This past spring the National Park Service imposed new rules banning Jell-O shots, beer bongs and kegs from the dozens of rivers and tributaries that crisscross southern Missouri. The regulations, it is hoped, will put an end to the public drunkenness, noise and litter that have turned these state treasures into backwater Gomorrahs. Until such a time, there remains Courtois Creek. Pronounced "cote
-away," this 30-mile long feeder stream to the Meramec River features crystal-clear water, gentle rapids, limestone bluffs and scores of gravel beaches and cool eddies for picnics and swimming. Quieter and more secluded than nearby waterways, the Courtois boasts an abundant amount of wildlife, with fish, turtles and waterfowl visible around every bend. Better yet, the Courtois is little more than an hour's drive from St. Louis. Word of warning: Canoes can drag the bottom of this shallow river as waters recede in late summer, so it's best to float the Courtois in early summer or fall.