulaski County until touring the campground for the first time in October 2021.

“We’d never been to Missouri or the Ozarks. It was just stunningly beautiful,” Cook said, adding they had done about six months of research prior to purchase and kept coming back to Gasconade Hills. “We fell in love with the place.”



While the float experience sells itself, Cook said, the natural beauty of the Ozarks paired with the historic sites nearby — including the campground itself, recognized by the National Park Service as a Trail of Tears access point — ensure visitors explore Pulaski County and support local businesses.

“The more people I can bring in, the more people I’m supporting in my local community,” Cook explained. “They’re going to shop at our gas stations and grocery stores. They’re going to visit the bait shop down the road. They’re going to purchase firewood from my local guy. I’m helping promote my community, which is really important to us as well.”

Make your outdoor adventure effortless. Learn more about the outfitters in Pulaski County who are willing to lend a hand and make your trip as hassle-free as possible.

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