Hurricane Creek is a little known and less often paddled tributary of the Arkansas River that flows out of Shores Lake to its confluence with the Mulberry River at SH 215 in Franklin County of northwestern Arkansas, just above IH 40 at Alma. The creek is a Class II to II+ stream with a 40 fpm gradient on its short 9-mile reach. There is a dirt road about a mile below the Lake Shores access, but when conditions are right for running the creek the road will probably be impassible due to mud, so most runs will start below the dam and end at SH 215. Paddlers do have options for continuing down the Mulberry to the US Highway 64 access just above the Arkansas River confluence, or on down the Arkansas to any take-out there.
The creek is a beautiful Ozark Mountains stream with cold, clean, clear water flowing through the Ozark National Forest near Frog Bayou and Fort Smith. Surrounding land is largely undeveloped, showing the immense natural beauty of the area. Swift water, the narrow channel, tight bends and dead-fall dodging necessitate the use of shorter boats, though major rapids are not a concern. Hurricane Creek is "free" of any USGS gauges, so readings must be taken from the gauge on the Mulberry River, which needs to have at least 6.0 feet for navigable flows in the creek (NOTE: 6.0 feet is the MAXIMUM safe level for the Mulberry!) This is not a trip for everyone, and those long tripping boats or sea kayaks will not find it suitable, but it is a great run in shorter canoes and kayaks when it flows. Be sure to pack the camera to save memories of this gorgeous little gem hidden between Frog and the Mulberry.
Franklin County of northwestern Arkansas, near Frog Bayou, Lee Creek, the Mulberry and Arkansas Rivers, and Fort Smith. Devils Den and Lake Fort Smith State Parks are nearby.
Fort Smith 20 miles; Fayetteville 42 miles; Little Rock 180 miles; Texarkana 200 miles: Kansas City 300 miles; Oklahoma City 200 miles; Dallas 380 miles; Austin 576 miles; San Antonio 656 miles; Houston 489 miles; Albuquerque 742 miles; Phoenix 1,200 miles; Denver 825 miles; Salt Lake City 1,359 miles (all distances are approximate, and depend upon starting point, destination at the river and route taken.)
Water quality is generally very good to excellent due to the raw, undeveloped nature of surrounding land. Flow is dependent upon dam releases at Shores Lake and/or from recent local rainfall.
Hurricane Creek is usually navigable when the Mulberry River is in or very near flood stage (6.0 feet or more.) Navigable flows can occur from dam releases at Lake Shores and/or after significant local rainfall, at about the same time Frog Bayou, Big Piney Creek and Little Piney Creek will all be running.
The hazards to be encountered on Hurricane Creek are from swift currents, a narrow channel, dead-fall strainers and log jams, tight bends and cold water temperature. Rapids are in the Class II to II+ range, though they can become more technical as flows increase, and may often be located at the same places where other obstacles combine to make picking a good line difficult, but very necessary. Often, there will be little time to assess the situation before confronting it. Solid intermediate level whitewater skills in canoes or kayaks are necessary for runs here, and swiftwater rescue training (especially mechanical haul systems setup and use) would be an added benefit.
Below Shores Lake Dam off US Highway 71, north of IH 40 and Alma, at 0.0 miles; Dirt road just below Lake Shores Dam (if it is passable), at about 1.0 miles; SH 215 at the Mulberry River at about 9.0 miles (optional take-outs are available at the US Highway 64 crossing on the Mulberry River, or along the Arkansas River below the Mulberry River confluence.)
There are no campgrounds located along Hurricane Creek. However, Shores Lake Campground, above the dam and the start of this run, offers great campsites with limited amenities. Devil's Den State Park, just west of US Highway 71 and the put-in for this run, offers excellent campsites and facilities. Many other campgrounds are available in and around Ozark National Forest east of US Highway 71 and Frog Bayou near Rudy.
There are no known liveries or outfitters located on Hurricane Creek. Bring your own boats and gear, and run your own shuttles. Rentals and shuttles may be available from outfitters located along the nearby Upper Buffalo National River.
Hurricane Creek is a beautiful Ozark National Forest stream with a moderately steep gradient, swift currents and immense scenery all around. About all it lacks is a reliable flow, being navigable when the nearby Mulberry River is at or very near flood stage. This is a stream for shorter canoes and kayaks only, located between Frog Bayou and the Mulberry, just north of IH 40 and east of Fort Smith. It is dependent upon recent local rainfall, or an overfilled reservoir at Shores Lake that prompts dam releases, but boaters with at least strong intermediate level whitewater skills will find excitement and solitude on a stream that few will ever know is here, though many have often passed very close to it going to Frog Bayou, the Mulberry, or on their ways to any of the excellent streams in and around the Upper Buffalo National River. Boaters must be prepared for tree-dodging, swift currents, tight bends and occasional Class II to II+ rapids, all of which add to the thrill of paddling another of Arkansas' magical waterways. Dense forests surround the creek, and wildlife can be often seen all around, so pack the camera, and watch for the Mulberry to flood, but be careful - at 40 fpm, the gradient is steep enough to produce fast currents at navigable levels, and there will be little time to make decisions about avoiding rocks and debris clogs around narrow bends.