Rising in the Ouachita Mountains of Montgomery County in west central Arkansas flows the Caddo River, a Class I-II moderate whitewater river that runs close to or through Black Springs, Norman, Caddo Gap, Glenwood and Amity on its way to the backwaters of De Gray Lake, a distance of about 40 miles, with an additional 8 miles of river flowing between De Gray Lake and the Ouachita River confluence. It is a typical pool-and-drop river that is gentle enough for novice paddlers, yet with enough whitewater excitement to entertain those who prefer a bumpy ride over flatwater.
Below De Gray Lake, the Caddo River is an excellent paddle trip with easy access points on a short 11-mile reach down to the Ouachita River confluence, then down the Ouachita to the public access near SH 7. Because the Lower Caddo River is fed by releases from De Gray Lake and inflow from several other lakes and creeks trips can be taken as late as into August, when the upper river is generally too low to paddle. This scenic reach, where the banks are lined with redbud and dogwood trees, is very close to Arkadelphia and Hot Springs, with public access at SH 7, IH 30 and US Highway 67. It is frequently described as one of the best family outing streams in the State of Arkansas.
Clark and Hot Springs Counties in west central Arkansas on the southern edge of the Ouachita Mountains and just northeast of the Cossatot, Saline, Little Red and Little Rivers.
Hot Springs National Park 32 miles; Little Rock 67 miles; Texarkana 90 miles; Dallas 230 miles; Memphis 227 miles; Austin 420; San Antonio 500 miles; Houston 430 miles; Oklahoma City 215 miles (all distances are approximate and depend upon starting point, destination point on the river and route taken.)
Excellent, clean, cool and clear as it comes out of De Gray Lake. Flows are adequate for paddle trips in fall and winter months and best in the March to August period. Adequate water for paddling may be found any time of the year after heavy local rainfall.
March through August usually has plenty of water for paddle trips, but other times may also be good, depending upon how much rain is falling in the drainage basin. Winters will be very cold and summers will be warm to hot.
There are no significant hazards at normal or low water levels on the 8-mile reach between De Gray Lake and the Ouachita River confluence. This reach of the Caddo River is safe for amost any paddler regardless of skills or experience.
Immediately below the dam at De Gray Lake at 0.0 miles; IH 30 crossing at about 2.0 miles; US Highway 67 crossing at about 3.0 miles; Ouachita River confluence at about 5.0 miles; Ouachita River Bridge Park, on SH 7 at the Ouachita River, at about 11.0 miles.
Camping and picnic facilities are available at the SH 7 access on the Ouachita River about 6 miles below the Caddo River confluence. Nearby campsites are available at the Crystal Recreation Area north of Norman off Forest Road 177 (off the river). There are abundant gravel bars along the riverbanks that offer excellent primitive campsites. All land along the Caddo River is privately owned, and landowners cherish their privacy, so avoid camping above the riverbanks unless you have first obtained permission. Camping, cabin rentals and other accommodations are also available from any of several commercial facilities on or near this reach of the Caddo River.
Two Rivers Canoe Rental (870-403-3682), located at Hwy 7, Caddo River Bridge in Caddo Valley, Arkansas (near Arkadelphia), offers canoe and tube rentals, shuttle services and fishing on the Caddo and Ouachita Rivers. There are no other known outfitters serving the Caddo River, though several outfitters are available on various reaches of the Ouachita River.
The Caddo River is a seldom paddled destination of immense natural beauty, characterized by low water most of the time and a very short season of about three months when the flow is usually adequate for good trips. The area is undeveloped and the river cuts through the southern Ouachita Mountains of the Ozarks, where wildlife and plantlife are abundant. Fishing for walleye, white, spotted, largemouth and smallmouth bass, crappie, longear and other species of sunfish and channel, blue and flathead catfish is excellent. The water is great for swimming, though it will tend to be a little cold for many people. The river flows just a few miles northeast of the famous Cossatot, Saline, Red and Little Red Rivers, and is close enough for a side trip (by car, of course) to Hot Springs National Park.