This river offers a good Class II to III+ challenge among A+ scenery in the Ouachita National Forest.
The river is generally pool drop with the pools in the first half of the run containing some decent current. Higher water levels offer lots of big waves and a few hydraulics.
Put-in: Ouachita National Forest Campground Albert Pike. Take Hwy 369 North from Hwy 84 at Langley.
Take-out: Hwy 84 bridge West of Langley. There are a couple of access roads on the strecth below Edgar's surprise for other options.
Below Big Hole, the river offers larger pools but still has a few nice rapids and waves, most notable is 'Accellerator'.
For More info check out:
Ozark Whitewater, Tom Kennon
First main rapid located where boulders appear to block the channel. Multiple routes are available, most prefer the left. Pins are very possible if longer boats get sideways.
Series of 4 ledge drops of 1-3 feet each as the river cuts through the mountain ridge. The first ledge offers a large hole and waves, the following ledges require maneuvering to avoid rocks and holes.
Leaving the Winding Stairs, the river turns right and shortly enters a nice class II wave train. Be on the watch for the boulder on river right near the bottom and head for the eddy behind it. The wave train leads to diagonal ledge below the boulder. The river left side of the ledge is home to one mean hydraulic. Best to run the ledge on the right below the boulder.
The river turns to the left and drops through a rapid with several holes and rocks to dodge
Just rafted this run on a 12ft raft on March 1, 2018. It was a blast. I think flow was 7ft. Even though the gauge history doesn't show it, I checked the gauge here on the website the day we floated and that is what it read. I know they had flash floods in Arkansas, and it read 9.7ft at 8am the same day. It is a dangerous river because it rises fast and drowned a lot of campers at Albert Pike several years ago. As a result, camping is no longer allowed at Albert Pike. DO NOT PUT IN UPSTREAM OF ALBERT PIKE. The low water bridge at Albert pike will kill someone at high flows. Just put in at the bridge at Albert Pike.
Winding stairs' last rapid forms a corkscrew/vortex horizontal hydraulic at this level, and it is either run it or choose getting slammed into the cliff face where the river makes about an 100 degree left turn. I definitely think it is a class IV at this level, so I would scout this rapid using the hiking trail on river left before the first of the three ledge drops. Once you start them, you are committed.
The road for the river takeout at hwy 84 has gotten washed out, but it still passable. I would recommend an SUV or Pickup.
Gauge located at the Hwy 84 bridge.
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
Use the map below to calculate how
to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.
View from Winding Stairs Rapids Boulders
Winding Stairs Creek Waterfall
End of Winding Stairs Rapids
Winding Stairs Rapids (1st Drop) (The keeper hole)
Winding Stairs Rapids (1st Drop)
Winding Stairs Rapids (1st Drop) of the Needle
Pinball Rapids/a.k.a. Eye of the Needle
Close-up of Pinball Rapids
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