Waterway Adventures in the River Valley

by | May 25, 2022 | River Valley Adventure

Photo by Michael Roys

Arkansas is home to more than 9,700 miles of rivers, streams and creeks. The River Valley is home to some of the most popular and uniquely scenic, thrilling, and floatable creeks and is the perfect “basecamp” to start your whitewater adventures. These rain-dependent waterways are floatable via raft, kayak, canoe, paddleboard and even inner-tubes!

Paddlers from across the country come to the River Valley when the water is up to paddle, fish, camp and play. Some of these scenic waterways offer high bluff lines; overhanging oak trees with rope swings; large, deep pools and gentle rapids to spend endless hours swimming, floating, and enjoying the sounds of the running water.

Other paddlers also come to these waterways to test their whitewater skills on the River Valley’s technical and fast-moving creeks that offer class II-IV rapids and falls. Whether you are an easy fisher/floater, a creeker with little experience who wants to get better, or a rock-n-roll, no-limits paddler, there is a creek for you right in the River Valley.

Here are three of the River Valley’s most popular creeks that we highly recommend you make time to visit and paddle:

Big Piney Creek
Big Piney offers, mile for mile, one of the best floats in what some say is the River Valley’s classic Ozark stream. Located north on Highway 7, ten miles north of Dover, this creek stretches more than 67 miles from its source in Newton County. The best sections for canoes, kayaks and paddleboards (when the water is up) are the two middle sections described below.

On your way, be sure to check out Moore Outdoors. They offer shuttle services, rentals, and equipment for all your paddling needs. Kerry and Debbie Moore are your go-to legends for wisdom and advice for making your trip safe, fun, and enjoyable.

Helton’s Farm to Long Pool: On this ten-mile stretch, the hills crowd the creek creating amazing, manageable rapids (class II-II+) popular with moderately experienced whitewater paddlers. Infamous rapid sections with names like “Roller Coaster,” “Cascades of Extinction” and “The Mother,” among others, have adjacent gravel bars good for resting, picnicking or rehashing the carnage.

Long Pool to Moore Outdoors: This five-mile stretch is extremely popular for less experienced paddlers. The creek widens and the pools are longer, interrupted with mostly class I rapids. This section is great for beginners, kids and adults learning to kayak, people wanting to fish or just enjoy a relaxing float. This section can be run in fairly low-water with minimal boat-carrying. Putting in at Long Pool is free, but there is a fee to park and swim. There is also a fee for take-out at Moore Outdoors.

Hurricane Creek
This River Valley creek begins near Deer, Arkansas, and flows to the creek’s confluence with Big Piney. It is considerably more difficult than Big Piney and is more popular with more experienced whitewater paddlers. To navigate Hurricane Creek, boaters must be confident at kayak rolling, catching eddies and back ferrying.

Cub Creek to Big Piney Creek at Fort Douglas. The put-in for this 10.2-mile run actually begins at Cub Creek at the low-water bridge, about 500 feet from where it meets Hurricane Creek, and is the most popular run on Hurricane Creek. The first 4.5 miles of this run are scenic with class II and II+ rapids that are mostly canopied by hardwood trees. The middle four miles are class II and III containing “Boulder Garden” and then “Double Droop” followed by a short pool to get ready for “Pyramid Rapid” which during high-water can become constricted by boulders to less than 15 feet across and a class III+ rapid. One good drop at “Drop Baby Drop” and you finish the run with 2.2 miles of continuous class II rapids and beautiful scenery.

Richland Creek
Richland Creek is NOT for inexperienced paddlers. It is also not easy to access. These are just two reasons that make this legendary creek so special to the experienced paddler. Richland Creek is located near Ben Hur (seven miles from Pelser, AR). If you plan on enjoying the awesome scenery on this creek, plan to get out of your boat because you won’t see it as you go by.

The most popular section of this creek is from Ben Hur to the Richland Creek campground. This is a six-mile run and drops more than 300 feet, making this creek very technical. This section has incredibly technical class III+ and IV whitewater, drops, waterfalls, hydraulics, boulders, slots and everything else that gets experienced paddlers’ adrenalin running. Highlights include “Stolen Paddle,” “Bloody Knuckles” and “Upper and Lower Screw-Ups.” The put-in is 3.5 miles north of Ben Hur on FR 1203 at the low-water bridge. Takeout is at the Richland Creek Campground.

After you’ve survived your epic whitewater adventure, return to basecamp where the River Valley offers a wide variety of restaurants, bars and other food and refreshment choices, as well as lodging accommodations.

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