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Strawberry River

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Flowing out of the Ozark foothills in north central Arkansas is the Strawberry River, a friendly stream good for family canoe trips. It begins just a few miles west of Salem in Fulton County, and meanders in a southeasterly direction for slightly over 100 miles before merging with the Black River. While it does not offer the whitewater of the Mulberry or the bluffs of the Buffalo, the Strawberry has a lot going for it: convenient access, interesting scenery, and a smallmouth bass fishery. In fact, because of its fine qualities, the stream's upper section has been placed in Arkansas's Natural and Scenic Rivers System.

SECTION DESCRIBED: Entire length, a distance of approximately 109 miles.

Characteristics

The upper one-third of the Strawberry River is generally too low for good floating, although wade fishing is a possibility for the die-hard. The best bet for a good outing is in the river's middle third--the section between the U.S. 167 crossing north of Evening Shade and the Ark. 115 bridge northeast of Jesup.

The first float, a nine- to 10-mile journey, begins at Ark. 167 and concludes at a low-water bridge which is about two miles north off Ark. 56 and roughly halfway between Evening Shade and Poughkeepsie. A second float--also nine to 10 miles in length--begins at this same crossing and ends at the next low-water bridge about two miles north of Poughkeepsie, just west of Ark. 58. The third float is from this second low-water bridge to the Ark. 58 crossing, a distance of about two-and-a-half miles.

These three floats offer certain similarities. They all possess fine gravel bars, and something else not too common to Arkansas streams--sandy beaches. In addition, these sections all include some very fishable waters, with bass (smallmouth, largemouth, rock, and spotted) and sunfish receiving the most attention.

The Strawberry can also be floated from the Ark. 58 crossing on down to the 115 bridge near Jesup, but it's a lengthy trip (around 20 miles). Rather than floating the entire distance, some fishermen prefer to paddle (or motor) upstream from either of these access points, and then leisurely fish their way back down to the vehicles.

Seasons

For family float trips, the time to visit the Strawberry is in the spring of the year. The river is also a prime candidate for wade fishing when water levels are too low for a successful boat trip.

Access Points

Primary points of access include U.S. 167 near Evening Shade; a low-water bridge north of Arkansas 56 and about halfway between Evening Shade and Poughkeepsie; the Ark. 58 crossing; and the Ark. 115 crossing near Jesup. The Sharp County General Highway Map helps in locating these and other put-in/take-out points.

Scenery

The scenery, in a word, is attractive. The river itself has easy rapids, deep pools, and good-looking water. In many places canoeists are sheltered by over-hanging trees. And the surrounding country, while not wild, is quiet and peaceful.

Fishing

The gravel-bottomed Strawberry offers ideal habitat for channel catfish, one of the primary sportfish found here. These sleek underwater bulldogs usually lurk near rocks and downed timber out of strong current. Crayfish are their primary forage and consequently the best bait, but channel cats will take a variety of other offerings, including worms, minnows, catalpa worms, liver and stinkbaits. Flathead catfishing is also possible, as lunker flatheads haunt the Strawberry, offering heart-pounding thrills to flathead catfishing enthusiasts in-the-know.

While catfish abound in the Strawberry, they are often overlooked by anglers who usually come here to try their luck for spotted and smallmouth bass. Wade fishing for bass is popular in the upper reaches where a fly rod and popping bug can produce non-stop fishing entertainment. However, most bass are taken in the lower two-thirds of the river using ultralight rods and reels equipped with small spinner-baits, jigs, plastic worms or salamanders or crayfish-lookalike crank-baits. Other less important, but often caught, fish include crappie, bluegills, saugers and warmouths.

Services Available

Supplies can be obtained in the nearby communities of Ash Flat, Evening Shade, or Cave City, but for those heading out for family float trips, bring your own boat since rentals are not available locally. The nearest camping facilities are at Lake Charles State Park, located about 15 miles east of Jesup.

Other Information

The Strawberry is another one of those streams receiving a good deal of public recreational use for family canoe trips and friends’ float trips, despite the fact that there is little if any public land along the river. Traditional access points may, in fact, be on private property. Therefore visitors are encouraged to check with local residents concerning recommended put-in and take-out locations.