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Archey's Fork of the Little Red River, Arkansas
Report by Marc W. McCord

SH 254 to US Highway 65
~ 20 Miles

General Description

Rising in Pope County of Northcentral Arkansas is the Archey's Fork of the Little Red River, a very remote Ozark whitewater stream that flows southeast from above Arkansas SH 254 through Clinton in Van Buren County to Greer's Ferry Lake where it joins the Middle Fork. Below the lake the Little Red River flows southeast through Heber Springs and Searcy to its confluence with the White River in White County. The area surrounding the Archey's Fork is Ozark forests of pecan, elm and oak trees lining the riverbanks where virtually no signs of civilization exist. This Class II to III whitewater stream has very limited access that is far off the beaten path. Other than the SH 254 put-in and the US Highway 65 take-out, the only other practical access is an alternate put-in on Castleberry Creek, reducing this normally 20-mile trip by about 3 miles.

The water flows clean, clear and unpolluted in the very scenic Archey's Fork. Its moderate gradient creates a steady current at optimum flows, and numerous rapids keep trips interesting. In addition to Castleberry Creek, which enters on river left about 3.5 miles below the SH 254 access, the river gets additional flow from Hartsugg Creek entering on river left about 9.5 miles below SH 254, and which denotes the approximate midway point for trips. Limited access, Class II to III rapids, the narrow channel and the distance between access points makes Archey's Fork best suited for canoeists and kayakers with at least intermediate level whitewater skills. No river gauge is available for flow information, but a stage of about 4-6 feet on the nearby Big Piney Creek gauge will indicate navigable flows. Below 4.0 feet the river is just too low for enjoyable paddling, and above about 7.0 feet it becomes dangerous. Check the Big Piney gauge or call 501-378-5150 for current river conditions.

Location

Pope and Van Buren Counties in the Ozark Mountains of northcentral Arkansas. Harrison is the the north and Conway sits to the south. Big Piney and Little Piney Creeks, the Mulberry River, Richalnd Creek and the Buffalo, White and Kings Rivers all flow nearby to the west and northwest.

Distance from major cities

Little Rock 80 miles; Fort Smith 165 miles; Texarkana 224 miles; Kansas City 486 miles; Oklahoma City 424 miles; Dallas 405 miles; Austin 600 miles; San Antonio 680 miles; Houston 514 miles; Albuquerque 961 miles; Phoenix 1,406 miles; Denver 1,021 miles; Salt Lake City 1,518 miles; (all distances are approximate, depending upon starting point, destination point at the river and route taken.)

Water Quality and Flow Rates

Water quality is generall very good to excellent due to the remoteness and lack of pollution in the surrounding area. Flows depend upon recent local rainfall, and the river will not be navigable most of the time. Look for a reading of 4-6 feet on the Big Piney Creek USGS gauge as an indicator of current conditions.

Best time to go

Usually, springtime is the best season, followed by late-fall, or any time right after a heavy rainstorm drenches the drainage basins of the Mulberry River, Big Piney Creek and Buffalo River. Expect low water most of the time during hot, summer months except right after a heavy rainfall.

Hazards to navigation

Willow strainers and dead-fallen trees are the most prominent hazards to navigation on Archey's Fork. Rapids are Class II to III without major consequence for competent paddlers with at least strong intermediate level whitewater skills.

River Access Points

Put in off Arkansas SH 254, north of Alread and the SH 16 intersection, at 0.0 miles; Castleberry Creek, about 4.5 miles west of Denard off a southside gravel road from SH 254, is an alternative access point at about 3.5 miles below the SH 254 access; Take out at the US Highway 65 bridge just north of clinton at about 20.0 miles. There are no other access points for Archey's Fork.

Campgrounds and accommodations

There are no campgrounds located along Archey's Fork. However, excellent campsites can be found nearby at Greer's Ferry Lake (US Army CoE parks) to the east, on the Buffalo National River to the north, and in many other areas of the Ozark National Forest to the east, north, west and southwest. Archey's Fork is really a day trip where camping along the river is not required.

Liveries, outfitters and shuttle services

There are no liveries or outfitters providing boat and gear rentals or shuttle services anywhere near Archey's Fork of the Little Red River. Bring everything you need and run your own shuttles.

Reviewer's comments

It is an infrequent opportunity that allows paddlers to enjoy the immense natural and remote beauty of Archey's Fork of the Little Red River, but when it flows the river offers an exciting wilderness trip on moderate whitewater. You will not encounter crowds of recreational paddlers on this stream, and anybody whom you do meet there will probably be an experienced whitewater boater who shares your love of wilderness rivers. The forested banks are home to many species of wildlife and birds, and on occasion some of those trees manage to deposit themselves in the riverbed. If the sheer beauty of this stream were not enought to satisfy you, then there is also the option of paddling many other great Arkansas whitewater and flatwater streams in very close proximity, including the Buffalo, White, Mulberry and Kings Rivers and Richland, Big Piney and Little Piney Creeks. This is a perfect place for photography, but be sure to carry your camera where it is protected from water exposure. The Ozarks are usually cool to cold when this stream flows, especially near and after dark, so be sure to dress for current weather and climate conditions. Bring your intermediate level whitewater skills, and your canoe or kayak, for a memorable trip down a gorgeous Arkansas waterway that few will ever see.

Technical Data
Class Rating II to III
Length 20 miles
Min.Stage 4.0 feet (Big Piney Creek gauge)
Opt. Stage 4.5 to 6.0 feet (Big Piney Creek gauge)
Max. Stage 7.0 feet (Big Piney Creek gauge)
First Put-in SH 254 bridge
Lat/Long 35.6869431 / -92.6544418
Last Take-out US Highway 65 bridge near Clinton
Lat/Long 35.6063881 / -92.461113
Elevation msl
Gradient max.
USGS Gauge Web: 07257006 (Dover)
Boats Canoes, Kayaks
Season Depends upon recent local rainfall
Permits No


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