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Big Creek, Oklahoma
Report by Marc W. McCord

East of the Arkansas State Line to Page, Oklahoma
~ 7.5 miles

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General Description

Big Creek is a Kiamichi River tributary rising in the Kiamichi Mountains of the Ouachita National Forest along the Arkansas-Oklahoma border and flowing east to west into Page, Oklahoma before turning south to its confluence with the K River near US Highway 259 between Page and Octavia. It is a Class II to III whitewater stream that is heavily dependent upon recent local rainfall for navigable flows, but after a major rain event paddlers will find a tight, remote wilderness run of immense natural beauty and probably more than a few downed trees to dodge. The river features boulder garden rapids, ledge drops, low-water crossings and other hazards that must be carefully avoided. Big Creek is sandwiched between Rich Mountain to the south and Black Fork Mountain to the north in the near vicinity of the Upper Mountain Fork River headwaters. Blind turns, strainers and steep ledge drops mandate scouting in many places to avoid swimming and possibly pinning or wrapping.

The surrounding area is undeveloped, very natural and quite scenic. The creek is bounded by the rolling hills of the Kiamichi Mountains, though the highway is never more than a few hundred yards away, but you will hardly know it from the creek. If you hear "Dueling Banjos", then PADDLE FAST! Because the stream is dependent upon significant recent rainfall paddlers will best avoid summer trips - early to late spring and late-fall to early winter generally offer better opportunities, but a summer thunderstorm in the area can provide additional opportunities for those prepared for wilderness whitewater paddling in canoes and kayaks. The put-in will require a portage of nearly a quarter mile, so travel lightly.


Polk County, Arkansas and Le Flore County in Southeastern Oklahoma, along the Arkansas-Oklahoma border in the Kiamichi Mountains chain of the Ouachita Mountains. Fort Smith, Arkansas is about 90 minutes to the northeast, McAlester, Oklahoma is about an hour to the west northwest and Dallas, Texas is about 3 hours to the southwest.

Distance from major cities

Oklahoma City 220 miles; Dallas 280 miles; Austin 470 miles; San Antonio 550 miles; Houston 403 miles; Fort Smith 90 miles; Little Rock 180 miles; Kansas City 400 miles; Denver 845 miles; Grand Junction 1,039 miles; Albuquerque 762 miles; Phoenix 1,200 miles; Salt Lake City 1,321 miles (all distance are approximate depending upon starting point, destination at the river put-in and route taken).

Water Quality and Flow Rates

Water quality will generally be very good to excellent because of a lack of commercial development. Like all Oklahoma streams, Big Creek is highly dependent upon local rainfall for adequate flow. Check the Black Fork Creek at Big Creek gauge for a reading of around 8 feet for optimum conditions.

Best Times to Go

The optimum season for Big Creek is March through June or October through early-December. Avoid summer trips except right after a major rainstorm or thunderstorm

Hazards to Navigation

Big Creek has several Class II-III rapids and rocky shoal ledge drops on a gradient of about 60 fpm. Boulder gardens can produce small standing waves and haystacks with cross currents, eddies, pourovers, small holes and similar hazards to navigation that can bite a boater who is not careful, especially at higher flows. Dead fallen trees may create blockages or strainers in the channel, and often paddlers may have to carefully pick a line through standing trees that tend to channelize the creek. If putting in east of the Arkansas State Line, then a low-water bridge about a half mile below the put-in may require a portage - this bridge can produce powerful hydraulic currents in high-flow conditions. The safe portage is on river right. About one-half mile west of the state line is an area where the creek passes through a stand of trees, some of which may be creating blockages that require precise boat control to avoid. This area should be scouted from the bank to determine the best line. Unless deadfall is creating a blockage the left side is generally best. Boaters should have intermediate or higher level whitewater skills to safely paddle canoes or kayaks on Big Creek. Hazards are moderate for competent boaters, and could be severe for less experienced boaters.

River Access Points

About 1/4 mile north of US Highway 59/270 approximately 1.5 miles east of the state line at 0.0 miles; Off US Highway 59/270 on the state line at about 1.5 miles; Off US Highway 59/270 in Page, Oklahoma at about 7.5 miles. There may be other access points for Big Creek, but finding a place to leave vehicles is the difficult part.

Campgrounds and Accommodations

There are no campgrounds located along Big Creek. Nearby camping is available on the Kiamichi River at K River Campground (580-298-2442) offers riverside camping and recreational activities, a warm-water bathhouse, swimming pool, RV sites, dump station and other amenities. There are no other known campgrounds operating on the Kiamichi River.

Liveries, outfitters and shuttle services

K River Campground (580-298-2442) offers canoe rentals and shuttle services. There are no other known liveries or shuttle services operating on the Kiamichi River.

Reviewer's comments

Big Creek is pone of those seldom-run streams that is short, but packs a lot of excitement for whitewater boaters in kayaks and canoes whenever it flows. Unfortunately, Big Creek requires a heavy local rain event to raise it to navigable levels, and it can drop almost as fast as it rises, so timing is everything. This is not a casual run for novice paddlers! Blind turns, deadfall strainers and blockages, steep ledge drops, passages through standing trees and other potential hazards to navigation demand good judgement and careful scouting to avoid becoming a casualty.

Technical Data
Class Rating II to III
Length 7.5 miles
Min. Stage 7.5 feet
Opt. Stage 8-12 feet
Max. Stage 13 feet
First Put-in US Highway 59/270 in Arkansas
Lat. / Long.
Last Take-out US Highway 59/270 in Page, OK
Lat. / Long. 34° 7139015' / -94° 5468979'
Elevation msl
Gradient 60 fpm (average)
USGS Gauge Web:
Boats Canoes, Kayaks
Season March-June, October-November
Permits No

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

K River Campground

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

Click the links below for information regarding the section of the Kiamichi River where you want to paddle.

[ Kiamichi River Homepage ] [ NF 6032 to Jackfork Creek (Clayton) ] [ Jackfork Creek (Clayton) to Twin Oaks Access (Hugo Lake) ]

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