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Paddling is for everyone, but no one should jump into Class III, IV or V whitewater without the right experience. Water level, recent rainfall and other factors can seriously affect the safety of a planned trip. 

Check out this list of Arkansas rivers for examples of Class I-V water in the state, but remember—check water levels before you go, consider using an outfitter or guide and always stick to water that matches your experience level.

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Class I/II

“I’ve never paddled before.”

 Photography: Courtesy Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

Photography: Courtesy Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

The Caddo River

GPS Coordinates:  
34.45349, -93.6822

Flows Through: Montgomery, Pike and Clark Counties

This 82-mile river has several sections of Class I and II rapids, and it’s often traveled by families.


Class III

“I’m a strong swimmer.”

 Photography: Courtesy Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism/DANNY OWENS

Photography: Courtesy Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism/DANNY OWENS

Lower Richland Creek

GPS Coordinates:
34.87105, -93.11052

Flows Through: Newton and Searcy Counties
Common Routes: Richland Creek Campground to NFR 1201, 8.5 miles

Section II is ideal for moving into Class III runs, with lots of action in the first few miles and a relatively flat end as the creek approaches the Buffalo River.


Class IV/V

“I’m able to self-rescue.”

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Horsehead Creek

GPS Coordinates:
35.61169, -93.6599

Flows Through: Johnson County
Common Routes: FR 1445A to Horsehead Creek, 5 miles

Don’t let the scenery surrounding the creek fool you; this run is not for the inexperienced. 


Class IV+

“I’ve had formal instruction and lots of experience of increasing difficulty.”

Cossatot River Falls

GPS Coordinates:
34.34012, -94.2511

Flows Through: Howard, Polk and Sevier Counties
Common Routes: Ed Banks Road to Highway 278, 6.25 miles

Section I is suitable for those learning to navigate Class II rapids, but section II becomes more challenging with section III getting downright hazardous.

 
 Photography: Courtesy ALEX KENT

Photography: Courtesy ALEX KENT

For more information, check out americanwhitewater.org and ozarkpages.com.
Contact your local Arkansas Canoe Club chapter for information on classes and group outings.