Arkansas Water Trails offer beautiful kayaking
The Arkansas Water Trails program is a fun excursion for the outdoor adventurer in Arkansas. As part of the educational programs with the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission, the trails are located throughout the state along rivers, streams, and bayous. According to the agency’s website the program offers a variety of settings for all levels of paddling experience. It says the kayaking and canoeing trails are well mapped and excellent day trips.
In February of 2015, Lagena and I decided to try out paddling in the bayou. We chose the Bayou DeView Water Trail because it is located equal distance from both of us. I had always wanted to float in a bayou because I love the beauty of swamps and marshes.
Lagena and I met up in Brinkley and drove east to the Rock Island Road Access on Bayou DeView. A map of the trail via the Arkansas Water Trails website can be viewed here. We decided not to shuttle but instead paddle upstream and then back downstream, because we wanted all of the time we had to be on the water.
We quickly got caked in mud because we could not figure out where the boat access from the road was. I’m thinking the water level was a little lower than usual because we had to haul our boats over some marshy terrain before finding the river.
The water was slow-moving. We had to really look to see which way the water was flowing, which was nice for paddling upstream. The water trails are well-marked with blue diamond markers on trees. Before we went, a friend mentioned to take GPS in case we got lost on the trail. We however stayed on the trail fairly easily, but we only did a small portion and I’m not sure how well-marked the other areas are.
When we got out into a less wooded portion of the bayou, the paddling became easy and I thought we were out of the woods (pun intended). As we paddled upstream on the bayou, it meandered back into the woods.
I saw a small rapid, and thought it was neat to see such a thing in a bayou. But I quickly learned that the small rapids were not our friend. Small rapids meant log jams and were hard to kayak over.
You may not have to navigate swift currents or rated rapids, but kayaking in the bayou is not without its difficulties. Maybe not as difficult as whitewater kayaking, but maneuvering the log jams and shallow water left me sore.
One of the problems with kayaking around the log jams was I wore my hiking boots assuming I would not have to get my feet wet. Had we gone in the summer, I would have worn my Chacos sandals, and not thought twice about having to get out of the boat and to pull it over the logs.
Lagena and I would do these stomach lunges to shift the kayak over the logs, which was probably a wonderful workout. On a few, I eventually gave up and stepped into the cold muddy water, boots and all.
Despite the cold, a benefit to going in the winter was we did not have to fight the mosquitoes nor the snakes, so it was definitely worth it.
We quickly came to the intersection of I-40, paddling under the interstate. From there the bayou widens and is beautifully serene. I love seeing the cypress, water tupelo, and other wetland trees.
After the trail became narrow and more wooded again, Lagena and I had fun kayaking up to the trees that have been hollowed out at the bottom.
We of course came to more log jams, however it became a game to see if we could find a way around them. Some areas the logs were so thick, we had no other option, however we never came to one that we could not get around.
Arkansas Water Trails are a great way to watch wildlife as well. Bayou DeVeiw is in the area where the famous ivory-billed woodpecker, once thought extinct, was sited.
We turned around at the start of a spur trail to Lake Hickson, which also has an access point. The markers for the spur trails are red squares.
Paddling downstream was much faster and we got back to our takeout spot earlier than we thought, so we continued on down for a little ways.
The water trails are something Arkansans should be proud of. It was peaceful and serene, despite the log jams and I cannot wait to explore some more.