Kayaking the Saline River
By Jodi Noblett
Put in point
GPS: 33°51'49.0"N 92°15'07.2"W
Natural Area WMA)
Take out point
GPS: 33.7573° N, 92.2382° W
New Edinburg, AR
(Kingsland Prairie Natural Area WMA)
New Edinburg, AR
There’s nothing more beautiful than watching the towering trees on the riverbank as you drift along the slow-moving waters of a lazy river. If winter has you itching for some beautiful scenery, try a quiet float from Pool Access on the Saline River to the Mt. Elba take-out point.
The Saline River in Cleveland County, Arkansas, is a ribbon of water winding through heavily forested territory. The easy current of the muddy Saline will carry you roughly 10 miles from Pool Access at the river bridge near Kingsland to the Mt. Elba Access in the backwoods of New Edinburg.
You’ll pass sections of rocky shoreline, a large sandbar that serves as nesting ground for turtles and bluff banks as you drift along this 10-mile stretch. An array of wildlife can be found, too. If you’re quiet and attentive, you’re liable to see wild hogs, turkeys and deer, and maybe even catch a glimpse of the resident eagles. An especially fortunate kayaker might even see one of the river’s elusive alligators.
As your journey starts in Kingsland, birthplace of Johnny Cash, it’s worth a quick side jaunt to check out the community’s claim to fame. Entering the town on State Hwy. 79, you’ll pass a metal sign that welcomes you to the singer’s birthplace. Head south toward the railroad tracks and you’ll find a concrete monument in Cash’s honor, situated to the west of Kingsland Missionary Baptist Church. The monument’s plaque provides a snippet of information about the singer. There’s also a Johnny Cash museum in the works and you can find a collection of newspaper clippings about Cash on display in the town’s post office.
From there, make your way to the river and slip your kayak into the water for a leisurely six-hour float to the Mt. Elba Access point that marks the end of your 10-mile tour. Pack up your kayak and extend the adventure by taking a ride over to Marks’ Mill Battleground State Park.
New Edinburg played a significant role in the Civil War, as the gravesites of both Confederate and Union soldiers at Marks’ Mill Battleground attests. The battle site is filled with informative plaques, monuments and period memorabilia, while walking paths winding through the area offer a pleasant stroll for those who want to get up close and personal with the woods that offered cover for the soldiers as they fought for their lives.
Many trees along the path are labeled by name so you can identify the species even in autumn after the leaves have fallen. At that time of year, if your timing is just right, you may spot a few whitetail buck scrapes along the trails.
Other trivia worth noting: Marks’ Mill hosted the crew of the movie “Come Morning” produced by native Cleveland Countians Derrick and Alaina Sims of Fabled Motion Pictures.
Plan an all-day trip from sunup to sundown to soak in everything the Saline River and the quiet towns around it have to offer.