Where To Kayak In Northwest Arkansas
By NWA Daily | Published May 4
Northwest Arkansas is a top destination for paddling enthusiasts, with its stunning rivers and waterways providing unparalleled scenery and adventure.
The Kings River, Mulberry River, Illinois River, and Buffalo River are just a few of the many breathtaking rivers in the area, offering a range of experiences from gentle paddling to adrenaline-fueled whitewater. These rivers wind through forests, valleys, and towering bluffs and provide plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife.
Our friends from 37 North share their favorite Spring river destinations in NWA. If you're new to paddling and have an interest in a guided river experience, explore 37 North’s guided river options.
Photo provided by 37 North
Kings River | Beginner
If you're a beginner paddler looking for a gentle yet unforgettable paddling experience, the Kings River in Northwest Arkansas should be at the top of your list. The river's crystal-clear waters and stunning bluffs make it an ideal spot for anyone looking to enjoy the beauty of Arkansas's outdoors. While the river is gentle enough for beginners, it also offers plenty of rapids and challenges for those who want to take their skills to the next level. The Kings River is known for its breathtaking scenery, with towering cliffs, hidden caves, and an abundance of wildlife to admire along the way. You may catch a glimpse of deer, turkey, and even bald eagles, making for an unforgettable nature experience.
Photo provided by 37 North
Mulberry River | Beginner/Intermediate
The Mulberry River, located in the heart of the Ozarks, is a paddler's paradise, with plenty of thrills and scenery to keep paddlers engaged. Known for its whitewater rapids, the Mulberry provides a rush of adrenaline that's perfect for those looking for a challenge. But the river also has stretches of calmer waters, giving paddlers a chance to catch their breath and take in the picturesque landscape. Along the way, wildlife sightings are common, with river otters often spotted in the surrounding forest. Mulberry River is a must-visit destination for intermediate paddlers looking for a memorable experience in Northwest Arkansas. If you’re unsure about your next paddle having a few rapids, consider booking a trip with 37 North, whose guides have extensive knowledge of the rivers and have Wilderness First Aid and CPR certifications.
Photo provided by 37 North
Illinois River | Beginners
The Illinois River is a scenic river located in the northwest corner of Arkansas. It's known for its clear water and stunning bluffs, which make it a popular spot for canoeing, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding. There are few places to access the river, but a kayak park in Siloam Springs is one of the most popular and easily accessible. The river flows for about 145 miles, starting in Arkansas and ending in Oklahoma, and features numerous access points for paddlers. The Illinois River is generally considered to be a gentle river, making it a good choice for beginners. Along the way, paddlers will pass through beautiful forests and may even spot wildlife like deer, turkeys, and eagles, depending on the time of year. If you’re hoping to paddle the Illinois River with a guide, check out 37 North’s private Illinois River paddle trips.
Photo provided by Arkansas Tourism
Buffalo River | Beginner/Intermediate
If you're an intermediate paddler looking for a challenge, the Buffalo River in Northwest Arkansas is the perfect destination. Because the river is seasonal, the best time to visit is March-May. As a designated National River, the Buffalo River is one of the most popular paddling destinations in the country. It offers a variety of paddling experiences, from calm stretches for beginners to challenging rapids for more experienced paddlers. The river is known for its stunning bluffs, crystal-clear waters, and abundant wildlife, making it a true gem of the Ozarks. With its mix of adventure and beauty, the Buffalo River is a must-visit destination for intermediate paddlers seeking an unforgettable paddling adventure in Northwest Arkansas. While 37 North doesn’t offer trips on the Buffalo River, be sure to check out their rental options for your next trip.
Little Sugar Creek | Beginner
Little Sugar Creek is a small tributary of the larger Illinois River and offers a more intimate paddling experience. The creek is known for its clear water and scenic beauty, with towering bluffs and dense forests lining the banks. It offers a gentle paddle with a few riffles and small rapids, making it a great spot for beginners and families. Along the way, you may even spot some of the local wildlife, including turtles, fish, and birds. Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned paddler, Little Sugar Creek is definitely worth adding to your list of must-paddle spots in the region.
Ready to float? Pack your gear, grab your paddle, and get ready for a paddling adventure you'll never forget in the beautiful rivers of Northwest Arkansas. If you want a guided river experience, explore 37 North’s guided river options.
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