Page Tools

Skip Navigation LinksHome » Outdoors » Canoeing, Rafting & Kayaking » Kings River Trip Planner

Kings River

Map of Arkansas Rivers Image PDF

High in the Boston Mountains of Madison County lie the beginnings of the Kings River. From this steep country the stream twists its way northward to the White River and finally flows into southern Missouri's Table Rock Lake. In its upper reaches, the Kings cuts a narrow gorge through sandstone, shale, and limestone. On downstream the surrounding countryside is not quite so precipitous, but the water is the same--clear and cool.

The Kings' most attractive features are found along the rocky banks and bluffs where floaters will notice wild azaleas, ferns, umbrella magnolias, and other fascinating plants. In addition, observant visitors can view a great many signs of wildlife--beaver cuttings and deer and raccoon tracks, for instance--and may even spot some of the local creatures.

SECTION DESCRIBED: Headwaters to the Arkansas-Missouri border, a distance of approximately 90 miles.

Characteristics

The headwaters area is, of course, no place for Kings River rafting, canoeing or kayaking, but it does offer some hiking opportunities. One good place in particular is the Kings River Falls Natural Area, a preserve of the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission. In addition to observing the falls themselves (which drop about 6 feet over a water-sculpted ledge), visitors can inspect a great many interesting plants in the area, and history buffs might try to envision the grist mill which was once located at the site. To get there, travel to the community of Boston, located on Arkansas 16. At Boston, go north on the county road for about 2 miles until the road forks. Keep to the right and continue north for another 2.5 miles or so, at which point the road again forks. Take the left fork, ford the creek, and then park your car to the right. A trail--about three-quarters of a mile along and paralleling the river--will lead downstream to the falls.

While some floating takes place in the Kingston area, Marble is a traditional starting-off place for many Kings River rafting, kayaking and canoeing visitors (note: the put-in is northwest of Marble at a county road crossing). After eleven miles of deep pools, overhanging trees, occasional rapids, and several large bluffs, floaters will arrive at Marshall Ford, an access point northeast of Alabam.

The second Kings River rafting and floating stretch is the Marshall Ford to Rockhouse run, a 15-mile trip through quiet and attractive country. Access to the river at Rockhouse is a little out-of-the-ordinary; floaters must navigate a feeder stream (Warm Fork Creek) for a few hundred yards before entering or exiting the Kings.

A seven-mile stretch from Rockhouse to Trigger Gap is the third in the series, and offers a peaceful float. The take-out point is a low-water bridge on Arkansas Highway 221 about 9 miles southwest of Berryville.

The next section--Trigger Gap to the U.S. Highway 62 crossing--is a favorite of Kings River rafting, kayaking and canoeing veterans. The 12-mile trip combines good scenery with good fishing. Osage Creek, the Kings River's largest tributary and a float stream in its own right early in the year, enters on the right about a quarter of a mile above the U.S. 62 bridge.

A 12-mile float from the 62 crossing to Summers Ford (off Arkansas 143) is another memorable Kings River rafting run, and a popular choice for fishermen. Some fine gravel bars are found in this stretch of the river.

The last Kings River trip begins at Summers Ford and concludes eight miles later in Missouri at the Highway 86 bridge. Halfway into the trip floaters will encounter backwaters of Table Rock Lake.

Seasons

Upstream from U.S. 62, the April-June period is considered best for Kings River camping and floating, although fall rains, if sufficient, can make for good canoeing. Below 62, floating extends into early summer.

Access Points

General Highway Maps for Carroll and Madison counties will help floaters locate the entry points listed in earlier paragraphs. (Note: Visitors are advised that access is not recommended at the U.S. Highway 412 bridge east of Marble.)

Scenery

Overhanging hardwood forests, fine gravel bars, and rugged bluffs give the Kings River good marks in the scenery department. Also attesting to the stream's beauty is the fact that in 1971 the General Assembly passed legislation to protect that portion of the river in Madison County, noting that it "possesses unique scenic, recreational, and other characteristics in a natural, unpolluted and wild state." Thus, the Kings River was the state's first stream to receive governmental protection.

Fishing

A float on Kings River is a return to fishing in its purest form--no motors, no loaded bass boat, only your partner quietly paddling as you both absorb the untainted outdoor grandeur. The Kings has countless rock bass and hefty channel cats, but when fishing this stream, first and foremost on the minds of most anglers are the big smallmouth bass.

If you want to catch the real Kings River lunkers, take along heavy tackle. Some people expect bass from this smallish stream to be small, too, and that can cost trophy fish which commonly reach four to six pounds. A baitcasting reel, a medium-action rod, and 10- to 12-pound line are appropriate.

Two sportfish often overlooked by Kings River anglers are the walleye and white bass. Both species are common in the portion of the river near Table Rock Lake during the spring spawning runs in March, April and early May. White bass will hit a variety of shad-imitation lures and minnows, while walleyes are usually taken on live baits such as minnows, crayfish and worms or artificial lures, particularly deep-running crank-baits and jigs.

Services Available

Berryville and Eureka Springs are both located near the Kings River and can meet the needs of most visitors and provide supplies for Kings River camping trips. In addition, several outfitters have operations in the area for those wishing to experience the stream.

Other Information

Folks who enjoy floating the Kings River will be equally delighted by its sister stream, War Eagle Creek. War Eagle, which flows west of the Kings and parallel to it, is chiefly a springtime float offering good scenery and fine fishing. Canoes may be rented at Withrow Springs State Park which borders the stream north of Huntsville.