Nine million gallons of water flow out of Mammoth Spring every hour, generating the Spring River as a racing stream, just right for fishing and floating.
Section Description & Characteristics
There's no getting around the fact that Spring River is chilly. After all, nine million gallons—every hour—of 58 degree water is hard to ignore. But it is this volume of cool water that; 1) makes the Spring River a year-round float stream; and 2) allows the river to be regularly stocked with rainbow trout.
Most Spring River canoe trips take place in the 17 mile stretch between Mammoth Spring State Park and Hardy, an historic town in northern Sharp County. This section is recommended for beginning to intermediate canoeists, and is very popular for family outings.
Mammoth Spring State Park to the Black River, a distance of about 57 miles.
Mammoth Spring State Park to Many Islands Camp
This first section begins at the base of Dam #3, a former hydropower structure located south of Mammoth Spring. To get to the launching area, take Arkansas 342 (west off U.S. 63) for slightly less than a mile. Floaters of this nine-mile portion can look forward to numerous rapids, and even a couple of small waterfalls (both of which should be portaged in high water). The take-out point is Many Islands Camp, a private development located between Hardy and Mammoth Spring, and about two and one-half miles west of U.S. 63 (directional signs are present).
Many Islands Camp to Hardy Beach
The second half of the Spring River's upper portion begins at Many Islands and concludes about eight miles downstream at Hardy Beach, a public park below the U.S. 62-167 bridge on the stream's southwest (right) bank. Like the previous section, this one also features rapids and waterfalls although they're not as frequent. One especially noteworthy spot is High Falls, a six foot waterfall which looks considerably taller than that from a canoe going over its brink.
Hardy Beach to Williford
Another Spring River float is the ten-mile stretch from Hardy to Williford. The water slows down in this run, although interesting rapids can be expected. The take-out point for this leisurely trip is a public launch area behind the United States Post Office at Williford, a small town two miles south of U.S. 63 on Arkansas 58.
The Spring River remains floatable for another thirty or so miles below Williford. While this section its seldom visited by canoeists because of the long, slow pools, folks strictly interested in a quiet fishing trip might find it ideal.
The constant flow from Mammoth Spring makes the Spring River a dependable year-round stream for floating, even in the summer months when most other creeks are too low.
The Spring River is one of Arkansas's more accessible streams, with U.S. Highway 63 paralleling much of its length. Major public access points include: Cold Springs and Dam #3 (both reached off U.S. 63 between Hardy and Mammoth Spring), Bayou Access (off Arkansas 289 on the river's west side), Hardy Beach, the Williford Launch Area (off Arkansas 58), two entry/take-out points at Ravenden (one south of town on a county road: the other to the east at U.S. 63), and a final launch site at Imboden (at U.S. 62 crossing). In addition, access can also be obtained at several private developments along the river.
Clear water, overhanging trees, and occasional wildlife make the Spring a scenic float. The very construction of the river itself (a stairstep series of ledges and pools) makes it one of the most interesting and appealing in the state.
The cool waters of the Spring River provide ideal conditions for stocking trout. Rainbow trout are by far the most abundant and popular species, but recent stockings of brown trout have also proven successful. The likelihood of catching a lunker trout on the Spring is minimal, but what the fish lack in poundage by comparison with trout fishing on the White or Little Red is compensated by the fierce fight that the fish can wage in the relatively calm water.
The stretch of river from Mammoth Spring to Dam No. 3 is best waded and fished afoot except for the deep portion of the river near the dam. The first mile or two is an ideal flyfishing stretch. The heart of the Spring's trout waters lies in the three-mile stretch below the dam. This portion of the river, which is difficult to fish from the bank, holds some of the larger trout. One to three-pounders are fairly common in the shoals and pools down to Many Islands, but the flow of water from Myatt Creek a few miles further on increases the water temperature to such a degree that very few trout are found in the river below.
The best fishing spots for trout are immediately below the falls where the falling water hits, creating a frothing white mass. Back under the ledges is where the rainbows lie, waiting, to nip out and grab food coming over the falls. The most deadly method is to stand on the lip of the falls and let lure or bait drift over the lip with the current. Strikes are lightning fast and hard to feel in the churning, water.
In addition to trout, the Spring offers high-quality smallmouth bass fishing and seasonal walleye fishing. These two species are scattered in the river from Myatt Creek to well below Hardy Spring River anglers will also find good action for jumbo channel and flathead catfish, tail-walking spotted bass, and small but sassy rock bass, warmouths and longear sunfish.
The nearby towns of Mammoth Spring and Hardy can supply the needs of most any visitor. Private resorts, campsites, motels and canoe outposts are readily available in the area.
One attraction that should not be missed is Mammoth Spring State Park. In addition to viewing one of the largest springs in the country, visitors can hike, picnic, or even examine an exhibit of train memorabilia.
Next door to the park is the Mammoth Spring National Fish Hatchery, the nation's leading producer of smallmouth bass (and also a source for largemouth and striped bass, walleye, channel catfish, and redband trout). Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the hatchery, and also view one of the nicest public aquariums in the region.
Another place worth a closer inspection is Hardy, one of those towns which has managed to retain a good deal of its original character. Attractive old buildings are still in place, with many of them housing shops featuring antiques or local arts and crafts.
And one last bit of news for floaters: the Spring River's South Fork is "canoeable" during many months of the year. The first float—a 12-miler—is from Saddle (on Arkansas 289) to the bridge at the Cherokee Village Campground. A six mile trip from this bridge down to Hardy Beach is also possible. While the South Fork's gravel bars are great for picnicking, potential campers should note that these same gravel bars can be quickly inundated following local or upstream rainfall.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication