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North Sylamore Creek, Arkansas
Report by Marc W. McCord

Barkshed Recreation Area to SH 5
~ 12.5 miles

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SOAR Inflatable Canoes - Somewhere On A River

General Description

North Sylamore Creek forms at the confluence of South Fork and Cole Fork Creeks in the Barkshed Recreation Area of Stone County in Ozark National Forest, then flows about 20 miles through very beautiful Arkansas Ozark scenery and an abundance of wildlife to Allison, where the creek flows into the White River. It is joined by South Sylamore Creek just above its White River confluence. North Sylamore Creek flows entirely within Ozark National Forest, and is under the auspices of the U.S. Forest Service. This Class I to II creek is only navigable after a significant local rain event, when other nearby streams are in or very near flood stage. It is a narrow, constricted channel characterized by dense stands of oaks, elms and pecans along its banks, and sometimes in its streambed, where dead-fall debris collects to form dangerous strainers that must be avoided by solid decision making skills and good paddling technique.

Excellent tent camping facilities are available at three USFS campgrounds, though facilities vary in size and scope of amenities offered from one to the other. Blanchard Springs Caverns offers off-river exploration opportunities with cavern tours available (call 501-757-2213 for reservations.) North Sylamore Creek is being considered for a "National Wild and Scenic River" designation which will perpetually protect its pristine appearance and character as a national waterway. Be sure to bring your camera to capture photos of this beautiful creek, the surrounding forest and the wide variety of birds, plants and animal wildlife that you will encounter along the way. If you arrive to find the creek too low to paddle, then you can always turn your eyes toward any of several nearby streams of equal beauty including the Buffalo, Strawberry, Mulberry, Little Red, or White Rivers and Cadron, Big Piney, Little Piney and Richland Creeks, as well as many other excellent paddling streams in this part of Arkansas.


Stone County of northcentral Arkansas, in Ozark National Forest between Bull Shoals Lake 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. The Buffalo National River is just a few miles to the west.

Distance from major cities

Little Rock 130 miles; Fayetteville 150 miles; Fort Smith 212 miles; Texarkana 274 miles; Memphis 175 miles; Oklahoma City 470 miles; Kansas City 410 miles; Dallas 455 miles; Austin 645 miles; San Antonio 725 miles; Houston 564 miles; Albuquerque 1,012 miles; Phoenix 1,470 miles; Denver 1,071 miles; Salt Lake City 1,568 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.)

Water Quality and Flow Rates

Water quality is usually very good to excellent, flowing clean, clear and cold through Ozark National Forest. Navigable flows depend largely upon recent local rainfall.

Best time to go

Generally, October through April offers the prime "season" to paddle North Sylamore Creek, but it is runnable any time shortly after a major rainstorm hits its drainage basin around the Barkshed and Blanchard Springs area. If other nearby streams are not flooding, then North Sylamore Creek will probably be too low to paddle.

Hazards to navigation

There are no major hazards of consequence for competent boaters to be encountered on North Sylamore Creek. However, dead-fallen trees and tree debris can form strainers or log jams that must be avoided. If the creek is navigable, then it probably has a swift current that requires precise boat handling and control.

River Access Points

Barkshed Recreation Area in Ozark National Forest at 0.0 miles; Blanchard Springs Recreation Area in Ozark National Forest at about 6.5 miles; Arkansas SH 5 near Allison and just above the White River confluence at about 12.5 miles. There are no other access points for this reach of North Sylamore Creek. Above Barkshed, the creek is generally too narrow and too low to paddle.

Campgrounds and accommodations

Barkshed Recreation Area USFS) in Ozark National Forest offers one campsite, pit toilets and picnic tables; Gunner Pool Campground (USFS) in Ozark National Forest offers 26 campsites, drinking water, pit toilets and other amenities; Blanchard Springs Recreation Area (USFS) in Ozark National Forest offers 32 campsites, drinking water, restrooms, showers, picnic facilites and the awesome Blanchard Springs Caverns, where reservations for tours are recommended (call 501-757-2213.) Other camping facilities are available a few miles to the southwest at the US Army CoE campgrounds around Greer's Ferry Lake. Gasoline, food and supplies are available near the creek in the small town of Fifty Six on SH 14, about 8 miles from Barkshed Recreation Area.

Liveries, outfitters and shuttle services

There are no liveries or shuttle services available anywhere near North Sylamore Creek. Bring everything you need and run your own shuttles.

Reviewer's comments

Like most Arkansas streams, North Sylamore Creek is only boatable shortly after a major rainstorm drenches its drainage basin. Unlike other streams, this creek requires a LOT of water to make it navigable, and that occurs when other nearby waterways are in or very near flood stage, which means it offers a short window of opportunity. However, if you are fortunate enough to catch it when the creek is running, then you will be treated to a gorgeous run of about 12.5 miles through some awesome scenery in the Ozark National Forest where wildlife outnumbers human visitors by a substantial margin. The Class I to II creek offers moderate whitewater excitement, and is well suited for those with less whitewater experience, and when your day is done there is a spectacular forest and Blanchard Springs Caverns to entertain you, or you can just sit around a campfire at one of three sites within the forest and tell lies about your "harrowing" trip on the creek. The other beauty of this place is that so many great Arkansas paddling streams are located just a short distance away to the west, north and east. Access is excellent and convenient, with State Highways 5, 9 and 14 all located very nearby. The only thing that is missing is huge population centers, which is probably why you would be here in the first place! Watch the Weather Channel, and when it starts raining hard around the area of this creek pack the boat and gear for a memorable trip down a very gorgeous stream that will win your heart.

Technical Data
Class Rating I to II (II+)
Length 12.5 miles
Minimum Flow
Optimum Flow
Maximum Flow
First Put-in Barkshed Rec. Area (USFS)
Lat/Long 36.1705551 / -92.2527771
Last Take-out SH 5 bridge at Allison
Lat/Long 35.9419441 / -92.1175003
Elevation msl
USGS Gauge Web: Fifty Six
Boats Canoes, Kayaks
Season After at least 1.0" local rainfall
Permits No

Arkansas Canoe Club

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[ White River Homepage ] [ Bull Shoals to Cotter ] [ Cotter to Buffalo City ] [ Buffalo City to Norfork ]
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[ Bayou Des Arc ] [ Big Creek ] [ Black River ] [ Cache River ] [ Bayou DeView ] [ Current River ] [ Eleven Point River ]
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