Friday, March 19, 2004
Fiddler Creek, Montgomery Co. AR
Ouachita River Gage at Mt. Ida @ 7 ft.
Just before midnight March 17 an unusual storm parked over northern Montgomery Co. and some of Garland Co. Ar. It dumped about 2.5 inches of rain causing the Ouachita to go from about 3 feet to 16 feet by noon on the 18th. The only other watershed to receive substantial water was the Caddo. Neither the Cossatot nor the Little Missouri showed any rise.
The next day, Friday, Justin Carr and I, set take out shuttle at Sims Bridge on the Ouachita and drove up gravel road FS 274 (Blowout Mt. Road) along the West side of Fiddler Creek approximately 4 miles from the hardtop 298 near Sims Ar. At about mile 3 we noted a well used ford crossing the creek (FS Road 592) to our right which, as a put in, would shorten the run somewhat. We went on to a low water bridge the deck of which was about 6 inches above the water level with no air space. We put in there. Note only room for about 3 vehicles to stay clear of the roadway there.
The float was very scenic and primitive. The road was visible only a few hundred yards. The stream consisted of about 60% pools with minimal flow and 40% riffles, shoots and drops. There were no stream wide obstructions despite the numerous downed timber in the region. However there were often obstacles of downed timber combined with willow jungle and boulders that made many of the drops technical, especially for my open boat. One drop in particular in the second mile was worthy of class 3+ rating since you had to start left and cut hard to the right bank and then drop about 6 feet on a bony 60 degree grade with boulders to contend with as you drop. All remaining rapids were easy class 2 but not suitable for paddlers without good boat control.
No remarkable play spots were noted at this water level. There were some features you could "make do with" but nothing to write home about. After passing under the 298 bridge, houses were noted on either side of the creek. Two or three riffles more and we came to the backed up Ouachita where we almost immediately came to a very steep wave in very fast water on river right. Having survived the creak without incident, and wanting to show my young kayaking companion that open boats can play too I got sucked into a hopeless sidesurf and could only buy time with a heavy lean on a downstream brace. When I tried a power stroke, which I doubt would have pulled me out of that deep trench-like wave, I windowshaded and banged up my hands as my paddle clenching fists hit very shallow rock. Now I know that temperature is not the only reason to wear gloves!
Total miles 4.5. Time 2 hours 15 minutes without lunch break. Maurice Loridans