Arkansas is home to many fine paddling streams including several that are generally unknown to most of us. One such great paddling destination is one many have driven right over on the way to the Buffalo National River, never knowing what a great stream it is for Class I-III whitewater fun. Cadron Creek flows in a westerly direction from its headwaters near Heber Springs in Cleburne County, down across the northwestern corner of Faulkner County and to the confluence of the Arkansas River in Conway County in central Arkansas. It terminates just a few miles northwest of Little Rock. US Highway 65, north of Conway, passes over Cadron Creek, a stream bordered by fields, farm houses, bluffs, canyons and other typical Arkansas topography. While the entire creek runs about 59 miles, only about 38.5 miles, between SH 124 and the Arkansas River confluence, is considered to be a good paddling location, and that is the section covered in this description. Paddlers should note that many boaters opt to end Cadron Creek runs at SH 285, about 11 miles above the Arkansas River even though it does offer good, navigable water.
Little use is made of Cadron Creek above Arkansas SH 124 west of Quitman, though its north fork can be paddled below Gravesville. The section where paddlers usually begin their runs is at the SH 124 crossing. The first 4.5 miles is a Class I stretch down to the iron bridge at the site of the old Hartrick Mill northeast of Guy, Arkansas. Below the iron bridge is a 10-mile stretch that includes several Class II rapids, some willow thickets and a faster current as it approaches a new bridge near Pinnacle Springs between Guy and Twin Groves. From Pinnacle Springs to US Highway 65 is about 3.5 miles of Class II whitewater, rocky shoals, willow strainers, rugged bluffs and quiet pools. From US Highway 65 down to SH 285 crossing is about 10-11 miles of Class I-II rapids, high bluffs (the highest on the river) and occasional wildlife. Locals claim that Cadron Creek is navigable 90% of the time between December and June.
Cadron Creek offers spectacular scenery including many caves, bluffs and pinnacles. Most of the bluffs will be encrusted with ice in winter, becoming waterfalls when the snow and ice melts in the spring. Fishermen will enjoy catching tailwalking largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill, and flathead catfish weighing 50 pounds or more. Cadron Creek flows through private property, so boaters should respect property rights and avoid trespassing except with prior permission of the landowners. Campsites along the creek are available at two or three access points including Batesville Mountain and Pinnacle Springs Campgrounds.
Cleburne, Faulkner and Conway Counties in central Arkansas, a few miles north of Little Rock, between Heber Springs and the Arkansas River near Conway.
Little Rock 55 miles; Fort Smith 164 miles; Texarkana 200 miles; Dallas 380 miles; Austin 576 miles; San Antonio 656 miles; Houston 489 miles; Oklahoma City 344 miles; Tulsa 280 miles (all distances are approximate and depend upon starting point and destination point on the river.)
Water quality is excellent, flowing clear, clean and unpolluted along its 59 miles from near Heber Springs to the Arkansas River near Conway. The flow is generally navigable from December through June, and may be adequate for paddling at other times, depending upon recent local rainfall amounts.
December through June is almost guaranteed to provide a good ride and a lot of excitement. If local rainfall has been substantial, then Cadron Creek may be navigable at other times. Be sure to dress appropriately for winter paddling at least through April and possibly into May.
Cadron Creek does not have any major hazards of great significance above Pinnacle Springs Campground. Below there, however, it has some Class II-III rapids and shoals, some of which are characterized by willow thickets that can pose dangers to boaters and boats if not run properly. Cathedral Shoals, between Pinnacle Springs Campground and SH 65, is a Class III drop at optimum levels (above 4.5 feet), requiring solid boat control skills to avoid large boulders in the middle of the channel. The faster currents near Pinnacle Springs can cause trouble for those not prepared. Lashing all gear to your boat would be a good idea (as it always is) and taking careful account of what lies ahead will save a lot of unplanned swims in water than can be pretty cold, especially in the dead of winter. Below SH 65 is about 10 miles of Class II to III whitewater with some challenging rapids on a very remote reach characterized by deep pools, high bluffs, densely wooded banks and technical drops. Rock of Gibralter is a drop characterized by standing waves when flows are above normal, where an open canoe can be swamped by waves 4 or more feet high. Run this rapid on river right when the creek is staging below about 4.0 feet. With proper scouting, precautions and appropriate dress for the climate and water conditions there will no significant problems to be expected for competent boaters. Those with less experience should probably stay above Pinnacle Springs Campground.
SH 124 crossing west of Quitman at 0.0 miles; County Road 280 northeast of Guy at about 5.0 miles; Pinnacle Springs Campground at SH 310 west of Guy at 13.0 miles; US Highway 65 bridge at 17.5 miles; SH 285 crossing at 27.5 miles; Arkansas River confluence at about 38.5 miles.
Batesville Mountain Campground, at about 6.0 miles, offers riverside camping and free use of picnic facilities for paddlers passing through. Pinnacle Springs Campground, at about 13.0 miles, offers riverside campsites. No other campgrounds are known to exist on Cadron Creek. Woolly Hollow State Park (501-679-2098) a few miles northeast of Greenbrier offers 32 campsites, picnic area, pavilion, trail, boat ramp, snack bar and hot/cold showers. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' parks on Greers Ferry Lake (501-362-2416) offer camping facilities at numerous parks on the Little Red River and the lake close to Cadron Creek. At least one commercial outfitter operates campgrouns along Cadron Creek.
At least two commercial outfitters offer rentals and shuttles for Cadron Creek.
Cadron Creek is a beautiful, pristine, natural and undeveloped place to paddle some really fun Class I-III (depending upon flow) whitewater. It is a stream well suited to paddlers of all skill levels. The upper 13 miles, between SH 124 and Pinnacle Springs campgrounds, is generally used by paddlers of a beginner to intermediate proficiency. Below Pinnacle Springs there are some shoals and rapids that can be quite challenging, especially in higher flows, and at least strong intermediate level whitewater skills are recommended. The scenery along the creek is gorgeous any time of the year. Bluffs that are frozen in ice during winter months become beautiful waterfalls in late spring, when the ice and snow start to melt. There are caves to explore, willow strainers to avoid and interesting, but not too demanding, rapids that make the creek a great place to paddle where you will not be surrounded by other paddlers everywhere you look. This is an often overlooked destination that is ideal for just about anybody who wants a trip down a scenic and natural stream with just enough whitewater excitement to test and build some intermediate level skills.