The Rivers Wild


Dry Run Creek | Logan Slusser | Capture Arkansas


Dry Run Creek

Baxter County, near Mountain Home

Although people might quibble about what “fishiest” means—most fish, or most BIG fish—the cold water of Dry Run Creek has gotta be toward the top of most lists because along this ¾-mile stretch, from the Norfork National Fish Hatchery to the Norfork River near the base of Norfork Dam, there are lots of fish. Lots of BIG fish, notably rainbows and brown trout. In the fall, trout can be seen jumping up a small waterfall to reach upstream stretches of Dry Run Creek. There’s just one, ahem, catch: You’ve gotta be under 16 years of age or a properly licensed disabled angler.

Make a weekend of it:

Camping and picnicking are available just across the highway from the fish hatchery at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s Quarry Park. The hatchery offers tours of its facilities, where you can walk among the raceways, feed the fish and see displays at the visitor center. The Norfork River is adjacent to the park and is popular with trout anglers of all ages. —jp


The Spring River

Fulton County, near Mammoth Spring

Come summer, there’s no place we’d rather be than cooling off in the steady stream of a river. On the hottest days, however, we resort to the big guns: aka the Spring River. Fed by the chilly waters of Mammoth Spring—the largest spring in the state and the seventh largest in the world—the Spring River near Hardy can reach a bracing 55 to 60 degrees. Downstream, of course, the water warms up enough for the rafting, canoeing and kayaking that makes the Spring River so popular. The river is crystal clear, with long pools and whitewater falls, but during summer weekends and holidays, it can become a grown-up’s, rather than a family’s, destination of choice.

Make a weekend of it:

Nearby Hardy, which grew from a railroad construction camp in 1884, has a quaint downtown listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s been called a mecca for craft- and antique-shopping. —hs

Terry Majewski | Capture Arkansas


Newton County

“You’re sure to get several opinions on this one,” says former hydrologist Jim Petersen. “I am not a whitewater paddler AT ALL, and none of these creeks should be run except by extremely experienced paddlers. Velocity is going to depend on the amount of water (many of the best whitewater creeks are only going to be runnable for a few hours after a rainstorm ends) and the slope of the creek. After a little research on the slope of some whitewater creeks, I think contenders for the highest velocity include Ben Doodle Creek (Crawford County), which drops 350 feet per mile (fpm); Sulphur Creek (a tributary to Richland Creek in Searcy County), which drops 320 fpm with sections of 500 to 700 fpm; and Boulder Creek (Newton County), which drops 250 fpm with sections with slopes of greater than 500 fpm. The fastest ‘ride to the bottom’ for any of these creeks would be a section of Broadwater Hollow (Newton County) that is only a quarter-mile long with a slope of 400 fpm, so no shuttle needed—just put-in, rinse and repeat.”


The White River

Northern Arkansas

Sure, the Arkansas River has 13 locks and dams for navigation purposes, but the eight dams on the beautiful White River system are your best bet for recreation. Visit the 2,575-foot-long Beaver Dam in Northwest Arkansas, where the spillway section stretches an impressive 328 feet in length. Head to Bull Shoals Dam near Mountain Home, the barrier that forms Arkansas’ largest lake (at 45,440 acres). And don’t forget the river’s tributaries, where you can enjoy the Greers Ferry Dam (on the Little Red River, dedicated on Oct. 3, 1963, by President John F. Kennedy in what would be one of his last major public appearances before his assassination) and Norfork Dam (on the Norfork, one of the oldest U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ multipurpose concrete structures). Dam!

Make a weekend of it:

Wine and dine yourself near the Norfork Dam at Whispering Woods Cabins, where you can sit in the courtyard outside near the fire pit and enjoy a large selection of import beers to accompany an order of wild-mushroom ravioli with a white-truffle-oil pesto. Double dam! —hs

The White River | Photo by A.C. Haralson


Sulphur River

Southwest Arkansas

Not to be confused with Sulphur Creek in central Arkansas, the Sulphur River in southwest Arkansas (and northeast Texas) will be sure to satisfy even the most avid of wildlife lovers with its native population of mammals (river otters, beavers, muskrats, minks), birds (black-bellied whistling ducks, yellow-headed blackbirds, roseate spoonbills, white-face ibises), fish (largemouth bass, crappie, bluegills, redear sunfish) and reptiles (water snakes and turtles). In fact, the Sulphur River Wildlife Management Area is one of the best locations in the state for viewing and photographing American alligators … if you’re brave (or crazy) enough to try.

Make a weekend of it:

Head 16 miles northwest to Texarkana, and catch a show (like the Scott Joplin International Centennial Celebration) at the Perot Theatre, restored in large part through contributions from presidential candidate H. Ross Perot and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. —hs


Bayou DeView Water Trail

Monroe County, near Brinkley

As you slowly meander through this flooded forest of knobby-kneed bald cypress trees (some as ancient as 850 to 1,000 years old), you’ll be quickly transported into the past. Relatively unaltered and pristine, the Bayou DeView Water Trail is one of the last remnants of the mammoth forest that once towered over the eastern third of our state. On your float back in time, plan to make a pit stop on Whiskey Island (south of Hickson Lake, about 40 yards off the float trail), where a still once cranked out moonshine during Prohibition, and keep your eyes peeled for the elusive ivory-billed woodpecker, who made its last appearance—like, ever—in Bayou DeView about a decade ago. (Or at least depending on who you ask.)

The Buffalo National River | Photo by Lindsey Brendon | Capture Arkansas

Make a weekend of it:

Because of Bayou DeView’s remoteness, nearby camping is scarce. A solid bet for pitching a tent close by would be at Hickson Lake in the Dagmar Wildlife Management Area. —bb

Most Endangered: 

The Buffalo National River

Northwest Arkansas

Why was the Buffalo River designated as the first national river in the United States? Majestic waterfalls, towering limestone bluffs, pristine pools of mountain water, a vast labyrinth of 300 caves and a thriving ecosystem of fish and wildlife—that’s why. But today, everything that makes this river a national treasure is at risk, thanks to a decision about five years ago to allow a hog farm to set up shop on a hill along one of the river’s main tributaries. Touch base with the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance to learn more about what you can do to help save this precious resource.

Make a weekend of it:

Get to know the Buffalo better by spending a night or two in one of Buffalo Point Concession’s river-view cabins and the day floating down the scenic 7-mile bend of the river that runs from Buffalo Point to Rush Landing. Not only will you be treated to some of the river’s most breathtaking bluffs, Rush Landing is a genuine ghost town! —bb