Information on Little Mill Creek
Location: The take-out is the same as is used for the Mill creek
take-out on the bottom end of the Mulberry River. It is
on a road that turns east off of Hwy. 215 north of the
I-40 Mulberry exit. The turn is about 3 miles north of the
freeway and just north of the Mill Cr. bridge on Hwy. 215
(this is the only large creek crossing between I-40
and the town of Fern). Follow this dirt road for about
1/4 mile to a low water slab and park off the road
on the river right side. Several put-ins are possible, but
none are really easy. Be very careful trying to cross
the creek when the water is up, but if you can do it,
you can follow the dirt road on the east side of the gorge.
Just past the last house on the left (back in the woods),
where the road is very near the creek, you can scramble
down the bluff with your boat to access at Slap Happy Pappy
rapid at the top of the lower gorge. This is a good
low water option, but it is not an easy climb down!
Another couple of miles or so up the road, there is
an old logging road that heads west toward the creek
into an old clearcut area. The turn onto this road is
greater than 90 degrees if you're heading north (it's
a "Y" intersection from the other direction). You'll
probably want to drive only a little way down this road
(the USFS tries to block it from time to time). Park
and walk down the old road and bear downhill to the
creek. You'll cut through the clearcut and down
through a bluff line. When you intersect the creek
you are at Fern Gulley - either put in here if there
is enough water or cross and continue down a short
distance to the confluence with the Middle Fork. If
the water is too high to cross the low water slab at the
takeout (which it often is), you can drive back to 215
and then north to Fern. When 215 turns east at Fern,
go until you pass an A-frame house on the right. Take
the next right on a very good geavel road. This is
the same road that crosses the creek at the takeout.
Follow it for a mile or so to the "Y" with the
old logging road that leads to the put-in
Topo Quad(s): Mountainburg SE
Gradient: 120 fpm (first mile @ 180 fpm)
Length: 2.75 mi.
Gauge: The Mulberry should be high and rain farily recent to
run the creek. The best way to gauge it is at the
takeout slab. An inch or so of water over this slab
is absolute zero level for a run down the lower
gorge section (the upper part is too low). With
6 inches of water over the slab in the middle,
the gorge will be good and the upper creek bony.
A foot or more is a good level for the entire creek.
If the creek is spreading into the parking area,
it will be very pushy and dangerous - it has been
run with several feet of water over the slab, but
that can't be recommended! The USGS Mulberry R. at
Mulberry gauge is not a great indicator for Little Mill
since it is upstream of the Mill Cr. confluence. However
a level of 8 feet or more on the Mulberry gauge is a
good sign that Little Mill could be there. Also,
the USGS rain gauge at Mulberry is close to Little
Mill's watershed, so a rain of 2 inches or more
in a short time is also a good indicator.
Hazards: many trees and strainers, large drops, undercut rocks
Description: First run on 2/21/97 by Steve Robertson, Zen Boulden,
Kent Peetz, and Richard Haler, this creek is a real gem.
The creek starts at the confluence of Fern Gulley
(the East Fork) and the Middle Fork of Little Mill (both
are steeper creek runs when the water is high). Just
downstream, the West Fork enters to add more volume.
The first major rapid is Gollum's Hole, a class III
drop around a blind right hand corner, with a spooky
series of caves in a sandstone bluff at the bottom. At
really high levels, this rapid and the next one, Stone
Ground (III) have some mean holes that must be punched.
The next two miles of the creek consists of almost
constant rapids, though at optimal levels none are
tougher than class III. Trees are often a major hazard
in these two miles, so stay alert and be ready to
eddy out and portage! The creek suddenly opens up and
changes character as Slap Happy Pappy Sluice (III-)
is encountered. This is usually a scape down a wide
shoal unless the water is extremely high. The creek
narrows again, but now has a solid bedrock bottom. This
is the lower gorge - the main attraction! After some
smaller drops, the horizon line of Lacerator (III+)
comes into view. Don't flip here or you may find out
how it got its name! The next drop is The Gash, a class
IV at optimal levels. The eddies below Lacerator are
hard to catch, so it may be a good idea to scout both
of these drops if you're new to the creek. The Gash
starts with a move to the right around a big mid-stream
rock and then a short slide into a turbulent sluice.
This is kayak pinball at it's finest! Strong cross
currents tend to try to push you into the jagged looking
rock wall on the right near the bottom. You can
try to stay left, but failure may result in a flip
and The Gash is not a good place to be out of control!
An alternate plan is to go with the flow and play the
bank shot off of the reaction pillow against the wall.
This is a gutsy looking move, but with good boat control
and a solid brace it can result is a smooth ride
to the bottom. After The Gash is a ledge with a hole
that demands respect at higher levels and then the
Undercut From Hell. This is a rocky drop that feeds
into a jagged and deeply undercut wall on the left side.
Though it can be snuck to the far right, a scout and/or
portage here is prudent. After a bit more water,
the last major rapid can be recognized from the large
horizon line on river left. This is Love Shack Falls,
and it is the biggest drop on the creek. Love Shack
has been run on the left over the big angled ledge,
but it is a shallow landing and can result in a bruising.
The more frequently run line is down the entrance
rapid on the right, hang the corner, and try to get
to the middle of the waterfall for a boof. The base of
this 6-7 footer is rocky, and a long boat could
vertically pin here if the nose plunges deep. Failure
to boof has resulted in the occasional elbow injury.
Boats can be carried back up on far river left
for another run here, and The Gash is also a good
candidate for multiple runs if you don't mind tempting
fate! The gorge ends at Love Shack and the rapids are
tree-choked class II to the takeout 1/4 mile down.
Little Mill is a great steep creek run in the southern
Ozarks. It's maybe a half-notch tougher than
nearby Spirits Cr. which may be a good alternative
for those not sure about tackling the more hazardous
rapids on Little Mill. If you're a Fayetteville or
Fort Smith boater, this creek is a good reason to
not drive all the way to Richland! Thanks go to
Steve Robertson for information on this one.
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