The Black River originates in Iron and Reynolds counties and flows south through Reynolds, Wayne and Butler counties to the state line and then southwest through Arkansas until it empties into the White River. The basin is separated into two subbasins, the upper subbasin upstream of Clearwater Dam in the Ozark Plateau and the lower subbasin downstream of Clearwater Dam to the Arkansas state line in both the Ozark Plateau and the Mississippi River Alluvial Plain.

The Black River Basin, in general, has very good water quality, with most areas classified as whole-body contact recreation (which includes activities such as swimming, water-skiing and skin diving where raw water is exposed to sensitive organs and may be accidentally ingested). There are a few streams in the basin that don’t meet the state’s established water quality standards as a result of a waste water treatment facility, a quarry and a lead mine.

The basin exhibits good aquatic biodiversity, with 132 species of fish, 42 mussel species and 12 crayfish species. It also presents good fishing opportunities, especially for black bass, shadow bass, suckers, walleye, channel catfish and paddlefish.

Our float trip down the Black River started at the Centerville access point (see map below). We arrived late afternoon on Friday and camped at the access point, where we enjoyed a delicious dinner of bison burgers (inspired from our trip to the prairie over spring break!), mashed potatoes and veggies! The next morning we slept in a bit and enjoyed a slow morning before heading out onto the river. We canoed about 12 miles over the course of the day, taking it slow with lots of breaks! Melanie and I (Annie) were in one canoe, Sam and Neil in another, and Stan, Jennifer and Evan in the third. The river was pretty narrow and wind-y in the first couple hours – we got stuck on logs and sandbars more than once! We made it through, and the river became much bigger and calmer after other rivers and streams fed into it.

We camped on a small rocky island on the side of the river that night. We had a relaxing afternoon and night, skipping rocks into the river, cooking a delicious vegetarian chili dinner and finding a dead raccoon covered in algae just off the shore!

The next morning we had to move much faster than the previous day to make it back to campus at a decent hour! We still had another 12 or 13 miles to go plus the drive back. Although the river was bigger and less choppy, we still ran into some strong rapids and the canoe with Stan, Jennifer and Evan flipped! Sam, Neil, Melanie and I canoed down to get all the supplies and gear that fell out – we got everything except Evan’s fishing pole 🙁 Fortunately everyone was OK, and we were back on the river within 30-45 minutes! We made it to our final point around 2 that afternoon and had some lunch while Stan brought the car up, then we started packing everything up. All in all it was a great last trip of the year!

Entry by Annie Gocke