Editor’s note: Flip Putthoff has been reporting on the region’s great outdoors for almost 40 years. He’s agreed to share some of his favorites haunts for his favorite activities starting today in NWA Outdoors.
Summer is a good season for a float down an Ozark stream. The water is fine for swimming. Fish are eager to bite. There is plenty of daylight for early birds, or for those who savor an evening drift.
Here are five summertime trips, in no particular ranking, guaranteed to float your boat.
1 White River below Beaver Dam
No, we’re not ranking float trips, but if we were, this would be No. 1 in our book. Why? Because the water is ice cold and feels grand on a warm summer day. The river is scenic and full of rainbow trout. It’s suitable for novice paddlers, and there’s always plenty of water because of releases from the Beaver Lake Dam.
A trip from the dam access to Houseman Access is seven miles. Bertrand Access is right in the middle, three miles downstream from the dam. Shorter floats from the dam to Bertrand, or Bertrand to Houseman are possible.
2 Indian Creek
This lovely stream in southwest Missouri doesn’t get much traffic, even on weekends. Not many outfitters rent boats on Indian Creek. The stream is easy to navigate and fishing for smallmouth bass is superb. The water is clear for swimming. There are plenty of gravel bars for picnics and swim breaks.
A good float is the five mile trip that starts at an access upstream from Indian Creek Campground. Put in at the access along Indian Creek Road where there’s a roomsized boulder by the river. Indian Creek Campground rents boats and does shuttle service.
3 Kings River
The Kings River has clear water and superb fishing. There are several floats available, depending on water level. A popular trip is the seven miles from Rockhouse Access to Kings River Outfitters. A long float takes in 11 miles from Kings River outfitters to the U.S. 62 bridge access. Or, float from U.S. 62 to a private pay access at the Grandview Bridge on Arkansas 143.
4 Illinois River
River rats can take a float trip or just play in their boats at the Siloam Springs Whitewater Park along the river. The water is stained to clear, with good fishing for smallmouth and largemouth bass.
A good float trip is a six-mile trip from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission access south of U.S. 412 to the whitewater park.
5 Buffalo River
During summer, floating the Buffalo means paddling the middle and lower stretches of the stream. As with any float trip, try to go during the week to avoid crowds. This is especially true on the Buffalo. The Buffalo during summer is a paradise for swimming.
Floats are doable most of summer from Tyler Bend to the White River.
Indian Creek features a gentle current that is suitable for paddlers of all skill levels.
John Chapman of Fayetteville kayaks July 10, 2016, at the Siloam Springs Kayak Park just south of Siloam Springs.