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Mulberry River

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It wouldn't be completely accurate to describe the Mulberry River as 50 miles of whitewater, but it would not be far from the truth for several months of the year. The stream is definitely one of the state's wildest rivers during spring. From its beginnings deep in the Ozarks to its confluence with the Arkansas River, the Mulberry pours over ledges, shoots through willow thickets, and whips around sharp turns. These "wild" characteristics are what give the stream its class II/III rating, and high marks from the floating public.

In drier times, the river takes on a completely different personality. It's a good place to swim, wade, skip rocks, and stalk the wary smallmouth, spotted bass, and longear sunfish. The best floating during the summer months is on an air mattress at one of the local swimming holes.

In short, the Mulberry River is a seasonal stream, but the good news is that it offers a season for just about anybody. The General Assembly recognized this fact in 1985 when it officially declared the Mulberry to be "a scenic river of the State of Arkansas." In addition, the Mulberry was named in 1992 a National Wild and Scenic River.

SECTION DESCRIBED: Source to Arkansas River, a distance of 50-55 miles.

Characteristics

The Mulberry flows in a west-southwesterly course in its rush to leave the Ozarks. Access points are fairly common, particularly where the stream is within the Ozark National Forest.

The first major put-in point is at Wolf Pen Recreation Area, which is off of Ark. 215 and about 2.5 miles downstream from the Ark. 103 bridge. Takeout for this float is frequently Byrd's Adventure Center, located 8.5 miles downriver.  Another popular access point is High Bank on Ark. 215, just 9.2 miles east of Cass and the Pig Trail Scenic Byway.  This put-in for the Mulberry is also the starting point to reach one of the state's most beautiful waterfalls: High Bank Twins.

The second float begins at Byrd's Adventure Center and concludes 7.5 miles downstream at the Ark. 23 crossing, often referred to as Turner Bend. There is plenty of class II excitement along this route, including some rather large boulders that tend to influence the stream flow. Redding Campground, a Forest Service development, is located midway through this trip, while a private camping area is found at Turner Bend.

The third major float originates at the Ark. 23 bridge and continues 10.5 miles to a U.S. Forest Service access point known as Campbell Cemetery. Like the Mulberry's earlier floats, this one features solid class II whitewater, plus several notorious willow thickets that should be negotiated with caution.

The Mulberry's last section -- from Campbell Cemetery to the Mill Creek access point on Plymouth Road -- is a favorite of some floaters. During the 13-mile trip, some floaters continue past Mill Creek another four miles to the Bluff Hole U.S. Army Corps of Engineers park just east of the town of Mulberry on U.S. 64. The pools on this section are longer, requiring a bit more paddling, but many feel this is more than offset by the solitude offered during this stretch. Class II rapids and the ever-present willow thickets can be expected.

Seasons

Traditional floating months are late fall to June, but conditions can vary according to local rainfall. The best bet for canoeists is to call the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' river level recording (501-324-5150). Readings between 2.0 and 4.0 are ideal, while 4.5 and beyond are considered dangerous.

Access Points

Primary points of access include Wolf Pen campground (off Ark. 215) Arkansas Highways 23, 103, and 215, Campbell Cemetery (off FR 1512), Forest Roads 1501, and 1504, and U.S. 64. And while the Mulberry is located in some of the state's wildest country, the stream is amazingly convenient; the Highway 23 crossing is less than a dozen miles north of Interstate 40.

Scenery

Visitors to the Mulberry can expect basic Ozark Mountain scenery--narrow canyons, tree-lined bluffs, and dense woods. A good assortment of wildlife is found in the immediate area, including one of the state's largest concentrations of black bears. The stream itself is clear, cool, and challenging.

Fishing

The Mulberry River is a fine fishing stream provided you're on it at the right time. In early spring, it's frequently too high and fast for a "laid back" fishing trip. In late spring and early summer, though, when things have calmed down somewhat, the river is an excellent choice when angling for smallmouth, largemouth and spotted bass and green and longear sunfish. The potholes can be fished during drier months but getting to them may require some hiking up or down a slippery streambed.

Services Available

Supplies and overnight accommodations are available in Ozark, a city located about 15 miles south of the Highway 23 crossing. In addition, outfitters are located on or near the river.

The Forest Service operates two campgrounds--Redding and Wolf Pen--on the river, and three others--Shores Lake, Ozone, and White Rock Mountain--within easy driving distance. Campsites are also available in conjunction with a couple of the outfitting operations.

Other Information

While much of the Mulberry River is within the boundaries of the Ozark National Forest, the stream frequently flows through private property, a good bit of which is posted. Visitors, therefore, are urged to take care not to abuse the rights of riparian property owners.

Canoeists should also make a point of checking into local weather forecasts. A heavy rain can quickly transform the Mulberry into a rampaging torrent. Because of the chance for these sudden rises, visitors are advised that camping on islands and gravel bars is generally not recommended.

Get the current U.S. Army Corps of Engineers water level readings for the Mulberry and other Arkansas streams at http://ar.water.usgs.gov. The Corps reading for the Mulberry is taken near Mill Creek on the lower portion of the river. You get the latest readings for levels at Turner Bend by visiting . You can also contact Byrd's Adventure Center for river levels as well: 479-667-4066

Finally, anyone desiring more information on the stream should read Margaret and Harold Hedges' The Mighty Mulberry, a 16-page guide to the entire river. It is available through the Ozark Society Foundation, P.O. Box 2914, Little Rock, Arkansas 72203.