Oklahoma has two Little Rivers, one that flows south from near Oklahoma City and the other flowing southwest, then south in the Kiamichi Mountains of southeastern Oklahoma before turning eastward and flowing into Arkansas where it is fed by the Cossatot and Saline Rivers. This report described the latter river that flows in LeFlore, Pushmataha and McCurtain Counties, and more specifically, the Upper Little River flowing from above Honobia through Nashoba to Pine Creek Lake. In McCurtain County the Little River accepts the waters from the Mountain Fork River just west of the Arkansas State Line.
This reach of the Little River is a respectable Class II whitewater stream with a moderate gradient of about 15-20 fpm as it runs between the Kiamichi River to the west and the Upper Mountain Fork River to the east in the very remote wilderness of far southeastern Oklahoma. The Kiamichi Mountains provide a gorgeous backdrop to the Little River in LeFlore and Pushmataha Counties, where many species of trees grow along the rocky banks and the rolling hills adjacent to the stream. While the river actually forms about 10 miles or more northwest of Honobia, access at the top is limited due to private property ownership, and Honobia is the first practical public access point, leaving about 46 miles of river down to Pine Creek Lake, though the last practical take-out above the lake is the road between Cloudy and Battiest at about 40 miles below Honobia. The Little River is an unspoiled stream of immense natural beauty that is exciting to paddle even if it is not too technically challenging at normal flows. This is a great river for taking along a camera to capture some of the scenic beauty of the Kiamichi Mountains.
LeFlore and Pushmataha Counties of far southeastern Oklahoma, flowing from northeast of Honobia to Pine Creek Lake in the Kiamichi Mountains of southeastern Oklahoma. Honobia is the only town located along this reach of the river. Nearby streams include Bok tu kolo Creek, the Upper Mountain Fork, Kiamichi and Glover Rivers.
Oklahoma City 200 miles; Tulsa 163 miles; Dallas 230 miles; Austin 420 miles; San Antonio 500 miles; Houston 500 miles; Little Rock 260 miles; Kansas City 412 miles; Albuquerque 742 miles; Phoenix 1,181 miles; Denver 825 miles; Salt Lake City 1,301 miles (all distance are approximate depending upon starting point, destination at the river and route taken.)
Water quality is generally very good to excellent because of a lack of commercial or residential development within the drainage basin. Navigable flows depend upon recent local rainfall.
Late-February through early-June and Late-October through early-December are usually the best times to find navigable flows in the Upper Little River, though any time right after a significant rainstorm hits the area is good. There is no USGS gauge for the upper river, so take a cue from levels on the Kiamichi River at Big Cedar or Clayton, the Glover or the Mountain Fork at Smithville for an indication of current conditions.
The Upper Little River is not inherently hazardous at normal flows, but the river does have ledge drops, rock outcroppings, uplifted rock natural dams, small Class I to II boulder garden rapids and similar obstacles to navigation that necessitate vigilance as flows increase. There is usually ample opportunity to scout anything before running, and adequate portage opportunities, if necessary.
Put in from an unpaved road off SH 144 at Honobia at 0.0 miles. Take out at Cloudy Road between Bethel and Cloudy at about 40.0 miles. There may be other access points for the Upper Little River, but they will require landowner permission to reach.
There are no known campgrounds located along the Upper Little River. Abundant natural campsites are available all along the river, but most are on private property where obtaining permission in advance will be necessary.
There are no known outfitters located along the river. Outfitters on the Mountain Fork River near Smithville and Broken Bow may be able to provide rentals, shuttles and/or information for trips on the Upper Little River. Otherwise, take your own boat and gear, then set up your own shuttles. Access roads, other than at Pine Creek State Park, are unpaved, so be prepared for slick or sticky conditions in wet weather or right after rainfall in the area.
The Upper Little River is a gorgeous mountain river that is seldom paddled because it is unknown to most boaters, is difficult to access and is seldom navigable. When rains fall in the Kiamichi Mountains the river becomes an exciting 40 or 46 miles (depending upon where you take out) of moderate whitewater that is safe for anybody with more than introductory whitewater skills as long as they are prepared for the distance and trips in a wilderness area. Expect to be attacked by killer ticks in the Kiamichi's, so take along insect repellant with DEET, Seven Dust to powder your campsite and check your body for ticks after your trip ends. If you see small black spots on you that weren't there before your trip, then they are probably ticks. Take along your camera, because the area is naturally scenic and unspolied by development. Upon departing Honobia, there is not other civilization to be seen above Pine Creek Lake, so take along everything you need for your trip.