This reach -- referred to as the Upper Middle Fork of the Little Red River is a wonderful Class II run that meanders through the heart of the Ozarks. Although traversing a seemingly wilderness frontier a rough and rugged road -- and old railroad bed -- parallels the stream along its southern edge (river right) nearly the entire distance allowing the reach to be split into smaller segments. However this reach of 17+ miles can be easily covered in a long afternoon (5-7 hours) when conditions are optimal -- and at less than optimal levels paddlers really should look for another river as many of the shoals will leave a paddler parked high and dry among the willows at lower levels.
This reach takes paddlers into three separate counties (Van Buren, Searcy and Stone) during which they will lose count of the many Class I-II rapids they will descend. High wave trains and gnarly holes abound at optimal water levels -- most of which can be skirted to one side or another. There are two rapids that are bone fide Class III rapids but they are relatively straight shots that don't require scouting or portaging. Several fords cross the stream but only one, a metal grate at Elba, offers an obstacle to navigation. The ford at Elba is best portaged from river right -- any attempt to run it (not advised) should be pursued on river left. There is also a low water bridge at the take-out that should be avoided -- if not taking out you can portage from either bank with re-entry easier on river left.
0.0 Miles: Put-in. Access is easily achieved by putting in upstream of the Highway 65 bridge on Peyton Creek. There is a pull out on NW corner of bridge -- this is private property. You can park without permission on the old road bed just upstream from the bridge; otherwise, you can park further upstream by a small lake and dam to gain easier access but please get permission from landowner before leaving vehicle. NOTE: You can also put in closer to Leslie Arkansas or anywhere alongside Highway 65 as the highway lies close to the river; however, there are no thrills or exceptional scenery to be gained by putting in further upstream.
0.4 Miles: Middle Fork of Little Red River enters from river left. The river widens and gains additional volume.
1.0 Miles: Railroad Bridge Abutments from the long-vanished North Arkansas Railroad. This is where the "Dinky Line" crossed the river on its way to Cotton Plant and Helena Arkansas. The railroad paralleled the river nearly the entire course of this reach and now serves as the Rumley and Elba roadways -- the latter often a deeply rutted mud wallow during the spring -- that are just a few feet off the river (river right).
2.2 Miles: Rumley Ford -- Non-descript ford that could be easily missed.
3.1 Miles: Wilson Creek -- One of the larger tributaries enters from river left. Straight ahead to the NE is Salt Cave Bluff.
3.9 Miles: Rocky Hollow
5.9 Miles: UnNamed Fords. Two separate low water fords within a 1/10th mile of one another.
6.4 Miles: Hurricane Creek enters from river left.
6.8 Miles: Mill Hollow
7.6 Miles: Linn Creek enters from river right.
7.7 Miles: Elba Ford. Be careful -- metal and rebar. Portage river right. Upon reentering river notice the large semi-circular bluff that highlights the ridge to the south (river right). This is the bluff for which Half Moon Mountain gets its name. The river will now meander to circle the mountain from the north. You will also note a power line on river right to serve as a reminder that the road (Elba Road) lies just a few feet from the river.
9.7 Miles: Tom Moss Branch enters from river left just before you cross into Stone County which is just a few meters south of the corner where Van Buren, Searcy and Stone county touch.
12.5 Miles: Cane Hollow on river right, ford. The river now butts up against Half Moon Mountain to the south (river right) and the bluff line moves closer to the river for the next mile. Cane Hollow is a deep box canyon that merits exploration following a big rain to experience the many waterfalls cascading from above.
13.1 Miles: Diggs Shoals (Class II+/III). Named after the Diggs family from Memphis who once had a cabin overlooking this shoals. In Kennon's A Canoeing and Kayaking Guide for the Ozarks he advises scouting from river right -- but it can be easily run without such precautions especially after already negotiating several rapids of nearly the same caliber.
14.4 Miles: Saw Mill Hollow. Nondescript stream enters from left. The river will now make one final turn to the south as it completes its journey around Half Moon Mountain.
16.8 Miles: Ab Smith Hollow. Nondescript stream enters from left. Site of a recent drowning (April 2016) when a car thief in an attempt to avoid capture from pursuing deputies jumped into the river -- alas he could not swim.
17.2 Miles: Take out at Arlberg. This low water bridge should NOT be run. Take out above the bridge river right. Arlberg was once the largest town in Stone County until it was washed away during a couple of floods in the 1930s. Arlberg -- and nearby Meadow Creek -- was also home to Bill Dark and his gang. Bill Dark was a murderous felon, Confederate deserter and all-around bad guy who plundered the area at the end of the Civil War until his crime spree was brought to the end when a 15-year boy shot him square between the eyes while defending some ladies from the ruffians.
This reach can only be run when the Middle Fork of the Little Red is in "flood" which can be readily ascertained at the put-in. If the river level appears adequate to float a boat at the put-in on Peyton Creek then the reach is usually good to go -- usually only good for 1-2 days following heavy rain.
Optimum: 10.5-12.5 feet.
Low: 9 - 10.5 feet
Bump Run: 8 - 9 feet
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