river into Hemmed-In Hollow leads to mid-America's highest waterfall.
In the Ouachita Mountains, the clear and sparkling waters of the Little Missouri
and Cossatot rivers have created often noisy and always picturesque cascades
where the streams have etched their way through ridges of upturned rock. And,
while those two and parts of other Arkansas streams are recommended only for
experienced canoeists and kayakers, many Arkansas waterways offer trips suitable
for novice and intermediate floaters.
On most Arkansas creeks and the upper reaches of most small and mid-sized
rivers, sufficient water levels for floating generally occur from late fall
through mid-June, depending on rainfall. Year-round floating is usually possible
on middle to lower stretches of most rivers.
Among the exceptions to those general rules, however, is the Spring River, which
has the most unusual source of any Arkansas float stream. Barely south of the
Missouri border in Fulton County, 9.78 million gallons an hour of 58-degree
water flow constantly from Mammoth Spring, the state's largest spring. Floatable
year-round, the river's 17 miles between Mammoth Spring State Park and Hardy, an
historic town in northern Sharp County, make up its most popular stretch. It is
suitable for beginning to intermediate canoeists and is appropriate for family
outings. Among the attractions for floaters on the Spring are the rainbow and
brown trout harbored by the upper river's naturally cold waters.
Another stream drawing family and other group outings is the Caddo River,
particularly its six miles between Caddo Gap and Glenwood in Montgomery and Pike
counties. Like many of Arkansas's popular float streams, the Caddo features
large gravel bars suitable for picnics and natural pools ideal for swimming.
The National Park Service began oversight of 132 miles of the Buffalo, the
state's most widely known float stream, when it became the country's first
national river in 1972 following a protracted fight by environmentalists to
prevent its damming. In all, the river runs freely through the Ozarks for some
150 miles across Newton, Searcy and Marion counties in north-central Arkansas
before flowing into the White River.
Experienced floaters can find challenging whitewater on the Buffalo's extreme
upper reaches when water levels are sufficient, while many stretches downstream
are suitable for family outings, with easy rapids requiring only marginal
maneuvering for safe passage.
Big Piney Creek, meanwhile, enjoys a reputation among veteran Arkansas floaters
as the classic Ozark Mountain stream. It features ledges and rapids with names
like "Roller Coaster," "Surfing Hole," and "Cascades of Extinction" in a
twisting 67-mile course through Newton, Johnson and Pope counties.
Many Arkansas float streams are popular with anglers seeking, in particular,
smallmouth bass. Crooked Creek, which begins in Newton County and flows through
Boone and Marion counties before emptying into the White, is especially renowned
for float trips in search of the feisty "brownies." The White, Little Red and
North Fork rivers are the state's most renowned trout streams and offer water
suitable for fishing floats, whether in canoes or johnboats. Guided fishing
trips are available from resorts and guides on these streams.
Fish, however, are not the only fauna to be enjoyed along the creeks and rivers
traversing the state's more remote terrain. The variety of wildlife that may be
seen includes bear, bobcat, deer, beaver, mink, wild turkey and a variety of
other birds, especially belted kingfishers and great blue and green herons in
search of a meal.
While Arkansas's streams offer plenty of safe water for novices in search of a
rewarding experience of the state's backcountry, floating in a canoe, kayak or
other craft can be made dangerous by high water levels and exceeding the limits
of one's skills. Local outfitters can provide information on stream conditions.
In addition to day trips, some outfitters offer multi-day floats and such
amenities as cabins, campgrounds and riverside catering for group outings. Canoe
rentals and shuttle service for under $50 for two persons are common in
Arkansas, a reasonable expense for a day's worth of outdoor adventure.
Detailed descriptions of 18 of Arkansas's best-known float streams, including
maps and contact information for outfitters, are provided in the Arkansas
Floater's Kit, which can be viewed on-line and downloaded for printing at
www.arkansas.com/outdoors_sports/float. The floater's kit is also included in
the Arkansas Adventure Guide, a part of the Arkansas Vacation Planning Kit,
which can be ordered on-line at
www.arkansas.com or by phoning toll-free