The name Kiamichi comes from that of a nearby Caddo Indian village and is thought to mean “noisy bird,” perhaps in reference to the river’s large population of woodpeckers. The Kiamichi flows southwest, past Pine Valley and Clayton to Antlers, where after a course of 165 miles, it turns southeast and joins the Red River south of Fort Towson in southeast Choctaw county. The ideal season for kayaking the Upper Kiamichi River is March through June or October through November.
The stretch of Kiamichi River starting at Pigeon Creek running west to the bridge at 259 is approximately 7 miles long and has been rated as a class II-III section by American Whitewater. There is a put-in location, easily accessible and is a close drive from any of our cabins or our partner facilities. This stretch is mid length and perfect for a one-day trip. Running almost year round, the river can be paddled anytime there is adequate water conditions and weather will allow. There multiple locations where narrowing and low water conditions will require some dragging or carrying to continue.
The Kiamichi is rated Class II to III on a maximum gradient of about 30 fpm amid beautiful forested banks and boulder garden rapids, though most of it is flatwater on a gentle gradient of about 7.21 fpm. Though not perpetual, the Kiamichi River usually has an adequate flow for paddlers to enjoy other than in the dead of summer or during periods of extended drought conditions. It is also extremely remote, with few opportunities for outside emergency assistance to reach you on the river, so be prepared for a true wilderness run anywhere on this river, but especially above Clayton.
The upper river channel is narrow and densely lined with several species of trees, widening occasionally before constricting again. In low water conditions paddlers should be prepared to walk carrying or dragging boats and gear between pools, which are generally separated by only short distances over rocks and small plants that clog the river channel. This is especially true in the uppermost 9 miles above Forest Road N4700.
If you are looking for a truly remote place to paddle away from the maddening crowd, then the Upper Kiamichi River is that place! The area is very scenic, so bring a camera. The next time you are heading to the Upper Mountain Fork you might want to take a little longer and drive to the Kiamichi River less than an hour west of the Upper Mountain Fork for a closer inspection. You might just discover a hidden gem in the Ouachitas that will make you return again.