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Ouachita River, Arkansas
Report by Marc W. McCord

Camden to Calion
~ 43.2 miles

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SOAR Inflatable Canoes - Somewhere On A River

General Description

The Ouachita River flows about 43.2 miles between Sandy Beach Park at Camden and US Highway 167 in Calion as a remote wilderness flatwater stream of incredible natural scenery. Starting in Ouachita County, this run is primarily within Calhoun County, where very little development is to be found near the river, and most of that is private homes lining the river bank in a few spots. US Highway 79 crosses the river about 2 miles below the put-in. The river channel is lined by trees of many varieties, beyond which are indigenous grasses, brush and bushes characteristic of the reaches above. Without significant hazards to navigation, this reach is runnable by almost anybody in canoes, kayaks or rafts. Because of its close proximity to the Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge southeast of El Dorado, many species of birds and animals may be observed along and near the river. The small Town of Calion is located at the US Highway 167 crossing where this run ends, and several other very small towns or communities are not far away from the river all along its reach between Camden and Calion. A wide variety of fish can be caught along the Ouachita including green and longear sunfish, spotted, smallmouth, largemouth, white and rock bass, and channel, blue and yellow catfish, to name a few. Be sure to have a valid Arkansas fishing license if wetting a hook.


Central Arkansas, in Ouachita and Calhoun Counties, between Camden and El Dorado. Little Rock is about 90 minutes away to the northeast from US Highway 79, then US Highway 167. Texarkana is about the same distance away to the southwest by following US Highway 79 to US Highway 82.

Distance from major cities

Little Rock 100 miles; Texarkana 87 miles; Fort Smith 212 miles; Oklahoma City 391 miles; Kansas City 533 miles; Dallas 268 miles; Austin 463 miles; San Antonio 542 miles; Houston 376 miles; Albuquerque 933 miles; Phoenix 1,270 miles; Denver 1,016 miles; Salt Lake City 1,210 miles (all distances are approximate and depend upon starting point, destination point at the river and route taken.)

Water Quality and Flow Rates

Water quality is usually good to very good, though not quite a cool as it is nearer Lake Catherine, but it remains unspolied by commercial, residential and industrial development. Flows are almost always adequate for enjoyable paddle trips.

Best times to go

The Ouachita River is almost perpetual in its navigable flow, though highest flows are in summer months. Spring and fall offer the best combination of comfortable climate and good flow. Winter paddling can be done by those with the proper cold weather and water apparel to prevent hypothermia.

Hazards to navigation

There are no major obstacles on this reach of the Ouachita River, which is boatable by just about any able-bodied paddler in canoes, kayaks and rafts, though rafting will be slow. A steady current will assist paddlers in getting downstream.

River access points

Sandy Beach Park boat ramp (N 33° 35' 32.67" / W 092° 49' 14.47") in Camden on river right at 0.0 miles; East Washinton Street boat ramp (N 33° 35' 14.68" / W 092° 49' 24.67") in Camden on river right at about 0.4 miles; Diret road (N 33° 34' 12.14" / W 092° 47' 34.40") on river right at about 3.85 miles; Ouachita CR 99 boat ramp (N 33° 27' 41.30" / W 092° 43' 32.53") on river right at about 19.0 miles; Ouachita CR 71 (N 33° 23' 50.00" / W 092° 38' 07.11") on river right at about 32.1 miles; US Highway 167 boat ramp (N 33° 20' 42.51" / W 092° 31' 59.22") in Calion on river right at about 43.2 miles. There may be other known public access points for this reach of the Ouachita River.

Campgrounds and accommodations

There are no campgrounds located along this reach of the Ouachita River. Abundant natural campsites can be found all along this run, but many are on private land where advance permission should be obtained prior to making camp.

Liveries, outfitters and shuttle services

There are no known outfitters located along this reach of the Ouachita River. Take along everything you need for paddling and camping, then run your own shuttles.

Reviewer's comments

Nearing Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge, paddlers along this reach of the Ouachita River will often be treated to sightings of many animals and birds. Fishing is excellent, as well. The trip is an easy ride on basically flatwater with only occasional minor riffles, so just about anybody who is capable of a 43-mile trip can enjoy this reach. A trip could be completed in one day by marathon paddlers moving at a steady pace, but most boaters will take two or three days for this run. Remoteness and solitude are characteristic of the area, so paddlers and campers need to be completely self-sufficient. The scenery is very natural, and augmented by birds and wildlife, offers excellent photographic opportunities. The one-way shuttle distance is a little longer than the river run, so allow about three hours at each end for setting up at the top and recovering any vehicles left there after you reach Calion. Because of a steady current and navigable flows nearly all the time, this reach can be paddled just about any time of the year, provided boaters are equipped for weather and climate conditions to be encountered.

Technical Data
Class Rating I to I+
Length ~ 43.2 miles
Minimum Flow cfs
Optimum Flow cfs
Maximum Flow cfs
First Put-in Sandy Beach Park
Lat. / Long. N 33° 35' 32.67" / W 092° 49' 14.47"
Last Take-out US Highway 167 bridge at Calion
Lat. / Long. N 33° 20' 42.51" / W 092° 31' 59.22"
Elevation 81 - 78 feet msl
Gradient < 1 fpm
USGS Gauge Web: Camden
Boats Canoes, Kayaks, Rafts
Season Anytime, particularly summer
Permits No

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

Arkansas Canoe Club - Promoting the sport of paddling

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

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

Ouachita River

[ Ouachita River Homepage ] [ SH 88 to SH 27 ] [ Remmel Dam to Arkadelphia ] [ Nix Ferry Road to Camden ] [ Nix Ferry Road to Camden ] [ US Highway 167 to Moro Bay SP ]


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Last updated December 9, 2014

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