Admittedly, this post’s title is “borrowed” from a kayaking film by the same name which was filmed, edited, produced, and features music from the state of Arkansas. For years it seems that Arkansas has been overlooked by many paddlers nationally. In fact, Arkansas wasn’t even mentioned in, what most people consider, the quintessential paddling guidebook, “The River Gypsies Guide to North America.” For Arkansas natives this is a blessing and not viewed as a terrible oversight. Arkansas will probably never be a “destination” state for steep creeking and river running, both of which are very abundant in Arkansas during times of rainfall. There is one glimmer of hope for making Arkansas a playboating destination, which is the Rockport Ledge on the Ouachita River below Remmel Dam near the City of Malvern, Arkansas. This little gem of a playspot is where most local paddlers have cut their teeth (and some of their gear) in the process of learning how to kayak. On the surface it doesn’t look like much, but in times of drought it is an oasis. Recreational releases are already the norm on Saturdays and Sundays, and some on the weekdays, but like every paddling opportunity in Arkansas, you need to be a local to take advantage of them. For years, there have been talks of developing the area into a world class paddling destination and building a whitewater park that would be viable at minimum flows of 250 CFS up to 3600 CFS and beyond. Plans have been in place and now funding is the only issue. This is where we hold the WorldKayak Hometown Throwdown Events every summer and have seen turnouts from as little as 20 participants and spectators to hundreds. These events are helping expose and educate people about paddling in Arkansas and is helping build the community of paddlers in Arkansas.
It is the community of Arkansas paddlers that is the focus of my ramblings today. On any given weekend you can find paddlers of all skill levels and disciplines playing and enjoying the cool waters of the Ouachita River. Of course you have your hardcore playboaters that can throw just about any trick under the sun, you’ll find recreational kayakers, kayak fisherman, kids on boogie boards, tubers, canoeists, and people who are taking their first steps into kayaking and trying to learn how to roll. You’ll find all of these people existing in harmony at “the ledge”. Your ‘hot-shots’ taking breaks to show someone how to front surf. Instructors teaching Swiftwater Rescue. Parents teaching their kids how to roll. The list goes on and on. I’m sure this happens in most other paddling communities, but in my travels I’ve never seen a community of sports enthusiasts so close knit and family oriented. One of the largest reasons for this is the Arkansas Canoe Club and its commitment to building paddling enthusiasts through education and maintaining Arkansas’s paddling resources through conservation.
Take a look at the small photo gallery below to see and get a feel as to what paddling in Arkansas and especially at Rockport in Malvern is like. Thanks to David Gillson, Todd Whetstine, and Doug Webber for these photos. Oh, and if you’re looking for the results from this month’s Hometown Throwdown, a young kid by the name of Christian Louden tied for first, but Christian didn’t wear a skirt and won by completing a Ferry from one eddy to another. His level of stoke could be felt up and down the riverside and was infectious. We knew that we were witnessing a defining moment for him and his relationship with the outdoors. Enough Said!