Advice on kayaking to the gulf

-- Last Updated: Sep-26-14 7:31 PM EST --

Hey guys, I'm somewhat new to kayaking, but have lived on the water since a kid. I'm 23 and plan on kayaking from my town, Little Rock, Arkansas, to the gulf of mexico. Just looking to meet some experienced people who can give me a few tips.

I have a pelican blue 100x sit in kayak, tent, light fishing gear. Will that suffice? If not, what would you recommend?

-Where do I look up routes?
-How do you guys go about going through the dams?
-What should I be cautious about besides barges & dams?

If you have any other advice I'd appreciate it! :)

UPDATE: Haha, I realize these were very vague questions. I've seen a lot of unprepared people go through with this trip and I realize I've fallen into that category as well. We are planning a trip down the Arkansas right now and will postpone the more gnarly currents for when I have some better gear. I'll keep you guys posted with the trips


go with
the flow !

try utube.

Go in winter…February/late January. Catch a breeze from the Pole heading south. When you get here, here will be mild. The biting insect count low. Low motor boat count.

The Gulf is windy. A winter wind will blow south and east to the Big Bend. there’s a Florida State kayak route there.

I have a trip report here: Flamingo to Long Key.

If you have the opportunity, go !

Hi Ryan.
Fellow central Arkie here. :slight_smile: First, are you familiar with the Arkanssa Canoe Club? If not check us out. Great group, and don’t let the name fool you. It’s not just made up of canoeists.

Now to your questions. What kind of paddling and self rescue/recovery experience do you have? Kayak camping experience? Do you know how to make field repairs to a boat? Do you have flotation? You’ll need a rock solid mastery of all this stuff to make that trip, especially in a big box store rec boat. Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not hating on your boat, but it wasn’t designed for that kind of use, so if you want to go through with this the skills you need to have before attempting it are even more critical. Start there and I bet you’ll soon see what I mean with regard to the boat.

If you want some specific suggestions for short “see if you can do this before you even consider that” type of trips I’ll be happy to make some and possibly even join you on a few. Good luck with the planning!

Go for it!!!
Sounds like a great plan. Lots to learn and consider. River trips of any great length are more of a mental journey than a physical one.

Your questions are a bit vague…you mentioned about “routes”…well just looking at any road map shows you the Arkansas River in Little Rock runs SE to the Mississippi and from there it flows to the Gulf of Mexico.

I’ve got about a dozen friends who’ve paddled all 2340 miles of the Mississippi starting in Minnesota or having started in Montana and took the Missouri river to the Miss etc. Anyway…they were out anywhere from 4-8 months of paddling.

How much experience do you have?

I’m not familiar with the Arkansas river there in Little rock…but looking at the map I don’t see any “dams” and there are no dams once you reach the Mississippi.

Get a good map of your route and study it.

Figure your time you have to do it in.

FIgure how many miles you intend to paddle each day.

Learn how to read the river, currents etc and navigational hazards such as bouys, wind dikes etc on the Mississippi. Watch out for barge traffic.

Join the two main FaceBook groups…Mississippi River Paddlers and Lower Mississippi River Paddlers… there are about 30 paddlers on there that have done the whole river. Some may have done the Arkansas River.

Face Book Search “Arkansas Canoe & Kayak” groups and join them to find who did the Arkansas River.

Get ahold of this group and ask questions…they even have a message forum.

Here is other info on the river below too.

Get a good PDF and wear it.

Get Good rain gear

Get a good tent and bag.

Youtube paddling videos for more information such as food for extended trips, making your own,planning etc etc. Plenty of info on the net.

Google Earth is a great way to zoom in on potential camps and see whats there…ie. nuke plant, sewage plant, boat ramp, town, etc etc

I have a friend right now that started 120 days ago in Montana and is paddling home to Dallas Texas. He is currently below Memphis and will paddle up the Red and Trinity rivers once he getst there. Check out his website to see/learn/read about his trip, what it takes, gear, challenges, obstacles, mental prep etc etc.

his website is

I also have two other friends paddling to the gulf of mexico from Montana…learn from their trip here at

Other people that I know who have paddled down the Miss are

each one covers the route except the Arkansas that you want to paddle…the Miss…etc,read what they encountered to learn more.

Hope that is a starting point.


I’m not sure if this is a joke
So at the risk of being played, I’ll bite. I think you should put off your trip until you’ve gotten a bit more experience. Enjoy gettting to know the hobby and learn more skills on day-long trips, then some overnighters, and finally some several-day long trips to hone your skills and learn the shortcomings of your equipment (by then you will probably figure out that you’ll want a different boat for such an undertaking), then you might have second thoughts about how fun such a trip would really be. In the meantime, check out this website to take an armchair journey of the mississippi by canoe

No joke
Yeah we really are planning it. I agree though…I didn’t realize the preparation that goes into hitting the mississippi. I go out on the Arkansas River all the time, which isn’t too bad…but it is a big river.

We are going to hit the Arkansas for about a week then see how it goes. Most likely going to postpone the Mississippi trip for late winter after I get more experience.

I don’t have training from someone personally, but I’ve done my research on the web and take that to the water when I do go out. I appreciate all the responses! I’ll post my trips as I go :slight_smile:

Yeah, I like to dive head first into projects. This is one I will make sure I’m prepared for. Saving up for a better kayak. Honestly I’ve heard of people doing it in all sorts of shitty boats, but safety is definitely a concern to me.

Thanks for the tips. Lets hit the water soon!

Lets hit the water
I’d also love to hit the water with you sometime. I live close to downtown little rock. I usually put in at pinnacle, go down the little maumelle river and end up downtown on the arkansas river. Also awesome fishing down the maumelle if you like to kayak fish.

Feel free to add me on facebook. Ryan Bennett from North Little Rock

Range of material from Revolutionary War to Sherman’s memoirs to USGS treatise on river bottoms and flows,from Google Book searchs on Mississippi River.

Chapman is essential.

search for: State and County Parks Mississippi River area

Don’t miss the good ones, stop an stretch.


nice bridge, mudy river

Big river
If you are going out where you cannot easily get to shore to dump water out of your boat, you need to add flotation. Sufficient flotation takes a lot of space, when you start to pack your camping gear and supplies, you will find you want a bigger boat. I started with a ten foot sit in, added flotation, and developed a good forward stroke keeping up with the longer boats in the club on day trips. When I bought a longer boat, I had to conscientiously slow down to keep from getting ahead of the group.

Join a club, you will get a lot of advise, and some members will let you try their boats, and you will have fun.

A week on the Arkansas is a
great way to start. I’ll look you up on FB in a bit.

Another test paddle
If you do not want to worry about setting up a shuttle I can highly recommend a multi-day camping trip on Lake Quachita. Camping on the islands or in any of several primitive campgrounds around the Lake. You can launch and then circle around the lake as long as you want and end back up where you started. It is a beautiful place to paddle and would make a fine place to do some shakedown trips before your big one.


Funny, that’s another one I was going to suggest to him. Good place to learn to deal with boat wakes too. And, of course it’s stunningly beautiful. Are you another fellow Arkie?

Was just there this summer
Really pretty lake, but I would recommend to anyone not to go in summer. It was my first trip to Arkansas, kind of expected it to be rednecky, but was still shocked by how rednecky it was. As I said, the lake was really pretty and we had a great campsite, but the lake was crowded with yahoos who seemed to like making wakes with their big loud boats (with added speakers playing terrible music really loud) and the camping areas were overrun by people who have no respect for other peoples’ privacy in their campsites and they would just walk right through our campsite to get to the water, and let their inbred kids rough house right next to our campfire.

Should have camped on an island.

down the road…

– Last Updated: Oct-07-14 10:24 PM EST –

I research bird behavior and seismology. A well off old man with longish east coast hair, shiny new van, expensive kayak/canoe on top headed for New Madrid, I stopped at my Cos KOA.

They ran me off with a loudspeaker. I stayed at the rest stop down the road.

People at New Madrid were pleasant. Interesting place. Tour the loop. Quake signs are all over, disjointed sidewalks, depressed roads, out of line fences and poles. Use a GPS, there's a road down to the Mississippi landing.