Tag Archives: Wolf Pen

Float #144: Mulberry River

24 May

Wolf Pen to Turner Bend

F121_Mulberry

Mulberry River
Franklin County, Arkansas
Friday, April 14, 2017
16 Miles
Temperature: 83˚/60˚
Wind: SSE at 6mph
Water Level: 2.1ft. at Mulberry gage

Every Easter weekend DW and I go floating in Arkansas. We usually alternate between the Buffalo and Mulberry Rivers. This year was the Mulberry’s turn. The Buffalo certainly has the breathtaking scenery and bluffs, but the Mulberry is generally more exciting paddling. This year we were again joined by our friend Jake. He rocked the 7-hour one way drive from Nashville solo. The Mulberry is worth it! We stayed at Byrd’s campground, which has good camping right on the river and an excellent restaurant on-site. It’s nice to not have to cook after a long day of paddling!

We all arrived late Thursday night, set up camp and went to bed pretty promptly. The next morning we awoke early, made breakfast and headed up to our put-in at Wolf Pen.

Mulberry River

Prepping the boats at Wolf Pen

Mulberry RiverMulberry River

I took my Dagger touring kayak on this trip and DW brought both the whitewater kayaks as well as one of our Old Town canoes. This river is great because unless the water is high, it is suitable for almost any human-powered watercraft.

The first day DW and Jake took the whitewater kayaks while I took my touring kayak. We brought Ocoee (our dog) on this trip as I figured the weather would be nice and he could ride on the back of my kayak the first day. I even bought him a snazzy little life jacket as I knew he’d probably fall off in a couple rapids. The rapids on this river aren’t that big, class II at most during normal water levels, and Ocoee rides on the back of my kayak just fine on most of our Missouri streams. This day though, he was not having it. This dog HATES rapids. The very first rapid we encountered he bailed off my boat and refused to get back on. I ended up having to shove him into my cockpit, which is not comfortable for me, as he just barely fits and tries to climb up me every time there is splashy water.

Mulberry RiverMulberry River

Mulberry River

Ocoee stuck in Jump Start rapid

There is an infamous rapid just down from High Bank access called Jump Start. It is where the river flows straight into a rock wall and then makes a 90˚ turn. Last time we floated the Mulberry I was in a whitewater boat and did my first wet exit (where the boat flips upside down and you have to exit, roll over, or drown). So this time, even though I was in my trusty touring kayak, I was determined not to hit that wall again. What makes it doubly tricky is several small boulders and a lot of sleeper rocks as you approach the rock wall. I got hung up on one of the boulders and had to lean into it in order to not flip my boat. Ocoee was not making it easier. I knew I had to get rid of that extra weight to push myself off the boulder, so I threw Ocoee out of the boat into the water, which was all of about 4″ deep. I managed to dislodge my kayak and make the turn without hitting the wall. Ocoee decided he was stuck there in the middle of the river where I threw him out. He wouldn’t come to us and wouldn’t move. There was a couple on the gravel bar watching the action (who wouldn’t, it’s a great spot to watch people eat it). The guy offered to fetch Ocoee out of the stream. As he approached Ocoee decided swimming was a better idea than being grabbed by a stranger. He swam through just fine and continued to be a pain in my ass for the rest of the morning.

We stopped for lunch at our campsite at Byrd’s, which is halfway through the trip to Turner Bend. Neither I nor Ocoee was keen on him continuing the second half of the day in my boat. So I left him at camp, where he slept and chewed his bed in contentment while we continued on without all the doggy drama.

Mulberry River

Rapids

Mulberry River

Jake shreds some gnar

The rest of the day was spent shredding some good gnar on the beautiful turquoise water. We finished up at Turner Bend in the late afternoon and headed back to camp to eat an awesome meal at the campground restaurant and drink some beers around the campfire. No one flipped their boat on the first day!

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Float #121: Mulberry River

23 Apr

Wolf Pen to Turner Bend

F121_Mulberry

Mulberry River
Newton County, Arkansas
Friday, April 3
16 Miles

Our Easter float trip this year took us back to Arkansas, this time on the Mulberry River. The Mulberry is about an hour south of the Buffalo River and well worth a visit. It doesn’t have the high bluffs that the Buffalo is famous for, but it has the same beautiful turquoise blue water, Ozark Mountain scenery, and many more rapids. The Mulberry is rain dependent, so the best time to float it is in the spring. It is smaller than the Buffalo, but can rise and fall rapidly depending on the precipitation amount. This is a good river if you like a little excitement and is suitable for an intermediate paddler. If you are a beginner you probably want to hone your skills some before tackling the rocky rapids of the Mulberry. You can float it in a whitewater boat or in a small touring kayak. The upper section has more rapids with few slow pools between them, and the lower section has larger drops between longer pools. None of the rapids on the Mulberry are larger than Class II during normal flow.

DW and I took our whitewater kayaks on this trip. Our friend Jake made the 7-hour trek from Nashville to join us and he brought his 13′ touring kayak. We camped at Byrd’s Adventure Center, where we had a nice camp spot with a pavilion right on the river. There are a couple other commercial campgrounds and a few national forest campgrounds along the river as well.

We were supposed to get a thunderstorm Thursday night, but that never happened. We awoke to cloudy skies on Friday morning, loaded all our gear, donned our wetsuits (cause this water is cold!), dropped a vehicle down at Turner Bend, and headed then up to Wolf Pen access.

Putting in at Wolf Pen

Putting in at Wolf Pen

Mulberry RiverMulberry River

This was my first time ever in a whitewater kayak, so I paddled around a bit in the slow pool at the put-in. Hoo-boy is a whitewater kayak different than a touring boat! Every little move you make causes the boat to react. A touring boat is designed to go forward in a straight line with little effort. A whitewater kayak is designed to spin around in a circle with little effort. I found myself fighting with the boat to try and hit the correct line in the swift water. Obviously I have a lot of learning to do before I feel like I’m competent in a whitewater kayak! DW’s whitewater kayak is a different design and much longer and narrower, so it goes straight a little bit easier than mine.

Mulberry RiverMulberry RiverOf course, I don’t have any photos of the rapids because I was too busy trying to get through them to take a picture. We all made it through most of the rapids without incident until we came upon one called Jump Off Rapid. Jump Off Rapid starts off with a boulder garden that then careens straight into a rock wall. That rock wall is where I bit it. While trying to avoid crashing into the wall I flipped over and was underwater for about 4 seconds. 4 seconds is a long time when you are submerged. Whitewater kayaks are very tight and you don’t fall out of the boat right away like you do in a touring kayak. This was my first time upside down, under water. I remember several thoughts going through my head. The first being, “Well, I’m underwater. Hopefully I don’t drown.” Then I wondered why DW hadn’t flipped me back over yet. Then my brain finally wised up and I pulled my kayak skirt off the cockpit and kicked my legs out of the boat. So I experienced what is known as the “wet-exit” which is a good thing to know when you’re in a whitewater boat!

After my little mishap I was pretty tired. It turns out my whitewater kayak might be too heavy for me and it wears me out fairly quickly. Luckily our campground was exactly half way into our trip. We stopped there for lunch and I decided I was too tired to continue the rest of the trip safely. I let Jake take my whitewater boat so he could experience the wet-exit. And he did, twice.

Jake's first flip

Jake’s first flip

Rescue trainees flip a raft

Rescue trainees flip a raft

Mulberry River

Fixer Upper Cabin

Fixer Upper Cabin

DW takes over narration of the second half of this trip, as I was recovering in camp.

After completing a pit stop at camp for food and adult beverages, we left to complete the second half of our trip down the Mulberry. Jake took Lee’s whitewater kayak and promptly took a swim on an eddy line just after a rapid. This left him a bit rattled given he was on a gravel bar just a few hundred yards from camp. He got the water drained from the boat and regained his nerve thus deciding to complete the trip down the river. It had several rapids that were fun to play in and even more shoals as we worked our way down stream to the low water bridge. We opted for going to river right approaching the bridge. Shortly thereafter there was an old house that is on the river and has just been disintegrating for many years.

Mulberry River

Jake's second flip

Jake’s second flip

Mulberry RiverMulberry River

Almost to the end of our trip, we approached Scroiliac Rapid and both made it through, then out of nowhere Jake is swimming again. The easy maneuverability and large rocker of Lee’s boat caught him off guard on another eddy line allowing for another nice April swim! From here we continued on 1.5 miles to Turner’s Bend to complete our day of adventure on the beautiful Mulberry River. We loaded up our gear and headed back to camp where Lee had a nice fire going. We hit the hay pretty early so we could get enough rest to get up and do it again the next day!