Floating the Ouachita River
Canoeing on the Ouachita River is an enjoyable experience at any time of the year, but the season from April to October is most popular. To the experienced canoeist, it is a relatively easy river to negotiate. Winding through a varied and colorful landscape, this enchanting natural waterway provides an aesthetic excitement that even white-water veterans will want to take time to appreciate. The river provides an excellent opportunity to view portions of the Ouachita National Forest not seen by most visitors.
You can float the Ouachita from the old bridge at Pine Ridge to Lake Ouachita, a distance of 45 miles. Starting at Pine Ridge, the river channel is narrow with many fast-flowing rapids interspersed with clear pools. As you travel down the river it becomes wider and the pools are deeper. The stream meanders along high, massive rock bluffs screened with trees and flowering shrubs. In this picturesque setting, visitors find unique opportunities to enjoy fishing, camping, picnicking, bird watching, and photography.
Floating speed on the river averages about one mile per hour, varying according to river depth and flow. During periods of heavy rain, especially in the spring, the water level rises and the floating speed increases. The river then becomes a fast and particularly dangerous stream. In late summer and early tall, the water level is normally low. There is one gauge on the Ouachita to show water levels. It is located at the U.S. 270 bridge crossing the river near Camp Ozark. Information on current water conditions may be obtained from District Ranger offices in Oden and Mount Ida.
The floater can choose many different trips of varying lengths. Mileage figures are shown on the map to help you estimate travel time. Allow extra time to enjoy the excitement of productive fishing holes and the relaxation of a picnic on a shady bank or gravel bar. Floating from Rocky Shoals to Fulton Branch or from Fulton Branch to River Bluff is an easy day's trip. You will need to leave a vehicle at your stopping point or have someone meet you.
Seven landings are in operation, four of which are float camps provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. These float camps have picnic areas, drinking water, sanitary facilities, and overnight campsites. Access roads and landing sites are clearly marked. Camping is permitted on all National Forest lands. However, much of the shoreline along the Ouachita River is privately owned. By respecting the rights of the property owners, you and others will be able to fully enjoy the beauty and tranquillity this secluded river has to offer.
Fishing on the river is for small and large mouth bass, bream, catfish and walleye. Near Lake Ouachita, the spawning runs of white bass in the spring attract many fishermen. Hunting is permitted on lands within the Ouachita National Forest boundary. State hunting and fishing regulations, fees, and seasons apply.
0.0 Pine Ridge - Put in at bridge on gravel road off Arkansas 88 at Pine Ridge. This upper section of the river is not recommended in low water season.
9.0 Oden - Access point
13.0 Pencil Bluff - Access point
19.0 Rocky Shoals - Forest Service access and float camp. Seven camping units, picnic area, sanitary facilities, drinking water. No fee.
26.0 Fulton Branch - Forest Service access and float camp. Seven camping units, picnic area, sanitary facilities, drinking water. No fee.
28.0 Dragover - Forest Service access and float camp. Eight camping units, picnic area, sanitary facilities, drinking water. No fee.
31.0 River Bluff - Forest Service access and float camp. Seven camping units, picnic area, sanitary facilities, drinking water. No fee.
42.0 Highway 27 - Corps of Engineers Recreation Area.
Go to: Ouachita National Forest
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication