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Little River, Arkansas
Report by Marc W. McCord

Little River Country Club Beach to Millwood Lake State Park
~ 57.2 Miles

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SOAR Inflatable Canoes - Somewhere On A River

General Description

The Little River flows into Arkansas from Oklahoma west of Horatio in Sevier County. Near SH 41 the river is joined by the Rolling Fork River flowing south from DeQueen Lake parallel to the Cossatot River a few miles to the east. The first practical public access point for the Little River in Arkansas is SH 41 at Horatio, though it is sometimes possible to access the river on the beach adjacent to Little River Country Club off Little River CR 61 running west from SH 41 on the south side of the river. This reach flows about 57.2 miles down to and across Millwood Lake to Millwood Lake State Park, the last practical access point for taking out above Millwood Dam. The river flows as a basically flatwater stream with no major hazards making it accessible for less experienced paddlers as well as anybody else who enjoys paddling beautiful rivers. The southwestern corner of Arkansas provides a very scenic backdrop to this gentle river that is fed by inflow from the Rolling Fork, Cossatot and Saline Rivers to the north. The entire run is within the beautiful Ouachita National Forest and the Pond Creek National Wildlife Refuge with its variety of pines, oaks, elms, sycamores, willows and other species of trees. The length of this reach makes it great for two or three day trips, though by using various access points it can be broken up into runs of fewer miles for those wanting a shorter trip.

This reach of the Little River is characterized by cut banks and occasional deadfall obstructions that could possibly pose a problem for less experienced boaters in high flow conditions, but generally that is not an issue. Normally, there are an abundance of sand and gravel bars along the banks that are suitable for overnight camping, though many of them will flood in high water conditions, especially when releases are coming from Pine Creek Reservoir or Broken Bow Lake in Oklahoma, so be sure to camp as high above the water's edge as possible and secure boats overnight. Below SH 41 you may see an occasional small American alligator - they typically pose no problems and most of the time they will disappear before you get near them (apparently, they do not want to become boots, hat bands, belts or handbags.) At times, fishing can be good, though the water is a little cloudy most of the time, and especially when rain run-off causes a movement of silt and debris from land.

You will not find any river outfitters located along the Little River, but there are some on the Lower Mountain Fork just outside Broken Bow, Oklahoma who may be willing to provide rentals and shuttles if yuo give them adequate advance notice. You will also not find crowds of people, commercial or residential development, noise (other than occasional motorboats) or other distractions on this river. In fact, most of the time you will see nobody other than those in your group, which makes it an ideal place to get away and enjoy some solitude. The river banaks are heavily vegetated and in most places the banks contain you within them. Some adjacent land is privately owned farm or ranch land, but most of it is national forest or wildlife refuges, so you may see animals, birds and fish much more than people. And, being close the corner where Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas converge, the Little River is a convenient place to go for a day or a few days communing with Mother Nature. This river is very clean and free of debris, and with your help it will remain that way.

You will find concrete boat ramps at Ashalintubbi (in Oklahoma, about 9.3 miles above this reach), SH 41, Patterson Shoal Access, Wilton Landing (US 71 / US 59) and Millwood Lake State Park. Other accesses have dirt ramps that will be muddy after rains. Finding some accesses will take diligent work because the roads are basically forest service roads that are often hidden from view in satellite imagery and seldom displayed on area maps, but there are back country roads running very close to the river in most places along this reach allowing access in emergency situations, should they arise. A trip here in the fall, when the trees and plants are changing coclors, would be spectacular, so be sure to bring a camera.


Sevier and Little River Counties in the Ouachita National Forest and Pond Creek National Wildlife Refuge of far southwestern Arkansas just east of the Oklahoma State Line. Texarkana is located just a few miles to the south on the Texas-Arkansas border.

Distance from major cities

Little Rock 194 miles; Texarkana 50 miles; Fort Smith 130 miles; Oklahoma City 310 miles; Dallas 231 miles; Austin 426 miles; San Antonio 476 miles; Houston 339 miles; Kansas City 501 miles; Albuquerque 900 miles; Phoenix 1,233 miles; Denver 935 miles; Salt Lake City 1,411 miles (all distances are approximate and depend upon starting point, destination point on the river and route taken.)

Water Quality and Flow Rates

Water quality is generally good to very good, though often cloudy, flowing from the unspoiled McCurtain County, Oklahoma wilderness to Millwood Lake. Navigable flows usually exist other than in the dead of summer or during periods of extended drought.

Best Times to Go

Generally, almost any time is good to paddle the Little River, though the best conditions of weather and flow will usually be found between late-Febraury and early-June or late-September through early-December. The river is largely dependent upon recent local rainfall for high flows, and sometimes reaches very high levels. Summer flows can be really good when the US Army Corps of Engineers is releasing water from Pine Creek Reservoir near Idabel, Oklahoma or Broken Bow Lake near Broken Bow, Oklahoma, the latter being on the Mountain Fork River.

Hazards to Navigation

This reach of the Little River has few, if any, major hazards to navigation making it ideal for casual, recreational paddlers with limited experience. Possible log jams, especially at river bends, are always a concern in high flow conditions, and swift currents on river bends could carry a lax paddler into trouble, so avoid getting washed into sweepers that could trap boats and boaters.

River Access Points

Beach (N 33° 55' 34.4" / W 094° 24' 52.1") at Little River Country Club off CR 61, accessible from SH 41 south of the river, on river right at 0.0 miles; SH 41 bridge (N 33° 50' 09.5" / W 094° 23' 16.0") at Horatio at about 2.1 miles; Boat ramp (N 33° 54' 40.43" / W 094° 23' 03.67" off Riverview Drive off east side of SH 41 on river left at about 2.7 miles; Primitive access (N33° 53' 27.91" / W 094° 22' 13.61") on river left on dirt road off Beeason Rd. / Hwy. 177 in Pond Creek National Wildlife Refuge at about 5.7 miles; Primitive access (N 33° 49' 27.71" / W 094° 18' 14.94") on river left on dirt road off Yellow Bank Road in Pond creek NWR on river left at about 10.7 miles; Little River CR 50 (N 33° 51' 12.48 / W 094° 19' 34.58") on river right at about 11.3 miles; Gillahand Shoals Road access (N 33° 49' 14.81" / W 094° 16' 10.93") off Gillahand Road in Pond Creek NWR on river left at about 16.4 miles; Smith Crossing (N 33° 48' 30.77" / W 094° 14' 27.39") off Red Lake Road (near Bee Gum Road) in Pond creek NWR on river left at about 21.0 miles; Patterson Shoals Access (N 33° 47' 59.1" W 094° 11' 11.3") on river right at about 29.1 miles; Wilton Landing at US Highway 71 / US Highway 59 bridge boat ramp (N 33° 46' 54.4" . W 094° 08' 59.5") just below the Cossatot River confluence on river right at about 33.3 miles; Millwood Lake State Park boat ramp (N 33° 41' 14.05" / W 094° 58' 43.69") on Millwood Lake on river right at about 57.2 miles (just off SH 32.) There may be other access points for this reach of the Little River, especially in the Pond Creek NWR, but they are not always easy to recognize or access.

Campgrounds and Accommodations

Millwood State Park on Millwood Lake at the end of this reach offers excellent camping opportunities. There are no other known campgrounds located along the Little River. Abundant natural campsites can be found, but some are on private property. Always obtain permission before camping on privately-owned land. Other natural campsite can be found at public access points and on the river banks in the nation forest and Pond Creek NWR, but many can flood easily, so be sure to choose campsites carefully and watch for signs of recent flooding. Always camp well above the wet line along river banks. Potential riverside campsites can be found at many of the county road access points listed above.

Liveries, outfitters and shuttle services

There are no river-related services available along this reach of the Little River. Take along everything you need for your trip and run your own shuttles. You may be able to contract rentals and/or shuttles from some of the outfitters on the Lower Mountain Fork River outside Broken Bow, Oklahoma, but be sure to contact them well in advance of your trip and do not expect services on holiday weekends, as they will have no time or equipment available for trips away from the Mountain Fork.

Reviewer's comments

The Little River offers scenic flatwater trips in far southeastern Oklahoma and southwestern Arkansas. In Oklahoma, the river is fed by inflow from the Mountain Fork River and its tributaries, while in Arkansas it receives the waters of the, Rolling Fork, Cossatot and Saline Rivers. Runs are made through a very remote, undeveloped area in the Ouachita National Forest. This reach is not wildly popular with paddlers, so those who journey here will enjoy solitude while paddling, with options for trips of about 2 to 44 miles, depending upon access points used. Going all the way to Millwood State Park requires a paddle of a few miles across Millwood Lake, taking out just above the dam. The river is usually navigable, though it is best in spring and fall months. Summer months can have good flows if water is being released from Broken Bow Lake (somewhat likely) or Pine creek Reservoir (less likely.) Winter paddling can be done for those who are properly attired for cold weather conditions. Be sure to take along your camera because there is gorgeous scenery all around the river, and the state park is especially beautiful.

Technical Data
Class Rating I
Length 57.2 miles
Minimum Flow 100 cfs
Optimum Flow 500 - 5,000 cfs
Maximum Flow 7,000 cfs
First Put-in Little River Country Club beach
Lat. / Long. N 33° 50' 09.5" / W 094° 24' 52.1"
Last Take-out Millwood State Park
Lat. / Long. N 33° 41' 14.05" / W 093° 58' 43.69"
Elevation 291 - 265 ft. msl
Gradient ~ 0.5 fpm
USGS Gauge Web: Horatio
Boats Canoes, Kayaks, Rafts
Season Almost anytime, weather permitting
Permits No

Little River Slideshow

Arkansas Canoe Club - Promoting the sport of paddling

Little River Country Club beach access and riverside campsite
Little River Country Club beach access and riverside campsite

Arkansas SH 41 boat ramp on river right
Arkansas SH 41 boat ramp on river right

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

Railroad bridge (no access) below SH 41
Railroad bridge (no access) below SH 41

Little River below the railroad bridge
Little River below the railroad bridge

The Little River in the Pond Creek NWR
The Little River in the Pond Creek NWR

Smith Crossing in Pond Creek NWR at about 22.3 miles
Smith Crossing on river left in Pond Creek NWR at about 22.3 miles

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

Patterson Shoals Access on river right in Pond Creek NWR at about 29.1 miles
Patterson Shoals Access on river right in Pond Creek NWR at about 29.1 miles

US 59 / US 71 boat ramp on river right at about 33.3 miles
US 59 / US 71 boat ramp on river right at about 33.3 miles

Click the links below for information regarding the section of the Little River and its tributaries where you want to paddle.

[ Little River Homepage ] [ Millwood Dam to Red River confluence ]
[ Upper Cossatot River ] [ Lower Cossatot River ] [ Upper Saline River ] [ Lower Saline River ] [ Baker Creek ]

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© October 29, 2002. All rights reserved.
Last updated September 29, 2014

Copyright © 1998-2014, Marc W. McCord dba CobraGraphics. All rights reserved. Southwest Paddler, CobraGraphics and Canoeman River Guide Services are trademarks of Marc W. McCord dba CobraGraphics. The textual, graphic, audio, and audio/visual material in this site is protected by United States copyright law and international treaties. You may not copy, distribute, or use these materials except for your personal, non-commercial use. Any trademarks are the property of their respective owners. All original photographs on this web site are the exclusive property of Marc W. McCord or other designated photographers and may not be copied, duplicated, reproduced, distributed or used in any manner without prior written permission under penalty of US and International laws and treaties.