The Black River forms from the merging of its West, Middle and East Forks in the St. Francois Mountains of St. Francois County near Lesterville, Missouri, and then flows generally southwardly through the Mark Twain National Forest into Arkansas south of Poplar Bluff, Missouri. From there, the river flows through Clay, Randolph and Lawrence Counties, taking the waters from the Current River near Pocahontas, and the Eleven Point and Spring Rivers just north of Black Rock and west of Old Davidsonville Historic State Park before winding its way to its White River confluence near Newport in Independence County.
In its upper reaches in Missouri and Arkansas, especially above Pocahontas, the Black River is a narrow, winding river with limited public access that would make it unsuitable for canoe or kayak trips, and it is much too flat and tame for any rafting excitement. The navigable reach is described as that section of the river between the Peach Orchard access off SH 280 Spur just west of Peach Orchard and northeast of Delaplaine down to the boat ramp on the White River below the confluence and SH 69 at Jacksonport Historic State Park. Access may be available above and below the reach described. The Black River terminates at its confluence with the White River at Jacksonport, Arkansas.
The river is very remote and surrounded by dense forestation. It is home to several wildlife management areas, so there is an abundance of animals, birds and fish all along the Arkansas run. Hunting and fishing are probably teh two most enjoyed recreational activities on and near the Black River above Pocahontas. Scenery is A+, and most of the time you will mot see many others on the river. A dirth of outfitters and campgrounds prevents the river from being heavily travelled by canoe, kayak or raft, though motorboaters seem to love it here. But, for those who are properly equipped and can arrange their own shuttles the Black River offers a feast of nature and solitude that is difficult to beat. And, an adequate number of access points allow for planning a trip of a few or many miles depending upon how much time you want to spend on the river.
Clay, Randolph and Lawrence and Independence Counties of northeastern Arkansas, starting just south of the Missouri State Line. This reach begins near Corning in Clay County and ends at Newport and the White River confluence near Jacksonport State Park about 80 miles northeast of Little Rock.
Jonesboro 50 miles; Little Rock 158 miles; Fayetteville 259 miles; Fort Smith 285 miles; Texarkana 302 miles; Memphis 116 miles; Dallas 477 miles; Austin 672 miles; San Antonio 750 miles; Houston 600 miles; Oklahoma City 520 miles; Albuquerque 1,007 miles; Phoenix 1,470 miles; Denver 1,052 miles; Salt Lake City 1,482 miles (all distances are approximate and depend upon starting point, destination put-in on the river and route taken.)
Arkansas can get cold in winter, and most people would be advised to avoid the Black River between November and February or march. The river, however, usually has adequate flow for good trips year round. The flatwater nature of the river makes it generally safe for less experienced paddlers, though care needs to be taken with regard to motorboats during fishing season and summer months. Also, much of the land around the Black River is used for hunting, so extreme care should be exercised during hunting season to avoid injury from firearms.
Generally, this reach of the Black River is free from obstructions and hazards to navigation. The only real danger could possibly be from motorboat traffic on warm days, especially around sharp river bends where sound and visual references are severely limited. The river is tree-lined amost the entire way, so there is always the possibility of strainers or low-hanging limbs, especially after recent floods. With a drop of only about 68 feet in 126 miles the river generally has a very shallow gradient and slow currents.
Peach Orchard Boat Ramp (N 36° 17' 04.41" / W 090° 43' 21.55") off SH 280 Spur @ Clay CR 2001 on river left at 0.00 miles; Boat Ramp off Hite Road (N 36° 17' 25.31" / W 090° 48' 58.08") just east of US 67/US62 and ENE of Pocahontas at aboyt 11.26 miles; US Highway 67 Access (N36° 15' 11.95" / W 090° 58' 13.95") just below bridge on river right in Pocahontas at about 34.0 miles; Old Davidsonville Historic State Park boat ramp (N36° 09' 07.31" / W 091° 03' 16.12") on river right at about 49.32 miles; River Road access (N 36° 06' 52.27" / W 091° 04' 27.12") on river right just below the Spring River confluence at about 52.64 miles; Railroad Bridge (N36° 06' 15.55" / W 091° 05' 39.21") on river right in Black Rock at about 55.1 miles; Old Highway 63 Bridge (N 36° 04' 51.78" / W 091° 06' 57.34") on river left in Powhatan at about 57.45 miles; Possible acess at Lawrence CR 317 (N 35° 59' 51.41" / W 091° 10' 15.85") on river right at about 73.18 miles; Shirey Bay access (N 35° 58' 23.49" / W 091° 11' 06.95") off Lawrence CR 325 near intersection of CR 316 and CR 317 on river left at about 76.7 miles; Possible access on Lawrence CR 545 (N 35° 55' 15.89" / W 091° 11' 11.76") on river left at about 84.22 miles; Possible access off Jackson County Lower Lockhart Road (N 35° 50' 04.65" / W 091° 14' 53.06") on river right at about 96.67 miles; Elgin Road access (N 35° 46' 01.11" / W 091° 18' 00.50") at SH 37 on river right at about 109.8 miles; Jacksonport Boat Ramp (N 35° 38' 18.39" / W 091° 18' 45.35") just below the White River confluence on river right at about 126.1 miles.
There MAY be other available access points on county roads along the river, especially below the Spring River confluence, but vehicle parking would be very limited, if possible at all. These could possibly be used for emergency take-outs or access points with a shuttle bunny to drive your vehicle. Check with teh local Sheriff to confirm use of undesignated access points.
Old Davidsonville Historial State Park offers tent camping with electricity and water, showers, toilets, a marina and boat rentals, interpreative tours on land and water, a pavilion and other services near the confluence of teh Spring, Eleven Point and Black Rivers, as well as a Black River boat ramp. No other accommodations are known to exist along the river, though natural beach campsites are abundant.
Old Davidsonville Historial State Park offers canoe, kayal, pedal boat and fishing boat rentals, shuttles and other services on the Black River. No other commercial outfitters are known to exist along this reach of the Black River.
The Black River will not become like the Current in Missouri or the Guadalupe in Texas anytime in the near future. Its remoteness give it a special air of untouched nature at its finest. More animals than people will be found along the river, partially because it is so remote, and partially because of several wildlife management areas located on either side that encompass large amounts of acerage. The Black River is a photographer's dream!
There are some long paddles of 15 or more miles between access points, but there are also several sections of less than 12 miles for those who want a less energy-consuming trip. You won't get a lot of help from the current because the river is basically a flat stream with very little gradient, so this is a place for a relaxing trip through a part of the "Natural State" that is mostly untouched by civilization. Ironically, there are many roads and highways within a short distance of the river from top to bottom, though you will not know that from looking out in the middle of the river. And, you will see few signs of civilization as you paddle between tree-lined banks almost the entire length of the river. Even the cities you do encounter are just small towns.