The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail
Arkansas City Gage
We will switch over to the Arkansas City Gage (AG) for this section of river. This gage is located 24 miles downstream of the mouth of the Arkansas River at mile 554, and has been fixed approximately seven feet below the Helena Gage.
Low Water = -13 to 13 AG
Medium Water = 14 to 29 AG
High Water = 29 to 36 AG
Flood Stage = 37 AG and above
Paddling down to the Mouth of the Arkansas River
For better understanding of the immensity of this river wonderland while reading the below, go to a map I created on Google Earth: [CLICK HERE: Map of Mouth of the Arkansas River]. Make sure you’re looking at the Satellite View and for extra effect click Earth.
You are entering one of the wildest places in North America — and not because its so quiet, or so remote. Actually there is a lot of activity here from the nearby Rosedale Harbor, and from all of the hunters and fishermen that frequent the area. Indeed it’s not the absence of humans here or lack of human activity that makes it feel wild. Instead it’s wildness comes from the meeting of two great rivers, the Mississippi and the Arkansas, and the dynamic shifty landscape created at their junction. The last 40 miles of the Lower Arkansas Valley is so flat and flood-prone — and the river waters so unpredictable — that the Army Corps never tried to make it navigable, but instead created access through the White River and Arkansas Post Canal (see previous section). As result the Lower Arkansas runs untamed as a young tiger as it approaches the big mother river the Mississippi.
Paddlers have many outstanding options as they come downstream of the Great River Road State Park (or leave out of the Rosedale Harbor) and approach the Arkansas Bar. 1) Main Channel: the first choice of course is to stay in the main channel and enjoy the confluence of the Great Rivers as you glide by, the channel opening up so completely wide you feel like you are paddling out of a river delta into the ocean. 2) Omaha & Quapaw (Up and Down): The second choice is to paddle upstream the Arkansas River from the confluence a few hundred yards to the bottom of Big Island, or a few miles to one of the beaches on Cat Island, and then turn around and paddle back out. 3) Island Hopping: Third choice is to run behind several of the many splinter islands crowding the confluence, jump into the Arkansas, and paddle down out of the Arkansas to rejoin the big river. 4) Circumnavigation of Big Island: 4th choice would be a complete circumnavigation of Big Island, which would be a challenging week-long expedition in of itself. It might take upwards of 3 days to get up the Arkansas, one day for the portage to the White, One day down the White back to the Mississippi, and one day on the Mississippi. Add two days for exploration, bad weather, and unforeseen circumstances.
RBD 585-580 Arkansas Bar
The best camping in this section of river is found along the Arkansas Bar which parallels the main channel for five miles (at low water) as the river swings out into and then through Rosedale Bend. Arkansas Bar ends at the mouth of the Arkansas River. At low water fascinating campsites can be made amongst the piles of debris and giant snag fields littering the mouth of the Arkansas River. Beware rising waters! Bears frequent this area and bald eagles are often seen. Popular fishing area. As the water rises above 0 AG (Arkansas City Gage) this sandbar diminishes significantly, only a sliver remains at 5AG and then dwindles completely above 10 AG and no camping will be found. If you intend to camp on the Arkansas Bar above low water, you must search for it along the giant sandbar at its top end.
At medium water endless beaches and expanses of sand are found at the top end of the bar from 585 to 582. At high water the only sand is found on the broad plateau of high ground found center island near mile 583. Entire bar goes under at flood stage.