Salado Creek, a tributary of the White River, forms at the confluence of three smaller creeks just north of the community of Floral in Independence County, then flows southeast somewhat parallel to and north of SH 87 before turning northeast and flowing to its confluence with the White River near the Town of Salado at US Highway 167 near Jacksonport State Park and Newport. The creek flows generally parallel to and between the Little Red River to the south and the White River to the north. The popular reach is a Class I to II run of about 11 miles from Girl Scout Camp Tahkotah to the US Highway 167 bridge. In low-water conditions boating is not practical. Navigable flows are determined by the "very scientific" method of observing how many stones are visible at the take-out bridge. Nine or fewer stone means we are paddling today, but if ten or more stones are showing, then we ain't a goin'!
Salado Creek is a place of immense natural beauty. All around the creek is farmland that is effectively hidden behind dense stands of trees along the banks for most of the run. The current flows fast, clean and clear at optimum levels, and the channel will be an obstacle course of small Class I to II boulder garden-type rapids, dead-fall debris, small drops and occasional log jams. The creek is never wide (only about 10-12 feet in some places), but becomes even more constricted starting about 2 miles below Camp Tahkotah, where it enters a small canyon. Put-in access is on the Girl Scout camp property where a nominal fee is required to launch (fees help maintain the road to the access), and the take-out is a relatively easy one at the old US Highway 167 bridge near the Town of Salado and just above the White River confluence. The Arkansas Highway Department provides limited camping facilities at the nearby Salado Creek Rest Area on the highway just south of Salado.
Independence County of northcentral Arkansas near Batesville and Greer's Ferry Lake. The White River flows parallel a few miles to the north and the Little Red River parallels it to the south.
Little Rock 75 miles; Fayetteville 200 miles; Fort Smith 195 miles; Texarkana 220 miles; Memphis 115 miles; Oklahoma City 375 miles; Kansas City 520 miles; Dallas 400 miles; Austin 595 miles; San Antonio 675 miles; Houston 509 miles; Albuquerque 956 miles; Phoenix 1,400 miles; Denver 1,016 miles; Salt Lake City 1,513 miles (all distances are approximate and depend upon starting point, destination at the river and route taken. Bear in mind that Arkansas does not have many straight-line roads because of mountains and valleys around which they must pass. Allow adequate time based on distance and the often slow driving conditions that prevail in this area.)
Salado Creek is a runoff-fed creek that depends almost entirely upon recent local rainfall. Its water quality is generally good to very good, though it will be murky right after a significant storm. There are no USGS gauges for the stream, so visual inspection is required to determine navigable flows. Determine navigable levels by observing the stones on the old bridge at US Highway 167. If ten stones are visible, then the creek is too low to paddle. Nine or fewer stones indicates navigable flows.
Immediately after a significant rainstorm (at least 1 inch) in the area around Batesville is the time to head for Salado Creek. If nine or fewer stones are visible on the old US Highway 167 bridge, then the creek is a "go" for paddling, but beware of dead-fall debris, especially at higher flows. The best water is usually between November and March or April, when the water temperature will be cold and the air temperature will be very cool to cold, so dress appropriately.
There are numerous moderate hazards to navigation on Salado Creek, most of them in the form of willow strainers and dead-fallen trees, sometimes creating log jams that must be portaged. Immediately below the put-in is a good class II rapid with a moderate gradient and a swift current. A high flows this rapid is a series of standing waves that can be attacked from almost any line. However, at lower flows the rapid is entered through a rock garden on river right before working back to a river left chute about halfway through the rapid. About 2 miles below the Girl Scout camp is a Class II rapid that approaches Class III intensity at higher flows characterized by a narrow channel with a dogleg left turn and a large boulder in midstream, just to make it more interesting. After this rapid is about 4-4.5 miles of pool-and-drop Class II rapids of no particular consequence. However, the last mile is a willow jungle amid a swift current and dead-fall debris where careful boating is required. The creek seems to flow into the standing trees, and it may seem as if an equal number are lying in the creekbed. BE VERY CAREFUL at this point on the creek! The take-out is just below this area on the upriver right side of the US Highway 167 bridge.
Girl Scout Camp Tahkotah (501-252-01289 - small fee required) at 0.0 miles; US Highway 167 bridge near Salado at about 11.0 miles. There are no other access points for this reach of Salado Creek.
There are no public campgrounds along Salado Creek. The Arkansas Highway Department maintains 6 campsites at the Salado Rest Area on US Highway 167 for the benefit of paddlers and travelers that include tent pads, drinking water, heated restrooms, picnic tables and a convenient shuttle route to the put-in. The US Army CoE maintains several excellent campgrounds around Greer's Ferry Lake a short distance to the northwest.
There are no liveries or shuttle services available anywhere near Salado Creek. Bring everything you need and run your own shuttles.
Salado Creek is another of those great Arkansas runs that is only boatable after a heavy local rainstorm drenches the drainage basin. Most of the time it is too low to paddle, but when it flows Salado Creek offers a truly enjoyable moderate whitewater trip through a willow jungle and boulder garden waterway that, while not too technically difficult, requires constant vigilance to avoid minor hazards that can pin boats and send paddlers swimming. After paying a small fee at Girl Scout Camp Tahkotah, paddlers in canoes and kayaks are treated to a beautiful, remote and unspoiled 11 miles of Arkansas wilderness that includes a run through a small canyon. The need to watch for dead-fallen trees and tree debris in the creek cannot be over emphasized. There are no river gauges to tell you how the creek is flowing, so paddlers need to stop at the take-out on the way upriver to view the stone bridge at US Highway 167 near Salado. If nine or fewer stones are showing, then the creek is good for boating. The Girl Scout camp personnel can also provide helpful information about creek and flow conditions. Be sure to bring along a camera so you can show your friends the willow jungle near the take-out through which you had to navigate, assuming you actually find your way through it (JUST KIDDING! Most people get through it in less than two days! ROTFLMAO!) All seriousness aside, the jungle may require you to walk and drag or carry boats and gear over dead fall that prevents paddling. It is sometimes possible to line a boat through the debris field, but be careful of the often swift currents that can send you swimming.