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31+ WATERWAYS TO FLOAT DISCOVER BEE BLUFF ON THE BUFFALO RIVER

&MORE

AY PARK& PL IPS R T Y A D E PADDL

CANOE, KAYAK AND PADDLEBOARD ADVENTURES

SAFETY TIPS & WHITEWATER GEAR

ISSUE NO. 1|2016 a r K A N S A S w i l d.c o m ARKANSASWILD.COM | 1


A F i r s t -C l A s s t i m e ... e v e ry t i m e . America’s #1 Trout Fishing Resort is Gaston’s. Our White River float trips for lunker trout are legendary from coast to coast. We do the work. All you do is fish – in style and comfort. Then there are the extras that make “resort” our last name. First-class lodging. One of the South’s finest restaurants featuring a spectacular view. A private club. Tennis and a pool. Nature trails for mountain biking and hiking. A conference lodge for your group meetings or parties. Even a private landing strip for fly-in guests.

1777 River Road, Lakeview, AR 72642 870-431-5202 • Email gastons@gastons.com Lat 36 20’ 55” N Long 92 33’ 25” W 2 | PADDLE ARKANSAS

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Follow us on

www.gastons.com


The paddler who’s looking for fresh waters to explore couldn’t do better than the Arkansas Delta! Our rivers and lakes offer plenty of adventure for all skill levels. And did you know that several sections of our mighty Mississippi can be safely paddled without crossing channels? Don’t have a canoe or kayak? You’ll find several places to rent or buy a craft – even take you on a guided canoe trip. When your shoulders need a rest, explore all our interesting places to see and things to do, and stay in our lodges or other overnight accommodations. We can see you spending many happy days paddling our waters. Canoe?

This ad is paid for with a combination of state funds, private regional association funds and a National Scenic Byway grant.

deltabyways.com ARKANSASWILD.COM | 3


WHAT'S INSIDE ISSUE NO. 1|2016

28

SAFETY & GEAR

Arkansas' Ultimate Boating Bucketlist

12 > PADDLE SAFE 14 > RIGGED UP & READY 16 > TAKE A STAND

36

BATTLING THE BUFFALO

Paddle For Polio Sends One Man Down The River

40

PARK, PLAY AND PADDLE

Shorter Trips Mean Big Fun

PADDLE IT FORWARD 18 > CRUISING THE CACHE 20 > PADDLING THE ARKANSAS WATER TRAILS 22 > CHALLENGING THE MIGHTY MISSISSIPPI 24 > SCHOOLED ON WHITEWATER 26 > FISHING THE RAZORYAK TRAIL

GET OUT & PLAY 44 > PADDLE EVENTS 46 > LOCAL GUIDES, OUTFITTERS, OUTDOOR RETAILERS & RENTALS

BACKPADDLE 50 > A FLOOD OF VOLUNTEER SPIRIT The crystal-clear waters of the Buffalo National River are just one of Arkansas' amazing opportunities for paddle sport action.

WWW.ARKANSASWILD.COM 4 | PADDLE ARKANSAS

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FAcebook.com/ArkansasWild

On the cover: Photographer Philip Thomas of Novo Studio gets a majestic shot of Bee Bluff outside of Ponca.

PHOTO BY NOVO STUDIO

PADDLE IN


Live Outside the Expected Hot Springs Village offers an outdoor lover’s pardise in the heart of the Ouachita Mountains, featuring eleven lakes, miles of natural trails and within minutes of world-class hunting & fishing. Follow Hot Springs Village Basecamp on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, and find your place in a community made for adventurists, lazy-day paddlers and first-timers! Find training opportunities, social get-togethers and organized events deeply rooted in an outdoor culture you won’t want to leave. Come for the fun, stay for the lifestyle — Welcome to our naturehood!

ARKANSASWILD.COM | 5


Canoe, Raft & Kayak Rental Campground on the Creek! Shuttle Service for Big Piney Creek Access Creek & Sections of Ozark Indian Creek Cabin Highland Trail Outdoor Store

3827 SR 164 W | DOVER, AR | 479-331-3606 mooreoutdoors.com | bigpineycreekfest.com

M A G A Z I N E

MOORE OUTDOORS Outfitter for Big Piney Creek since 1978 A

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WWW.ARKANSASWILD.COM | FACEBOOK.COM/ARKANSASWILD REBEKAH LAWRENCE Publisher rebekah@arktimes.com MANDY KEENER Creative Director mandy@arktimes.com MICHAEL ROBERTS Editor michael@arktimes.com KEVIN WALTERMIRE Art Director kevin@arktimes.com ADVERTISING ELIZABETH HAMAN Advertising Sales Director elizabeth@arktimes.com LESA THOMAS Senior Account Executive lesa@arktimes.com

MON - FRI 9-6 • SATURDAY 9-5

BLAKE HANNAHS New Business Development blake@arktimes.com RHONDA CRONE Account Executive rhonda@arktimes.com MANDE JILL CORBETT Account Executive mandejill@arktimes.com PRODUCTION WELDON WILSON Production Manager/Controller

• ROCK CLIMBING • BACKPACKING • CAMPING

• APPAREL AND FOOTWEAR

• KAYAKING • FLY FISHING • RAPPELLING

• CANOEING • HIKING

501.767.1373 • 112 Blackhawk Lane Hot Springs, AR • ouachitaoutdoors.com

ROLAND R. GLADDEN Advertising Traffic Manager JIM HUNNICUTT Advertising Coordinator GRAPHIC DESIGNERS BRYAN MOATS MIKE SPAIN SOCIAL MEDIA LAUREN BUCHER lauren@arktimes.com

Live Your Adventure OUR GOAL IS TO PROVIDE YOU WITH THE GEAR, SERVICE AND SUPPORT NEEDED TO FULLY ENJOY THE ARKANSAS NATURAL STATE.

OUTDOOR GEAR & CLOTHING • BIKES • KAYAKS • CANOES PADDLEBOARDS • FISHING GEAR & MORE • RENTALS & REPAIRS 501-691-0138 625 S. 7TH STREET HEBER SPRINGS, AR 72543 SCREEKOUTFITTERS.COM 6 | PADDLE ARKANSAS

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OFFICE STAFF ROBERT CURFMAN IT Director LINDA PHILLIPS Billing/Collections KELLY LYLES Office Manager/Accounts Receivable ANITRA HICKMAN Circulation Director 201 E. MARKHAM ST., SUITE 200 LITTLE ROCK, AR 72201 501-375-2985 All Contents © 2016 Arkansas Wild


WHEN WHO YOU’RE WITH IS HALF THE FUN.

WE’RE HERE. At First Security, we know we’re in great company. Since 1932, we’ve been serving friends and neighbors all across Arkansas – but only in Arkansas. Local service. Local commitment. It’s all a part of banking better. Are you ready for a friendly team you can count on? Swing by First Security, because we’re here for you.

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fsbank.com | onlyinark.com ARKANSASWILD.COM | 7


Guest editor and Buffalo Outdoor Center owner Mike Mills finds peace on the Buffalo River.

“Arkansas has the best paddling profile of any Midwestern state and possibly any state in the nation.” –Mike Mills

“Welcome to Heaven” is what I say when you walk through the doors of Buffalo Outdoor Center in Ponca. Not because I believe this is heaven, but because when you are drifting down a river, especially the Buffalo, there is a heavenly peace that fills the soul. Arkansas has the best paddling profile of any Midwestern state and possibly any state in the nation. Take the Arkansas River, add the color and splendor of the Ozarks, the mystery and roughness of the Ouachitas and border those with ancient cypress and tupelo forested rivers of the Delta, and what you have is close to perfection. I guided my first canoe at age 8 on the White River before Beaver Lake while my dad fished. He didn’t like noise, and wanted to stop often, so I learned eddy turns and paddling techniques without even knowing what they were. I floated the Buffalo River for the first time in 1965, and have done so a hundred times more since. It became my passion, my soul and my way of life. It is an honor to be a part of this first edition of Paddle Arkansas. Thanks to each and every contributor within the pages of this special edition. My hope is that they will provide knowledge and inspiration for you to find your own “Heaven.”

Mike Mills Guest Editor, Paddle Arkansas

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PHOTO BY RETT PEEK

HEAVENLY STATE OF MIND


ARKANSASWILD.COM | 9


CONTRIBUTORS

ERIN TAYLOR and her husband, Gary,

JOHN PEARCE is an American Canoe

JILL ROHRBACH is a travel writer for the Arkansas Tourism Department, seeking out adventure, destination and outdoor fun to share with readers.

NATE JORDON found a primitive oasis in

JEFF MALOTT is the owner/operator of yakfisharkansas.com and the co-founder of both the Arkansas Kayak Anglers and the Razoryak Tournament trail.

PHILIP THOMAS is the owner and operator of Novo Studio, a photography, video and graphic design company located in northwest Arkansas.

JIM HARRIS is a weekly contributor

to KTHV, Channel 11 sports, columnist for SportinglifeArkansas.com, and freelances for a number of publications in and out of state.

ZOIE CLIFT works as a journalist for the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. She enjoys outdoors reporting and exploring the trails and backroads of Arkansas.

GORDON KUMPURIS is an avid kayaker, a 25-year member and current board member of the Arkansas Canoe Club. Â

CLAY CAHOON is an ACA certified level 4 whitewater kayak instructor as well as a level 4 swiftwater rescue instructor.

own Go! Running, but she spends most of her days working at her marketing consulting firm, Taylor’d Marketing.

10 | PADDLE ARKANSAS

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Association instructor of 18 years and coowner of Miss Mays's, which produces home, body and outdoor products.

the Arkansas wilderness after moving from Colorado in 2012. His musings and other viscera can be found at natejordon.com.


Day hike. Day paddle. Day trip.

ARKANSASWILD.COM | 11


SAFETY & GEAR

PADDLE SAFE BY CLAY CAHOON

WEAR YOUR PFD

The most basic safety precaution is the life jacket—what paddlers refer to as a personal flotation device (PFD). There’s simply no good excuse not to wear one. Think you’re a great swimmer? Those abilities won’t help when you’ve been knocked unconscious with the weight of 2,000 cubic feet of water per second forced onto your chest. A good PFD also helps protect a paddler’s body from hard objects and provides thermal protection. So wear one. No excuses.

CHECK YOUR HEAD

W

e all paddle because we love it. What sport, other than paddling, involves trying to tame a force so strong it can move trees and house-sized boulders during a single rain? Whether you are kayak fishing on a backwoods lake or paddling a flooded Class V creek, you should adhere to strict safety precautions—and always respect the water. The American Canoe Association recommends that you always boat in groups of three, especially in whitewater conditions. Never leave for a trip without telling someone where you're going and what time that you are expected to be back. I go even further, leaving a brief trip note in the seat of the vehicle I take to the river. This way, when the rescue team finds your vehicle, they have extra information to help in their search. For more information about paddle sports safety and laws, visit agfc.com/fishing/ boatingpaddling.aspx.

Whether it’s Class II water or Class V, every whitewater boater should wear a helmet. If you want to know why, take a look at a veteran paddler’s helmet—each one will have scratches and gouges. If you can only spend money on a few pieces of gear, don’t skimp on your PFD or helmet! And be sure to keep it on near the river bank, because slips and falls happen there all the time.

SAVE YOUR FEET

The river is full of sharp rocks, sticks, fish hooks, old rebar and other dangers. Wear a river shoe that has closed-toe protection—and save the Chacos or flipflops for around camp.

DRESS FOR SUCCESS

Obviously, if you are boating on an August day in Arkansas, dressing cool is important. But don’t forget about water temperature! If the sum of the outside temperature plus the water temperature is less than 120 degrees, you will want to wear thermal protection in order to prevent getting hypothermia. Long-sleeve clothing can help with sun protection. And as temperatures drop, wetsuits, drysuits or other thermal clothing will be needed.

ROUND OUT YOUR KIT

When surrounded by loud whitewater, a whistle can be invaluable as a communication tool. Whistles are much louder than the human voice, and there are standard whistle signals that can be used to alert others that you are in trouble. A knife is also a must-have. Be sure to get one with a stainless steel blade to avoid rust. 12 | PADDLE ARKANSAS

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KNOW YOUR RIVER The difficulty of any given stretch of river is designated by one of six classes. Class designations can change based on level of flow, so it’s imperative to know the current status of any river before floating. The American Whitewater Association describes the classes as follows:

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l o v e t o f l o at o u t f i t t e r s . c o m Class I: Easy Fast moving water with riffles and small waves.

Class II: Novice Straightforward rapids with wide, clear channels which are evident without scouting.

Class III: Intermediate Rapids with moderate, irregular waves which may be difficult to avoid and which can swamp an open canoe.

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Class V: Expert Extremely long, obstructed or very violent rapids which expose a paddler to added risk.

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Class VI: Extreme These runs have almost never been attempted and often exemplify the extremes of difficulty, unpredictability and danger.

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All Things Hunting Related?

Source: americanwhitewater.org ARKANSASWILD.COM | 13


SAFETY & GEAR

RIGGED UP AND READY BY MICHAEL ROBERTS

STETSON HAT

This weathered cotton hat from Dorfman Pacific is perfect for protection from the sun—plus it’s durable enough to get wet. $33.95 dorfman-pacific.com

A CANOEING & KAYAKING GUIDE TO THE OZARKS

Available from Turner Bend Store, Ozark; turnerbend.com.

1040 MICRO CASE

Great for cell phone protection, this case by Pelican also comes with a clip to keep it attached and easily accessible. $21.99 pelican.com

WATERPROOF POUCH: 10” BY 13”

Keep your valuables safe and dry with this inexpensive waterproof pouch by X-Stream Paddle Sports Gear. $5.99 paddlesportswarehouse.com

SHADES THAT FLOAT What better way to keep the sun out of your eyes on the water than a pair of shades—especially these foam-enhanced glasses from Bomber Eyewear that float. $34.99 bombereyewear.com

Available from Byrd’s Adventure Center, Ozark; byrdsadventurecenter.com 14 | PADDLE ARKANSAS

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PHOTOS BY BRIAN CHILSON / COURTESY OF VENDORS

The Ozarks are home to some of the best paddling in the country. This guide by Arkansas Canoe Club instructor Tom Kennon will get paddlers on the water in no time. $18.95


MANTA RAY CARBON KAYAK PADDLE

This lightweight paddle from Aqua-Bound will get you moving with a hightech, carbon fiber blade to provide extra strength and stiffness. $179.95 aquabound.com

KARMA KAYAK

The Karma Kayak from Jackson Kayak handles whitewater with ease and comes fully loaded with rails to allow easy accessory attachment. $1,199 jacksonkayak.com

Available from Ozark Mountain Trading Co., Garfield and Ozark; ozarkmtc.com

LIKE ARKANSAS WILD

on Facebook for a chance to win a pair of these Astral flip-flops from Ouachita Outdoor Outfitters! Stylish, comfortable—plus they transform into a full sandal with just one strap! Go to facebook.com/ArkansasWild for more details.

Available from Ouachita Outdoor Outfitters, Hot Springs; ouachitaoutdoors.com

AERO SUP KIT

Take off in a hurry with the Aero SUP package from Jobe. Includes a lightweight inflatable board, paddle, air pump and carrying case. Perfect for a beginner! $799.99 jobesports.com

Available from Gregg Orr Marine, Hot Springs; greggorrmarine.com ARKANSASWILD.COM | 15


SAFETY & GEAR

TAKE A STAND BY JOHN PEARCE

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Arkansas’ whitewater rivers like the Frog Bayou near Rudy make for a thrilling SUP ride.

SUP riders take on rivers of all sizes— including the Arkansas.

Standing above the rush of water on a SUP is a unique perspective.

"The growing popularity of SUP is easy to explain: It’s fun, easy to learn and accessible." — John Pearce

PHOTOS COURTESY OF J.P. BELL

tand Up Paddleboarding is being discovered all over the world by surfers, canoeists, fishermen and anyone who enjoys being outside on the water. The upright perspective, glide through the water and minimalist approach make this sport appealing to a broad spectrum of people, and Arkansas’ bounty of lakes, rivers, creeks and swamps is a “SUP” paradise. The growing popularity of SUP is easy to explain: It’s fun, easy to learn and accessible. Just grab a board, paddle, leash and life-jacket and you’ll be checking out your nearest lake or quiet river in no time. Arkansas waterways can be swamps, lakes, a lock and dammed river system, flatwater river sections, or whitewater rivers and, in general, trips are either flatwater, whitewater, or mixed. Short flatwater trips are the best place to begin getting used to the board and building up comfort and skill level. Beaver Lake, Lake O u a c h i t a , L a ke G re e s o n a n d the Arkansas River are just a few of the hundreds of waterways that are great places to start. Remember to let someone know where you’re going and when you plan to return. Arkansas is especially beautiful when viewed from a Stand Up Paddleboard—so get on the water and enjoy!


FOLLOW THESE TIPS TO ENSURE A POSITIVE EXPERIENCE AND A SAFE RETURN:

› Dress appropriately for weather

conditions. If it’s cold, a good pair of booties will keep your feet out of the water and warm.

THE BUFFALO RIVER FOUNDATION

Contact us to learn about adding a conservation easement to your property or becoming a member of the foundation.

› Know your fitness level. Leave

yourself a margin of error so that you don’t wind up literally over your head.

› If your trip is a loop, start out

paddling into whichever is the strongest force, the wind or the current. That way, on the way back, the return trip is aided by nature. WHAT SORT OF BOARD SHOULD YOU USE? SUPs are divided into two categories: inflatables and hard boards. Both have pros and cons, which depend on the environment and each paddler’s need:

› The new generation of inflatables

are much stiffer than earlier models, and offer an ease of transportation since they can be deflated and carried in a backpack. Modern inflatables can also handle abrasion and hitting rocks. For ease of transportation, durability and all-around use, inflatables are generally the best choice.

› Hard boards are either plastic,

fiberglass or carbon fiber, making them stiffer, faster and (except for the plastic boards) lighter and more fragile. For long distance, speed and surfing it’s difficult to beat a hard board.

P.O. Box 55 • Ponca, AR 72670 • 501-614-509 buffaloriverfoundation.org • buffaloriverfoundation@gmail.com

Barefoot Paddleboards Stand up Paddleboard Rentals Give us a call or visit Barefootpaddleboards.com for pricing and rental information.

479.774.2266

ARKANSASWILD.COM | 17


PADDLE IT FORWARD

CRUISING THE CACHE BY ERIN TAYLOR

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t was a “hard-to-put-into-words” experience, and it left an indelible impression. The Cache River. At the time, all I knew of the Cache was that it was famous for the controversial 2005 sighting of the ivory-billed woodpecker, but that was it. Well, I can now tell you, without hesitation, that floating this Delta river should be your next “go to” spring adventure. Let me set the stage: The Cache River is a 213mile tributary of the White River, and its watershed is notable for containing the largest remaining tract of contiguous bottomland hardwood forest found in North America. In 1986, the 67,000-acre Cache River National Wildlife Refuge was born. Characterized by extensive forested flats, meandering channels and amphibian-filled swamps, the wildlife sanctuary is also the most important wintering area for mallard ducks and other migratory waterfowl on the continent. It’s simply spectacular. I wandered onto the Cache River NWR one morning in April for a guided tour, having little idea of what to expect. Other than photos and the stories of a few locals in Augusta, I was an unsuspecting and unassuming tourist. We put in at the Rex Hancock Black Swamp Wildlife Management Area (adjacent to the refuge) in a roomy flat-bottom boat. The Black Swamp sounded mysterious to me, and I had goose bumps as we pushed away from shore and headed into the still, quiet bottomland waters. As my eyes adjusted to the dim light under the tree canopy, I looked around at the bald cypress trees and it seemed as though we had entered a land that time forgot. These majestic trees surround you, hundreds of them as far as the eye can see standing in the water. Everything was so green and fresh and alive. The bald

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cypress’ delicate, lime-green foliage contrasts with the dark waters of the swamp, and its branches have an open, airy quality that’s particularly calming. Stunned, I wanted to stay there and just keep floating. And when the sun’s rays began to shine through the trees onto the water, I knew I was some place special. The meandering curves of the river eventually brought us to the Cache proper. As we approached, I began to hear the sound of hundreds of birds welcoming us to the river’s edge. There are more than 200 species of birds here: wood ducks, geese, eagles, hawks, wading birds, blue herons, kingfishers and other assorted migratory birds, and although the guide mentioned the refuge is also home to more than 50 species of mammals such as white-tailed deer, raccoon, bobcat and river otter, I didn’t see any. In retrospect, that’s not surprising—my senses were on overload taking in the moving canopy above. The journey seemed shorter on the way back. Of course it wasn’t, just more familiar now. And I began to see things I missed on the way in. It’s like watching a favorite movie again and seeing something different and new. As we closed in on the shore, I was already planning my next trip. The river begins rising in November and December, which are the peak times to see large concentrations of migrating waterfowl, and continues through April, when migratory warblers and perching birds come through. As summer approaches, the waters surrounding the Cache River start to recede and the trail we just floated goes dry. My feet planted firmly back on shore, I thanked my host, the alluring beauty I had just seen still floating in my head. An indelible impression, indeed.

PHOTO COURTESY OF GREERS FERRY LAKE/LITTLE RED RIVER TOURISM ASSOCIATION

Kayakers traverse the old-growth cypress trees that make floating the Cache River an otherworldly experience.


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ARKANSASWILD.COM | 19


PADDLE IT FORWARD

PADDLING THE ARKANSAS WATER TRAILS BY ZOIE CLIFT

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BAYOU DE VIEW WATER (SHEFFIELD NELSON DAGMAR WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA)

Bayou De View is special. It’s one of the largest tracts of bottomland hardwood forests in the nation and has been designated a “Wetland of International Importance.” It is known for cypress trees that can be hundreds of years old. It’s a pretty wild trail. People need to pay attention to the signs, and if you do have GPS, it’s good to bring it along. Flooded timber can be a fairly easy place to get lost. 20 | PADDLE ARKANSAS

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The area is rich with wildlife, including migratory songbirds and waterfowl, and is popular with duck hunters. There are a lot of different options you can do on trip lengths. You can paddle one section of trail, paddle out and then paddle back to your vehicle, or do the entire 15-mile trail with an overnight at Hickson Lake. There is now a USGS gauge to help people determine when Bayou De View is accessible by boat ( generally when water levels are around 14 feet).

LITTLE MAUMELLE WATER

In general, the Little Maumelle can be paddled year-round. Put in at the Pinnacle Mountain State Park boat launch, paddle down the river as far as you like and then paddle back up to the launch. Heavy rain and water flow occasionally make it hard to get back up—check in with park staff. Boat launches are also available at Two Rivers Park or at the River Mountain Park Access.

This trail is nice because it is so near an urban area, but you can quickly get out and be in nature. It’s a wonderful area for watching wildlife and offers nice fishing opportunities. In the upper portions of the river up by the state park you can get out in some of those riffles and wade around and cool off. You can do parts of the Arkansas River Trail or hike Pinnacle Mountain and combine that with a float. It’s pretty neat to have this water trail right here by the city center.

GRASSY LAKE WATER

This route is in the Bell Slough Wildlife Management Area. From Little Rock, you can be out there and on the water trail in 30 minutes. What’s really unusual about this trail is that it ’s a loop. It goes through flooded timber into wider pools and then back in cypress and tupelo trees.

PHOTO COURTESY OF MICHELLE EDMONDS

rkansas has an abundance of waterways for paddlers to explore. The Arkansas Water Trails project, created in 2009, is at the forefront of developing a system of mapped water trails throughout the state. A goal of the project, initiated by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, is to highlight the diversity of paddling terrain that can be found in Arkansas. Trails are added to the system as site assessments are completed and maps developed. Twelve trails are currently part of the program. Kirsten Bartlow, watchable wildlife coordinator and director of the Arkansas Water Trails program, shared details on a few of the trails one can find in the program:


A stunning sunset on the Islets Cove Paddle Trail at DeGray State Park near Bismarck.

property along the creek, but the Game and Fish and the Nature Conservancy offer some primitive camping sites along the way. Like other Ozark streams, this one is also rain-dependent and also prone to flash flooding.

ISLETS COVE PADDLE

A sign at DeGray Lake Resort State Park’s marina marks the access point for the three-mile trail, which is a flatwater paddle on the lake. Eight numbered, yellow markers along the lakeshore correspond to a brochure developed by park interpreters that highlights points of interest and history of the area. The brochure is available at the park’s marina, lodge and visitor center. Paddlers can enjoy stops at black willow trees, a beaver lodge, wood duck boxes and a wildlife viewing station. DeGray Lake is a good spot to look for wintering waterfowl and bald eagles.

The wildlife viewing along this trail is excellent. There is a heron rookery, and you get a lot of migratory songbirds that come through in the spring and fall. There are beaver lodges, frogs and toads and migrating waterfowl. This trail is within a green tree reservoir, which means we hold water on it for the winter months for waterfowl. And then we lift the gates and start letting the water back out in the spring so the trees don’t die.

FELSENTHAL NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE WATER

For this trail, the AGFC partnered with the Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge and the Friends of Felsenthal. Felsenthal NWR lies within the Mississippi Flyway— this highway in the sky is used by a vast number of migrating waterfowl, songbirds, birds of prey and shorebirds.

These water trails within the refuge offer a tremendous way to view all sorts of wildlife in their watery world. Both black bears and alligators call the area home. There are currently two loop trails and a linear trail, and certain times of year paddlers can enjoy blooming water lilies and water lotus. Be sure to check out the refuge’s visitor center and nature trails.

CROOKED CREEK WATER

This route is unusual compared to the others in that it is the only Ozark stream currently in the program. It is known for smallmouth bass fishing, but offers much more for visitors seeking solitude, exploration and a float down a river. It is a beautiful little stream. The greatest thing about Crooked Creek is that while people know to go to Ozark streams to paddle, a lot of them don’t know about this one. It is predominately private

BAYOU BARTHOLOMEW WATER

South Arkansas’ Bayou Bartholomew is considered the longest bayou in the world. It begins near Pine Bluff and twists and turns 359 river miles to Sterlington, La. Three small sections have been added to the Arkansas Water Trail system. The Arkansas River created the bayou about 2,000 years ago when it moved east and the leisurely bayou developed in the old river bed. Paddlers can watch for alligators and basking turtles, wintering waterfowl and a variety of migratory songbirds among the cypress and tupelo trees. If visiting the Cane Creek Access on Bayou Bartholomew, be sure to visit the nearby Cane Creek State Park, which has miles of hiking trails and the Cane Creek Kayak Trail. For further details on the Arkansas Water Trails program, check out AGFC.com. ARKANSASWILD.COM | 21


PADDLE IT FORWARD

CHALLENGING THE MIGHTY MISSISSIPPI BY JIM HARRIS

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n his youth, Oscar Donaby didn’t think about canoeing on the Mississippi River. “When I was growing up around Helena, you stayed off the river,” he says. When he was offered a chance to ride a canoe on it, “I thought it was kind of iffy.” But John Ruskey, who founded Quapaw Canoe Company in Clarksdale, Miss., in 1998, introduced a skeptical Donaby to the water, and he was hooked. “It was fun,” he says. “Now it’s a part of me.” Six years ago, the now 22-year-old Donaby joined the Mighty Quapaw apprenticeship program that Ruskey ran, and for the past five years he’s been a guide for Ruskey’s canoeing and kayaking outfit, working both sides of the river. In 2008, John Fewkes took up Ruskey’s offer to manage a new Helena-West Helena version of the Quapaw Canoe Company that gave the establishment a presence on the Arkansas riverbank, too. “I think John Ruskey wanted to take advantage of the fact that he sits right on the river whether here or in Clarksdale,” Fewkes says. He envisioned people being able to rent a canoe, kayak or paddleboard and go right over the levee and get on the water here, right at the Helena port.” Most of the company’s clients seek guided trips. Quapaw Canoe will work with clients to build their own excursion, but many beginners will start out in the St. Francis National

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Forest and float back to the Helena-West Helena Harbor, or from the harbor across the river to Friar’s Point or Quapaw Landing, Donaby said. Fewkes said of the St. Francis route: “It’s a floating trip, but it depends where you steer the canoe. It can get fast.” This type of trip takes 3-4 hours. “It’s our No. 1 trip, our average trip,” Fewkes said. Groups often take a large canoe on the Mississippi and eventually decamp at Buck Island, sometimes staying overnight, Fewkes said, complete with dinner and a bonfire only a short distance from Helena. Quapaw Canoe has day and overnight trips, weeklong floats and more. Fewkes notes that some regular customers will have him put them in as much as 200 miles upstream, and when they come back a year later they add even more to their next personalized trip. A paddler can experience the way the Mississippi was navigated before steamboats and tugboats. Paddlers may take in a float on the rather sedate Sunflower River that runs inland from Clarksdale to Vicksburg. The canoeists who are really looking for a challenge, however, are encouraged to try the Three Rivers Circumnavigation, which starts at Arkansas City and involves the Arkansas, White and Mississippi rivers and brings famed river habitat area Big Island into play.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF ZOË SUNDRA AND JOHN RUSKEY

Paddlers cool off after tackling the mighty Mississippi River.


Volunteers participate in the Friends of the Sunflower annual cleanup on the Mississippi River.

John Ruskey pilots a SUP with a young protégé (above); Quapaw Canoe Company’s branded canoes and guides make the Mississippi River accessible to floaters of all skill levels (below).

Quapaw Canoe owner Ruskey has created a website, rivergator.org, that “tells you about every inch of the [Mississippi], from St. Louis to the Gulf of Mexico, Fewkes said. Rivergator.org helps paddlers design trips. “We have all kinds of customized maps on the site,” Fewkes said. It’s really something. “John Ruskey is one of the few people who has written as many words on the Mississippi River as Mark Twain.” Donaby and Fewkes both say that the Mighty Mississippi doesn’t have to be feared. “As long as you steer clear of the barges and the buoys, you’re fine,” Donaby said. “Sometimes we have to let the big barges move on, but after they’re out of the way it’s an easy trip.” The guiding, Fewkes said, includes a history of the area, where Hernando de Soto and his men first met the Quapaws five centuries ago and where the first European settlement, Sterling, was founded—the course-changing Mississippi washed that all away. From now to April, paddlers have to wear a wetsuit; the water’s temperature is too low to tackle t h e r i v e r w i t h o u t o n e. F r o m summer through fall, though, it’s perfect. Fewkes said peak time for the business is October, where reservations need to be made well in advance. The busy season can stretch into early November. For more information, visit Quapaw Canoe’s website, island63.com. A novice can get started canoeing for as low as $125. ARKANSASWILD.COM | 23


PADDLE IT FORWARD

SCHOOLED ON WHITEWATER BY GORDON KUMPURIS

PHOTOS COURTESY OF GORDON KUMPURIS

Kayakers learn how to control their crafts (above) before taking on more challenging whitewater (below).

F

or 31 years now, paddlers have gathered on the mighty Mulberry River for the Arkansas Canoe Club’s annual School of Whitewater paddling. Back in the mid-1970s, it was almost strictly a tandem canoe event, but as interest in kayaking exploded in the late 1990s and early 2000s, kayak classes started to exceed canoe classes. Today kayaks far exceed canoes. And although the name of the school reflects that change, many still refer to this event by its original name: Canoe School, where hundreds gather from Friday to Sunday for three days of paddling instruction, music, food and world-class camaraderie. The first order of business Friday night is for students to meet their instructors. A typical class is six to eight students, one lead instructor, an assistant and often another safety boater. Friday nights are pretty low key. Instructors confirm logistics, make sure everyone is present, and has the proper gear needed for the weekend. 24 | PADDLE ARKANSAS

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Saturday morning, by contrast, is organized chaos! Dozens of classes gather at nearly the same time, and it always seems that each class departs for the river simultaneously. Instructors, like mother hens, scurry about to make sure each student is properly equipped. Once at the river, the first order of business is the basics: group dynamics, river safety, river signals and terminology. Then it’s time to get wet! Paddlers nervously enter boats and push off. For kayakers, wet exits are often the most dreaded drill—and they come right at the beginning. One by one kayakers tuck, pull spray skirt grab loops and practice exiting the boat. This necessary exercise cools the paddlers in a hurry but also seems to instill a bit of confidence. Instructors teach students about proper posture, how to “wear” a boat, how to plant the paddle, how to go straight and how to turn intentionally. The first big revelations often come when paddling strokes are


broken down. Forward, reverse, turning and bracing strokes are demonstrated and practiced. Stroke practice and flat-water drills take up much of the morning. After practicing in flat water, it’s time to venture into the first of many small Class II rapids. The transition to moving water amps up students’ nerves, but they are now armed with enough new skills to transition to moving water with a degree of grace. Before long, students are nervously gliding back and forth through the current to and from eddies on each side of the river. Small waves are surfed and grins are plentiful. Even the occasional capsize is really no big deal. Around 4 p.m., the classes wearily paddle to the takeout and class is over for day one. Evening activities are both formal and fun, including the annual ACC General Meeting followed by a fish fry and the almost ceremonial burning of the “blow log.” A blow log is a large hollow log placed upright on top of a large fire. As it burns, fire shoots up and out the opening at the top. While not an official school-sanctioned activity, flammables such as leftover fish fry grease have been known to find their way into the log, creating what amounts to an Arkansas surface-toair missile. Sunday mornings start with pancakes and hot coffee courtesy of the River Valley Chapter of the ACC. Sunday classes are spent refining and building on the skills and drills learned the previous day. By the end of the day, students are eager to seek out new streams and runs where they practice their newfound skills to end the class. As new paddlers head home on the winding Pig Trail, (state Highway 23) more than a few have shared that they lean into the turns driving as if they are still doing paddling drills they worked on all weekend.

Open year round • RV Camping • Cabins • Offroad Park Riverfront Restaurant open Friday-Sunday Whitewater Rafting • Canoeing • Kayaking • Bush Pilots Welcome

Latitude 35 40’ 37” N | Longitude 93 43’ 59” W

www.byrdsadventurecenter.com

479-667-4066 7037 Cass Oark Rd. Ozark, AR

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For more information on both the ACC Schools of Whitewater Paddling and the ACC School of River Paddling go to the club website, arkansascanoeclub.com. ARKANSASWILD.COM | 25


PADDLE IT FORWARD

FISHING THE RAZORYAK TRAIL BY JEFF MALOTT

PHOTOS BY JEFF MALOTT

Kayak anglers compete for total length of fish rather than weight.

Tournament fishermen hit the water just as the sun comes up.

A

rkansas has long been known for being at the forefront of competitive bass fishing. Many BASS and FLW professionals call Arkansas home, and there are several large professional events held here each year. There are highly competitive statewide tournament circuits such as Mr. Bass of Arkansas, and regional circuits like the Everett Team Trail in the northwest part of the state. Over the last several years a new genre in competitive bass fishing has emerged: kayak bass fishing. Just as it sounds, these anglers chase the same bass on the same bodies of water as the traditional bass boat anglers do—they simply do it from a kayak. They typically use the same rods, reels, lures and even the same electronics. There are, however, three main differences: Kayaking anglers move from spot to spot under their own power, there is no live well for the fish (kayak tournaments use the catch/photo/release method) and the winner is determined by total length instead of weight. High-level kayak bass tournaments were first popular in the Austin, Texas, area. After watching the success others were having, a group of friends in northwest Arkansas decided the state needed 26 | PADDLE ARKANSAS

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a series of its own. That is where The Razoryak Tournament Trail (RTT) was born. What started out as a local series on lakes around the NWA area has turned into one of the largest statewide kayak bass fishing series in the country. The RTT consists of tournament circuits in five different parts of the state: northwest Arkansas, east Arkansas, central Arkansas, the Fort Smith/ River Valley area and the Mountain Home area. Entry fees are low and paid back 100 percent at each event , a long w it h a n abunda nce of sponsor-provided prizes. While the competition is stiff, the environment is family-friendly and welcoming. Each circuit crowns an Angler of the Year based on points accumulated at each event, and in the fall anglers from all across the state come together for the Arkansas Kayak Bass Fishing State Championship. This year’s championship will be held at beautiful Lake Dardanelle State Park. For more information on The Razoryak Tournament Trail or to find an event near you, go to razoryak.com Tight lines everyone!


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Arkansas' Ultimate

T

IN

PHOTOS BY NOVO STUDIO / CHUCK DOVISH / LARAMY RIDLEY / COURTESY OF ARKANSAS PARKS AND TOURISM

PADDLE

Boating Bucketlist BY MICHAEL ROBERTS AND JILL ROHRBACH

he Natural State lives up to its name, especially for those that love floating. Arkansas has rivers perfect for family float trips, whitewater rapids for experienced boaters and fish-filled streams for those that like to cast a line as they drift along. While there are plenty of well-known waters in Arkansas, here are some that are also worthy of your Bucket List, whether you’re a serious boater, angler or recreational floater.

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WHITEWATER BOATERS

01

COSSATOT RIVER: “Cossatot” comes from a Native American

word that roughly translates to “skull crusher.” For thrill seekers chasing whitewater adventure, that makes this southwest Arkansas river a don’t miss. Rapids run from Class II to IV-plus, while a section at Cossatot Falls is considered one of the most challenging stretches of whitewater between the Great Smokey and Rocky mountains.

WHERE TO STAY: Bring your RV or book a cabin stay at Sugar Creek Lodge in Mena, right on the banks of the Cossatot. Grab dinner in the on-site restaurant, get your hook wet, or rent one of the lodge’s canoes or kayaks to test yourself against the river.

34.4438453, -94.1253924

02

HAILSTONE: On the upper reaches of

the Buffalo National River is a place only experienced whitewater paddlers should float. “It’s a 15-mile wilderness run,” says B.J. Heilman, manager at Ozark Mountain Trading Co. (OMTC), a paddling outfitter in the Ozark Mountain region of Arkansas and Missouri. “It’s a narrow little stream at that point.” He adds that it’s not the most extreme, but it’s fun. Known as the “Hailstone,” this wild stretch of the Buffalo is from Dixon Ford to Boxley and has solid Class III-plus rapids. Suit up, as it’s usually November through April when it has enough water.

WHERE TO STAY: Buffalo Outdoor Center in Ponca provides cabins with spectacular views, hiking trails, ziplines through the Ozark terrain, a chance to venture out to some of the area’s famous limestone caves—and of course, some of the best floating available in the state.

36.0226463, -93.3628678

ARKANSASWILD.COM | 29


03

EAST FORK OF THE LITTLE BUFFALO: This stream has a

Class III to IV gorge with a Class V drop as well. When the water is real high, boaters can paddle feeders such as Barberry Creek and Stepp Creek into the East Fork as well as enjoy a nice run down the East Fork itself. “It’s similar to Richland Creek in regard to difficulty with maybe a slight step up,” says OMTC's Heilman. “It’s a little bit more boulder-choked and narrower. It’s a beautiful stretch that not a lot of boaters really paddle in comparison to the Cossatot River, Hailstone and Richland Creek.”

WHERE TO STAY: The Buffalo River area is home to some of Arkansas’ best and most diverse lodging options. Like to camp? Pitch a tent or pull your RV into Buffalo Point campground in Yellville, right in the heart of the Buffalo National River. Secluded cabins like Cooper’s Ozark Cabin in Ozone provide comfort along with great views, while Dogwood Springs RV park in Jasper is a great place to make camp. BUFFALO POINT 36.0817057, -92.5835979 COOPER’S OZARK CABIN 35.7247683, -93.428687 DOGWOOD SPRINGS RV PARK 36.0203056, -93.179129

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01

ANGLERS CROOKED CREEK: In north central

Arkansas, Crooked Creek is the Bucket List smallmouth bass stream to put your boat on. “There’s both quantity and quality,” says Heilman. “You can catch one after the other all day long.” You’ll find peace and solitude on this stream, although it is rain-dependent and can rise to a torrent quickly, especially during heavy spring rains. Popular access points are found at Snow and Lower Pyatt.

NEED IMAGE

WHERE TO STAY: There aren’t any campsites on Crooked Creek itself; camp out at nearby Bull Shoals State Park.

36.3696257, -92.5789984

02 PINEY BAY, LAKE DARDANELLE:

Lake Dardanelle is a bass fishing paradise, but there are also bream, crappie and huge catfish to be had. It’s no wonder that Arkansas’ kayak fishermen chose the lake for their 2016 State Championship. Stay in one of 60 campsites—each has electric hookups and access to hot showers. Two boat ramps provide easy access to some of the best fishing in the state.

WHERE TO STAY: The Piney Bay

Campground has everything you need for a great stay on Lake Dardanelle. Two boat ramps provide easy access to the water, so you’ll be floating, playing and catching fish in no time.

35.3979003, -93.3190529

ARKANSASWILD.COM | 31


RECREATIONAL FLOATERS

01

MULBERRY RIVER: While the Mulberry might be a little bit advanced for novices, recreational paddlers with a little bit of experience will love the whips and sharp turns along the remote and lovely Mulberry. When the river is up, expect Class II to III rapids, but drier times spell easier floating and great swimming. WHERE TO STAY: Byrd’s Adventure Center on the Mulberry in Ozark

is the place to be for just about any sort of outdoor activity. Lodging options like the Riverside Retreat, Cedar Cabin and Hillbilly Hilton offer a wide range of convenience and rustic charm, while RV enthusiasts will find Byrd’s hookups to be top-notch. Back-country aviation enthusiasts are sure to be enamored with the ease of access provided by Byrd’s grass airstrip. Kayaks, rafts and canoes are all available for rent. Visit byrdsadventurecenter.com for more details.

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02 KINGS RIVER: Try the Marble to

Marshall Ford low-water crossing section of this popular float stream for a beautiful day on the water. “It’s going to be the most similar to paddling the upper Buffalo but you’re not going to see that many people on it on a busy weekend,” Heilman says. The section is about 11 miles with deep pools, overhanging trees, occasional rapids and several large bluffs.

WHERE TO STAY: Kings River

Outfitters in Eureka Springs has canoe and kayak rentals alongside campgrounds and cabins, making it an all-in-one spot for river recreation.

36.3151554, -93.6691492

03 WATTENSAW: Flat water bayous

like the Wattensaw near Hazen are nice boating opportunities for people who don’t feel comfortable on the running waters of the Ozarks and Ouachitas. “I’m going to go completely away from whitewater paddling in the Ozarks and say if you’ve never done anything like a bayou in eastern Arkansas, you should,” Heilman says.

WHERE TO STAY: The Wattensaw Wildlife Management Area has several primitive campsites and a concrete launch ramp, or book a room in nearby Hazen.

33.3050304, -92.3530751

ARKANSASWILD.COM | 33


BAYOU BARTHOLOMEW: The longest bayou in the

world, Bayou Bartholomew is surely worthy of your Bucket List. It begins northwest of Pine Bluff and flows about 375 miles to join the Ouachita River in Louisiana. It has a onemillion acre watershed. Following a meandering course, it’s lined with majestic cypress and tupelo swamps, is inhabited by alligators, turtles and frogs, and is visited by wintering waterfowl. Plus, 117 species of fish and at least 40 species of mussels have been documented in Bayou Bartholomew, making it the second most diverse stream in North America.

WHERE TO STAY: Just to the west of Bayou Bartholomew lies Moro Bay State Park in Jersey near Eldorado, home to five rental cabins and several campsites. A full marina will let you get some warm-up paddling done among the cypress trees before heading to float the bayou.

33.3050304, -92.3530751

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04


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ARKANSASWILD.COM | 35


BY NATE JORDON

B

y the fourth day on the Buffalo River I was getting buggy. I hadn’t seen but three other people on the river and hadn’t said a word to anyone, not even to myself. Then I paddled past two fellows, one in a canoe, the other in a kayak, not far from The Nars and Skull Bluff near St. Joe. One of them asked me what I thought was the most absurd question I’d ever heard.

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PHOTOS COURTESY OF CHELSEA JORDAN AND NATE JORDAN

Paddle for Polio sends one man down the Buffalo National River


Nate Jordon takes a triumphant break on a Buffalo River gravel bar during his attempt to float the entire river.

Time? I thought. I looked at my watch and saw the numbers. Then I realized I had forgotten how to maneuver words out of my mouth. “It’s, uh…half to toop.” I heard the words and saw their furrowed brows and quickly corrected myself. “I mean, it’s almost noon.” This started a conversation about what we were doing on the Buffalo. When I told them I was

paddling the whole river by myself, they looked at me like I was nuts. Maybe I was. I was new to the sport and had never paddled the Buffalo past Woolum, which isn’t even halfway. I knew I’d be paddling blind from that point on, but I was confident—perhaps cavalier—in my abilities to handle the river and any obstacles it could throw at me. Besides, it was for a good cause.

Nate’s trip down the Bufalo took him past famous bluffs like Skull Bluff near St. Joe.

ARKANSASWILD.COM | 37


"I wasn’t underwater long, but when my head popped up I was shocked at how far the river had taken me." —Nate Jordan

Although the float trip was tiring, the magnificent views and overall mission kept Nate going strong.

Sometimes, the best perspective on a limestone cave is captured on the rippling water.

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Tall, majestic cliffs and lush green foliage are the hallmarks of the Buffalo National River.

It all started at the February 2015 board meeting for the Rotary Club of Harrison. I had been reading in The Rotarian about several members who were doing awesome outdoor adventures for fundraisers. I told the board I was planning to paddle the entire Buffalo National River in April and said it would be a good fundraising opportunity. The board was enthusiastic—and Paddle for Polio was christened. I knew I wanted to float the entire river on April 19, 2014, my first time on the Buffalo. It was also my first time piloting a canoe. Before I reached majestic Roark Bluff a couple miles from where I put in at Ponca I experienced something mystical. Or maybe I heard a banjo. Little did I know a year later I’d be paddling through those turquoise waters in a used, beaten-up Buffalo canoe with a twenty-dollar paddle, minimal camping gear and enough granola bars and beef jerky to make a billy goat sick. The craziness really started on day one, when I put in at Boxley Bridge. I had never done the Boxley Run before, and because this was the first day of my adventure, I convinced my girlfriend, Chelsea, to come with me. It was only her third time in a canoe, but I figured she wouldn’t have to do much other than maintain her balance and enjoy the scenery. I’d been paddling for about an hour when we came around a bend and I heard what sounded like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The current was charging straight into a log jam. Rather than eddy out, I tried to shoot around. Before I could blink, we were slammed sideways into it. The canoe tipped and almost instantly submerged.

I wasn’t underwater long, but when my head popped up I was shocked at how far the river had taken me. I turned around and saw Chelsea hanging onto the side of the canoe with her legs pinned in the current. Before I could reach her, she somehow pulled herself out. She sat on top of the log jam and, to my surprise, had both of our paddles in her hands. When I did get to her, she pointed out the bleeding gash on my left palm, the cuts on my left ear and the bloody scratch on my left leg from ankle to groin. We hiked out and made our way to Buffalo Outdoor Center in Ponca. I had recently started working there as a Boat Ape, and a discussion with president and general manager Austin Albers convinced me we could rescue the canoe. He and I hiked down to the wreck site, he winched out my canoe and we paddled on. That was the first two miles. The following 133 weren’t so bad if you don’t count the tornado warnings, thunderstorms, river flooding, gnats biting, fighting off a troop of pillaging raccoons the size of chimpanzees, 50 yards of haystack waves at Clabber Creek Shoals…and so on. When I reached the confluence of the Buffalo and White rivers on day nine, I felt like Rocky Balboa. Did I conquer the river? No. I survived. But I raised thousands of dollars for Rotary International’s effort to eradicate polio around the world—and would you believe it, Chelsea and I are now engaged. And I’m going for round two in April. For more information about the Paddle for Polio, visit gofundme.com/ HarrisonArRotary. ARKANSASWILD.COM | 39


Shorter trips mean big fun

W

hile paddling long sections of a river is fun in its own right, simply playing in waves has an appeal all its own. Arkansas has some fine streams to paddle, and with that comes great spots where paddlers can park and play for an afternoon. Steve Runnels, member and past president of the Arkansas Canoe Club, is a 30-year veteran paddler of rafts, canoes, kayaks and catamarans in waters near and far. “I’ve paddled a little bit of everywhere and I keep coming back to here,” he says. Runnels has paddled all the top park and play spots in Arkansas, and recently received funding for a feasibility study regarding his plans for a possible kayak park in Fayetteville. 40 | PADDLE ARKANSAS

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PHOTOS COURTESY OF ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF PARKS AND TOURISM

BY JILL ROHRBACH


Here are five great paddling spots Steve recommends. They don’t require a shuttle to get to, and each offers water for surfing and tricks:

ROCKPORT WHITEWATER

Located near Malvern, Rockport has good access; just walk down the cement ramp to the river’s edge. A ledge of whitewater with multiple play spots runs 300 yards wide. “It’s only one ledge, but there are about six major spots,” says Runnels. Some of those spots have names like Tiger’s Jaw, Spin Hole, Suck Hole, Cartwheel Hole and Surf Wave. Like all park and plays, there’s often a line of kayakers waiting to get on the ledge. As soon as someone washes out or swims, the next person in line moves in. “Rockport has the most holes to play,” Runnels adds. To get there, take the Malvern exit on Interstate 30; turn right on River Creek Road; turn left onto South River Creek Road; turn right at the stop sign and follow this road upstream and under the I-30 bridge, where you will see the parking area near the restrooms and pavilion. 34.4054736, -92.8295134

SILOAM SPRINGS KAYAK PARK (A.K.A. FISHERS FORD)

Kayakers battle the strong rapids at Rockport Whitewater near Malvern.

While the Siloam Springs Kayak Park may be new, the play hole also known as Fishers Ford has been popular for decades. Previously, the land was privately owned, but it’s now owned by the city, which made improvements that include a second play wave, parking, change rooms and portable bathrooms.

“It has three-and-a-half feet of drop, and there are two major drops in it that are Class I-plus,” Runnels explains. “The beauty is that everything is out there: calm pools, chutes, ladders and waves.” He says it’s a great place to learn to kayak, tame eddies or how to roll. The kayak park is the only play area in the state that runs yearround, and the only one on the Illinois River. Find the park from state Highway 412 in Siloam Springs. Take Lincoln Street (state Hwy. 59 S) south 1.9 miles to Devor Road. Take a left on Devor Road and travel 0.4 miles to Fisher Ford Road. Turn right on Fisher Ford Road and follow it to the park. 36.123394, -94.5196831

TRIGGER GAP

Trigger Gap is rain-dependent. You have to know when it’s running. A sure sign that the water is in the right zone is the number of vehicles with colorful boats strapped on top heading toward it. That’s what Runnels calls “cactus flowers.” Runnels says the best access to Trigger Gap is to head to Kings River Outfitters in Eureka Springs, owned by Ernie Kilman, and pay him a few bucks to park. Then walk up the river about 500 yards to the play hole. The land with direct access to Trigger Gap is privately owned and inaccessible. “It’s one of our more remote play holes,” Runnels explains. “It’s mainly you and the other paddlers only. You get a few floaters that come through.” Trigger Gap is the result of an old dam that washed out in the middle in a 20-25-foot section, continued on page 42

“I’ve paddled a little bit of everywhere and I keep coming back to [Arkansas].” —Steve Runnels ARKANSASWILD.COM | 41


“It’s like nothing until it rains and then all the colors come out.” —Steve Runnels

LOWER SALINE RIVER

Also called “Dierks,” the Lower Saline River play waves are dam-release-dependent as well. When the water is flowing, the Lower Saline has a series of about three drops in a row, one of them being premium. It also has a retentive wave that will suck you back in, meaning safety is important. He says throw ropes and equipment needed to rescue yourself and others are a must. 42 | PADDLE ARKANSAS

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For access, put in below Dierks Lake at the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers campground; there is a nominal day-use fee. Follow the signs to Dierks Lake Dam from U.S. Highway 70 just west of the town of Dierks. 34.0881189, -94.1103276

WHOOP AND HOLLER ON THE MULBERRY

Roughly between Fort Smith and Fayetteville on the Mulberry River, access to this play hole is found at Byrd’s Adventure Center. Stop in, pay a nominal fee to park and get a pass to the hole. “You go down to the oldest existing home in the Mulberry valley to a perfect, beautiful, natural wave,” says Runnels. The wave is runnable if the Mulberry is at a level from 2.5 to 6 on the gauge. “It has a large window of opportunity,” he says.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF DAVID GILLSON

with a wave below that’s probably 40 feet wide. “It’s nice that the old concrete bridge there washed off so no one can drive across it anymore, but you can walk out on it, so it’s great for shooting video if you want,” says Runnels. It also makes a good place for non-floating friends to hang out and watch the boaters. 36.3220486, -93.658021


There are two or three waves but one prominent one that everyone waits in line for. It also has good car access and good places on rock formations for folks to watch from. Byrd’s is located at 7037 Cass Oark Road in Ozark. 35.6756916, -93.7447819

The Siloam Springs Kayak Park is whitewater fun for kayakers (above) and canoeists (below) of all skill levels.

The best way to know when Arkansas’ whitewater streams are floatable is to visit www.ozarkpages. com/cgi-bin/stages.pl?ST=name. This site takes the USGS gauge and converts it to color codes representing low, medium and high water levels. Blue is too high. Green means go. Red equals low. ARKANSASWILD.COM | 43


GET OUT & PLAY

PHOTO BY NOVO STUDIO

PADDLE EVENTS

SAVE THE DATE

WE'LL SEE YOU THERE! buffaloriver.com/poncafest

APRIL 29-MAY 1

ARKANSAS CANOE CLUB SCHOOL OF WHITEWATER PADDLING arkansascanoeclub.com

JUNE 1

SPRING RIVER CLEANUP arkansasstateparks.com/ mammothspring

JUNE 11

KAYAKING FOR KENYA whiterivermarathon.com/ kayaking.html

JUNE 20

LAKE CATHERINE FULL MOON KAYAK TOUR arkansasstateparks.com/ lakecatherine

JULY 9

BIG MAUMELLE RIVER EVENING CANOE FLOAT arkansasstateparks.com/ pinnaclemountain

JULY 15-16

BOOZEFIGHTERS MULBERRY RIVER RUN byrdsadventurecenter.com 44 | PADDLE ARKANSAS

issue no. 1

JULY 20

LAKE CATHERINE FULL MOON KAYAK TOUR arkansasstateparks.com/ lakecatherine

AUGUST 18

LAKE CATHERINE FULL MOON KAYAK TOUR arkansasstateparks.com/ lakecatherine

AUGUST 20

KAYAKING 101 arkansasstateparks.com/ mammothspring

AUGUST 30

6 BRIDGES REGATTA 6br.org

SEPTEMBER 3

BIG MAUMELLE CANOE FLOAT arkansasstateparks.com/ pinnaclemountain

SEPTEMBER 5

LABOR DAY KAYAK FLOAT arkansasstateparks.com/ pinnaclemountain

SEPTEMBER 10

MULBERRY RIVER CLEAN-UP byrdsadventurecenter.com

SEPTEMBER 16

LAKE CATHERINE FULL MOON KAYAK TOUR arkansasstateparks.com/ lakecatherine VILLAGE CREEK KAYAK AND DINNER CRUISE arkansasstateparks.com/ villagecreek

SEPTEMBER 17

LAKE OUACHITA KAYAK CAMPOUT arkansasstateparks.com/ lakeouachita PADDLE BATTLE AT THE BAY visitfairfieldbay.com/events

OCTOBER 16

LAKE CATHERINE FULL MOON KAYAK TOUR arkansasstateparks.com/ lakecatherine


Memories are

WATERPROOF. Mississippi River

Cossatot River

#VisitArkansas

Beaver Lake

Arkansas’s 9,700 miles of rivers and streams and 600,000 acres of lakes have magic powers to rejuvenate. Throw in attractions like you won’t see anywhere else and people who genuinely want you to have a good time here, and you’ve got the perfect vacation. Come see us. ARKANSAS.COM

We have one of the largest inventories of canoes, kayaks, and paddling gear in the area. Come See Us!

Kayaks starting at

$299

3 Locations to serve you! Northwest Arkansas

14644 E. Hwy 62 • Garfield, AR 72732 (479) 451-1837

North Central Arkansas

124 McLean Avenue • Cotter, AR 72626 (870) 778-0070

Southwest Missouri

4381 Selmore Rd. • Ozark, MO 65721 (417) 485-3219

ozarkmtc.com

ARKANSASWILD.COM | 45


GET OUT & PLAY

ARKANSAS RIVER

OZARK MOUNTAIN TRADINGCOMPANY 14644 E. Hwy. 62, Garfield 479-451-1837 ozarkmtc.com

GEARHEAD OUTFITTERS 6000 W. Markham, Ste. 116 870-910-5569

STARKEY MARINA 4022 Mundell Rd., Eureka Springs 479-253-8194 starkeymarina.com

GENE LOCKWOOD’S 12101 W. Markham St., Little Rock 501-227-7678 facebook.com/GeneLockwoods

17821 Chenal Pkwy., Ste. 111 501-707-3708 gearheadoutfitters.com OZARK OUTDOOR SUPPLY 5514 Kavanaugh Blvd., Little Rock 501-664-4832 ozarkoutdoor.com SOUTHERN REEL OUTFITTERS 14908 Cantrell Rd., Ste. 2 501-224-6160 southernreeloutfitters.com

BEAVER LAKE

BACKWOODS BENTONVILLE 148 NW 2nd St., Bentonville 479-273-3302 backwoods.com/Bentonville LEWIS & CLARK OUTFITTERS 640 Garland Ave., Rogers 479-695-0202 4915 S. Thompson St., Springdale 479-756-1344 gooutandplay.com LOST BRIDGE MARINA 12861 Marina Rd., Garfield 479-359-3222 lostbridgemarina.com 46 | PADDLE ARKANSAS

issue no. 1

SUP OUTFITTERS 479-244-7380 sup-outfitters.com

PHOTO BY NOVO STUDIO

LOCAL GUIDES, OUTFITTERS, OUTDOOR RETAILERS & RENTALS

BUFFALO RIVER FLOAT SERVICE 11637 AR-14, Yellville 870-449-2042 buffaloriverfloatservice.com BUFFALO RIVER OUTFITTERS 9664 US-65 870-439-2244 buffaloriveroutfitters.com DIRST CANOE & LOG CABINS 538 Hwy 268 E., Yellville 870-449-6636 dirstcanoerental.com

BIG PINEY CREEK

GORDON’S MOTEL & CANOE RENTAL 206 AR-7, Jasper 870-446-5252 gordonmotel.com

BUFFALO RIVER

LOST VALLEY CANOE & LODGING AR-43, Ponca 870-861-5522 lostvalleycanoe.com

MOORE OUTDOORS 53 Old Highway 7, Dover 479-331-3606 mooreoutdoors.com BUFFALO ADVENTURES HC 70 Box 92, Jasper 870-446-5406 BUFFALO CAMPING & CANOEING 13 Frost St., Gilbert 870-439-2888 gilbertstore.com BUFFALO OUTDOOR CENTER 1 Main St., Ponca 870-861-5514 BUFFALO RIVER CANOES HC 70 Box 136 B, Jasper 870-446-2644 floatthebuffalo.com

SILVER HILL FLOAT SERVICE 9826 US-65 870-439-2372 silverhillfloatservice.com WILD BILL’S OUTFITTER 23 Hwy 268 E., Yellville 870-449-6235 wildbillsoutfitter.com

BULL SHOALS LAKE

BULL SHOALS LAKE BOAT DOCK AND MARINA SERVICES 719 Shorecrest Dr., Bull Shoals 870-445-4424 bullshoalslakeboatdock.com


Plan Your Next Float Trip On The Buffalo EXPERIENCE

the Beauty of the Buffalo National River with Buffalo Camping & Canoe

Nightly Lodging, Canoes, Kayaks, Rafts & More! Call for Reservations st St #1 Fro t, AR Gilber 8

9-288 870-43 386 9-2 870-43

gilbertstore.com

Floating Adventures & Buffalo National River Great Escapes Country Cabin Comforts Jon Boats • Hiking • Scenic Ozark Mountains Camping • Motel • Lodge • Guided Trips Cabins with Fireplaces & Jacuzzis Canoes • Kayaks • Rafts

Packages & Gift Certificates Available AUTHORIZED CANOE CONCESSIONAIRE BY THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE

23 Highway 268 E. #1 Yellville, AR 72687-7855

1-800-554-8657 www.ozark-float.com

ozarkmountainregion.com *Ad paid for using a combination of private and state matching funds.

ARKANSASWILD.COM | 47


KINGS RIVER FLOAT TRIP an ozark river adventure

CADDO RIVER

ARROWHEAD CABIN & CANOE RENTAL 69 Arrowhead Dr., Caddo Gap 870-356-2944 CADDO RIVER CAMPING & CANOE RENTAL, INC. 26 AR-8 870-356-5336 caddoriver.com LUCKY’S CADDO RIVER CANOE AND KAYAK RENTAL 224 US-70 870-356-2772 caddocanoeandkayak.com

CADRON CREEK

CADRON CREEK OUTFITTERS 54 Cargile Ln., Greenbrier 501-993-1650 cadroncreekoutfitters.com

GREER’S FERRY LAKE

RIVERSIDE

cabins campground canoes kayaks shuttles

kingsriveroutfitters.com 48 | PADDLE ARKANSAS

issue no. 1

LAKE FAYETTEVILLE

FAYETTECHILL 205 W. Dickson St., Fayetteville 844-244-6790 fayettechill.com LEWIS & CLARK 640 Garland Ave., Fayetteville 479-695-020 PACK RAT OUTDOOR CENTER 209 W. Sunbridge Dr., Fayetteville 479-521-6340 packratoc.com UNCLE SAM’S OUTFITTERS 1494 N. College Ave. 479-521-7779 unclesamgear.com

LAKE HAMILTON

PETERS SUGAR LOAF MARINA 1379 Resort Rd. 501-654-2555 sugarloafmarina.com

SALTY DOG BOAT & JETSKI RENTALS 4931 Central Ave., Hot Springs 501-525-7007 saltydogboatingcenter.com

SULPHUR CREEK OUTFITTERS 625 S. 7th St. 501-691-0138 screekoutfitters.com

KINGS RIVER

KINGS RIVER OUTFITTERS 8190 AR-221, Eureka Springs 479-253-8954 kingsriveroutfitters.com RIVERSIDE RESORT ON KINGS RIVER 3031 Hwy. 62 W., Berryville 870-423-3116 riversideresortandcanoes.com BALBOA MARINA 480 Ponce de Leon Dr., Hot Springs Village 501-922-3435

479-253-8954 eureka springs, arkansas

BAREFOOT PADDLEBOARDS 479-447-2266 barefootpaddleboards.com

FAIRFIELD BAY MARINA 4350 Hwy. 330 S., Fairfield Bay 501-884-6030 visitfairfieldbay.com

LAKE BALBOA

kings river outfitters

LAKE DEGRAY

BASECAMP OUTDOOR ADVENTURES Hot Springs Village 501-922-1230 basecampar.com

GENE LOCKWOOD’S 1328 Albert Pike Rd., Hot Springs 501-623-2508

LAKE OUACHITA

OUACHITA KAYAK TOURS 350 Horseshoe Bend, Story 501-725-2925 ouachitakayaktours.com OUACHITA OUTDOOR OUTFITTERS 112 Blackhawk Ln., Hot Springs 501-767-1373 ouachitaoutdoors.com

LAKE WEDINGTON

LOVE 2 FLOAT 15689 Lake Wedington Entry, Fayetteville 479-799-5683 lovetofloatoutfitters.com

LITTLE RED RIVER

BEYOND BOUNDARIES OUTDOOR & ADVENTURE 101 S. Main St., Searcy 501-203-4002 beyondboundariesoa.com LINDSEY’S RESORT 350 Rainbow Lp., Heber Springs 501-362-3139 lindseysresort.com


THE OZARK ANGLER 659 Wilburn Rd., Heber Springs 501-362-3597 ozarkangler.com

SPRING RIVER CAMP AND CANOE 307 E. Main St., Hardy 870-856-2356

MISSISSIPPI RIVER

THREE RIVERS OUTFITTERS 400 Church St., Hardy 870-856-4945 3riversoutfitters.com

3000 E. Highland Dr., Ste. 116, Jonesboro 870-910-5569 gearheadoutfitters.com

WHITE RIVER

GEARHEAD OUTFITTERS 230 S. Main St., Jonesboro 870-910-5569

QUAPAW CANOE COMPANY 107 Perry St., Helena 870-228-2266 island63.com

MULBERRY RIVER

BYRD’S ADVENTURE CENTER 7037 Cass Oark Rd. 479-667-4066 byrdsadventurecenter.com TURNER BEND STORE 20034 AR-23 479-667-3641 turnerbend.com

OUACHITA RIVER

M & M CANOES 3692 US-270, Pencil Bluff 870-326-4937 OUACHITA RIVER HAVEN RESORT 122 Ouachita River Haven Rd. 870-326-4941, Pencil Bluff ouachitahaven.com

ADVENTURE MOUNTAIN OUTFITTERS 151 Spring St., Eureka Springs 479-253-0900 adventuremountainoutfitters.com ANGLERS WHITE RIVER RESORT 23080 Hwy. 5, Allison 870-585-2226 anglerswhiteriver.com COTTER TROUT DOCK 321 Big Spring Pkwy., Cotter 800-447-7538 cottertroutdock.com GASTON’S WHITE RIVER RESTORT 1777 River Rd., Lakeview 870-431-5202 gastons.com

SALINE RIVER

SPRING RIVER

RIVERVIEW RESORT & COUNTRY STORE 17939 US-62, Eureka Springs 479-253-8367 riverviewcabinsandcanoes.com

MAMMOTH SPRING CANOE RENTAL 966 US-63, Mammoth Spring 870-625-3645 MANY ISLANDS CAMP & CANOE RENTAL 2988 Many Islands Rd., Mammoth Spring 870-856-3451 manyislands.com SOUTHFORK RESORT 7230 AR-289, Mammoth Spring 870-895-2803 southforkresort.com

cadrOn creek Outfitters canoe • kayak • swim camp • hike • bike Climb • fish

flux family-friendly music & arts festival

501-993-1650 www.CadrOnCreekOutfitters.c0m

54 Cargile, greenbrier, ar 72211

OZARK MOUNTAIN TRADING COMPANY 124 McLean Avenue, Cotter 870-778-0070 ozarkmtc.com RILEY’S STATION FAMILY OUTFITTER 129 CR 640, Mountain Home 870-425-4221 rileysstation.com

SALINE RIVER CANOE 4444 AR-5, Benton 501-749-2266 salinerivercanoe.com

because you deserve an adventure…

SYLAMORE CREEK CAMP 214 Sylamore Creek Rd., Mountain View 870-585-2326 sylamorecreek.com

GET SOME PEACE ON THE ELEVEN POINT RIVER SHADY RIVER GETAWAY • Cottages • Peace & Privacy • Picnics, Swimming, & Fishing • Hiking, Running, & Mountain Biking Trails

SHADY RIVER RESERVATIONS 1835 Stoney Point Rd • Pocahontas 870-248-0859

www.shadyriverark.com w/FREE Canoes, Kayaks, & Shuttles

MIND • BODY • SPIRIT RETREATS Call for details

ARKANSASWILD.COM | 49


BACKPADDLE

LEAVE IT CLEAN › There are conservation efforts

related to our waterways, but just focusing on litter itself presents some unique challenges—for example, litter travels more quickly, can be harder to access, presents threats to wildlife, water quality and more. For these reasons, river conservation is imperative for anyone who relies on Arkansas waterways.

› We’ve had a great response

over the years! In the past four years, we’ve had a collective 814 volunteers remove 25,971 pounds of litter and debris from in and around the Arkansas River.

collected 7,675 pounds of litter from around the Arkansas River in Fort Smith, Van Buren, Ozark, Russellville, two Little Rock locations and two North Little Rock locations.

› We work with countless

Liz Philpott pulls a strange delivery from the water—an entire mailbox.

A FLOOD OF VOLUNTEER SPIRIT BY MICHAEL ROBERTS

F

or Liz Philpott, volunteer program manager for Keep Arkansas Beautiful, Arkansas’ natural beauty is matched only by the spirit exhibited by hundreds of volunteers who get out and pick up trash and debris all along Arkansas’ waterways. Philpott sat down with us to talk about her efforts to keep The Natural State looking its best, helping coordinate the Great American Cleanup from March to May each year and the Great Arkansas Cleanup in September and October. She also coordinates the 5th annual Great Arkansas River Cleanup, which will be held on Saturday, September 10, 2016. For more information about Keep Arkansas Beautiful and chances to volunteer, visit keeparkansasbeautiful.com.

groups, organizations and volunteers who support our efforts. Keep America Beautiful generously provides Glad® trash bags for all our cleanup events. The Arkansas Highway & Transportation Department sponsors the Litter Hotline (866811-1222), where callers can anonymously report littering on Arkansas roadways. They also sponsor our Great Arkansas Cleanup each fall.

› Whether you coordinate your

own event or volunteer at one in your community, you’ll help boost quality of life and enhance pride in your community. Little actions add up to create big results. We need everyone’s help to keep Arkansas beautiful.

"In 2015, 221 volunteers collected 7,675 pounds of litter from, in and around the Arkansas River.” –Liz Philpott 50 | PADDLE ARKANSAS

issue no. 1

PHOTO COURTESY OF KEEP ARKANSAS BEAUTIFUL

› In 2015, 221 volunteers


ARKANSAS’S

Chris Newberry

Chris Newberry

Chris Newberry

BLAZING PADDLES

Zoie Clift

Arkansas’s loaded with great places to paddle canoes and kayaks, and many of them are legendary – the Buffalo National River, Cossatot River, Mulberry River, Spring River and others. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and its partners have made it easy to enjoy waterways that aren’t as widely known. Quiet places like Bayou DeView Water Trail and its ancient cypress trees. Scenic stretches to wet a fishing line such as Crooked Creek Water Trail. And natural escapes in urban areas like Arkansas River Water Trail. Each trail offers abundant wildlife, a new view around each bend and a chance to see Arkansas from a new perspective. Enjoy the ride with a camera and binoculars, and take home a head full of memories.

Find out about each of these special places at www.agfc.com/watertrails. • Arkansas Post Water Trail • Arkansas River Water Trail • Bayou Bartholomew Water Trail • Bayou DeView Water Trail • Crooked Creek Water Trail • Cut-Off Creek Water Trail • Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge Water Trails • Grassy Lake Water Trail • Islets Cove Paddle Trail • Little Maumelle River Water Trail • Robe Bayou Water Trail • Wattensaw Bayou Water Trail

ARKANSASWILD.COM | 51


Share with us! #FloatWithBOC

PONCA

ARKANSAS

Get your Buffalo National River float on with Buffalo Outdoor Center, Arkansas’ adventure resort. We can provide everything you’ll need to enjoy a float trip on America’s first national river.

float on.

And our fully furnished cabins – many with hot tubs – will welcome you home after a great day on the river.

870-861-5514 BuffaloRiver.com AUTHORIZED CONCESSIONER Buffalo Outdoor Center is authorized to provide canoe, kayak and raft rentals and transportation services within the Buffalo National River. 52 | PADDLE ARKANSAS

issue no. 1

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