What to know
The Illinois Bayou has its origins high up on the south slopes of the Ozarks. As the stream works its way toward Russellville and the Arkansas River, there's nothing slow and lazy about it. It may be the only bayou in the country featuring class II/III whitewater. From the backwaters of Lake Dardanelle to the headwaters in the Ozarks, the Illinois Bayou really is not one stream but four: 1) the North Fork; 2) the Middle Fork; 3) the East Fork; and 4) the main stem (downstream from Bayou Bluff). Rocky outcrops, steep hillsides of dense forest, and periodic glimpses of wildlife can be expected. The main stem offers overhanging trees, interesting vistas, and occasional scenes of pastoral landscapes. Fishing: Bass are king, and anglers will find healthy populations of largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass. Bass fishing is generally best in spring and early summer, although some anglers prefer to fish the pot holes that form during drier months. Cold-water flatheads may reach weights up to 50 pounds or more, making them the largest fish available to float stream fishermen. The best flathead fishing is at night, and the best areas to try include washouts around downed timber and deep holes in the outside bends of the stream. Multi-colored green and longear sunfish are also abundant. These fish readily accept worms, crickets, mini-jigs and tiny crank-baits, and while they rarely reach even a pound in weight, they can provide hours of fishing fun for kids and adults alike. Most any necessity (other than rental canoes) can be obtained in the nearby towns of Hector and Atkins. The nearest outfitter is located on Big Piney Creek to the west. Camping is possible at the Bayou Bluff Campground at the confluence of the Middle and East Forks. In addition, the Forest Service has other developed campgrounds—like Brock Creek and Long Pool—that are within easy driving distance. Primary points of access for the Bayou and its forks are the Arkansas 164 and 27 bridges, and several forest road crossings (chiefly 1000, 1001, 1301, and 1312). The Highway 27 access is less than 20 miles north of Interstate 40.