Arkansas's stream inventory includes ten Crooked Creeks (not to mention a healthy collection of Crooked Bayous, Branches, and Sloughs), but only one has been described as "the blue-ribbon smallmouth stream of the state." That particular Crooked Creek is found way up in the north central part of Arkansas. It originates near Dogpatch in Newton County, flows north and then east through Boone County, and continues east across Marion County where it empties into the White River. Along the way it passes through the communities of Harrison, Pyatt, and Yellville, but most of its journey is through rural countryside.
Section Description & Characteristics
As it meanders across northern Arkansas on the way to the White River, Crooked Creek passes through typical Ozark landscapes featuring rolling hills, cedar glades, bluffs, bottomland thickets, and lush pasturelands. The stream itself is characterized by deep pools, fast chutes, and clear water.
In addition to its nationally known smallmouth fishery, Crooked Creek also provides habitat for many other species including channel catfish and several varieties of sunfish. Living along the stream corridor are numerous mammals—beaver, mink, and deer to name a few—and an abundant assortment of water-oriented birds including kingfishers, ospreys, and great blue herons.
While the stream's upper reaches offer opportunities for wade-fishing and occasional float trips, most recreational use along Crooked Creek occurs in the lower 50 miles below Pyatt. A particular favorite of many smallmouth anglers is the Pyatt to Yellville section which can be broken down into at least three separate trips:
Source to mouth, a distance of about 80 miles.
Pyatt to Turkey
This half-day float features riffles, gravel bars, and overhanging limbs. To reach the take-out by car, go east of Snow for about two miles, then turn south off U.S. 62 onto a country road which provides access to the stream.
Turkey to Kelley's Slab
The longest of the three floats in the section, this one-day trip also offers good scenery, fast chutes, and occasional hazards (willow thickets, flood debris, and fallen timber). The takeout point is one mile due west of Yellville at a former low-water bridge known locally as"Kelley's Slab."
Kelley's Slab to Yellville
This halfday float is similar to the upper trips, but shorter. The trip concludes on the east side of Arkansas 14 where the City of Yellville has a public park.
In addition to using the access points previously listed (Pyatt, Turkey, Kelley's Slab, and Yellville), Crooked Creek visitors can reach the stream at several other places between Yellville and the White River. A Marion County General Highway Map can be a great aid in locating points of access.
Clear water, colorful gravel bars, treelined banks. and a pastoral countryside make any Crooked Creek float a scenic experience.
Crooked Creek has received national acclaim as one of the top smallmouth bass streams anywhere, and its reputation is well deserved. Ideal habitat and an abundance of crayfish, hellgrammites and other smallmouth foods combine to produce large numbers of quality fish. Two to three pounders are fairly common, and four to six pound smallmouths are not unusual.
Below Yellville. the going is rough, but this is the stretch that produces six and seven-pound"brownies." May is perhaps the best month to fish Crooked Creek. During this season, live minnows and jigging frogs (one-eight ounce brown jig and a brown pork frog) do exceptionally well. Fall fishing is also fantastic, especially when using crank-baits, spinner-baits and live hellgrammites or crayfish. Popping bugs and streamers on a fly rod offer great sport for smallmouths, as well as for rock bass and longear sunfish that are also common in Crooked Creek.
Supplies may be obtained at Yellville, Cotter, Harrison, Flippin, and other communities in the area. Canoes and johnboats are available for rent in the vicinity, and guide services are also available. While there are no public campsites on Crooked Creek itself, campgrounds can be found nearby at Bull Shoals Lake, Bull Shoals State Park, or Buffalo Point (on the Buffalo National River).
Visitors to Crooked Creek should remain mindful that nearly every acre along the creek is in private ownership. Floaters should take special care to avoid potential trespassing problems.
Like most Ozark streams, Crooked Creek can rise rapidly following heavy rains. In flood stage, it's dangerous and should not be floated.