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Lower Saline River, Arkansas
Report by Marc W. McCord

Lyle Park (Benton) to US Highway 82
in Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge
~ 203 miles

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SOAR Inflatable Canoes - Somewhere On A River

General Description

From Benton, the Saline River flows approximately 203 miles down to Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge as a Class I stream with occasional Class II rapids in high water conditions, and many convenient access points along the way. This reach is primarily a flatwater run with a few rocky shoals and small ledge drops that are easy enough even for paddlers with limited experience. Dead-fall debris piles are the biggest obstacle to navigation along the river, but most will be found on the forks and upper end of the river.

Starting in Saline County, this section flows southeast through Grant, Dallas, Cleveland and Bradley Counties. The Ouachita River roughly parallels the Saline River to the west, and Bayou Bartholomew and the Arkansas River follow a similar path to the east. This reach ends at the impoundment of the wildlife refuge near North Crossett, just above the Louisiana State Line. The waters of the Saline meet those of the Ouachita at the impoundment, from which the Ouachita River then flows south into Louisiana. Many species of birds, wildlife and fish can be found all along this reach. Jenkins Ferry Monument State Park, an historical battleground of the War of Northern Aggression (aka "The Civil War") is a few miles south of Benton and southeast of Malvern and Hot Springs. Surrounding the Lower Saline River is mostly undeveloped land that is rich in trees and natural vegetation, with a few small towns not too far away at most road crossings.

Distances between access points allow for trips of a few hours to several days. There are no known developed campgrounds along the way, but ample natural campsites can be found almost anywhere you look. At least 10 road crossings offer paddlers a wide choice of where to put in and how far downriver to paddle. Few people will be seen along the way on this wilderness journey through some of Arkansas' scenic southcentral lowlands where the gradient is gentle and the current is slow, but steady. If you are looking for an uncrowded place to spend some time on the water, then the Lower Saline River offers you just about everything you desire. Be sure to pack your camera, because there is much to see on this reach of the river. Just be sure to allow plenty of time to reach your destination because, except in high water conditions, you won't get a lot of help from the current.


Central and southcentral Arkansas, in Saline, Grant, Dallas, Cleveland and Bradley Counties, between Benton and Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuse near the Louisiana State Line. Little Rock is about a half hour away to the northeast on IH 30.

Distance from major cities

Little Rock 35 miles; Hot Springs 40 miles; Texarkana 120 miles; Fort Smith 190 miles; Memphis 167 miles; Oklahoma City 370 miles; Kansas City 511 miles; Dallas 295 miles; Austin 496 miles; San Antonio 576 miles; Houston 400 miles; Albuquerque 846 miles; Phoenix 1,290 miles; Denver 995 miles; Grand Junction 1,291 miles; Salt Lake City 1,529 miles (all distances are approximate and depend upon starting point, destination point at the river and route taken.)

Water Quality and Flow Rates

Water quality is usually good to very good. With adequate rainfall and moderate climate it is a year-around river. Flow is usually best in late-fall through spring months, but is almost always adequate for paddle trips.

Best times to go

March through June and late-September through November generally offer the best combination of flow and mild weather conditions.

Hazards to navigation

There are no significant hazards to navigation on the Lower Saline River. This stream is a flatwater paddle that can be enjoyed by almost any able-bodied paddler in canoes, kayaks and rafts. However, willow strainers and dead-fall debris piles can pose potential threats to boater safety if not negotiated properly, especially at higher flows.

River access points

River Bend Road (N 34° 35' 33.07" / W 092° 41' 37.06") in Benton at 0.0 miles; Lyle (City of Benton) Park, on river left, at about 8.0 miles; IH 30 bridge at about 11.0 miles; Tull Access on the Saline/Grant County Line at about 24.0 miles; US Highway 270 Bridge between Poyen and Prattville at about 42.0 miles; Jenkins Ferry Access at SH 46 at about 61.0 miles; US Highway 167 Bridge at about 81.0 miles; White Oaks Bluff Access at about 93.0 miles; Mahoney's Ferry Access at about 95.0 miles; US Highway 79 Bridge between Rison and Kingsland at about 109.0 miles; Mt. Elba Access at about 119.0 miles; Warren Bridge on US Highway 63 at about 140.0 miles; US Highway 278 Bridge east of Warren at about 152.0 miles; SH 8 / SH 160 Bridge at about 167.0 miles; Moore's Mill Access at about 179.0 miles; River's End Access at US Highway 82 (N 33¯ 09' 01.82" / W 092° 06' 28.41") in the Crossett Harbor Recreation Area about 203.0 miles. Other access points may be available. Mileage is NOT measured by GPS, and mileage markers are not exact.

Campgrounds and accommodations

Lake Catherine State Park offer excellent campsites with drinking water, restrooms, hot showers, picnic facilities, day-use areas, sanitary dump station and many other amenities. Hotel and motel accommodations are available in Malvern and Hot Springs. There are no developed campgrounds along the river, though abundant primitive, natural campsites can be found almost anywhere between IH 30 and Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge.

Liveries, outfitters and shuttle services

There is at least one known outfitter located in Benton who offers canoe and kayak rentals, as well as shuttles, on various reaches of the Saline River. If not contracting with that outfitter bring everything you need, and either run your own shuttles or hook up with other boaters in the area for shuttles.

Reviewer's comments

If you are looking for a rather remote adventure on a quiet river amid beautiful trees and natural scenery, then the Saline River below Benton offers excellent paddling opportunities, served by Arkansas' gracious development of its natural resources for the benefit of outdoors enthusiasts. Numerous access points, ample natural campsites, few people, even less development and small towns in close proximity, though not encroaching on the river, provide a beautiful place to paddle between Benton on IH 30 and Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge near the Louisiana border. Some sections are as short as 7 or 8 miles, while others are about 15-21 miles. There are no major rapids or other hazards unless you get into a willow strainer or dead-fall debris pile in high water conditions, when the current increases and sharp bends in the river make steering a little more difficult. This is not a major paddling destination for most paddlers, but the Saline River usually has adequate flow when most other Arkansas streams are too low to paddle, and the wildlife you will see along the way rivals any other part of this gorgeous state that prides itself on its immense natural grandeur. The Lower Saline River is a stream for everybody, though rafts will find trips slow and sometimes more work than they might want. If you enjoy wilderness camping and "roughing it" along a pretty river, then this is the place for you!

Technical Data
Class Rating I (I+ to II in high water)
Length ~ 203 miles
Minimum Flow 97 cfs / 3.51 feet (above Sheridan)
98=58 cfs / 5 feet (below Sheridan)
Optimum Flow 337-1,680 cfs (above Sheridan)
1,680-2,470 cfs (below Sheridan)
Maximum Flow 3,320 cfs / 8 feet
First Put-in River Bend Road Access
Lat. / Long. N 34° 35' 33.07" / W 092° 41' 37.06"
Last Take-out US Highway 82 Bridge
Lat. / Long. N 33¯ 09' 01.82" / W 092° 06' 28.41"
Elevation 300 ft - 69 ft. msl
Gradient 1.4 fpm average
USGS Gauge Web: Benton
Web: Sheridan
Web: Rye
Boats Canoes, Kayaks, Rafts
Season Year-round, weather permitting
Permits No

Saline River map courtesy of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism and the Arkansas Paddlers' Guide

Saline Forks River map courtesy of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism and the Arkansas Floaters' Guide.

Click the map to view a full sized display.

Canoeman River Guide Service - Guided river trips in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah

Arkansas Canoe Club - Promoting the sport of paddling

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

Ouachita River

[ Ouachita River Homepage ] [ SH 88 to SH 27 ] [ Remmel Dam to Arkadelphia ] [ Arkadelphia to SH 128 ]
[ SH 128 to Camden ] [ Camden to US Highway 79 ] [ US Highway 79 to Moro Bay State Park ]


[ Upper Caddo River ] [ Lower Caddo River ] [ Little Missouri River ] [ Moro Creek ]
[ Saline North Fork ] [ Saline Alum Fork ] [ Saline Middle Fork ]

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