The Wild & Scenic Mulberry River
Best Times to Float the Mulberry:
Normally the Mulberry can be floated from late October to mid June. It generally cannot be floated during the hot summer months.
Fall floating is available only after heavy rains bring the river back up. Locally heavy rains can make the river too high to float for a day or two at a time. Normally the river will crest at Turner Bend within 8 hours of the end of the last rainfall.
The headwaters of the Mulberry originate in the heart of the Boston Mountains, which are the highest and most rugged of the Ozarks. Many of the mountain ridges that define the edges of the watershed peak out at over 2300′ elevation. The Mulberry flows approximately 62 miles west-southwest to its confluence with the Arkansas River. Along the way it drains almost 400 square miles, the majority of which lies in the Ozark National Forest.
The Mulberry River is a free flowing stream unimpeded by dams. None of the tributaries are dammed except Hurricane Creek at Shores Lake. No major springs feed the river. The current river level is determined by the amount of rainfall recently received coupled with the time of year. If rains have been frequent enough to keep the water table up, then the river will rise quickly with the next rain and drop slower than when the water table is low. When warm weather arrives and the trees are full of leaves, it takes a lot more rain to keep the river up than during the November-March period when the weather is cool and the trees are bare. Warm weather also increases the evaporation rate. These weather conditions can make for some great white water canoeing and white water kayaking.
The Mulberry reached an all time recorded high of almost 21′ at midnight on December 2, 1982.
Please Keep in Mind:
The Mulberry is very temperamental. One day it can be a lazy meandering stream, the next it might be too full to run. Always check the current river level.
Be especially cautious about strainers and downed trees. The Mulberry has its share. Frequent floods are constantly washing away old obstacles and creating new ones.
Canoes cannot “run” tree hazards, so always avoid these. Portage if necessary.
Floating The Mulberry:
The Mulberry offers about 40 miles of good floating. Depending on the water level most canoeists cover anywhere from 6 to 15 miles in a day’s float. At low water levels 2 miles per hour is common. At higher water levels, 3 miles per hour is average. The following is a brief description of the various river segments.
WOLF PEN TO TURNER BEND
Gradient: 16′ per mile upper half,
12′ per mile lower half
The Mulberry is a narrow stream at Wolf Pen. The best action begins after the confluence of the Little Mulberry
2 miles below Wolf Pen. Big Al’s Twist and Chainsaw Jungle come before High Bank Access, 2 miles below the Little Mulberry.
Next comes Jump Start, Whoop and Holler and several other rapids as the river twists around one curve after another. The action is fast and continuous. Byrd’s Landing is 4.5 miles below High Bank. Troll Shoal is a fun run just above the Low Water Bridge. Stay to the right to get under the Low Water Bridge.
The stretch of river from Low Water Bridge to Turner Bend has steady action. There are few named rapids, but there are several tight curves that will wreck an unwary canoe at high water. Redding Campground is on the right 2.7 miles below Low Water Bridge. Two miles below Redding is the Sacroiliac Rapid where a large boulder sits on the outside of a right hand curve. Turner Bend is 1.5 miles downstream.
TURNER BEND TO CAMPBELL CEMETERY
Gradient: 11′ per mile
The river takes on more of a “pool and drop” characteristic here. Watch for fallen trees in the second mile below Turner Bend as the bank is very erodible here. Rocking Horse/Picture Book come back to back midway in this run.
Big waves and good times here!
Several more wide shoals lead you up to a big field on the right just after the river turns west. Milton Ford is 1.9 miles before Campbell Cemetery. A half-mile before Campbell is Hamm Falls, one of the best rapids on the river. Be ready for this one! Rock steps on the right mark Campbell Cemetery.
CAMPBELL CEMETERY TO MILL CREEK
Gradient: 11′ per mile
This is a beautiful and remote stretch of river. The pools are long, but the rapids are big. Hell Roaring Falls, 3 miles below Campbell, is a thrill. The middle part of this run is slow but the action picks up near the end as the river breaks out of the mountains. Mill Creek access is 1/2 mile below a large cable that crosses over a long pool in the river.
River Levels for Kayaking, Canoeing, and Rafting
The Mulberry River gauge at the Turner Bend landing measures the river level in 2/10s increments. The river difficulty as it relates to that gauge is described as follows:
Below 1.2 – Very low. Lots of dragging. Kayaks only.
1.3 – 1.4 – Low but floatable for canoes and kayaks. Some dragging unavoidable. Keep your trip short.
1.5 – 1.7 – Mild flow that is OK for beginners.You shouldn’t drag unless you pick the wrong path.
1.8 – 1.9 – Good low water floating. Too low for rafts.
2.0 – 2.1 – Mild whitewater with lots of rock dodging. Enough water for a short raft trip.
2.2 – 2.4 – Challenging for beginners because of the exposed rocks. Good fun level.
2.5 – 2.9 – The pools are not flowing fast, but many rapids are at their best in this range. Not a casual picnic float.
3.0 -3.6 – Prime whitewater. Most rocks are covered. Big waves that can swamp canoes. Great rafting.
3.7 – 4.0 – Big fast water with almost no pools. All the rocks are covered at this level. Powerful current.
4.1 – 4.5 – You must know the river and know what you are doing. Kayak and raft rentals only if we are assured that you are skilled.
4.6 – 5.0 – Too much water for rental. Too high to get under the Low Water Bridge. The river exceeds it’s banks and flows through the trees.
* Floods can alter the river channel and cause minor changes in the gauge readings compared to past experience.