Discover the 16 Best Rivers for Whitewater Rafting in Arkansas

Written by Keyana Beamon
Updated: November 3, 2023
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Key Points:

  • The state of Arkansas has great whitewater rafting rivers of rafters of all experience levels.
  • Many rivers contain sections with different difficulty levels – guides should be consulted.
  • Rafters should avoid class 5 and 6 rapids – which are dangerous and unpredictable.

Whitewater rafting is an outdoor activity where you take a raft into fast, choppy, shallow waters. Each river or creek that has rapids is classified by difficulty. Each rated river gives rafters of each experience an idea of how crazy the rapids can get. Class one rapids are easy and have very few rocks or obstructions throughout the stream. Class two rapids are a medium difficulty and may require some maneuvering along the way. Rapids that are high and irregular are labeled as class three. This type of difficulty has narrow passages and requires some maneuvering and experience. Extremely fast-flowing, strong rapids are in the class 4 difficulty. This is a very difficult rapid having large rocks and irregular rapids. Class 5 and 6 rapids should be avoided if possible. These rapids are dangerous and highly unpredictable! Arkansas has many great whitewater rafting rivers for all experienced rafters!

1. Cossatot

The Cassatot River is located in the Cassatot River State Park. The river begins in the Ouachita mountains south of Mena in western Arkansas. Cossatot River has a variety of difficulty levels throughout the waters. Most of the river is rated medium difficulty; however, some sections can be rough and should only be toured by experienced whitewater rafters. “The term Cossatot means skull crusher.”

The term “Cossatot” means skull crusher.

©dlewis33/ via Getty Images

2. Buffalo National

Buffalo National River is located at Tyler Bend, 8 miles north of Marshall, Arkansas on Highway 65. The river runs through Newtown, Searcy, Marion, and Baxter counties. This is the most popular river the whitewater rafters love to visit and float on. The river is rated easy to medium and great for beginner whitewater rafters.

Buffalo National River

Beautiful landscape of the Buffalo National River area in Arkansas, colored by autumn

©Strekoza2/ via Getty Images

3. Eleven Point

Boze Mill spring with turquoise blue water. Beautiful aqua colored water with aquatic plants. Tourists visit the float camp that flows into Eleven Point River. Conceps of tourism, Arkansas, nature

The Eleven Point River is great for nature-watching.

Image: Kimberly Boyles, Shutterstock

©Kimberly Boyles/

The Eleven Point River begins in Randolph County, north of Pocahontas. The river is rated easy to medium and is great for relaxing and observing nature. Look out for any wildlife throughout the river!

4. Cadado

The Caddo River begins in the Ouachita mountains in the south part of Montgomery County. The river flows into Norman, Caddo Gap, and Glennwood. This river is rated easy to medium, which is great for beginning whitewater rafters; however, the river should be avoided in the summertime because of water levels.

Cadado River

Cadado River is a great river for first-time and experienced whitewater rafters.

©Oscar Camacho/ via Getty Images

5. Mulberry

Mulberry River is a great river for all different levels of water rafters. The river has different sections rated easy to difficulty levels. The best time to visit this river is either late fall to early June. The waters are rougher in the springtime because of the sharp turns around ledges and rocks. The river is 55 miles long and is located in Ozark National Forest.

6. Little Red

Fall foliage on the Little Red River

The Little Red River features a section for each level of rafting difficulty.

Image: Faulada, Shutterstock


Little Red is located in Heber Springs, Arkansas, and is easy to difficult, which is great for each level rafter.

7. Spring

Spring River flows from Mammoth Spring in Hardy, Arkansas. The river is pretty cold, so it will make a great place to cool off. Spring River has a rating of easy to medium difficulty.

8. White

The White River is located in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The river has a rating of easy to medium difficulty.

9. Illinois Bayou

The Illinois Bayou begins in the south slopes of the Ozarks and flows through Russellville, Arkansas.

10. Kings

Kings River is 90 miles long and flows through Madison and Carroll counties. One access point to the river is the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s J.D. Fletcher launch. Kings River is great for whitewater rafting, hiking, fishing, and floating.

The Kings River

The Kings River is a tributary of the White River.

©TrappedPixels/ via Getty Images

11. Little Missouri

The Little Missouri River begins in western Arkansas, southeast of Mena flowing through the Ouachita mountains. The first 5 miles of the river are fast and choppy, whereas the second 5 miles are calm and good for floating. The river is not recommended for beginner rafters after heavy rainfall.

12. Big Piney

Big Piney Creek is located in Ozark National Forest in northwest Arkansas. The creek is 67 miles long and is considered one of the best float streams in the state. Some stretches are great spots for whitewater rafting – and the entire creek is surrounded by rugged natural beauty.

13. Ouachita

Ouachita River begins in western Arkansas at the base of Rich Mountain. The river gets wide and deep close to the end of the river. This river is great for either floating or whitewater rafting and has water year-round. The river is a class 1 difficulty; however, when the dam opens it can cause rapids to become wild around Boulder.

14. Little Maumelle

The Little Maumelle River flows south of Pinnacle Mountain and east of the Arkansas River. The river is 8.2 miles long and has many wildlife to observe and areas for fishing. Although the river is not known for its rapids, it is fast and dangerous when water levels are high. This river is great for beginner rafters.

15. Richland Creek

Richland Creek has a mixture of difficulty classes of 2, 3, and 4. The creek is located in Newton and Searcy counties. The creek is accessed by the Forest Service road, which is about 9 miles long. The closest towns around the creek are Russellville, Wittsprings, and Jasper.

16. Arkansas

Arkansas River begins in the state of Colorado and ends in eastern Arkansas of Fort Smith and Little Rock.

The Arkansas river

The Arkansas River flows beside a train near Canon City Colorado

©Hundley_Photography/ via Getty Images

Summary of the 16 Best Rivers for Whitewater Rafting in Arkansas

Whitewater Rafting Rivers
1 Cossatot
2Buffaol National
3 Eleven Point
5 Mulberry
6 Little Red
8 White
9Illinois Bayou
11Little Missouri
12Big Piney
13 Ouachita
14 Little Maumelle
15 Richland Creek
16 rivers to whitewater raft in Arkansas have access to wildlife and other outdoor activities

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Rich Flubacker/

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About the Author

Keyana is a licensed veterinary technician who has been working with animals for more than 10 years. She has done a mixture of emergency, preventative, and shelter. She loves to mentor others and has recently started a podcast about the ins and outs of veterinary medicine. In her free time, she love to watch/read anything crime related, tend to her garden, try new foods, work on puzzles, and hangout with friends.

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