Each spring dozens and dozens of canoeists load up their
gear and head for canoe and camping trips on north Arkansas's famed Buffalo River. Many coming from central and
southern parts of the state drive up U.S. 65 north of Conway and never realize that they
pass right over another one of the best canoe trips in Arkansas - Cadron Creek.
Cadron Creek begins way up in Cleburne County, nearly within
the city limits of Heber Springs. It flows in a westerly direction, is joined by its North
Fork near Quitman, then continues on a southwesterly course toward its eventual
destination--the Arkansas River. Along the way the stream passes by things most might
expect--fields and occasional farm houses--and, for many, some startling
surprises--rapids, bluffs, and canyon-like surroundings.
SECTION DESCRIBED: Source to Arkansas River, a
distance of about 59 miles.
The Cadron doesn't receive much canoeing use above
the Ark.124 bridge west of Quitman, although the North Fork can be floated downstream
from Gravesville. The first major float trip run begins at the Ark.124 crossing and goes down to
a county bridge--sometimes called the "Iron Bridge"--northeast of Guy.
The float is about 4.5 miles long with class I rapids. Incidentally, history buffs might
enjoy knowing that the bridge marks the site of the Hartrick Mill which operated on the
creek from 1868 until the great flood of 1927. Rocks from the old mill dam still can be
seen in the creek bed.
The second section of the Cadron Creek starts at the county
bridge northeast of Guy (local storeowners can provide directions) and is roughly 10 miles
in length. The take-out point is at the new bridge between Guy and Twin Groves in an area
known as Pinnacle Springs. Once the site of a flourishing resort in the 1880s, the
community boasted a dozen bath houses along with two hotels, a college, a saloon, a
skating rink, and even a cotton gin. To get to this historic take-out, go west from Guy
for three miles or so on Ark. 310 extended. The float trip is a good one, particularly
during its last few miles where the current picks up. Class II rapids--some with
willow thickets--can be expected.
The Cadron's third section--Pinnacle Springs to
U.S. 65--is the shortest of the four, but may make for one of the best canoe trips on the Cadron. In its
three-and-a-half mile run, the paddler will find rocky shoals (up to class II), quiet
pools, and rugged bluffs. Willow strainers will also be present.
The last float trip on the Cadron Creek is the 10-11 mile trip from
the U.S. 65 bridge down to the Ark. 285 crossing 10 miles north of Wooster. It, too,
offers a good experience, complete with class I/class II rapids, the highest bluffs on the
creek, and occasional wildlife.
Cadron Creek is a pretty reliable stream. One published
account claims it can be floated "90% of the time between December and June."
Points of access include: the Ark.124 crossing; the
county bridge northeast of Guy; Ark. 310 going west from Guy; the U.S. 65 bridge; and
the Ark. 285 crossing.
First-time visitors to the Cadron are invariably surprised
at the scenery. Most have no idea that a whitewater stream exists in central
Arkansas--much less that it features bluffs, pinnacles, and caves. But all of these
attractions are found on Cadron Creek. Not only that, the scenery changes from season to
season. Many of the bluffs will be ice-encrusted during the winter months; later on
they'll be the locations for waterfalls.
By all appearances, Cadron Creek should be a great little
smallmouth stream. But surprisingly, smallmouth bass are virtually absent from these
waters. Because the water is warmer than on most Arkansas float streams, the Cadron hosts
a variety of species more commonly found in the sluggish streams of the lowlands,
such as largemouth bass and flathead catfish.
Here anglers pursue tailwalking largemouth bass, feisty
crappie and the good-things-come-in-small-packages bluegill. Flathead catfish, which may
tip the scales at 50 pounds or more, are also present in good numbers, giving the visiting
angler an outstanding opportunity to land a real leviathan.
Most all supplies can be obtained in Greenbrier or other
nearby communities. Conway, about 15 miles south of the Cadron on U.S. 65, is a major
commercial center with overnight accommodations available. For the increasingly popular canoe-and-camping trips, campgrounds are located at
Woolly Hollow State Park a few miles northeast of Greenbrier, and also at the more distant
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' parks on Greers Ferry Lake.
Cadron Creek is also "floatable" downstream from
the Ark. 285 bridge. While it doesn't offer the whitewater recreation of the
upstream reaches, this lower section can make for an enjoyable float trip.
In addition, the Cadron has a sister stream--East
Cadron Creek--that can provide several good float trips. One--the eight-mile
section between Ark. 36 and 107--goes past Mansfield Bluff, Rainbow Falls,
Buzzard's Roost, and an interesting array of tupelo gum trees. A 10-mile float from
the 107 crossing down to a county bridge is also possible.
Finally, Cadron Creek and its East Fork flow almost
entirely through private property. Canoeists, therefore, need to respect the rights of
riparian landowners, especially when planning canoe and camping trips.