White River, Arkansas

Does anyone have any info on paddling the White River in Arkansas, mainly below the Bull Shoals dam?

I have trout fished this river several times, wading from access points and also using the long john boats.

But the river is seldom if ever mentioned for paddling on this forum. When water levels are so low on many Ozark rivers, is this worth considering?

I know that the river is subject to big fluctuations depending on the number of power generating units that are running. Also, river front development has diminished some of the scenic aspects but some of the bluffs are comparable to the Buffalo. The water quality is comparable to most spring fed rivers in the Ozarks. You would also be sharing it with a lot of fishermen on weekends.

So, what is your opinion? Is the White a sleeper or not worth messing with in a canoe?

What are you waiting on?

If you have a chance to explore it, go out and tell us what it is like.

I have never paddled the White, but hit the Buffalo quite a lot. I can’t imagine the White not being worth a try. I sure do miss Arkansas!

Have you checked the Arkansas site
where they have maps and descriptions of the better canoeing streams? My own download is tied up on the hard disk in a dead computer, but if you google, you should be able to find it. There is bound to be at least a little useful information, because the lowest section of the Buffalo River involves traveling onto the White to take out alternatives. So the Buffalo National River site may also offer information.

When I was a boy, I visited my uncle in Springfield, MO. He was a fly fisherman, and taught me to catch stupid trout at hatcheries with a split bamboo fly rod and hand-tied wet flies. One of his favorite venues was the White River, but I think his most publicized accomplishment was catching a huge channel cat with his split cane fly rod.

Been on it around Eureka Springs AR
It was awesome! Not fast water or anything like that, the current was running fairly well, but the scenery was beautiful. This was in June/July time frame and the water was still freezing. We all had a blast


lower White
I’ve only floated it from the mouth of the Buffalo down to Norfork. Sounds like you already know most of what you need to know about it. It’s got BIG bluffs, but lots of development. Depending upon the amount of water running, it can be either pretty slow but with some interesting riffles in low water, or pretty fast but pretty boring paddling in high water.

I think it would be well worth doing from Bull Shoals all the way to Calico Rock or even below, just to see a big Ozark river and to dream of what it used to be like before the dams. Before the dams were built, the most famous stretch of smallmouth river in the world, and the first river that developed a guided float fishing industry, was the White and James, from Galena on the James (now at the upper end of the James arm of Table Rock) down to Cotter on the White.

Pretty good characterization of that stretch of the river. Also where the bass boat industry evolved from those original flat bottom, long john type river craft that could get over the shallow shoals w/very little draft. Also, wasn’t the Clinton’s Whitewater development in that area?

First time I went down there was in the early 60s. We wade fished for rainbow trout without waders. But that was usually in July when you could crawl out on a hot river rock and shiver oneself back to life. The river bottoms were still almost totally undeveloped then – cow pastures mostly. Now the green, steel-roofed, mega log cabins are becoming dominant features of the river frontage. Hmmm… why do I seem to have been a lot richer back then with the green cow paddies squishing up between my toes?

The White River
is one of the best places to paddle its a fast flat water paddle one day and a raging river the next

I was by it today

The paddle from Calico Rock to Allison is about 17 miles and agreat float

Some of the trout resorts are starting to rent canoes and rafts so it want be long till evryone finds out what a great river it is

I`m working on a Race for the same 17 miles will keep evryone posted


– Last Updated: Feb-26-06 8:21 AM EST –

Are there any good places to camp along the White from below the dam at Bull Shoals all the way down to the end of where you take out on this 17 mile stretch? I know there is a state park with camp sites just below the dam. There are many private trout docks along the way. Do they cater to campers? Will the trout docks run shuttles for canoeists?

I just dug out my Arkansas Floaters Kit and found the White River. The map shows that west side of the river from Buffalo City to Allison is the Ozark National Forest. Is some of that river frontage public land and open to campers?

Also, I see that the Boy Scouts have an annual trip from Bull Shoals State Park to Batesville, 120 miles. Do you know how long this trip would take?

Thanks for your input.

Any classification on the water at different levels? I can't quite translate your description of the water. I know there are shoals and ledges with drops. And there is one hell of a current at high water levels. And the water is about 57 degrees. And that fishermen do die on this river due to mistakes like anchoring in swift currents. But does any of this add up to a Class II anywhere along the White?

The white
has been known to rise as much as 15 to 20 feet during spring rains my friends dock has been tore apart from it but that said most of the time it is a control river from two lakes up north its a wide river with gravel bars

I`m not sure about camping I have seen people camping but I was fishing at the time

I have a friend that ahas a resort at Allison and rents canoes I think he wood shuttle you or tell you where to go and more details(Anglers)

The canoe race you check out on our web site for our race in Little Rock

paddleArkansas.com check regional events

I think I covered most of your questions

white river
I paddle it all the time - both in canoes and kayaks. Usually I’m fishing but I’ve paddled it just for the heck of it as well. Due to the water releases from the dam the water level fluctuates greatly. It is floatable even with no generators running. With all eight running the current is quite swift and the river can be dangerous if you are not paying attention. The water is cold 55 -58 degrees so you don’t want to capsize. Threr are tent campgrounds at many of the fishing lodges and National forrest camping on the lower portion. Once again be sure to camp above the high water level. The scenery is beautiful - tall bluffs, hardwood and pine covered mountains, and lots of wildlife. And I think you would be remiss not to take your fishing gear.

Thank you for the report. I have checked several of the trout docks for camping info. Is the National Forest land below the confluence of the White and Buffalo well marked?

Here is an email response I received from Gary Flippin who owns Rim Shoals Trout dock (Gary is one of the friendliest people on earth):

“Thanks for thinking of us. You are welcome to stop at Rim Shoals and camp anytime.

It is best to call ahead - we have scout troops camping on 2 of our March weekends. But most of the time there is plenty of room.

If you want to put in at Wildcat Access and float to Rim, we’ll shuttle a vehicle for you. You can continue to Buffalo City the next day and we’ll take your vehicle down there, too.

Finding other spots on the river to camp can be tricky if you’re going for several nights. Most property is privately owned and you’ll have to check with other resort owners along the way to check their camping policies.

Hope to see you soon”

white river camping
the float from wildcat shoales to rim shoales is a good one day float during low water, even with some fishing along the way. If the water is up then it would be a shorter day float. This section is between 12 and 15 miles. In high water the river flows at about 3+ mph. About 3 or four miles further down from Rim shoales is the Ranchette access to the river. you could camp there overnight as well. You can make it to the start of the Nat. Forrest the following day as it is about another 15 miles. By the way the Rim shoales area is a premier catch and release fishery. If you are planning to truely fish your way downriver then I would not try to do more than 5 to ten miles per day (stopping to fish every good hole.)