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.
The headwaters area is, of course, no place for Kings River 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 one-quarter of a mile down river from the low-water bridge on Arkansas Highway 221.
The next section--Trigger Gap to the U.S. Highway 62 crossing--is a favorite of
Kings River 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.
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
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.)
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.
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
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
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.
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.