One of the most popular fishing and floating streams in
Arkansas, the lower Little Red River flows from the base of Greers Ferry Dam near the town
of Heber Springs to eventually merge with the White River at the Hurricane Lake Wildlife
Management Area just east of Searcy. The chief reason for its popularity is its status as one of Arkansas's blue ribbon
trout streams - thousands and thousands of trout are stocked in the stream on a regular basis.
Good scenery and convenient access also work in the river's favor.
SECTION DESCRIBED: From Greers Ferry Dam to
Ramsey Public Access, a distance of approximately 29 miles.
The Little Red River is generally a good year-round float.
The condition of the river is dependent upon generation periods of the powerhouse at the
dam. It becomes very swift and dangerous in spots when water is released, but after
generation ceases, the Little Red reverts to a peaceful Ozark mountain stream with long,
gentle pools and numerous shoals. During periods of high flow, the river should be floated
only by experienced boaters.
The first few miles of river below Greers Ferry Lake are
strewn with boulders, making a challenging float for canoers, but a difficult one for
crafts larger than a johnboat. Beyond this stretch, there is a long pool of deep water.
Farther downstream, an island hinders river travel. The usual approach is to veer left at
the island, which will take floaters into one of the largest Little Red River trout fishing holes.
Approximately one-and-one-half miles downstream, a series of shoals impedes travel of
large boats when water levels are low. Beyond this shoal area, canoes are the best choice
for shallow areas and a series of bends. Next is a three-mile-long deep hole, followed by
a narrowing of the river into another long shoal. These shoals give way to deep pools
above Pangburn, then the river's pace picks up with a series of rapids upstream of
the low water bridge north of town. Beyond the rapids, the river widens as it flows
through another series of shoals. The last access point, Ramsey Access, is a few miles
downstream. Total distance from the dam to the last access is 29 miles. Trout waters end a
few miles beyond the Ramsey area at Arkansas 305.
A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers public ramp on the north bank,
located next to the Federal Fish Hatchery, is the easiest access to the upper portion of
the river. Other public access points on the middle and lower stretches of the river,
maintained by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, include Barnett (Winkley Bridge),
Lobo (adjacent to Lobo Landing Trout Dock), Dripping Springs, and Ramsey. Four commercial
boat docks also offer launch ramps.
Most of the land bordering the river is privately-owned
and is posted. Always check with landowners before attempting access to the river via
Water conditions on the Little Red don't vary so much
by season as they do by day of the week. On weekdays, when power demand is usually at its
greatest, water is frequently released around mid-morning. Demand for electricity drops
over the weekends, and so do water levels. When the river reading is low, expect to wade
and drag boats over the shoals.
The scenery is outstanding, easily good enough to offset
one of those rare occasions when the fish aren't biting. As it cuts through beautiful
Ozark foothills, the Little Red provides excellent year-round viewing.
The Little Red is among the real blue-ribbon trout streams
of America and takes her place alongside the White as one of the best in the South.
Hundreds of thousands of rainbow trout are stocked here annually, and periodic releases of
brown trout have produced an excellent fishery for that species as well.
The secret to Little Red River trout fishing is light tackle and
small lures. Ultralight spinning rigs and two- to four-pound line are popular. Most trout
are taken on bait, rather than artificials, simply because more anglers use it. Whole
kernel corn, redworms, nightcrawlers, waxworms, salmon eggs, and even Velveeta cheese all
take their share.
Favorite artificials for Little Red trout fishing include marabou
jigs, small spinners and spoons, and crayfish- and minnow-imitation crank-baits. But one
of the most productive techniques involves a curious marriage between bait and
artificials. This rig consists of a small, clear bobber rigged about four or five feet
above a brown feather jig, on the barb of which is impaled a small white waxworm. The rig
is cumbersome to cast, but that's acceptable since the proper fishing technique is to
work the lure in as slowly as possible.
During highwater, driftfishing with the current is
favored. Bait is cast upstream and allowed to bump the bottom as it drags behind the boat.
On low water, stillfishing deep holes, weedbeds, and timber from an anchored boat is
preferred. The Little Red is also one of Arkansas's most popular flyfishing streams,
and the many shoals exposed during low water periods offer ideal locations to hook a hefty
trout on a variety of fly patterns. Arkansas's trout season never closes, but many of
the larger fish are taken from October through February.
Although Little Red River trout fishing gets most of the publicity on the Little
Red, anglers shouldn't overlook opportunities for taking other species as well. The
river has healthy populations of chain pickerel, spotted and smallmouth bass, green and
longear sunfish, rock bass and bluegills.
A network of resorts, private campgrounds, restaurants,
bait shops, and Little Red River trout fishing guide services has been established to serve the recreating public. In
addition, the nearby city of Heber Springs serves as a trade center for the surrounding
area. Public camping spots are located on Greers Ferry Lake.
In the spring, the forks of the Little Red are floatable
above Greers Ferry Lake, and the best of the lot is probably the Middle Fork. Flowing
between the towns of Leslie and Shirley, the Middle Fork cuts a 30-mile path through some
of the state's most rugged terrain. The river boasts a sharp fall creating a series
of rapids that can be treacherous during periods of heavy rainfall. Only experienced
canoeists should attempt this float when water levels are high. Another of the
tributaries, the South Fork, flows for 13 miles between Scotland and Clinton, and is not a
bad fishing stream.
Canoeists interested in getting on new water might also
check out Big Creek, one of the Little Red's major tributaries. Several put-in points
are located on county roads east of Wilburn (see a Cleburne County map for details), while
the traditional take-out is an old iron bridge near the stream's confluence with the
Little Red. To get to the iron bridge, go north on Arkansas 110 from Pangburn, then turn
east on a county road about three-quarters of a mile beyond the Little Red River bridge.
Highlights of the float include deep pools, class l/II rapids, towering bluffs,
and--believe it or not--cypress trees and knees.
Floaters will also find several interesting attractions in
the area. One is the Greers Ferry Visitors Information Center, an impressive structure
housing a museum, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers display, and an exciting audiovisual presentation
of the region's history. Two nearby trails, Mossy Bluff and Buckeye (handicapped
accessible), provide lofty views and interpretive stops along the way. In addition,
visitors can tour Greers Ferry Dam and the National Fish Hatchery, located just downstream
from the dam.