Mammoth Spring is the headwaters for the Spring River. Flowing at
almost 10 million gallons of water per hour, the state's largest spring
provides great canoeing and fishing on the river throughout the year.
SECTION DESCRIBED: Mammoth Spring State Park to
the Black River, a distance of about 57 miles.
There's no getting around the fact that Spring River
is chilly. After all, every hour nine million gallons of 58-degree water are hard to
ignore. But it is this volume of cool water that: 1) makes the Spring River a year-round
float stream, and 2) allows the river to be regularly stocked with rainbow trout.
Most Spring River canoe trips take place in the 17-mile
stretch between Mammoth Spring State Park and Hardy, a historic town in northern Sharp
County. This section is recommended for beginning to intermediate canoeists, and is very
popular for family outings.
The first half of this section begins at the base of Dam
#3, a former hydropower structure located south of Mammoth Spring. To get to the launching
area, take Arkansas 342 (west off U.S. 63) for slightly less than a mile. Floaters of this
nine-mile portion can look forward to numerous rapids, and even a couple of small
waterfalls (both of which should be portaged in high water). The take-out point is Many
Islands Camp, a private development located between Hardy and Mammoth Spring, and about
two-and-one-half miles west of U.S. 63 (directional signs are present).
The second half of the Spring River's upper portion
begins at Many Islands and concludes about eight miles downstream at Hardy Beach, a public
park below the U.S. 62-167 bridge on the stream's southwest (right) bank. Like the
previous section, this one also features rapids and waterfalls although they're not
as frequent. One especially noteworthy spot is High Falls, a six-foot waterfall which
looks considerably taller than that from a canoe going over its brink.
The Spring River remains "floatable" for another
thirty or so miles below Williford. While this section is seldom visited by canoeists
because of the long, slow pools, folks strictly interested in a quiet fishing trip might
find it ideal.
The constant flow from Mammoth Spring makes the Spring
River a dependable year-round stream for floating, even in the summer months when most
other creeks are too low.
The Spring River is one of Arkansas's more accessible
streams, with U.S. Highway 63 paralleling much of its length. Major public access points
include: Cold Springs and Dam #3 (both reached off U.S. 63 between Hardy and Mammoth
Spring), Bayou Access (off Arkansas 289 on the river's west side), Hardy Beach, the
Williford Launch Area (off Arkansas 58), two entry/take-out points at Ravenden (one south
of town on a county road; the other to the east at U.S. 63), and a final launch site at
Imboden (at U.S. 62 crossing). In addition, access can also be obtained at several private
developments along the river.
Clear water, overhanging trees, and occasional wildlife
make the Spring a scenic float. The very construction of the river itself (a stairstep
series of ledges and pools) makes it one of the most interesting and appealing in the
The cool waters of the Spring River provide ideal
conditions for stocking trout. While rainbow trout are by far the most
abundant and popular
species and attract the most fishing, but recent stockings of brown trout have also proven
successful. Anglers have been known to travel great distances to the
Spring River for the rainbow trout fishing and brown trout fishing. The likelihood
of catching a lunker trout on the Spring is minimal, but what the fish lack in poundage by
comparison with trout fishing on the White or Little Red is compensated by the fierce
fight that the fish can wage in the relatively calm water.
The stretch of river from Mammoth Spring to Dam No. 3 is
best waded and fished afoot except for the deep portion of the river near the dam. The
first mile or two is an ideal flyfishing stretch. The heart of the Spring's trout
waters lies in the three-mile stretch below the dam. This portion of the river, which is
difficult to fish from the bank, holds some of the larger trout. One- to three-pounders
are fairly common in the shoals and pools down to Many Islands, but the flow of water from
Myatt Creek a few miles further on increases the water temperature to such a degree that
very few trout are found in the river below.
The best brown and rainbow trout fishing spots are immediately below the
falls where the falling water hits, creating a frothing white mass. Back under the ledges
is where the rainbows lie, waiting to nip out and grab food coming over the falls. The
most deadly method is to stand on the lip of the falls and let lure or bait drift over the
lip with the current. Strikes are lightning fast and hard to feel in the churning water.
When it comes to Spring River fishing, brown trout and rainbow trout aren't the only catches around. The Spring River offers high-quality
smallmouth bass fishing and seasonal walleye fishing. These two species are scattered in
the river from Myatt Creek to well below Hardy. Spring River anglers will also find good
action for jumbo channel and flathead catfish, tailwalking spotted bass, and small but
sassy rock bass, warmouths and longear sunfish.
The nearby towns of Mammoth Spring and Hardy can supply
the needs of most any visitor. Private resorts, campsites, motels and canoe outposts are
readily available in the area.
One attraction that should not be missed is Mammoth Spring State Park. In addition to viewing one of the largest springs in the country, visitors can
hike, picnic, or even examine an exhibit of train memorabilia.
Next door to the park is the Mammoth Spring National Fish
Hatchery, the nation's leading producer of smallmouth bass (and also a source for
largemouth and striped bass, walleye, channel catfish, and redband trout). Visitors can
take a self-guided tour of the hatchery, and also view one of the nicest public aquariums
in the region.
Another place worth a closer inspection is Hardy, one of
those towns that have managed to retain a good deal of their original character. Attractive
old buildings are still in place, with many of them housing shops featuring antiques or
local arts and crafts.
And one last bit of news for floaters: the Spring
River's South Fork is "canoeable" during many months of the year. The first
float--a twelve-miler--is from Saddle (on Arkansas 289) to the bridge at the
Cherokee Village Campground. A six-mile trip from this bridge down to Hardy Beach is also
possible. While the South Fork's gravel bars are great for picnicking, potential
campers should note that these same gravel bars can be quickly inundated following local
or upstream rainfall.