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Cache River, Arkansas
Report by Marc W. McCord

SH 34 to Clarendon
~ miles

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SOAR Inflatable Canoes - Somewhere On A River

General Description

The Cache River is a slow, muddy stream forming in Butler County, Missouri, then flowing about 213 miles south by southwest into Arkansas and its White River confluence near Clarendon. It sits between the Black and Saint Francis Rivers, both of which also have their headwaters in Missouri. It is characterized by hardwood forests, swamps, oxbow lakes, sloughs and meandering channels that create an abundant sanctuary for wildlife. The area around the river is a popular duck hunting location, but waterfowl are only the tip of the iceberg. Black bears can often be seen in the Cache River area, and The Ivory-billed woodpecker was recently sighted here after having been thought to be extinct for the past 60 years. Additionally, the river and surrounding lands support 53 species of mammals including deer, raccoons, bobcats, and river otters, 200+ bird species including ducks, geese, wading birds, and other assorted migratory birds, and nearly 50 species of reptiles and amphibians. This is a great place to observe water mocassins in their native environment, so be careful where you place your hands and feet.

This historic place was the sight of the Cotton Plant battle in the Civil War. It is remote and undeveloped - a place where few people will be found, though there are a number of state and federal highways crossing or running parallel to the river along most of its path through Arkansas. This area represents a rich and diverse contribution to the Arkansas ecosystem. Along the Cache River are located several state and national wildlife refuges among the largest remaining tract of contiguous bottomland hardwood forest in North America. Beginning in Jackson county, the river is a Cypress-lined swampy area with a very slow to non-existent current. Natural scenic beauty is abundant everywhere you look.

There is no camping allowed in any of the refuge areas, but visitors to the Cache River can find excellent campsites located in five designated areas within the Rex Hancock Black Swamp, as well as conventional accommodations in nearby small towns and campsites a short distance away along the White River and other areas. There are no known canoe, kayak or raft rental outfitters located along this river, though there are a few duck hunting guides who lead trips here. If you are looking for a river trip off the beaten path that is poor in human population, but rich in natural plant, animal and bird life, then the Cache River might be a place you will want to visit.

The Cache River, Rex Hancock Black Swamp and nearby Bayou deView are a photographer's paradise, so be sure to bring your camera and plenty of film or digital media and extra batteries. This area is very beautiful when everything is in bloom, and summers are especially scenic, but be forewarned - it gets very hot and humid between May and September or October, and the mosquitos LOVE the smell of DEET in the morning... and the afternoon and at night, too! In fact, insects probably rate as the numero uno nuisance in this part of Arkansas, so prepare accordingly. Wintertime, when the foliage is gone from the trees, is the best time to look for the fabled bird that is known to live a hermit's life in this area.


Greene, Lawrence, Craighead, Jackson, Woodruff, Prairie and Monroe Counties in northeastern Arkansas and running to the confluence of the White River in Monroe County. The White and Black Rivers are situated to the west, and the Saint Francis River lies to the east, all just a few short miles away.

Distance from major cities

Jonesboro 30 miles; Little Rock 130 miles; Fort Smith 290 miles; Texarkana 275 miles; Memphis 90 miles; Dallas 455 miles; Austin 650 miles; San Antonio 730 miles; Houston 580 miles; Oklahoma City 470 miles; Albuquerque 1,010 miles; Phoenix 1,455 miles; Denver 1,070 miles; Salt Lake City 1,578 miles (all distances are approximate and depend upon starting point, destination put-in on the river and route taken.)

Water Quality and Flow Rates

The Cache River has a slow to imperceptable current most of the time, and is a swampy stream with unpolluted water due to its remoteness and a general lack of commercial or residential development near its drainage area. The current can and will rise significantly during or shortly after a major rain storm within its drainage basin.

Best time to go

For practical purposes the Cache River can be paddled just about anytime of the year, but it runs through an area frequented by game and waterfowl hunters, so paddlers need to exercise all due caution during hunting seasons. During extended periods of drought the current may be negligible to non-existent, though there will probably always be adequate water for flatwater paddling.

Hazards to navigation

There are no navigational hazards such as waterfalls, significant rapids or swiftwater currents along the Cache River except after a major rain event. There are, however, potential dangers for nature lovers in the form of poisonous water mocassins in the swampy areas, and the ever-present danger of gunshot injuries during hunting seasons. Snakes are excellent tree climbers and swimmers, so be careful about paddling under trees during warm months. See the Safety Section of Southwest Paddler for information about avoiding and treating snakebite injuries.

River Access Points

Stegall Road public boat ramp in the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), about 2.5 miles north of SH 14 at Amagon, at 0.0 miles; SH 145 public boat ramp in the Cache River NWR about 1 mile west of SH 37 northwest of Beedeville at about miles; Public boat ramp about 5 miles east of Weldon in the Cache River NWR at about miles; Until further notice it is unlawful to paddle the Cache River or Bayou deView below Arkansas SH 38 near Cotton Plant due to federal protection of the habitat of the once-thought-extinct Ivory-billed Woodpecker.

Campgrounds and accommodations

There are no campgrounds located along the Cache River, and camping is not allowed in any of the wildlife management areas along or adjacent to the river. There are, however, several places nearby where camping is allowed including Black Swamp Wildlife Management Area near Gregory, Horseshoe Lake off Highway 33 two miles south of Augusta and on the bank of the White River off Highway 70 at DeValls Bluff. Conventional accommodations are available in several nearby towns.

Liveries, outfitters and shuttle services

There are no known canoe, kayak or raft rental outfitters operating on or near the Cache River. Plan on bringing everything you need, then run your own shuttles. It may be possible to hire locals to drive your vehicles from your put-in to the take-out where your trip will end. Contact Canoeman River Guide Services for guided tours in search of the elusive Ivory-billed Woodpecker.

Reviewer's comments

The Cache River does not appear in the Arkansas Floater's Guide. In fact, most people probably do not even know the river exists. Its remoteness and natural characteristics do not lend themselves to the Cache River ever becoming a popular paddling destination. That, however, is the special attraction for wilderness paddlers and nature lovers who want to see animals, birds, reptiles and plantlife that are not common to most of the places we paddle. The sighting of the Ivory-billed woodpecker in 2004 will, undoubtedly, create a stir among birders and others who might want to come for a chance to see a species thought to be extinct for the past 60 years. The presence of large populations of cottonmouth water mocassins demands vigilance and careful consideration of where you place your hands and feet when paddling the Cache River, especially in and below Jackson County. This place is a bonanza for nature photographers, so be sure to pack the camera and plenty of film, digital media batteries and anything else you might need to capture images of sights you might not see anywhere else. Above all else, respect this pristine, natural area and do not disturb the habitats of animals, birds or reptiles that live here. Remember that you are a guest in their home.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service has temporarily closed access to the Cache River and Bayou deView below SH 38 due to recent sightings of the famed Ivory-billed Woodpecker, thought to be extinct for the past 60+ years, but recently rediscovered in the swamplands around these two waterways. USF&WS is working diligently to formulate a plan which will allow visitors into the area while protecting the habitat and preventing disturbances to the woodpecker in its native environment. See Canoeman River Guide Services for updated information on available tours into the swamps in search of that elusive bird.

Technical Data
Class Rating I
Length miles
Minimum Flow 150 cfs
Optimum Flow 300 - 3,000 cfs
Maximum Flow cfs
First Put-in Stegall Road Public Boat Ramp
Lat. / Long.
Last Take-out US Highway 79 SW of Clarendon
Lat. / Long.
Elevation msl
Gradient fpm
USGS Gauge Web: Egypt
Web: Patterson
Web: Cotton Plant
Boats Canoes, Kayaks, Rafts
Season Year-round, weather permitting
Permits No

SH 205 Public Access looking upriver
SH 205 Public Access looking upriver

Cache River along the Rex Hancock Black Swamp
Cache River along the Rex Hancock Black Swamp

Cache River, Arkansas

Ivory-billed Woodpeckers

Rex Hancock Black Swamp
The Rex Hancock Black Swamp

Mara Kahn and Larry Rice on the Cache River
Mara Kahn and Larry Rice on the Cache River

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

White River

[ White River Homepage ] [ Bull Shoals to Cotter ] [ Cotter to Buffalo City ] [ Buffalo City to Norfork ]
[ Norfork to Calico Rock ] [ Calico Rock to Sylamore ] [ Sylamore to Guion ]


[ Bayou DeView ] [ Bayou Des Arc ] [ Big Creek ] [ Black River ] [ Current River ] [ Little Red River ]
[ Middle Fork Little Red River ] [ Archey's Fork Little Red River ] [ Strawberry River ] [ Wolf Bayou ]
[ Salado Creek ] [ North Sylamore Creek ] [ Crooked Creek ]

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