Information on Sugar Cr.


Sugar Cr.

	Rating: III
	TDCR: 5543
	Location: To reach the take-out, take Hwy 23 south from Booneville
		aprrox 1.5 miles and turn left on Jack Cr. Rd. going toward
		Grayson and Jack Cr. Campground.  Follow the signs for Jack
		Creek Recreation Area.  The road will eventually turn to 
		gravel and then you'll come to a four-way intersection.  Turn
		left (East) onto a paved road.  Follow this road downhill to
		Jack Cr. Rec. Area and the bridge over Sugar Cr. The recreation
		area is the takeout.  To reach the put-in, go back the way you
		came, uphill, to the four-way intersection and hang a left
		(South).  After you go back downhill to the creek, you'll
		come to the low water bridge at Knoppers Ford Campground.
		If water is over this bridge, CHECK IT CAREFULLY before
		attempting to cross it!  If you can't cross here, the creek
		is flooded - turn around and run Jack Cr. instead!  Otherwise
		cross this low water bridge and keep driving to the next low
		water bridge.  Stop here and make sure you mark this dangerous
		bridge so that you can eddy out well above it.  A 10 minute
		hike up the bank to mark an eddy can save your life!  Then
		cross the bridge and drive until you reach the third low
		water bridge.  This is the ususal put in point.  The creek
		can be boated above this point in high water, but there's
		plenty of action for most folks below this bridge!
	Topo Quad(s): Sugar Grove, Freedom Mountain
	Gradient: 45 fpm (first 2 miles @ 65 fpm)
	Length: 6 mi
	Season: RAIN
	Gauge: The USGS gauge for the Petit Jean R. at Booneville should
		generally be reading over 9 feet for a good run.  Dutch Creek 
		at Waltreak may be an even better indicator: a reading of 
		5.0 or better usually means there is water in Sugar Cr.
		If both of these gauges are looking good, it's a done deal!
		There is a hand painted gauge on one of the concrete bridge 
		supports on the downstream side of the Sugar Cr. bridge at
		the take-out near Jack Cr. Rec. Area.  1 foot on this gauge is
		a good minimum for Sugar Cr.  1.5 is starting to cook and there
		will be some fast class III action.  2.0 is a solid class III
		level and quite pushy (also the upstream bridges have some water
		over them at this level).  If you can't see any marks at all,
		the creek will be in flood - rapids will be long, constant
		class III to IV with little hope of dodging the trees or
		finding eddies.  Insane hairboaters may have fun at this level,
		but most folks will want to check out Jack Cr. which will
		also be pumped way up to class III+ levels.
	Hazards: An incredible amount of trees!  Also the most dangerous
		low water bridge in Arkansas (2.5 miles from the put-in)
		and several cables hanging into the creek about 1/4 mile 
		above Knoppers Ford!  Did I mention the trees?  Also some 
		nasty hydraulics at high water levels. And trees.
	Description: Maybe the best way to describe the character
		of the Sugar Cr. run is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  At lower
		levels (below 1.4 on the take-out bridge) Sugar Cr. is
		a mostly straightforward class II play run with dozens
		of anoying trees and willow jungles.  Boaters who see the
		creek at this level usually come away thinking, "what's the
		big deal - it's like a fast version of the Mulberry!"  But
		at around 2.0 on the take-out bridge gauge the creek leaves
		an entirely different impression.  At this level, rapids
		are often compared to drops on the Ocoee R. in Tennessee.  
		Holes become things to be avoided rather than surfed.  And
		the "annoying" trees become serious threats to life and limb.
		At high levels, really good boaters can find themselves 
		blown into, over, and under the myriad trees before they 
		can get stopped.  And there are also the man-made hazards:
		low water bridges and old cables hanging in the river.
		Luckily, the creek has an automatic system for warning
		boaters when they're about to get in over their heads:
		if you can't cross the low water bridges to make it to
		the put-in, you don't need to be paddling the creek!
		The description here is one of the creek at optimal
		levels: about 1.4 to 1.8 on the take-out bridge.  After
		a short pool, the first rapid is a good test for the run.
		It's a twisting class III-type drop with an undercut wall
		on the right at the bottom.  If you have trouble here,
		it's probably a good idea to just go load your boat on the
		car and go hiking!  This is followed by some nice surfing
		ledges and then another class III drop which pushes hard
		into a big rock on the left.  More surfing between short 
		pools can be had for while before the current picks up
		and pushes into a long, class III+ drop.  This one
		is always memorable - for the safest ride stay generally
		left, avoid the holes and pours and then paddle really
		hard into the final hydraulic!  If you've made it this far
		and are having fun, you should be in good shape.  If not,
		the road stays very near the creek for almost the enitre
		run, so walking out is always an option.  Eventually you'll
		pass a small cabin on the left in a big pool.  At the end of
		the pool, take the right chute, but watch out for trees -
		it's very narrow.  After this, you'll have a few holes
		and a lot of short, tree-choked spots to navigate.  After
		a few of these, you'll come to where you've hopefully marked
		the eddy upstream of the low water bridge.  In 2003 the
		eddy on river right was marked with yellow paint on a tree,
		but make sure this marking is visible before running
		down to the bridge!  If you don't get stopped in this eddy 
		you're likely to run past some bushes and find yourself
		heading for the bridge with little hope of stopping.  If you
		go too far, try to fight through the brush on the river
		left side just above the bridge and hit the small eddy
		there.  People have pinned under this bridge and very nearly
		drowned - take it VERY seriously!  After you portage the
		bridge, you'll be in the middle section of the creek.
		Lots of fast class II+ action with lots of trees.  When you 
		are comming down a shallow, open drop into a pool with a 
		nice big sitting rock in front of you, watch out for
		a cable that hangs into the river!  After this pool you'll
		go through some more rapids with loads of trees (as always) 
		and there are two more cables.  Portage these if they're in 
		the creek and if you can get stopped in time.  Several
		folks have taken a cable in the chest when they haven't
		stopped - be very careful!  Pretty soon you'll see Knoppers
		Ford Campground on your right - get out above the bridge on
		the right and portage it.  Now you're on the bottom section
		of the run - flatter water in general with one very notable
		exception.  When you find yourself having to dodge trees
		and run over ledgy shoals at the same time (weird) get 
		ready!  When you see a horizon line comming, eddy out
		on the right and you can scout the big drop from your
		boat.  The hole usually isn't too bad (except at flood
		levels) but the drop is powerful and rocky.  Good luck!
		If the water's extremely high, be careful not to paddle
		into the bridge at Jack Cr. Rec. Area, about 1/2 mile
		downstream from the big ledge.  Otherwise you can paddle
		under it and take out at the recreation area.  If you
		paddle Sugar Cr. at low levels, you're going to think
		the creek is overrated.  If you hit it with enough
		water, you're likely to think this description is quite
		conservative!  I've glossed over many bad willow jungles,
		long rapids, and potentially nasty holes.  Just make sure
		you would feel confident running the Esses on the Cossatot
		with a bunch of trees in it, and you'll probably have 
		fun on Sugar Cr. at optimum to high water.  Or wait for the 
		creek to drop, and you'll find a creek where an experienced
		class II boater will have a good time.  Because of the dozens 
		of trees and man-made hazards, it's always best to paddle 
		Sugar with someone who knows the creek well.

See the Photo Gallery for photos.

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