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HomeNL-2018-05 Mulberry River

Mulberry River, Arkansas
April 8 - 12, 2018
by Christy Long

Wild and Scenic Mulberry River, Arkansas
Sunday, April 8, 2018 thru Thursday, April 12, 2018
Base camp at Turner Bend Campground, Ozark, Arkansas
15.6 miles of paddling
Warm days and cold nights

Reference books and websites
Rivers and Rapids, Canoeing Guide by Bob Narramore and Ben Nolen
Qzark Whitewater, by Tom Kennon
USGS 07252000, Mulberry River
American Whitewater:
Redding Recreation Area:
Long Pool Recreation Area:

Participants: Hazel Nixon, Bill Nixon, Duane Heckelsberg, and Christy Long:

Duane, Bill, and Hazel at the Redding Recreation Area Launch

The planned and announced HCC Club trip to Paddle 60 miles down the Pecos River was cancelled due to low water. Bill Nixon suggested moving the trip to Arkansas which had several rivers with good flow.

After some quick research, we decided on the Mulberry River and the Big Piney River. They are a reasonable driving distinct apart so we could stay at one base camp. They both offer a variety of skill level rapids and each river has more than twenty miles to paddle. Gauges for both rivers were showing a runnable level.

We camped at Turner Bend Campground. It is a nice place with big campsites (up to four tents), hot showers, store, and launch site. The drawback is that the showers, store, and launch site close at 6 pm on these slow spring weekdays. Several nights we arrived at the campsite after 6. The highway is very close and the road noise is, at times, disturbing.

On Monday we padded from Redding Recreation Area Campground to Turner Bend Launch site, 3.6 miles, 2.85 ft on USGS gauge. We put on at noon to let the temperature warm up, after a freezing night. The 3.6 miles took only a couple hours of floating to complete. The river is beautiful with turquoise pools separating the wave trains and rapids.

The river was moving us along at all times. We encountered riffles, wave trains, and boulders that kept us alert. The two marked rapids in the Rivers and Rapids were evident and needed to be maneuvered with skill.

We were surprised to find Redding Campground was almost empty of campers, had hot water showers that were open all night, had a launch site ($3 fee), and had no highway traffic. The campsites were small (one to two tents). The campsites are first come, first serve with a ten dollar per day, per site fee.

Tuesday we drove to Helton’s Farm with the intent to paddle from the farm to Long Pool Recreation Area Campground. We left camp by 8 because it was a one hour drive to the put in, the shuttle was a one-hour round trip, and the paddling route was nine miles. So by 10 we found Long Pool and were headed to the Helton’s. By noon, we decided we probably were not paddling that day. We stopped a motorist on NFR 1005 and she showed us where Helton’s Farm was located. We went to Moore’s Outfitter and talked to them about a shuttle for Wednesday. The practice now is to pay Moore’s for river access from Helton’s Farm.

On Wednesday, the Big Piney was at 1.7 ft. which is scrappy. So we paddled 12 miles on the Mulberry River from Wolf Pen Recreation Area to Redding Recreation Area. The river was at 2.55 ft which is considered lower-runnable on the American Whitewater list.

Bill on the Mulberry River

Once again the river was outstanding. It never stopped moving us along and because it was on the low side we had to maneuver swiftly around rocks and boulders. There were birds and turtles to make things interesting but no people to make things annoying.

We got off around 5 pm and went to dinner at the Workman’s Truck Stop. We were at the campsite by 8 and found that a large group had moved
into our campsite. The site was accidentally double-booked and we were asked to move to a new site in the morning. After some discussion we decided to cut our trip short by one day and leave the next day, Thursday.

It was a good scouting trip considering we had only two days to research and prepare for a trip to the Mulberry, instead of the Pecos River. I hope to organize a whitewater base camp trip to Arkansas for 2019.

Big Piney River Overlook

Wolf Pen Recreation Area Launch Site on the Mulberry River

Hazel on the Mulberry River.


The author, Christy Long