Wapanocca - Flat Water Paddling

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Beautiful wetland refuge in the Delta of the Mississippi River in Arkansas. Quality paddling, fishing, and wildlife viewing on a scenic 600 acre lake within a 30 minute drive of Memphis, TN.

Written by

Ryan Hall


2.0 miles

Time and distance is dependent on how far the paddler wants to go. Sticking to the out and back paddling trail keeps you within the baldcypress forest and is about 2 miles total. Venture further south beyond the smaller open lake area out through the tall grass and you are rewarded with panoramic views of the large open lake. This lake is plenty large enough to paddle for exercise. Conversely, you can take it easy and explore the lake edges, full of duckweed covered waters, baldcypress forests, and large lily pads.

Destination Distance From Downtown

19.2 miles


1 of 5 diamonds

There is no current in the 600 acre lake, but there is great beauty. Be mindful that there is very little dry land if you need to exit the boat.

Time To Complete

0 hours


Spring, Summer, and Fall

All boats (motorized and non-motorized) are prohibited from November 1 thru February 28 to respect the immense number of migratory waterfowl that occupy the lake. Go on an abnormally cool summer day, or a pleasant fall or spring day, as the paddling in the large open lake offers no protection to the sun and humidity.

Dog Friendly

On Leash Only

There are not many opportunities to hike in this refuge. There is a lookout area overlooking the lake (facing west), which affords great sunset views and lookout binoculars for wildlife viewing.

Fees Permits


No fees; however, do not paddle between November 1 and February 28.



Paddle the marked out-and-back water trail through the forested wetlands for a 2 mile experience.  Or venture 0.7 miles further south into the open water portion of the 600 acre lake, where you can paddle to your heart's desire or explore the lake edges, full of duckweed covered waters, bald cypress forests, and large lily pads..  Amazingly beautiful scenery is best experienced from a non-motorized boat; however, motor boats are allowed for a portion of the year and allow easy access to great recreational fishing.   

What Makes It Great

Wapanocca National Wildlife Refuge is a lesser-known eco-destination to local Memphians, which allows for the opportunity to escape into nature. Paddle through dense bald cypress forests, where you will be overcome by a natural cathedral experience. Zigzag through the trees and happen upon giants several hundred years old. Test your bird identification skills with their bird checklist of 262 species, and find yourself face to face with an owl or watching a bald eagle soar above. In the winter time, while you cannot paddle, stand witness from the lookout point to thousands of migratory waterfowl in the water and woodlands.

Brief history lesson: Wapanocca Lake formed thousands of years ago when the Mississippi River changed course. The Delta was once full of an immense hardwood forest with areas permanently inundated, such as Wapanocca. However, most of these areas were cleared and drained for cotton and rice. To this day Arkansas is the largest producer of rice in the U.S.  Wapanocca National Wildlife Refuge allows you to look back in time to what the area used to be.  The shear lack of habitats such as this makes Wapanocca a very special place.

Who is Going to Love It

Paddlers, bird watchers, old-growth forest lovers, recreational fishermen, and anyone who enjoys quiet serene nature.  

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

From Memphis, take either I-40 or I-55 west over the Mississippi River.  Follow I-55 north at the split of the two interstates. Continue north for 14 miles and take Exit 21 to AR-42/Turrell.  Follow east for about 2 miles to a stop sign.  Go straight through the intersection and follow the left curve under the railroad tracks.  The entrance will be 700 ft on the right.  The canoe launch is 500 ft south of the park office.  Park your car either alongside the road by the put-in or drop off the boat and park by the park office.

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Wapanocca National Wildlife Refuge

178 Hammond Avenue
Turrell, AR, 72384
35.371659, -90.255361

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