Best Kayaking in Arkansas

Whitewater kayaker in a red kayak, paddling a raging water river in Arkansas.
Shaman Mountain is reader-supported. We may earn a small commission on certain links, at no additional cost to you. Learn more.

When it comes to outdoor adventures, Arkansas boasts some of the best kayaking opportunities you’ll find anywhere. Whether you’re a seasoned paddler or new to the sport, the Natural State offers a diverse array of stunning waterways to explore. From the thrilling rapids of the Mulberry River to the tranquil beauty of Lake Ouachita, kayaking in Arkansas promises unforgettable experiences for all adventure seekers. Join us as we dive into the top kayaking destinations this state has to offer, allowing you to paddle your way through the scenic wonders of Arkansas.



Buffalo National River

Situated within the heart of the picturesque Ozark Mountains, the Buffalo National River is an absolute gem for kayaking enthusiasts. The allure of this river lies in its crystal-clear waters that meander through breathtaking landscapes, making it a haven for both novice and experienced kayakers alike. With towering bluffs that adorn the riverbanks and an abundance of diverse wildlife, a day of paddling along the Buffalo National River is not only an adventure but also a serene communion with nature.

Reasons to Kayak in the Buffalo National River:

  • Scenic Beauty: The Buffalo National River is a kayaker’s dream, surrounded by the stunning beauty of the Ozark Mountains. As you paddle, you’ll be enveloped by lush forests, towering bluffs, and breathtaking vistas. The serenity of the river makes it the perfect backdrop for a tranquil kayaking adventure.
  • Wildlife Viewing: This river is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts. Keep your eyes peeled for white-tailed deer, bald eagles soaring, and a variety of bird species that call the river home. It’s an opportunity to connect with nature and witness the ecosystem in action.
  • Campsites: What sets the Buffalo National River apart is its array of riverside campsites. This allows you to embark on extended kayaking journeys, setting up camp along the way. It’s a chance to experience the river and its surroundings at a deeper level.
  • Photography Opportunities: The picturesque landscapes along the Buffalo National River provide numerous opportunities for stunning photographs. Whether it’s capturing the dramatic bluffs, reflections in the clear water, or the changing colors of the seasons, your camera will be busy.
  • Peace and Tranquility: The river’s calm and gentle flow creates a soothing atmosphere. As you glide along the water, you’ll find yourself in a state of peaceful serenity, away from the noise and stress of daily life.

Recommended Gear: PFD, Paddle Holder, Dry Bag, Waterproof Phone Case, Sunscreen, Water Bottle, Snacks


Mulberry River

Adrenaline junkies will find their haven on the Mulberry River. Flowing through the rugged Ozark National Forest, this river is famous for its exhilarating whitewater rapids. The Class III to Class V rapids ensure a pulse-quickening adventure that promises to satiate the thirst for excitement that only whitewater kayaking can provide.

Reasons to Kayak the Mulberry River:

  • Whitewater Thrills: If you’re an adventure-seeker, the Mulberry River promises a heart-pounding experience. Its challenging Class III to Class V rapids provide the perfect setting for an adrenaline rush. The exhilaration of successfully navigating these rapids is unmatched.
  • Scenic Surroundings: As the Mulberry River flows through the Ozark National Forest, you’ll find yourself surrounded by captivating natural beauty. Towering forests, rugged terrain, and the melodious sounds of the wilderness add to the allure of this destination.
  • Adventure Destination: It’s a go-to spot for those seeking thrilling whitewater adventures. The river’s rapids present exciting challenges for experienced kayakers, drawing outdoor enthusiasts who crave excitement and a bit of risk.
  • Spectacular Rapids: Kayaking on the Mulberry River allows you to conquer some of the most intense rapids in the region. The twists and turns, drops, and waves create a dynamic and exciting experience, making it a top choice for whitewater enthusiasts.
  • Nature Connection: Paddling the Mulberry River is not just about adventure; it’s also a chance to connect with nature in its purest form. The unspoiled landscapes and pristine waters provide a direct link to the natural world.

Recommended Gear: PFD, Binoculars, Waterproof Phone Case, First Aid Kit, Insect Repellent, Navigation Map, Bilge Pump


Cossatot River

Known as the “Cossatot Falls,” this river is a daring playground for kayakers with significant experience. Its Class III to Class V rapids are a thrilling challenge that draws seasoned paddlers from far and wide. The exhilarating rapids provide an unmatched opportunity to test one’s kayaking skills against some of the most intense whitewater in the southern United States.

Reasons to Kayak in Cossatot Falls:

  • Whitewater Challenge: For those who seek the ultimate whitewater challenge, the Cossatot River delivers. Its Class III to Class V rapids are some of the most intense in the southern United States. Paddling here means you’re in for a thrilling ride and the opportunity to test your mettle against some formidable water.
  • Adrenaline Rush: Cossatot Falls, also known as the “Cossatot Falls,” is an exhilarating experience for experienced kayakers. The adrenaline rush from conquering these powerful rapids is incomparable. The river provides a true adventure for those who are up to the challenge.
  • Scenic Gorge: The river flows through a scenic gorge, which serves as a dramatic backdrop to your kayaking journey. The towering bluffs and rugged terrain make this destination visually stunning and memorable.
  • Adventure Community: Paddling the Cossatot River allows you to become part of a welcoming community of adventure seekers. You’ll connect with fellow kayakers who share your passion for challenging water and outdoor exploration.
  • Unique Experience: The Cossatot River offers a unique and unforgettable experience. Navigating its tumultuous waters is a test of skill and courage, making it a memorable adventure for experienced kayakers.

Recommended Gear: Extra Water, Waterproof Headlamp, Towel, Emergency Flares, Dry Change of Clothes, Kayak Repair Kit, Snacks


Lake Ouachita

As Arkansas’s largest lake, Lake Ouachita offers a more tranquil kayaking experience, perfect for those seeking relaxation in a pristine natural setting. The lake’s crystal-clear waters are a reflection of the surrounding Ouachita National Forest’s unspoiled beauty. Kayakers can peacefully glide across the serene surface, taking in the striking scenery that envelops this idyllic location.

Reasons to Kayak in Lake Ouachita:

  • Clear Waters: One of the primary draws of Lake Ouachita is its crystal-clear waters. When you kayak here, you can see straight through the depths, which is not only visually stunning but also creates a sense of connection to the aquatic world.
  • Scenic Beauty: Surrounded by the lush landscapes of the Ouachita National Forest, Lake Ouachita offers a picturesque setting for kayaking. As you paddle along the shoreline, you’ll be immersed in the natural beauty of the area, with vibrant flora and pristine waters.
  • Recreational Fun: Beyond kayaking, Lake Ouachita is a recreational hub. You can enjoy swimming, picnicking on the shores, and exploring the miles of hiking trails around the lake, making it an ideal location for a full day of outdoor fun.
  • Fishing Opportunities: If you’re an angler, Lake Ouachita is a prime destination for casting a line. The lake is known for its excellent fishing, particularly for bass and catfish. Combining kayaking and fishing adds an exciting dimension to your outdoor experience.
  • Family Friendly: Lake Ouachita is suitable for family outings. The calm waters and family-friendly activities ensure that everyone, from children to adults, can comfortably enjoy a day on the lake, making it a perfect spot for a wholesome family adventure.

Recommended Gear: Sunglasses, Sunscreen, Paddle Holder, Dry Bag, Water Shoes, Bilge Pump, Sun Hat


Lake Catherine State Park

Tucked away near the charming city of Hot Springs, Lake Catherine State Park boasts a peaceful lake, making it a haven for kayakers in search of tranquility. Paddlers are treated to a leisurely journey through lush greenery and captivating natural beauty. The still waters of Lake Catherine create an ideal setting for a day of unwinding and communing with the great outdoors.

Reasons to Kayak in Lake Catherine State Park:

  • Tranquil Setting: Lake Catherine, located within the boundaries of Lake Catherine State Park, offers a peaceful and serene setting for kayaking. The still waters create a tranquil atmosphere, allowing you to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life.
  • Lush Greenery: The surroundings of Lake Catherine are adorned with lush greenery, making your kayaking experience not just visually appealing but also a soothing immersion in nature. The verdant trees and flora provide a refreshing and calming backdrop.
  • Wildlife Spotting: The area around the lake is home to a variety of wildlife. As you kayak, keep your eyes open for birds, turtles, and other critters that call this area home. It’s an opportunity to observe and connect with nature’s inhabitants.
  • Hiking Trails: Complement your kayaking adventure with hikes around Lake Catherine State Park. The park features a network of scenic trails, allowing you to explore the park further, making it a versatile destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
  • Picnic Areas: After your kayaking trip you can take advantage of designated picnic areas around the lake. It’s an excellent way to unwind, enjoy a meal, and appreciate the natural beauty that surrounds you.

Recommended Gear: Sun Hat, Insect Spray, Cup Holder, Water Bottle, Paddle Holder, Water Shoe, Snorkel


Little Red River

The Little Red River offers an inviting and picturesque paddling experience, catering to kayakers of all skill levels. Its calm waters gently flow through a serene landscape, offering a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Moreover, it’s renowned for its fantastic trout fishing, making it a favorite spot for anglers and paddlers alike.

Reasons to Kayak in Little Red River:

  • Scenic Paddling: The Little Red River offers a captivating and picturesque environment for kayaking. Surrounded by scenic landscapes, paddling here is a visual delight, with the river winding through beautiful terrain.
  • Trout Fishing: It’s renowned for its fantastic trout fishing, making it a popular destination for anglers and kayakers alike. The clear, cold waters of the Little Red River are home to a healthy population of trout, providing ample opportunities for fishing.
  • Calmer Waters: Unlike some of the more turbulent rivers in the region, the Little Red River provides a more relaxed kayaking experience. The river’s gentle currents make it an ideal destination for kayakers of all levels, including beginners.
  • Ideal for Beginners: The gentle flow of the Little Red River and its calm waters make it a welcoming spot for novice kayakers. If you’re new to the sport or seeking a more laid-back experience, this river is an excellent choice to get started.
  • Peaceful Escapades: The tranquility of the river provides a serene escape from the noise and demands of everyday life. Paddling here is not just about the physical activity but also about finding mental solace amid the peaceful surroundings.

Recommended Gear: PFD, Paddle Holder, Dry Bag, Waterproof Phone Case, Sunscreen, Water Bottle, Snacks


White River

With its sinuous course through the Ozark Mountains, the White River provides kayakers with a versatile experience. Whether you’re seeking moments of peaceful exploration or the excitement of navigating challenging stretches, the White River delivers. The diversity of paddling opportunities here appeals to a wide range of preferences and skill levels.

Reasons to Kayak in the White River:

  • Versatile Paddling: The White River is a versatile kayaking destination that caters to a range of preferences. Whether you’re seeking moments of peaceful exploration or the excitement of navigating challenging stretches, this river offers a diverse range of paddling opportunities.
  • Ozark Beauty: As the river winds its way through the Ozark Mountains, you’ll be treated to scenic beauty at every turn. Lush forests, striking bluffs, and the natural charm of the Ozarks create an enchanting backdrop for your kayaking adventure.
  • Fishing Paradise: The White River is renowned for its exceptional fishing opportunities. Anglers can cast their lines in pursuit of trout and other fish species. Combining kayaking with fishing adds a new dimension to your outdoor experience.
  • Wildlife Encounters: The riverbanks and surrounding areas are prime spots for wildlife sightings. Keep an eye out for deer, waterfowl, and other animals that inhabit this region, providing opportunities for wildlife enthusiasts to connect with nature.
  • Community of Paddlers: Kayaking on the White River allows you to become a part of a community of fellow paddlers. You can share stories, tips, and experiences with others who share your love for kayaking, making it a social and rewarding adventure.

Recommended Gear: Kayak Wheels, Waterproof Headlamp, Towel, Emergency Flares, Dry Change of Clothes, Kayak Repair Kit, Snacks


Kings River

Kings River is a sanctuary of serenity for kayakers. This meandering river flows through a stunning landscape, offering paddlers a peaceful and remote experience. As you glide along its gentle current, you’ll find yourself immersed in the unspoiled beauty of the region, making it a prime choice for those seeking a tranquil escape into nature.

Reasons to Kayak in the Kings River:

  • Serene Setting: Kings River offers a peaceful and serene environment for kayaking. Its gentle flow and the surrounding lush forests create an atmosphere of tranquility, making it an ideal destination for those seeking a peaceful escape into nature.
  • Untouched Landscapes: As you paddle along Kings River, you’ll be immersed in pristine wilderness. The landscapes remain untouched, and the natural beauty of the area is captivating. It’s a place where you can truly disconnect from the modern world.
  • Wildlife Observation: The riverbanks and the surrounding forest provide opportunities for wildlife observation. Keep an eye out for various bird species, turtles, and other animals that call this area home. It’s an ideal setting for birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts.
  • Scenic Hiking: Complement your kayaking adventure with hikes along the riverbanks and surrounding trails. Kings River is surrounded by trails that lead you through lush forests and offer additional exploration opportunities.
  • Relaxation and Rejuvenation: Kayaking on Kings River provides not only a physical adventure but also a mental escape. The peaceful waters and remote location allow you to relax, rejuvenate, and recharge your spirit amid nature’s tranquility.

Recommended Gear: Sunglasses, Sunscreen, Paddle Holder, Dry Bag, Water Shoes, Bilge Pump, Sun Hat


Lake Fayetteville

In the heart of Fayetteville, Lake Fayetteville provides a convenient and accessible kayaking option for urban dwellers. It’s an excellent location for those who wish to reconnect with nature without straying too far from the city’s amenities. The lake’s peaceful waters and scenic surroundings offer a refreshing and easily accessible escape.

Reasons to Kayak in Lake Fayetteville:

  • Urban Escape: Lake Fayetteville offers an urban escape for residents and visitors in Fayetteville. It’s a convenient spot to connect with nature without venturing far from the city, providing a tranquil respite from urban life.
  • Calm Waters: The lake’s calm waters are ideal for kayaking. It’s a place where you can enjoy a leisurely paddle, whether you’re a novice or simply seeking a serene kayaking experience.
  • Family Friendly: Lake Fayetteville is a family-friendly destination, with facilities and activities suitable for all ages. It’s a great spot for family outings, where children and adults can share the joy of kayaking.
  • Nature in the City: The lake is home to various bird species and is surrounded by green spaces, allowing you to observe nature within the city limits. It’s a prime location for birdwatching and enjoying the outdoors without traveling far.
  • Exercise and Relaxation: Whether you’re looking for a workout or a place to unwind, Lake Fayetteville offers a balance of both. You can enjoy an active kayaking session and then find a tranquil spot to relax by the water’s edge.

Recommended Gear: PFD, Binoculars, Waterproof Phone Case, First Aid Kit, Insect Repellent, Navigation Map, Bilge Pump


Lake Wedington

Located just beyond the boundaries of Fayetteville, Lake Wedington is a small yet idyllic lake, offering a quiet haven for kayakers. Surrounded by lush forests and intersected by nature trails, this lake is an ideal destination for those who seek a serene paddle amid the tranquility of the natural world.

Reasons to Kayak in Lake Wedington:

  • Nature’s Tranquility: Lake Wedington is a small, serene lake located just outside of Fayetteville. Its size and remote location create an intimate and peaceful setting for kayaking, perfect for those who seek a quieter escape.
  • Lush Forests: The lake is surrounded by lush forests, providing a lush backdrop for your kayaking adventure. The greenery creates a soothing environment and adds to the natural beauty of the area.
  • Nature Trails: Complement your kayaking experience with hikes on nearby nature trails. These trails lead you through the forested surroundings, making Lake Wedington a versatile destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
  • Birdwatching: The lake and its surroundings are home to various bird species, making it an excellent place for birdwatching. You can observe and connect with the avian residents of the area.
  • Relaxation and Reconnection: Kayaking on Lake Wedington is not just a physical activity; it’s a chance to relax and reconnect with nature. The peaceful waters and secluded location offer a serene escape from the noise and distractions of daily life.

Recommended Gear: Spray Skirt, Waterproof Headlamp, Towel, Emergency Flares, Dry Change of Clothes, Kayak Repair Kit, Snacks


Related Posts:

Catfish swimming in a lake in AR.

Best Catfishing in Arkansas

Situated amidst the breathtaking landscapes of the Ozarks and along the meandering courses of the Arkansas River, Arkansas stands as a prime destination for avid

Close up of Arkansas state on a map marked with a red pin

Best Camping in Arkansas

Escape to the captivating landscapes of Arkansas and immerse yourself in the best camping experiences this beautiful state has to offer. From the majestic peaks

Kayaker in red life jacket, paddling along the shores of a lake in Vermont.

Best Kayaking in Vermont

When it comes to the best kayaking experiences in Vermont, you’re in for a treat. Vermont boasts an array of stunning waterways that cater to