Big Sugar & Elk River

The Elk River and its scenic tributary, Big Sugar Creek, have become a favorite float with canoeists in the western part of the state.

Big Sugar provides good camping and fishing, and is an unusually clear stream. In the Pineville and Noel areas, summer cottages are numerous, but the Elk below Noel again has a more isolated quality.

• Difficulty: Mostly II, seldom over.

• Gradients: General – 6.5; Big Sugar from Hwy. 90 to Powell – 8.9; to Cyclone – 6.5; to Pineville – 7.2; (Elk River) to Shadow Lake – 4.

• County: McDonald.

Big Sugar Creek – 
Mile-by-Mile Description

• 0.0 In high water, a put-in may be made on Big Sugar at the Roller Bridge. Hwy. 90 and KK. A county road parallels much of the creek from here to Powell.

• 5.5 Powell. Road is close to the creek and several bridges make this a good put-in area.

• 6.0 Bentonville Hollow (creek) and Hwy. E Bridge.

• 6.8 Low-water bridge on creek road. Mikes Creek on right. Creek road (south bank) shortest route to Cyclone. A few poor places in the road.

• 7.8 Kings Valley (creek) on right.

• 12.3 End of Hwy. V at Little Cedar Hollow on right.

• 14.6 Cyclone low-water bridge. Camping, swimming and good access. Many floats start here. Best put-in for normal water. Creek road on north side from here to Pineville.

• 20.4 MDC Deep Ford Access (public).

• 20.9 Low-water bridge at “Crag O Lea.” Good access.

• 22.4 “Sugar Beach” (cottages).

• 23.9 Creek divides. Left channel flows into Little Sugar Creek and bypasses Pineville. Right channel is the old channel and shorter.

• 24.3 Little Sugar Creek joins to form Elk River. The lower part of Little Sugar has a gradient of 9 and is floatable in good normal water.

Elk River –
Mile-by-Mile Description

• 24.5 U.S. Hwy. 71 Bridge. Kozy Kamp. Private campground. River road on south side.

• 25.9 Road close on left.

• 27.4 Road on left bank at Riverside Inn.

• 30.3 Indian Creek (on right) nearly doubles volume of river. Indian Creek is a good float stream and is described separately. Water is fast and heavy just below here at high water. Use caution at bridge.

• 30.7 Kansas City Southern R.R. Bridge, closely followed by concrete low-water bridge.

• 31.2 Ginger Blue Resort on right.

• 31.7 “Shady Beach,” good private campground and take-out, on right.

• 32.0 MDC Mt. Shira Access on right.

• 35.0 Mouth of Butler Creek, at Noel, is adjacent to Hwys. 59 and 90. Take-out or continue down Shadow Lake.

• 35.4 Hwy. 59 Bridge over Shadow Lake.

• 35.8 Dam. Portage.

• 36.3 Road close on right. Fair put-in.

• 37.8 Henderson’s Campground. Private. Good put-in.

• 45.3 State Hwy. 43 Bridge. MDC Cowskin Access.

• 47.3 Oklahoma state line. Elk River becomes Lake of the Cherokees in Oklahoma.

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