The Five Rivers Challenge!
Randolph County is unique for Arkansas, in having five different rivers you can easily navigate by boat. Since the five rivers all converge here in Randolph County, you can boat them all continuously with your boat never leaving the water. It’s a trip of about 50 miles by water.
The Five Rivers Challenge: add to your life’s achievements by boating in five different rivers, never leaving Randolph County, and never taking your boat out of the water.
Topics To Be Covered Below:
All five of our rivers come from springs in our Ozark hills, so the water is cool and there’s faster water farther upstream. The Five Rivers Challenge takes place in slower, deeper water downstream from the “rapids”. The route described below will get you in all five rivers with a mostly downstream course, but at least some upstream travel is required to complete The Challenge. With a motor you can just as easily do the route in reverse, going mostly upstream. The choice is yours.
The National Canoe Races have been held multiple times on our Current and Black Rivers, and while all our rivers are great for canoeing and kayaking (particularly the upper Eleven Point River), it’s not likely that most people could paddle the upstream portions of The Challenge. Taking The Challenge in a canoe or kayak would only be for seasoned experts in excellent physical condition.
Always be mindful of State and Federal laws pertaining to use and activities on Arkansas waterways. To operate any motorboat (including personal watercraft) legally on Arkansas waters, a person who is of legal age to operate a boat, whether an Arkansas resident or a non-resident, and who is born on or after January 1, 1986, must have either a boating education certificate from an approved Arkansas Game & Fish Commission (AGFC) safe boating course or an equivalent certificate issued by another state from a boating education course that is approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA). If you were born before 1986, you do not need any certificate but you should have proof of age, like a driver’s license, in your possession.
Arkansas law for waterways:
- Glass containers are prohibited.
- Fasten cooler lids.
- Attach and use a mesh litter bag.
- Use a floating holder for beverages.
- Read the Arkansas boating laws and paddling laws.
As with any challenge, you’ll need to do some advance planning. You’ll be putting your boat into the water at one location (point 1 on the map above) and taking it out of the water at another location (point 7 above) miles from your starting point. So you’ll have to plan ahead to have a vehicle to drive back to point 1 after you complete The Challenge, to pick up your vehicle and boat trailer, if you use one.
- If you are using a motor, you’ll need to bring the boat, motor, and enough fuel to run the motor at least 5 hours. A paddle would also be advisable in case you have motor problems.
- If you are paddling a canoe or kayak on The Challenge, plan on it taking at least 16 hours if you average covering 3 miles an hour. Of course to this time you’d need to add stops to rest, swim, fish, eat, etc. and unless you plan on a really long day, you’ll need camping equipment to spend the night en route. Unless the rivers are really high from recent rains, there are many nice sand bars to be found along the rivers.
Regardless of how you are propelled in your boat, you need to take food and drinks, sun screen, and insect repellent. Certainly a broad-brimmed hat would be in order. A GPS unit will be handy to help you along the way, as well as a mobile phone. Be sure to secure these devices in water-tight floating containers, or tie them securely to the boat or to yourself. If you plan to eat a meal during your voyage, decide if you will time your trip to be at Pocahontas at meal time, to eat at a restaurant, or if you will picnic on the river, using one of the sandbars along the way. Or of course you could eat in the boat, on the river.
Following The Route
Assuming you are taking the mostly-downstream route, you will begin at the Current River public access at Current River Beach, where U.S. Highway 67 crosses the Current River, and end at the Black River public access at Davidsonville Historic State Park.
Below is a step-by-step of the route. (If you are starting at Davidsonville and taking The Challenge in reverse order, things below described as “on your right” will be on your left, and vice versa.)
(NOTE: In the portion of the route from Black River downstream from Davidsonville, and all of the Spring River mileage, the left bank of the river is part of Lawrence County, since the rivers are used as county boundaries. So technically, to complete The Challenge, you should not step out of the boat on the left bank of the rivers in this section, or you will be leaving Randolph County!)
- Arrive with your gear and put into Current River at Current River Beach, which is about 10 minutes (7.5 miles) north of Pocahontas on U.S. Highway 67. GPS coordinates: 36° 17′ 54.13″ N 90° 51′ 32.38″ W
- Current River ends where it merges with Black River at GPS coordinates 36° 15′ 10.46″ N 90° 54′ 44.24″ W Continue downstream on Black River.
- At GPS coordinates 36° 16′ 03.24″ N 90° 57′ 01.00″ W the Fourche River enters the Black, coming in from your right, as you head downstream. Turn and proceed upstream on Fourche, at least a little way. Fourche is our smallest river and it’s sometimes difficult to proceed very far up it due to downed trees and other obstacles. Once you have explored the Fourche, head back downstream, and re-enter Black River, continuing downstream. You will soon be in Pocahontas.
- At GPS coordinates 36° 15′ 11.19″ N 90° 58′ 14.60″ W, look for the concrete boat ramp on the right shortly after you pass under the two highway bridges. If you plan to stop at Pocahontas for a meal, this is a good place to tie your boat up. It’s just a short walk to KFC, to the Rancho Bravo Mexican restaurant, or to Don’s Steakhouse.
- Resuming your challenge, proceed downstream from Pocahontas on Black River. At GPS coordinates: 36° 09′ 07.31″ N 91° 03′ 16.05″ W, take note of the public boat ramp on the right bank of the river. This is the public access at Davidsonville Historic State Park, where you will eventually end your time on the river. But for now, pass it by and continue downstream.
- At GPS coordinates: 36° 06′ 53.34″ N 91° 04′ 24.58″ W you should see Spring River coming in from your right. Proceed upstream on the Spring River.
- At GPS coordinates: 36° 09′ 03.90″ N 91° 04′ 58.04″ W you will see our fifth river, the Eleven Point, entering Spring River from the right. Proceed as far up Eleven Point as you care to go. The farther upstream you go, the more likely you will be to encounter some fast, shallow water, and even rapids. Eleven Point is our longest and most beautiful river, and the upper Eleven Point River, north of the town of Dalton, offers the best canoeing and kayaking in Randolph County.
- After you have explored the Eleven Point, return downstream to the Spring River and turn left, following Spring River until it meets Black River at GPS coordinates 36° 06′ 53.34″ N 91° 04′ 24.58″ W.
- Proceed upstream on Black River until you arrive again at GPS coordinates: 36° 09′ 07.31″ N 91° 03′ 16.05″ W, where you can take your boat out of the water at the public boat ramp on the left bank of the river. This is the public access at Davidsonville Historic State Park, and you can follow Arkansas Highway 166, then U.S. Highway 62 back into Pocahontas before returning to your point of origin at Current River Beach.
Verifying Your Accomplishment
We are working on a way to use GPS to verify your position at points along The Challenge, as well as official “I Beat The Challenge” tee shirts!