Among Arkansas whitewater rivers the Little Missouri, or "Little Mo", ranks among the best in a state with some great whitewater streams. This is NOT a river for novice paddlers - intermediate to advanced whitewater skills and the ability to self-rescue are necessary, as is having the proper boat, gear and clothing. Large standing waves and turbulent water make spray skirts advisable for canoes and kayaks. Tight, quick turns in Class II to III (IV in high water conditions) rapids amid willow strainers can challenge even skilled whitewater boaters. Depending upon water level picking and hitting a good line can be very difficult with plenty of boulders to pin and wrap boats and injure paddlers. In high water conditions extra caution is advised. This is an area that is prone to flash flooding where about 20 people lost their lives in 2010 when the river flashed in the middle of the night and caught sleeping campers off guard.
The 20.8 mile trip from Albert Pike Campground to US Highway 70 has very limited access - Albert Pike Recreational Area at 0.0 miles, Highway 84 crossing at 9.9 miles and US Highway 70 crossing at 20.8 miles - can be considered for three trips of varying lengths. The Upper section, from Albert Pike to Highway 84, is 9.9 miles (8.8 miles, if starting adjacent to the Albert Pike Store/RV Park) of whitewater exhiliration. The lower section, from Highway 84 to US Highway 70, is 10.9 miles of tamer water. The two sections combined provides a 20.8 mile trip starting with the whitewater section before flattening out to allow you time to take in the local scenery, and it is abundant, as you would expect in Arkansas. The Little Mo ends at the headwaters of Lake Greeson
Rapids on the Little Mo are rated Class II-III, escalating into Class IV at high water levels due to the gradient of 25 feet per mile on the uppermost 5-6 miles, after which point the river bed flattens out a little. Large standing waves, narrow channels and willow jungles are potential dangers to be avoided by careful planning, then negotiation or portaging. Always scout major rapids before running them!
The Little Mo is an excellent fishing stream for rainbow trout (December through May), green sunfish, longear, smallmouth and spotted bass, white bass (during the spring spawning season) and other species. It is generally best to wade or fish from the banks using light spinning tackle and fly fishing gear. Be sure that you have a valid tax stamp if fishing for trout - Arkansas does check and will ticket you for violations!
The Little Mo sits in Montgomery and Pike Counties in southwestern Arkansas near Hot Springs (50 miles) and Arkadelphia (75 miles.) The river flows generally north-to-south on the west side of the Ouachita River, parallel to and just south of the Caddo River above Camden.
Hot Springs 50 miles; Arkadelphia 75 miles; Little Rock 110 miles; Texarkana 254 miles; Dallas 275 miles; Austin 465 miles; San Antonio 545 miles; Houston 665 miles; Oklahoma City 245 miles; Kansas City 310 miles; St. Louis 513 miles; Memphis 245 miles; Albuquerque 773 miles; Phoenix 1,236 miles; Denver 856 miles; Salt Lake City 1,377 miles (all distances are approximate and depend upon starting point, destination point on the river and route taken.)
Excellent to good quality. Few Arkansas streams will be more seasonal - the Little Mo only has adequate flow for paddling right after local rains. The dog days of summer are to be avoided, as almost no flow will be available for paddling, though fishing can be good just about anytime except during periods of extreme drought conditions.
Anytime right after good local rains. Spring and fall seasons generally produce the best water conditions for boating the Little Mo.
With a gradient of about 39 feet per mile in the top 1 mile, and 21.7 fpm in the first ten miles, the Little Mo offers heavy whitewater excitement, with rapids reaching Class IV category at high flow levels. Coming downriver from Albert Pike Recreational Area, the major rapids are Keyhole, a long Class II rock garden starting about 2.2 miles below Albert Pike Campground and ending at the confluence of Blaylock Creek; Winding Stairs Rapid, a series of drops in quick succession, at 3.8 miles below Albert Pike campground is a Class III-IV "boat bender", with the river forking just above the rapid. Scout Winding Stair Rapid from the left bank and enter from the left fork; Edgar's Surprise at 4.8 miles below Albert Pike Campground is a Class II with a mid-stream ledge running parallel to the river, creating a dangerous left bank hydraulic current that can swamp an open canoe; a willow "jungle" is located at about 6.4 miles below Albert Pike Campground, with no clear channel, and is best run on the right; Acceleration Rapid, at 6.6 miles starts with large standing waves over 4 feet high that can swamp an open canoe. The river narrows entering the rapid, causing the formation of the standing waves.
Additionally, the threat of flash flooding through this narrow, constricted valley has led to deaths and injuries, particularly in June, 2010, when two surges rushed through Albert Pike Campground about 90 minutes apart in the middle of night catching campers unaware, washing away tents and dislodging several cabins that were later torn down because they were unsalvagable. Beware weather conditions in the drainage basin when visiting the Little Mo.
Albert Pike Rec Area NF 512 low-water bridge (N 34° 22' 55.89" / W 093° 53' 04.60") on either side at 0.0 miles; Albert Pike Rec Area second low-water bridge (N 34° 22' 44.04" / W 093° 53' 10.35") just west of SH 369 on river left at about 0.3 miles; NFS 106 crossing low-water bridge (N 34° 22' 33.88" / W 093° 52' 39.80") just west of SH 369 (parking is better than at most Arkansas river access points, and access is good) on either side at about 0.9 miles; Albert Pike Campground / Store Highway (N 43° 22' 27.55" / W 093° 52' 38.28") on river left at about 1.1 miles; 84 crossing (N 34° 18' 42.43" / W 093° 53' 58.84") on river left at about 9.9 miles; W320B (N 34° 18' 03.60" / W 093° 52' 43.66") on river left at about 11.5 miles; W330A (N 34° 16' 48.31" / W 093° 51' 03.78") on river right at about 15.1 miles; W. Oldam Road (N 34° 15' 16.40" / W 093° 49' 48.23") on river left at about 19.0 miles; US Highway 70 crossing (N 34° 14' 22.46" / W 093° 50' 04.77") just above Lake Greeson on river left at about 20.8 miles. There may be other forest service roads available for access in an emergency situation.
Albert Pike Campground on NFS 106 and the river at mile 0.9 and Star of the West on Highway 70 at 20.8 miles offer limited camping. Abundant campsites are available along the river on Weyerhaeuser Company lands.
None available on the Little Mo. Plan to take your own boats and gear, as well as providing for your own shuttles.
The Little Mo is a great whitewater river on the upper 8 miles, after which it flattens into a beautiful and scenic river with few challenges. The upside is the quality of the whitewater. The downside is the lack of liveries and shuttle services, but then the Little Mo is not really suited for recreational paddling - strong intermediate to advance whitewater skills and proper equipment are necessary to safely navigate the Little Mo. The remoteness of the area is a plus if you are prepared, and a minus if you are not. Access along the river is very limited, so plan accordingly. The Town of Langley, at the intersection of Highway 84 and Highway 369 a few miles east of the river is the nearest place to get supplies and assistance of any kind.
Fishing is great on the Little Mo, a stream regularly stocked with rainbow trout near the Albert Pike Recreational Area (you WILL need a trout stamp to fish for them in Arkansas!) Spotted amd smallmouth bass, longear and green sunfish are abundant all year long. Wade fishing using fly fishing gear and light, spinning tackle usually produces the best results. Fast river currents are usually a hinderance to successful fishing. It is advisable to avoid the hot summer months when the stream is low and the water quality is not as good. As noted above, be aware of weather conditions that can lead to flash flooding.