Arkansas Water Trails

Arkansas Water Trails are a great way to see The Natural State's lesser explored parts.
Bayou Bartholomew Water Trail in Pine Bluff

I pulled my paddle out of the water and rested it on my kayak. I leaned back and drifted aimlessly through the murky water. My eyes unfocused as my attention went to what I was hearing – different birds calling, a bee visiting a water lily, a woodpecker hammering. As my boat drifted into some weeds and lily pads, I put my paddle back in the water, and then the sound I’ve come to love so much – the paddle dipping into and making waves in the water. The Arkansas Water Trails, are a great way to experience the flooded forests and lowlands of The Natural State.

Arkansas Water Trails

We know that Arkansas has great hiking trails, but Arkansas also has great water trails. There are 13 Arkansas Water Trails throughout the state that is overseen by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. Details of all the trails can be found on the Arkansas Game and Fish’s website.

Water Trails can be extremely peaceful
Little Maumelle River Water Trail, near Little Rock

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, one thing you know I say over and over again is that I love how diverse Arkansas is. From climbing mountains to paddling through swamps, The Natural State is a great place for the outdoor adventurer.

The Arkansas Water Trails are a great way to explore the lowland forests in the delta region of the state. Most of the water trails take paddlers through swamp-like areas, with the exception of the Crooked Creek Water Trail, which gives paddlers some hills and rapids.

Arkansas Post Water Trail near the Arkansas River
Arkansas Post Water Trail

A few of the trails show beautiful areas of lakes, like the DeGray Lake Islets Cove Paddle Trail and the Lake Ouachita Rabbit Tail Water Trail. Cane Creek State Park also offers another great water trail in a lake, however, it is not a part of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Water Trails.

Arkansas Water Trails are a great way to see The Natural State
Bayou Bartholomew Water Trail in Pine Bluff

Watchable Wildlife

You know if the Arkansas Water Trails are a part of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, they are going to be great for watchable wildlife. Birding and fishing are great activities in addition to floating.

A massive lily rises above the water on Arkansas Water Trails
A massive lily rises above the water on the Little Maumelle River Water Trail

There is something so serene about slowly floating along through the forest, hearing the birds, frogs, and other wildlife. This is different from floating a fast-moving river or creek because you don’t have the sound of the water moving through the rapids – it’s just quiet and peaceful.

Arkansas Water Trails are a great way to experience the state
Pinnacle Mountain is shown in the distance along the Little Maumelle River Water Trail

I asked my nephew to float the Little Maumelle River Water Trail with me, which starts at Pinnacle Mountain State Park near Little Rock. He’s deathly afraid of snakes and passed on my invitation. I didn’t see any snakes, but I did see, or actually heard many “sketchy” frogs. That is frogs that jumped off lily pads and gave me a heart attack before I realized what the splash was.

A beaver dam along
A beaver dam along the Little Maumelle River Water Trail

I saw a bald eagle nest along the Arkansas Post Water Trail, which is at Arkansas Post National Memorial. And if you go at the right time of year, you might spot an alligator. I’m not sure how I’d feel about seeing an alligator from a kayak or canoe. My nephew floated that trail with me, but it was in winter when the coldblooded animals are not out.

Mostly Well Marked

Most of the Arkansas Water Trails have trail markers like a regular hiking trail. When I floated the Bayou Bartholomew Water Trail in Pine Bluff, I noticed a lack of trail markers. However, the Bayou was fairly narrow, and it wasn’t hard to figure out which way to go. So you could argue they are not needed.

Sometimes finding your way can be difficult
The Little Maumelle Water Trail

When floating the Bayou DeView Water Trail near Brinkley the trial was marked, but because the bayou is so wide, we really had to be on the lookout for the markers.

And while looking for the backcountry campsite along the Little Maumelle River Water Trail, I got a little turned around and lost.

A trail marker is shown on a tree
Notice the blue marker on the tree along the Bayou DeView Water Trail

I suggest taking a GPS device. One interesting thing about hiking or paddling in the low lands is you don’t have hills, valleys, or other landmarks that help you find where you are on a map. That was one problem I had. There were not many landmarks to help me locate myself.

A cypress tree showing its knees
Cypress trees are pretty neat with their knees that stick up out of the ground

Well Mapped

But one great thing about the Arkansas Water Trails is that the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has wonderful brochures and maps for each of its trails.

They give you GPS coordinates for each access, the trail length, mileage between access points, and about the expected time to float.

Arkansas Post Water Trail
Arkansas Post Water Trail

Arkansas Water Trails are a Great Experience

The Arkansas Water Trails are a wonderful way to experience all The Natural State has to offer. It is true that I love hiking in the Ouachita Mountains and the Ozark Mountains, but paddling in the bayous shows you a different part of the state.

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Arkansas Water Trails are a great way to explore the diversity of The Natural State and go beyond what is typically thought of as an outdoor adventure

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