Our first visit to The Mulberry River in Ozark, Arkansas this weekend was a blast!
Just a couple hours down I-40, the Mulberry River offers a fun ride with constant current and loads of fairly easy rapids. In fact, the Mulberry offers about 40 miles of great canoe & kayaking water. This river is rainfall driven, so you must plan your trip carefully. Too much water makes it very dangerous and too little water means dragging your kayak through the shallows. Visit the Turner Bend website for a daily updated gauge of the current river level. They will even sell you a detailed river map and canoe guide with all of the named rapids listed.
Since Dianne and I arrived at Turner Bend late in the afternoon, we took the short four mile float trip from the public access at Redding Campground in The Ozark National Forest down to the Turner Bend take-out at the Highway 23 bridge. The Mulberry River level was at 2.05 feet according to the Turner Bend gauge. The river level was perfect for a couple of recreational kayakers like us. As you can see from the picture on the right, the Mulberry provides lots of chances to test how cold the water is! The nice folks at Turner Bend shuttled both of our kayaks for a mere $16. I am eager to return and paddle more of this thrilling river.
Kayakers had better snap on the sprayskirt for paddling the Mulberry River. Although it is not as rocky as the LMF, there are loads of ripples and standing waves that make it difficult to see the rocks that are there. There are many more rapids on the Mulberry River than the Lower Mt. Fork River. Rather than the typical pool & drop, the Mulberry River water descends at a consistently swift pace through rapid after rapid.
Since we launched so late in the day, we had the river practically to ourselves. This was surprising because the Turner Bend store where we arranged the shuttle was absolutely packed with bikers! Turner Bend is located where the river crosses Highway 23. This is part of 'The Pig Trail', a scenic roadway popular with motorcycle clubs and car clubs. The Pig Trail and the National Forest campgrounds bring folks from all over the country to this beautiful part of the Arkansas Ozarks.
One of the best features of this river is the great put-in and take-out spots. Our put-in at Redding Campground was large and made with tons of lovely native stonework. With so many riffles and S-curves to paddle on the Mulberry, it is easy to lose track of time. Thankfully, Turner Bend has a take-out that you simply cannot miss. One highlight of our Turner Bend visit was seeing the electric boat lift they use to bring canoes & kayaks out of the water. For me, it was love at first sight!
The Mulberry River is an exciting series of whitewater rapids, so keep your wits about you. Watch the river levels closely, dress for immersion and paddle sober for the ride of your life! Dianne and I paddled the river without flipping the kayaks, but we still managed to get quite wet. To contact the Mulberry River outfitters and plan your own float trip, visit our Mulberry River page at: http://www.oklahomaroadtrips.com/Float-Mulberry-River.htm
While you are there, check out the town of Altus, Arkansas, home of several local wineries & vineyards, just 20 minutes away! If you don't have time to visit the wineries in person, just grab a few bottles of Arkansas wine at the Turner Bend store!