While growing up in southwest Arkansas, floating the Caddo River was a mainstay in spring and early summertime. The most popular route for a Caddo River float is the 10.5 mile stretch of river between Caddo Gap and Glenwood. This float provides fun rapids that get your heart pounding and mixed with long deep pools for a lazy river float. It takes between four and six hours to float, depending on the water level.
Caddo River Float
Beginning high up in the Ouachita Mountains somewhere between Norman and Mena, the Caddo River flows 82 miles before it joins the Ouachita River near Arkadelphia. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dammed the Caddo River to create DeGray Lake in Caddo Valley.
The lower portion of the Caddo River is also popular for floating, but it’s more of a lazy river float. It also provides great fishing as smallmouth and spotted bass and sunfish are found to be plentiful.
Click here to learn Arkansas kayak laws, rules, and regulations.
But for those who are looking for a little more white water, the portion between Caddo Gap and Glenwood is the best. Better skilled kayakers who want a challenging float can consider floating Norman to Caddo Gap. However, according to Caddo River Camping & Canoe Rental, this 15-mile stretch of river is only floatable after a day or two of good rainfall. They also do not recommend it for children and inexperienced boaters.
According to Arrowhead Cabin & Canoe, you can expect class I-II rapids most of the time for a Caddo River float.
Caddo River Camping & Canoe Rental has a wonderful website that provides the current river level and a good description of what to expect, letting you know if it is too low or too high.
On my last Caddo River float, the gauge is near Caddo Gap gave a height of between 5.8 and 6 feet. This is an optimal river level for a float between Caddo Gap and Glenwood.
The last time I went, none of the rapids were more than I could handle, and I only scraped on the bottom once. However, I did not have to get out and push the kayak off. I was able to scoot it with my paddle.
There were two rapids that I questioned my ability to handle as I approached them. On the first one, which was a little less than halfway down the river, created a small island with a big tree in the middle. I could tell the river was higher than normal because the water line was high on the tree.
Floating the Ouachita River is another great float in southwest Arkansas.
I watched my sister go before me and paddle into the tree. Then the water pushed her around and down the river. I thought she just didn’t know how to paddle until I got to the rapids. Sure enough, the water pushed me sideways into the tree. But I didn’t navigate it correctly and it swung me around the other way. I ended going down the larger rapid…backwards.
It sounds scary, but it really wasn’t. However, for times like this, I would advise wearing a lifejacket. Because even if you think it’s a lazy river float, you never know what’s ahead.
The second rapid that made my hands sweat was at the very end. It had is a big drop, and I maneuvered without tipping. However, I took on a great deal of water. Fortunately, we were right at the takeout and were able to dump our boats.
The put-in for this float is located on Manfred Road in Caddo Gap, this is known as The Swinging Bridge. The takeout is off of Third Street in Glenwood just south of the Highway 70 bridge. You have to go through a cemetery to get there.
Click here for a good map.
They were extremely nice to work with. And just remember when parking, that they are driving in and out with buses and trailers shuttling boaters. So leave them extra space.
Caddo River Float
Floating the Caddo River is a great way to experience the Ouachita Mountains. The scenery is gorgeous. It’s mostly wooded river banks with a few homes or vacation rentals dotting the float.