Best Places to Kayak in Arkansas

A Young Happy Woman Is Sitting on Kayak

Arkansas is a state known for its natural beauty and diverse landscapes. With its numerous lakes, rivers, and streams, it’s no surprise that kayaking is popular in the state. From calm and serene waterways to challenging rapids, Best Places to Kayak in Arkansas offers a variety of kayaking experiences for both beginners and experts alike.

 

Top Kayaking Destinations in Arkansas

  • Buffalo National River
  • Mulberry River
  • Cossatot River
  • Ouachita River
  • Little Missouri River

 

1. Buffalo National River

kayaking in Buffalo National River

The Buffalo National River is one of Arkansas’s most popular kayaking destinations. It offers over 150 miles of scenic waterways, ranging from calm to challenging rapids. The river is surrounded by beautiful forests and cliffs, making it a perfect spot for nature lovers. The water is crystal clear, and various fish are swimming underneath. The most popular section for kayaking is the upper Buffalo, which has class I to III rapids.

 

Pros: Cons:
ProsKnown for its stunning natural beauty, including towering limestone bluffs, lush forests, and clear waters. ConsThe water levels in Buffalo National River can vary greatly depending on the season and recent rainfall.
ProsThe river is home to diverse wildlife, including deer, turkeys, eagles, and various fish species. ConsWhile kayaking can be exciting, awareness of potential hazards is essential, especially in faster-moving river sections.
ProsA relatively remote and undeveloped area, so you can often find peace and solitude while kayaking. ConsThunderstorms, heavy rain, or extreme temperatures can make kayaking unsafe or uncomfortable.
ProsOffers a variety of recreational opportunities. ConsCrowds during Peak Season
ProsThe river is surrounded by the Ozark Mountains, providing ample opportunities for camping and hiking. ConsLimited Amenities

 

2. Mulberry River

kayaking in Mulberry River

The Mulberry River is another favorite kayaking spot in Arkansas. It is located in the Ozark National Forest and offers a variety of rapids for kayakers of all skill levels. The river is surrounded by scenic mountains and forests, making it a perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. The most popular section for kayaking is the middle Mulberry, which has class II to III rapids.

 

Pros: Cons:
ProsKayaking along the river immerses you in picturesque landscapes, including lush forests, rocky bluffs, and tranquil waterways. ConsThe Mulberry River’s water levels and currents can vary depending on the time of year and recent weather patterns.
ProsThe river is home to diverse flora and fauna, providing ample opportunities for wildlife spotting. ConsWhile beginners can enjoy kayaking, certain sections of the Mulberry River may require intermediate or advanced kayaking skills.
ProsKayaking in the Mulberry River offers a fantastic recreational activity. It provides a chance to engage in physical exercise while enjoying the outdoors. ConsExtreme heat, thunderstorms, or high winds can affect safety and enjoyment.
ProsKayaking allows you to explore areas of the Mulberry River that may not be accessible on foot or by other means. ConsCrowded During Peak Times

 

3. Cossatot River

 kayaking in Cossatot River

The Cossatot River is a challenging kayaking destination in Arkansas. It has class III to V rapids, making it suitable only for experienced kayakers. The river flows through the Ouachita Mountains, and the scenery is breathtaking. The water is crystal clear, and various fish are swimming underneath. The most popular section for kayaking is the Cossatot Falls, which has class V rapids.

 

Pros: Cons:
ProsFor kayakers seeking an adrenaline rush, the river provides an exhilarating experience. ConsThe Cossatot River demands advanced paddling skills, and inexperienced kayakers may find it overwhelming or dangerous.
ProsThe Cossatot River flows through the rugged Ouachita Mountains, offering breathtaking natural surroundings. ConsDue to the river’s strong currents and rocky terrain, there is an inherent risk of accidents or injuries while kayaking.
ProsKayaking along the Cossatot allows you to immerse yourself in nature and spot wildlife such as bald eagles, river otters, and various fish species. ConsThe Cossatot River’s water levels can vary significantly depending on rainfall and other factors.
ProsIt allows outdoor enthusiasts to engage in an exciting and physically demanding activity. ConsLimited amenities
ProsThe river is surrounded by Cossatot River State Park and the nearby Ouachita National Forest, offering camping and recreational opportunities.  

 

4. Ouachita River

kayaking in Ouachita River

The Ouachita River is a calm kayaking destination in Arkansas. It offers over 600 miles of waterways, ranging from calm to moderate rapids. The river flows through the Ouachita Mountains, surrounded by beautiful forests and cliffs. The water is crystal clear, and various fish are swimming underneath. The most popular section for kayaking is the upper Ouachita, which has class I to II rapids.

 

Pros: Cons:
ProsThe Ouachita River is known for its stunning natural beauty. ConsThe river can become fast-moving and dangerous during heavy rain or flooding periods.
ProsThe river is home to various fish species, birds, and other wildlife. ConsThe river has sections with various obstacles, such as fallen trees, rocks, and shallow areas.
ProsTranquility and relaxation ConsWhile wildlife viewing can be a pro, it’s important to remember that some animals may pose risks.
ProsKayaking is a great way to engage in physical activity and enjoy the thrill of adventure. ConsLimited amenities
ProsThe Ouachita River is known for its fishing opportunities. ConsWeather conditions can change quickly, affecting your kayaking experience.

 

5. Little Missouri River

kayaking in Little Missouri River

The Little Missouri River is a peaceful kayaking destination in Arkansas. It offers over 40 miles of waterways, ranging from calm to moderate rapids. The river flows through the Ouachita Mountains, surrounded by beautiful forests and cliffs. The water is crystal clear, and various fish are swimming underneath. The most popular section for kayaking is the Albert Pike Recreation Area, which has class II rapids.

 

Pros: Cons:
ProsFlows through the stunning Badlands of North Dakota, offering breathtaking natural scenery. ConsLimited accessibility
ProsThe river’s remote location and relatively low traffic make it an ideal destination for those seeking solitude and a peaceful paddling experience. ConsThe river’s water levels can fluctuate significantly depending on rainfall and other factors.
ProsThe Little Missouri River is home to various wildlife species, including deer, elk, bighorn sheep, coyotes, and bird species. ConsThe area surrounding the Little Missouri River is relatively undeveloped.
ProsThe river is known for its fishing, particularly for species like trout. Kayaking allows anglers to access fishing spots that are otherwise difficult to reach from the shore. ConsThe weather in the Badlands region can be unpredictable, with the potential for sudden storms and temperature fluctuations.
ProsKayaking is a great way to engage in physical activity and enjoy an adventure on the water. ConsLimited services and support

 

 

Why Arkansas for Kayaking?

Arkansas River

Arkansas is known for its natural beauty, and there are plenty of reasons why it is an ideal location for kayaking. Here are a few of the top reasons why Arkansas is a must-visit destination for kayakers:

  • Arkansas is known for its natural beauty, and there are plenty of reasons why it is an ideal location for kayaking. Here are a few of the top reasons why Arkansas is a must-visit destination for kayakers:
  • Abundant Waterways – One of the main reasons Arkansas is such a great place for kayaking is the abundance of waterways. The state is home to over 600,000 acres of lakes and more than 90,000 miles of streams and rivers. This means kayakers can explore various environments, from calm lakes to fast-moving rapids.
  • Scenic Beauty – Arkansas is a state that is full of natural beauty, and kayaking is one of the best ways to experience it. Many of the state’s waterways are surrounded by stunning scenery, including towering bluffs, dense forests, and rocky outcroppings. Kayakers can enjoy breathtaking landscape views as they paddle through the water.
  • Wildlife Viewing – Arkansas is also home to diverse wildlife, and kayaking is a great way to see it up close. Kayakers can spot various animals, including otters, beavers, herons, and bald eagles. Many of the state’s waterways are also home to fish, making Arkansas a popular destination for anglers.
  • Accessibility – Finally, Arkansas is an accessible destination for kayakers of all skill levels. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced paddler, plenty of waterways in the state suit your level of experience. Additionally, plenty of outfitters and rental companies can provide you with all the equipment you need for a safe and enjoyable kayaking trip.

 

Best Season to Kayak in Arkansas

Arkansas River

Arkansas offers a variety of kayaking opportunities throughout the year, but the best season to kayak in Arkansas is during the spring and fall months. The weather during these seasons is mild, with temperatures ranging from the mid-50s to the mid-70s. The water levels are also typically higher during these seasons, allowing for a more enjoyable and challenging kayaking experience.

During the spring, kayakers can enjoy the beautiful scenery of blooming wildflowers and trees. The water is typically straightforward and calm, making it an excellent time for beginners to try kayaking. Some famous spring kayaking spots in Arkansas include the Buffalo National, Caddo, and Mulberry.

In the fall, kayakers can experience the stunning foliage of the Ozark Mountains. The water is typically more transparent during this season, providing a better view of the riverbed and its inhabitants. Some famous fall kayaking spots in Arkansas include the Ouachita, Little Missouri, and Kings.

It is important to note that the summer months in Arkansas can be hot and humid, with temperatures reaching the 90s. The water levels can also be lower, making it more difficult to navigate certain rivers. However, kayaking during the summer can be enjoyable if proper precautions are taken, such as staying hydrated and wearing sunscreen.

 

Kayaking Tours and Guides in Arkansas

Arkansas is home to some of the most beautiful waterways in the country, making it a popular destination for kayaking enthusiasts. Several kayaking tours and guides are available for those new to kayaking or who want to explore the state’s waterways with an experienced guide.

  • The Ozark Mountain Trading Company –  offers guided kayaking tours on the Buffalo National River, one of Arkansas’s most popular destinations. The tours range from half-day to multi-day trips, and all equipment is provided. The guides are experienced and knowledgeable about the area’s wildlife and history, making for an informative and enjoyable trip.
  • Ouachita Kayak Tours – offers guided tours on Lake Ouachita, Arkansas’s largest lake. The tours are led by experienced guides who provide all necessary equipment and instruction. The tours range from two to four hours and are suitable for all skill levels. The guides know the lake’s history and ecology, creating a fascinating and educational experience.
  • Wild Bill’s Outfitter – offers guided tours on the Little Red River, known for its excellent trout fishing. The tours are led by experienced guides who provide all necessary equipment and instruction. The tours range from half-day to full-day and are suitable for all skill levels. The guides are knowledgeable about the river’s wildlife and ecology, making for an informative and enjoyable trip.

Kayaking is not a hobby, it's a way of life

 

Conclusion

Arkansas is an excellent destination for kayaking enthusiasts. The state offers a wide variety of waterways, from calm lakes to rushing rivers, providing kayakers with endless opportunities to explore and enjoy the natural beauty of Arkansas.

Throughout this article, we have highlighted some of Arkansas’s best kayak places. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced kayaker, there is something for everyone in this state. From the peaceful waters of Lake Ouachita to the exhilarating rapids of the Buffalo National River, Arkansas has it all.

Kayaking in Arkansas is not only a fun and exciting activity, but it also provides an opportunity to connect with nature and appreciate the great outdoors. With so many beautiful waterways to explore, it’s no wonder Arkansas is a popular destination for kayakers nationwide.

So, grab your kayak and head to Arkansas for an unforgettable adventure on the water. Whether looking for a peaceful paddle or a thrilling ride, you will find it in this beautiful state.

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