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White River, Arkansas
Report by Marc W. McCord

Calico Rock to Sylamore
~ 17 miles

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SOAR Inflatable Canoes - Somewhere On A River

General Description

Below Calico Rock the White River continues its journey through the Ozark National Forest on an 17-mile reach down to Sylamore in Stone County just a little northwest of Batesville. The river continues to widen and the current slows even more as it begins its trek across a slightly flatter terrain. Mill Creek flows into the river on the left about midway through this reach, and North and South Sylamore Creeks enter on river right just above the take-out, which is located at the intersection of SH 5, SH 9 and SH 14 between Allison and Sylamore. The river forms the eastern boundry of Ozark National Forest, and SH 5 cuts through the forest beginning at the put in for this reach, then diverging into the forest until it again crosses the river at the take-out.

This is a flatwater reach with very occasional small Class I rapids and rock shoals where almost any able-bodied paddler can canoe, kayak or raft, though rafting will be slow and the trip will be long. There are no intermediate roads between the put-in and take-out accesses, so paddlers need to be prepared for a long one-day or multi-day trip, depending upon flow conditions and paddler stamina. Blanchard Springs Caverns are located very near the end of this reach, and offer an excellent off-river experience for those interested in caves and exploration. The Barkshed Campground, though not immediately accessible from the river, offers a great place to pitch a tent after your trip is over.


Stone County of northcentral Arkansas, just south of the Missouri State Line and Bull Shoals Lake. Parts of Ozark National Forest surround this reach. Batesville, to the southeast (where they manufacture those great caskets for when your paddling days are forever done) is the nearest town of any size.

Distance from major cities

Little Rock 165 miles; Fayetteville 122 miles; Fort Smith 175 miles; Texarkana 309 miles; Oklahoma City 355 miles; Kansas City 497 miles; Dallas 490 miles; Austin 685 miles; San Antonio 765 miles; Houston 600 miles; Albuquerque 721 miles; Phoenix 1,490 miles; Denver 980 miles; Salt Lake City 1,514 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 generally good to very good, flowing clean, clear and cold from Bull Shoals and Norfork Lakes. Flows are usually adequate for paddling year-round, weather permitting. This reach of the river is more prone to flash flooding than other sections because of the added inflow from the Buffalo River, so watch for signs of changing flow rates when on the river.

Best time to go

Any time is a great time to paddle this reach of the White River, though winter paddling will be quite cold and will require appropriate clothing to prevent hypothermia. Summer days will be hot and muggy. The optimum seasons are March through June and October through November.

Hazards to navigation

There are no significant hazards to navigation on this reach of the White River. However, paddlers need to be aware of weather and climate conditions around the river and surrounding areas because of flash flood potential. Inflow from the Buffalo National River can raise the flow on the White River quite substantially after a rainfall that may not even be seen on the White River itself.

River Access Points

Calico Rock Public Access at 0.0 miles; SH 9 access between Sylamore and Allison at about 18.0 miles; Guion Public access of SH 58 at about 29.0 miles. (Access points below Sylamore are indicated for reaches below the Calico Rock to Sylamore section.)

Campgrounds and accommodations

Bull Shoals Lake State Park offers excellent campsites with drinking water, restrooms, showers, and other amenities (this is the ONLY public camping area on this reach of the White River); Blanchard Springs Recreation Area (501-757-2213), off SH 14 northwest of Allison and north of Fifty-Six, offers 32 campsites, drinking water, restrooms, showers, picnic area and Blanchard Springs caverns for off-river exploration (this camping area is NOT adjacent to the river). Abundant sand and gravel bars, as well as riverbanks, offer excellent primitive campsites for overnighters, though most paddlers will not be camping if running this reach only. Ozark National Forest sits along the river right bank, and much of the river left bank is prvately-owned. Avoid camping on private property without having first obtained permission.

Liveries, outfitters and shuttle services

There are no known liveries or outfitters operating along this reach of the White River. Bring your own boats and gear, and run your own shuttles.

Reviewer's comments

This reach of the White River retains most of the natural scenic grandeur of reaches above, though it does approach the end of the forests and the beginning of a flatter terrain as the river begins its run toward the Mighty Mississippi River on the Arkansas-Mississippi State Line. While this section can be paddled in canoes, kayaks and rafts it is better suited to the smaller, lighter craft than inflatables. The long distance, slow current and occasionally shallow waters are not always friendly to rafts and their paddlers. Excellent public access points, at distances from 10 to 20 miles apart, are located all along the 90 miles immediately below Bull Shoals Lake, so paddlers can choose between reaches where they want to paddle, or can make multiple day runs over several reaches. However, public camping is scarce, so it is necessary to obtain permission before camping on private lands adjacent to the river. Arkansas people are usually very friendly, and will try to accommodate visitors, especially those spending money, so this is a great paddling destination. Bring your camera, because the remote and largely undeveloped area offers immense photographic opportunities.

Technical Data
Class Rating I
Length 17 miles
Minimum Flow cfs
Optimum Flow cfs
Maximum Flow cfs
First Put-in Calico Rock Public Access
Last Take-out Sylamore Creek Public Access
Elevation msl
USGS Gauge Web: Norfork
Boats Canoes, Kayaks, Rafts
Season Year-round, weather permitting
Permits No

White River map courtesy Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism and the Arkansas Floaters' Guide
White River map courtesy Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism and the Arkansas Floaters' Guide

Arkansas Canoe Club

Canoeman River Guide Service - Guided river trips in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah

Lone Star Paddler - the paddlesports web site of Marc W. McCord

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 Dam to Cotter ] [ Cotter to Buffalo City ]
[ Buffalo City to Norfork ] [ Norfork to Calico Rock ] [ Sylamore to Guion ]


[ Bayou Des Arc ] [ Big Creek ] [ Black River ] [ Cache River ] [ Bayou DeView ] [ Current River ] [ Eleven Point 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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