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Caddo River, Arkansas
Report by Marc W. McCord

De Gray Lake to SH 7 on the Ouachita River
~ 11 Miles

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SOAR Inflatable Canoes - Somewhere On A River

General Description

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.

Distance from major cities

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.)

Water Quality and Flow Rates

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.

Best times to go

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.

Hazards to navigation

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.

River access points

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.

Campgrounds and accommodations

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.

Liveries, outfitters and shuttle services

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.

Reviewer's comments

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.

Technical Data
Class Rating I to II
Length ~ 11 miles
Minimum Flow cfs
Optimum Flow cfs
Maximum Flow cfs
First Put-in Below De Gray Dam
Lat. / Long.
Last Take-out SH 7 on the Ouachita River
Lat. / Long.
Elevation msl
Gradient fpm
USGS Gauge Web: Caddo Gap
Boats Canoes, Kayaks, Rafts
Season November through August
Permits No

Lower Caddo River map

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 Nix Ferry Road ] [ Nix Ferry Road to Camden ] [ Camden to US Highway 79 ] [ US Highway 79 to Moro Bay State Park ]


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

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