Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Kayaking the White River Mists in Summer

Mist and Bluffs of The White River
The White River, located in northern Arkansas is an excellent Ozark river that originates in the Boston Mountains of the Ozarks. You can find good canoe launches on White River at Bull Shoals dam, at the Concrete Arch Bridge in Cotter, Arkansas and at boat ramps at Rim Shoals and Buffalo City, Arkansas. There are also a number of put-ins after the North Fork confluence at Norfork, Calico Rock, Sylamore and Guion, Arkansas. Since our riverside lodging was just south of Mountain Home, Arkansas, we had to drive for about five hours on this Oklahoma Road Trip.

The water in the White River is so cold that it creates a white mist as it mixes with the hotter surrounding air. This is why they call it The White River...and here I thought there was going to be real whitewater rapids.

Dianne and I began our first-ever, White River float trip at 7:30am on Saturday. We had my Perception Swifty and the Malibu X-Factor Kayak that Dianne had rented from Riley's Station Outfitters & Hide-away. The put-in at Rim Shoals was about 15 minutes from our cabin by road and just less than two hours by water. I assumed that we would catch some good kayak photography light by launching early, but the mists fooled me! Next time, I think I will sleep in a bit more!

At the Rim Shoals launch, we could only see about 6 feet in front of our boats due to the thick mist that rose over our heads. However, we could hear the steady whine of boat motors on the river. Smarter paddlers might have waited for the mists to clear, but we paddled right out into it with nervous giggle.

The feeling of paddling blindly through these chilly mists in our kayaks, knowing the water below is too deep and too cold to stand, was thrilling. Although the temps were well into the mid-eightees already, at water level it felt like 71 degrees in full sun! The water was deep for the entire trip and the current never slacked up. It was a real 'float trip' with no slow pools to slog through.

Dianne's huge Malibu X-Factor Fishing Kayak came loaded with great features. We have rented SOT kayaks from other outfitters before but we have never gotten such high-end gear. At nearly 14 feet long, this was a much larger craft than either of us have ever paddled. This made it a bit cumbersome to turn quickly, but we never really needed to make any quick turns on the White River.

The Riley's supplied the X-Factor with a top-notch high-back seat and a very nice paddle from Crack of Dawn. You ride very high and dry in this kayak, even in waves and boat wake. A true anglers kayak, the X-Factor is stable enough to climb all over and can carry about 600 lbs! The lodging they supplied was quite good as well. You can't beat their front row seats at the Buffalo River / White River confluence!

Stop by our White River Kayaking page for information on how you can plan a trip to paddle these magical water yourself. Riley's Station makes an excellent base of operations for exploring the White River, the Buffalo River, Crooked Creek and the other amazing outdoor resources in the area, but our page lists a number of other choices as well.

In any case, I would suggest you break out the serious cold water paddling gear ANYTIME you paddle this river. Whether you prefer wet suits, dry suits or quick drying synthetic shirts and shorts... you will certainly want to leave the cotton clothing at home for this float trip.


Mac said...

I've been meaning to do a white river for quite some time now. Fitting that I stumbled on to this. Great post!

Thomas said...

Thanks for stopping by, Mac!

Anonymous said...

Do you have time for some advice? (Giving, not getting!). We've floated the Buffalo a lot but never past Rush. We are planning an October float, Rush or Buffalo Point to the White River. Some of our paddlers will be novices. Can we make it UP the White river to Buffalo City after entering he White? A friend told me we may have to paddle DOWN river to another take-out if the White is up. Your guidance? Thanks, and good paddling! Bob

Thomas said...

Thanks for your comment, Bob!

I've only paddled that part of the river once, but the current was far too strong for paddling upstream on the White River when I was there. Your mileage may vary.

Thomas Jones