Our Story… Ozark Outdoors Riverfront Resort : Formerly known as Keyes Canoe Rental, Inc.
Ozark Outdoors Riverfront Resort rests along the Meramec River in historic Leasburg, Missouri. Thousands of customers come every year to enjoy camping, floating, cabins, condos, motels, fishing, and hiking near the Courtois, Huzzah, and Meramec Rivers. Offering a multitude of outdoor activities, Ozark Outdoors has something for everyone. Whether it is a weekend with the guys, a girl’s day out, or a nice family vacation, each guest is sure to find an enjoyable activity at our resort. Established in 1960, formerly known as Keyes Canoe Rental, Inc., Ozark Outdoors has become an active part of the surrounding communities of Leasburg, Steelville, Cuba, Bourbon, Sullivan, and others in the Crawford County area.
In 1960, Al and Hilda Keyes founded Keyes Canoe Rental, Inc. in the small town of Leasburg, Missouri. Originating with merely two Jon boats and the help of their family and friends, they began their guiding service on the flowing Meramec River. Each day, those two Jon boats were paddled up river to those special fishing areas, and then with the natural current of the river, were carried back.
Soon after they began, the owners of the neighboring Onondaga Cave, Les Dill and Lyman Reily developed a partnership with Mr. and Mrs. Keyes. Lake excursions at the cave became an attraction when three rental canoes were added to the business. At that time, prices started at $6.00 per day plus transportation costs, which were a mere 31 cents per gallon of gasoline.
As business flourished, Keyes Canoe Rental doubled their boating fleet from three canoes to six. On the hunt for adventure, guests endured a dust-choked journey along the primitive, dirt road called Highway H. I-44 was not in existence yet, and so visitors drove Route 66 or arrived on the train where a bus would transport them to and from the river and cave for day trips.
Guests started to notice the pristine Meramec River bluffs at the foot of the cave entrance. Instead of lake trips, they began to ask for trips on the river for their daytime activity. River trips became an instant hit among guests.
The Keyes’ sold their family business in 1976 to Don and Mickey West. Fred Sanders purchased the business five years later in 1981; that same year the Missouri Department of Natural Resources purchased Onondaga Cave from Les Dill and Lyman Reily. Popular vote repealed the Army Corps of Engineer’s plan for the Meramec Dam Project.
Fred worked hard and loved the business. He added more services and purchased the first rafts, buses, and vans in 1985. As hard as he worked, he endured massive financial hardships as well. In less than two years, the bridge over the Meramec River, between Onondaga Cave and Keyes Canoe Rental, washed out three different times.
In 1993, Fred proposed a partnership in the business with Robert Bass. Together, the two joining forces, added cabins, extra camping areas and sites, and began to greatly improve the beautiful riverfront property.
Keyes Canoe Rental, Inc. began doing business as Ozark Outdoors Riverfront Resort in 2000. Over the years, numerous river trips were added on the Meramec River, Huzzah River, and Courtois Creek for customer enjoyment. Even more tent camping, RV sites, multiple types of cabins, motels, and condos were added to the resort to allow guests to stay as long as they please to extend their fun and adventures.
Ozark Outdoors now offers a multitude of activities such as camping, fishing, lodging, hiking, floating, swimming, and many more. To date, the resort has over 300 canoes, 100 kayaks, 300 tubes, 250 rafts, 200 tent campsites, 120 full hookup RV sites, 5 condos, 20 motel rooms, 28 cabins, and 5 off-site retreats.