MO Ozarks and into Arkansas

Happy Saturday all,

I will be taking a short term job in the Van Buren area of MO… Timeframe will be late February through all of March. I am looking to do some paddling throughout the area mentioned. Mostly, camp trips and some hard smallmouth fishing. A little about my prior experience:

I started paddling in the great state of Pennsylvania on the Delaware. I have done overnighters from 1-7 days in places such as the Adirondacks, BWCAW, day trips in the coastal Carolinas, Florida Keys, and Maine. My prior boats have been a Wilderness Systems Pamlico 140, and a Current Designs 17 footer (I forget the exact boat, as I wasn’t a huge fan, but it has a fond place in my heart as Big O).

I would love for any info pertaining to water levels, great outfitters that give great intel, fishing tactics, good reads so I can research, anybody paddling the area that wouldn’t mind a tag along. And most importantly, does anyone know who/where to score a sweet boat?? With my most recent home being in the Salt Lake area, I sold my CD when I left SC and my Wilderness is at a family cabin in PA. I have all other gear paddle, PFD, dry bags, camping equip, fishing equip, etc. As you may have been able to tell from the writing, I am super-stoked to be paddling in this area!! Any help is appreciated!


Top 'o the Mornin’
Happy Sunday…

Its a wonderful area you’ll be staying at. Great Paddling… BUT especially in the spring, beware of rapidly rising river levels. I’m not a native but have been a regular at the Pnet Ozark Rendezvous for many years.

You’re best info here will be from, Wildernessweb, PaddlinPam, Mozark, pblanc… and some others. There are a bunch of us here who are have been paddling there all their lives and are better informed than I, especially once you get off the Current and Jacks fork rivers.

The Current River between Salem MO and Eminence is classic! Pulltite or Round Spring campgrounds are good places to base camp if that’s your pleasure. Otherwise there are gravel bars that can be camped on all along the way, but again -beware- I’ve personally never seen rivers that can rise faster than those in the Ozarks in spring. Don’t want to wake up swimming… 8ft overnight is what they often advise planning for on the Jacks Fork.

Otherwise, the Buffalo R. below Ponca is beautiful from what I’ve seen of it. Above Ponca is pretty serious whitewater, Ponca to Ozark Campground will keep you on you toes at 3-4 ft levels, below that things flatten out and get scenic. I’ve never gone below Hasty myself, so I’d refer you to others for that info. There are other fine rivers about also… the Black, Eleven Point, Mulberry if you like whitewater, St. Francis (+ Big Creek), North Fork (of the White R.). Lots of places to paddle and fish.

You might want to skip over to the “Getting Together and Going Paddling” board and ask there - there are several Ozark Paddling threads going right now with a bunch of Ozarkian natives active. They might see your questions quicker over there and be more helpful than I can be. By the way, a bunch of us will be paddling the North Fork this spring, based at the Twin Bridges campground. C’mon by if you’re still around MO/Ar and are moved to join in.

Everything PJC mentioned
plus the Spring just below the Missouri/Arkansas border for a fun little float. No camping on the Spring other than at outfitters’ campgrounds, but the fishing is great; trout, smallmouth, walleye, etc. South Fork of the Spring is a quiet, often overlooked float with great fishing for smallmouth, largemouth and spotted bass. Regarding the Buffalo, with a couple of exceptions the lower reach doesn’t have any whitewater to speak of, but it does have great gravel bars for camping and outstanding smallmouth fishing and is runnable when the rest of the river isn’t. It’s a bit of a hike from Van Buren but well worth it for float camping. The King’s river is also nice if you catch it right. As for where to get a boat, I highly recommend Ozark Mountain Trading Company. Super nice guys. They’re based in Garfield, Arkansas but just opened a store in Ozark, Missouri outside of Springfield. They will fix you up with whatever you need and will be a pleasure to trade with.

Smallmouth Fishing Will Close…

– Last Updated: Feb-21-13 10:51 AM EST – MO March 1st through the last of May. If you throw them back, you wouldn't be ticked but it's best to leave smallies alone until after the spawn is over and the season resumes. Good trout fishing this time of the year, and walleye in the deep holes.

Sorry, know little about kayaks or where best to find one since I paddle a canoe. If you like, I could even loan you a canoe? Heck, you might become a "Convert!"

I can point you to good fishing spots in a private e-mail, but I prefer being a bit discreet over the internet. Especially since the fishery on the rivers has declined over the decades.

Good BBQ at the Stray Dog on the west side of the river. You're less than an hour from excellent fishing on the Eleven Point also. Send an e-mail when you get settled.