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Little River, Arkansas
Report by Marc W. McCord

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SOAR Inflatable Canoes - Somewhere On A River

The Little River forms in LeFlore County, Oklahoma in the very remote Kiamichi Mountains just west of the Ouachita National Forest, then flows southwest before turning south at Nashoba in Pushmataha County. The river is dammed below SH 3 in McCurtain County to form Pine Creek Lake from which it flows south through Wright City, turning east just below there and flowing south of Broken Bow along the northern boundry of Ouachita National Forest and on into Arkansas just south of Horatio in Sevier County. It then flows southeastward under US Highway 71 into Howard County where it is again dammed to form Millwood Lake. Arkansas' fabled Cossatot River flows into the Little River just above the lake on the west side of US Highway 71. The river continues in a southeast direction to the Red River confluence between McNab and IH 30 at Fulton in Hempstead County.

Principle tributaries to the Little River include the Glover and Mountain Fork (Oklahoma) and the Rolling Fork, Cossatot and Saline (Arkansas), the latter two flowing into the Little River just above IH 30 between Texarkana and Hot Springs National Park. The Rolling Fork River is dammed to form DeQueen Lake, and typically is not a navigable stream due to low water and major log jams, especially below the lake. While the Little River is not a major paddling destination for most paddlers (it does see significant weekend motorboat traffic, especially during warm months) its tributaries certainly get a lot of attention. The Cossatot is THE premiere whitewater river of Arkansas, and the (Howard County) Saline, which parallels it to the east, is nearly as good, though not quite as technical. All three rivers flow through an absolutely beautiful corner of a gorgeous state, "The Natural State" of Arkansas. While the 'Tot and Saline Rivers are better suited to whitewater canoeists and kayakers, the Little River can be boated by those with less experience.

The reach in Arkansas starts at Ashalintubbi Public Access on river left in the Little River National Wildlife Refuge of McCurtain County, Oklahoma, and the first possible public access in Arkansas is at an island adjacent to the Little River Country Club which is not always accessible due to water flowing between the mainland and the sometimes island. The first reliable public access in Arkansas is the SH 41 bridge boat ramp on river right about 2 miles below the island beach at about 11.4 miles below Ashalintubbi. Several other public accesses, though not always easy to locate, can be found between the SH 41 bridge and US 59 / US 71 bridge boat ramps, as well as marinas and Millwood Lake State Park downstream, or below Millwood Lake heading for the Red River confluence. An interesting feature of the Little River below SH 41 is the presence of American alligators, which are very timid and shy, but they are there - it makes you want to keep your hands and feet inside the boat just in case one mistakes a body part for food. In reality, the gators are unlikely to approach you at all, and usually take evasive action long before you get close to them.

The one key asset the Little River has to offer is that is has a navigable, though somewhat muddy, flow most of the time, and during the summer months or after heavy local rainfall when the US Army Corps of Engineers is releasing water from Pine creek Reservoir and/or Broken Bow Lake there will usually be plenty of water. Occasionally, high water will inundate riverside campsites and access points, but it increases the speed of the flow and shortens paddling time downriver. It is a remote river, so for those who enjoy getting away from development and noise the Little River offers quite a lot in terms of dense forest and solitude.

Lower Mountain Fork - Little River confluence

Click the links below for information regarding the section of the River and its tributaries where you want to paddle.

[ SH 41 to Millwood Lake ] [ Millwood Dam to Red River confluence ]
[ Upper Cossatot River ] [ Lower Cossatot River ] [ Upper Saline River ] [ Lower Saline River ] [ Baker Creek ]

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© December 12, 2003. All rights reserved.
Last updated September 2, 2015

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