The Little Maumelle
A Day on a Central Arkansas Water Trail
By Lacey Thacker
As the weather warmed through early spring, I found myself staring out the window thinking, “Why am I not outside?” once too often. Finally, I had enough, and I decided to play hooky. So, on a random Thursday in March, armed with a new kayak that had barely touched water, I had a friend drop me off at the kayak launch at the base of Pinnacle Mountain.
Growing up in Little Rock meant being at least tangentially aware of Pinnacle Mountain State Park. I’d climbed to the summit a half a dozen times, I’d walked the Kingfisher Trail and I’d had a pleasant time—but it wasn’t until I decided to start paddling more regularly that I got to wondering to where exactly the water flowed. Well friends, where else could it flow but the Arkansas River? That little stream is the Little Maumelle, and it flows about 8.5 miles downstream to where it connects with the big water.
The Little Maumelle is an Arkansas Water Trail, marked and promoted by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. Unendingly popular with those who are in the know, this trail offers a day-long paddle without a day-long drive.
I set out, my boat loaded with water, snacks, a first-aid kit and a just-in-case fishing pole. As I rounded the first curve, I saw the edge of the popular base trail and a few walkers enjoying the 70-degree day. After about a quarter mile, I nearly had to stop and pull my kayak through a low section, but the water was just high enough to avoid doing so.
I soon found out why many people launch at Pinnacle Mountain, float awhile, and then paddle back up to the launch when they’ve had enough—there is very little movement to the Little Maumelle. Luckily, I started the day early and didn’t mind a long trip downriver; ‘twas all the better to take some time practicing my cast. Considering my relative fishing inexperience, I was happy to catch the couple of crappie I did. I’ve heard anglers talk about catching largemouth and spotted bass on this float; I see a return visit in my future.
At several points, we see nice stands of cypress, and getting up close to these lovely trees at water level is appealing to the eye in a way that can’t be matched on land. The texture of the bark and the curve of their hollowed-out spaces calls to us to drink in the beauty of nature. And of course, there is plenty of wildlife to watch for. I saw turtles sunning, herons standing and plenty of smaller birds.
Since I elected to float the entire thing instead of turning around and getting picked up at Pinnacle, and since the flow wasn’t exactly fast—similar to my paddling—it took me about six hours to make it to the boat launch at Two Rivers Park. But, given the location, it was easy enough to call my shuttle with a pretty accurate ETA and request a pickup, which is yet another benefit of paddling close to home in urban areas.
In some ways, I’d like to be able to tell readers that I had to carry my boat over most of the low spots, or that I got lost or that I had some other funny adventure, but the reality is much more tranquil. I needed a day on the water, away from work and the tethers we’ve created for ourselves with text messages, email and constant connectivity, and that’s exactly what I found. The Little Maumelle, when there’s been enough rain, offers a leisurely day trip for those needing to soak in some outdoor time. And, if you’ve only got an hour, it’s a fine place to spend the time.