The Strawberry River forms near SH 9 in Fulton County just south of the Missouri State Line between Salem and Oxford, then flows south by southeast through Izard County, across Sharp County, then south down through Lawrence County to its confluence with the Black River in far northeastern Independence County just north of Swifton. The river runs through the very remote and scenic foothills of the Ozark Mountains just a few miles east of Ozark National Forest. The Strawberry River is a Class I to II whitewater pool-and-drop stream of about 64 miles in length, though most paddling is usually limited to the 22 miles between Evening Shade and Poughkeepsie. Most of the surrounding area is rolling hills farmland where riverbanks are lined with dense stands of elm, pecan and oak trees obscuring visibility beyond the immediate vicinity of the river. Its waters have the milky green tint that is frequently found on other northern Arkansas rivers such as the Mulberry and Buffalo, among others.
The flat gradient provides a modest current that is usually navigable after a significant local rainstorm swells the river and its tributary creeks. It is ideally suited for trips in canoes and kayaks, though rafts can run these reaches in favorable flow conditions. However, there is constant strainer and dead-fall dodging, so paddling large inflatables is not the best way to see the Strawberry River. Boaters need to be vigilant for dead-fallen trees obstructing the river channel and sweeper currents that create a naturally strong waterway through them. The remoteness of the river portends the need to have paddlers in a group who have at least strong intermediate level whitewater skills, and preferrably some swiftwater rescue training, as well. Excellent campsites are available nearby at Lake Charles State Park, and just a few miles further away from there at Old Davidsonville State Park on the Eleven Point River near its confluence with the Spring River, both of which feed the White River System, as do the Strawberry and Black Rivers.
Fulton, Izard, Sharp and Independence Counties in far northcentral Arkansas near the Missouri State Line. Nearby rivers include the Spring, Currrent, Eleven Point, Black and White Rivers.
Little Rock 115 miles; Fort Smith 275 miles; Texarkana 259 miles; Kansas City 538 miles; Oklahoma City 459 miles; Dallas 439 miles; Austin 635 miles; San Antonio 715 miles; Houston 549 miles; Albuquerque 996 miles; Phoenix 1,440 miles; Denver 1,056 miles; Salt Lake City 1,553 miles; (all distances are approximate, depending upon starting point, destination point at the river and route taken.)
Water quality is generally good to very good, though flows are dependent upon recent local rainfall. Several feeder creeks provide additional flow, and can cause the river to rise substantially shortly after a major rain event.
The best time to run the Strawberry River is a day or two after a major rainstorm hits the drainage basin. Like most Arkansas streams, the Strawberry River depends upon recent local rainfall for navigable flows. Summers are usually not too good, but spring and fall months, in years with normal or above normal rainfall, provide the best combination of weather and flow conditions for running the river.
There are no major rapids or drops on the Strawberry River. However, willow strainers and dead-fall debris are everywhere, and strong currents can carry a boat into them unless paddlers use control to avoid those hazards. The low water bridge at about 10 miles below the Evening Shade access off US Highway 167 (the starting point for the lower 12 miles of this reach) can be a significant hazard to boats and paddlers in moderate to high flow conditions. A low water bridge 8.5 miles further downriver also presents similar problems. Both should be portaged most of the time, and if you can paddle over them, then perhaps it is not a good time to be on the Strawberry River. Remoteness, the narrow channel and the ever-present strainers raise the difficulty factor by a step in moderately high conditions, and perhaps higher in high water conditions. The normally gentle current will accelerate as the river rises, making the timing and intensity of control maneuvers more critical.
US Highway 167 bridge at Evening Shade at 0.0 miles; Low-water bridge just north of SH 56 (3 miles east of Evening Shade) at about 10.0 miles; SH 58 bridge near Poughkeepsie at about 22.0 miles. There are no other access points for this reach of the Strawberry River.
There are no campgrounds located along the Strawberry River. However, Lake Charles State Park, located just a few miles southeast of Poughkeepsie, offers 130 excellent campsites, drinking water, restrooms, showers, electricity and other amenities. Gasoline, food and supplies are available in Powhatan about three miles from the park. Old Davidsonville State Park, at the confluence of the Spring and Eleven Point Rivers just northeast of Lake Charles State Park, offers additional excellent campsites with amenities, as well as access to the Eleven Point and Black Rivers.
There are no liveries or outfitters located on or operating near the Strawberry River. It may be possible to contract with an outfitter on the Spring River for rentals and shuttles, but expect to pay a higher price for their services beyond their normal areas. Paddlers should bring their own boats and gear, then run their own shuttles.
For boaters capable of negotiating the willow strainers and dead-fall debris, the Strawberry River is a wonderful place to dip a paddle when it flows. Unfortunately, it is not consistent, and rarely has a navigable flow other than after a local rainstorm that swells the river and its tributary creeks. The upside is that there are other great rivers in the very near vicinity, so if the Strawberry is not runnable, then perhaps one of the others will be. The area is drop-dead gorgeous and very natural, though a lot flatter than most rivers in this part of Arkansas. Bring your camera and use it frequently, but not while dodging willows and low water bridges.