The Spring River forms in Howell County of southcentral Missouri just a few miles south of the Eleven Point River and near the Mark Twain National Forest, then flows southward as an underground river into Arkansas at Mammoth Springs in Fulton County where it forms on the surface just south of the Missouri State line. It then flows down through Fulton County, across the northeast tip of Sharp County and into Lawrence County to its confluence with the Eleven Point River just above SH 361. The river then flows a few miles south to its confluence with the Black River, also flowing down from Missouri, near Old Davidsonville State Historical Park. The total length of the river is only about 54 miles, but it packs a lot of excitement and scenery in a few miles. Generally, the Spring River is a year-round paddling stream, assuming you are able to withstand the rigors of the Missouri Ozarks winter, which can be quite cold.
The lowest section of the Spring River flows about 20 miles from Ravenden to its confluence with the Eleven Point River along the Lawrence-Randolph County, and then on down to its confluence with the Black River with a river right take-out just below the confluence. Jonesboro is only about 30 miles from the confluence, and Memphis is only about 70 miles further. This flatwater section is remote, rugged and natural, as would be expected for "the natural state" of Arkansas. This is the least developed reach of the entire Sring River. Physical characteristics are very similar to the section immediately above except that it has far fewer and much smaller ledge drops. The year-round flow makes it easy to paddle this section anytime you get the urge, though Northeastern Arkansas can get quite cold in winter, so dress appropriately.
This section of the Spring River is located in Randolph County of northeastern Arkansas. It begins at Ravenden and flows northwest to southeast down to the confluence with the Eleven Point River at Old Davidsonville State Park at the lower end of this run.
Little Rock 120 miles; Fort Smith 280 miles; Dallas 445 miles; Austin 635 miles; San Antonio 715 miles; Houston 691 miles; Oklahoma City 464 miles; Kansas City 543 miles; Memphis 125 miles; Denver 1,061 miles; Salt Lake City 1,225 miles; Phoenix 1,445 miles; Albuquerque 1,000 miles (all distances are approximate, and depend upon starting point, put-in destination at the river and route taken.)
Water quality is excellent, but not drinkable without purification. The Flow is C3 - clear, cold and continuous is how to best describe it. At nearly 10 million gallons per hour, the spring pumps plenty of water into the river to keep it continually flowing, so you can paddle here anytime you are outfitted for the weather and climate conditions.
Anytime is a great time to paddle the Spring River, with the possible exception of during a winter blizzard. The flow is always more than adequate and the few small rapids on this section are only moderately challenging. A wetsuit or drysuit with a base layer might also be appropriate on this river in fall, winter and early spring months due to the cold air and water temperatures.
The greatest hazards on this section of the Spring River are the cold air (in fall, winter and early spring) and water temperatures. There are no major rapids of significance that could cause problems for most boaters. Watch out for low-water bridges, and portage them when and if necessary to avoid pinning or wrapping.
Boat ramp just downriver from the 1st Street Bridge (N 36° 13' 29.39" / W 091° 15' 02.12") on river left in Ravenden at 0.0 miles; River right boat ramp just below US Highway 62 Bridge (N 36° 12' 13.87" / W 091° 10' 10.97") at Imboden at about 7.44 miles; River left boat ramp just below SH 166 / SH 361 Bridge (N 36° 08' 26.71" / W 091° 05' 01.86") just below the Eleven Point River confluence at about 16.77 miles; River Road access (N 36° 06' 52.17" / W 091° 04' 27.31") on river right just below the Black River confluence. There are no other access points along this section of the Spring River.
There are no campgrounds located along this section of the Spring River. There are many natural campsites available along the river. There are commercial campgrounds available on the Upper Spring River at Mammoth Springs and Hardy.
At least one commercial outfitter, located on the reach above this one, offers rentals, shuttles and/or river information along the Spring River. Plan on setting up and running your own shuttles and providing your own boats and gear if not renting from a local outfitter.
What I like about this section of the Spring River is the ability to reach its end, then continue paddling down the Black River to its confluence with the White River near Jacksonport. The convenient location of Old Davidsonville State Park at the confluence of the Black River is also a noteworthy trait, as its spectacular fishing for anglers of all types. What this section lacks in whitewater thrills is offset by the gorgeous natural beauty and the serenity of this remote paddle trip. Having water in every month of the calendar makes this section great for those who enjoy "off-season" paddling, though winter paddling in Arkansas is nearly akin to being a member of the Polar Bear Club, especially if you take an unplanned swim. At 58° F, it is sometimes warmer to remain in the water than to get out into the air and wind. Except in the dead of summer, hypothermia is a very real possibility on this river, and appropriate care should be taken to prevent it. The changing of seasons is especially beautiful on this stream, so be sure to pack your camera. Come early, come late, but come!