It wouldn't be completely accurate to describe the
Mulberry River as 50 miles of whitewater, but it would not be far
from the truth for
several months of the year. The stream is definitely one of the
state's wildest rivers during spring. From its beginnings deep in the
to its confluence with the Arkansas River, the Mulberry pours over
ledges, shoots through
willow thickets, and whips around sharp turns. These "wild"
what give the stream its class II/III rating, and high marks from
the floating public.
In drier times, the river takes on a completely different
personality. It's a good place to swim, wade, skip rocks, and stalk the wary smallmouth, spotted bass, and longear sunfish. The best floating during the summer months is on an air mattress at one of the
local swimming holes.
In short, the Mulberry River is a seasonal stream, but the
good news is that it offers a season for just about anybody. The General Assembly
recognized this fact in 1985 when it officially declared the Mulberry to be "a scenic
river of the State of Arkansas." In addition, the Mulberry was named in 1992 a National Wild and Scenic River.
SECTION DESCRIBED: Source to Arkansas River, a
distance of 50-55 miles.
The Mulberry flows in a west-southwesterly course in its
rush to leave the Ozarks. Access points are fairly common, particularly where the stream
is within the Ozark National Forest.
The first major put-in point is at Wolf Pen Recreation Area,
which is off of Ark. 215 and about 2.5 miles downstream from the Ark.
103 bridge. Takeout for this float is
frequently Byrd's Adventure Center, located 8.5 miles downriver. Another popular access point is High Bank on Ark. 215, just 9.2 miles east of Cass and the Pig Trail Scenic Byway. This put-in for the Mulberry is also the starting point to reach one of the state's most beautiful waterfalls: High Bank Twins.
The second float begins at Byrd's Adventure Center and concludes 7.5 miles
downstream at the Ark. 23 crossing, often referred to as Turner Bend.
There is plenty of class II excitement along this route, including some
boulders that tend to influence the stream flow. Redding Campground,
a Forest Service
development, is located midway through this trip, while a private
camping area is found at
The third major float originates at the Ark. 23 bridge and
continues 10.5 miles to a U.S. Forest Service access point known as
Campbell Cemetery. Like the Mulberry's earlier floats, this one features
solid class II whitewater, plus several notorious willow thickets
that should be
negotiated with caution.
The Mulberry's last section -- from Campbell Cemetery to the Mill
Creek access point on Plymouth Road -- is a favorite of some floaters.
During the 13-mile trip, some floaters continue past Mill Creek another
four miles to the Bluff Hole U.S. Army Corps of Engineers park just east
of the town of Mulberry on U.S. 64. The pools on this section are
longer, requiring a bit more paddling, but many feel this is more
than offset by the solitude offered during this stretch. Class II
rapids and the
ever-present willow thickets can be expected.
Traditional floating months are late fall to June, but
conditions can vary according to local rainfall. The best bet for
canoeists is to call the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' river level
recording (501-324-5150). Readings between 2.0 and
4.0 are ideal, while 4.5 and beyond are considered dangerous.
Primary points of access include Wolf Pen campground (off Ark. 215) Arkansas Highways 23,
103, and 215, Campbell Cemetery (off FR 1512), Forest Roads 1501, and 1504, and U.S. 64. And while the Mulberry is
located in some of the state's wildest country, the stream is amazingly convenient;
the Highway 23 crossing is less than a dozen miles north of Interstate 40.
Visitors to the Mulberry can expect basic Ozark Mountain
scenery--narrow canyons, tree-lined bluffs, and dense woods. A good assortment of
wildlife is found in the immediate area, including one of the state's largest
concentrations of black bears. The stream itself is clear, cool, and challenging.
The Mulberry River is a fine fishing stream provided
you're on it at the right time. In early spring, it's frequently too high and
fast for a "laid back" fishing trip. In late spring and early summer, though,
when things have calmed down somewhat, the river is an excellent choice when angling for
smallmouth, largemouth and spotted bass and green and longear sunfish. The potholes can be
fished during drier months but getting to them may require some hiking up or down a
Supplies and overnight accommodations are available in
Ozark, a city located about 15 miles south of the Highway 23 crossing. In addition,
outfitters are located on or near the river.
The Forest Service operates two campgrounds--Redding
and Wolf Pen--on the river, and three others--Shores Lake, Ozone, and White Rock
Mountain--within easy driving distance. Campsites are also available in conjunction
with a couple of the outfitting operations.
While much of the Mulberry River is within the boundaries
of the Ozark National Forest, the stream frequently flows through private property, a good
bit of which is posted. Visitors, therefore, are urged to take care not to abuse the
rights of riparian property owners.
Canoeists should also make a point of checking into local
weather forecasts. A heavy rain can quickly transform the Mulberry into a rampaging
torrent. Because of the chance for these sudden rises, visitors are advised that camping
on islands and gravel bars is generally not recommended.
Get the current U.S. Army Corps of Engineers water level readings for the Mulberry and other Arkansas streams at http://ar.water.usgs.gov.
The Corps reading for the Mulberry is taken near Mill Creek on the
lower portion of the river. You get the latest readings for levels at
Turner Bend by visiting .
You can also contact Byrd's Adventure Center for river levels as well: 479-667-4066
Finally, anyone desiring more information on the stream
should read Margaret and Harold Hedges' The Mighty Mulberry, a 16-page guide
to the entire river. It is available through the Ozark Society Foundation, P.O. Box 2914,
Little Rock, Arkansas 72203.