Buffalo National River
The Buffalo River has long wandered through the Arkansas Ozarks, falling from the heights of the Boston Mountains, over a 150 mile course to join the White River. The gradient is steep and the water is faster along the upper river, leveling and slowing as the river runs its course. Floating the Buffalo can give you a feeling of the wilderness that once dominated this country.
Bluffs along the Buffalo River are the Ozarks' highest. The towering multicolored cliffs sharply accent the surrounding wild mountain beauty. The park's geology, with its numerous caves, sinkholes, waterfalls, springs and interesting rock formations, typify the Arkansas Ozarks.
How did a river surrounded by the progress of civilization escape impoundment, impairment, and change? Through the efforts of concerned citizens and the United States Congress, the Buffalo was given National River status on March 1, 1972. This protection will allow the Buffalo to remain a wild, free-flowing stream, providing its visitors with recreation, relaxation, and reflection.
Float the Buffalo
The Buffalo originates in the rugged Boston Mountains division of the Ozarks near Fallsville in southern Newton County and some floating takes place in the headwaters area. The trip from Dixon Road to Arkansas 21 is called the "Hailstone" and is most legendary among serious paddlers and is only for the experienced canoeist. Most people think this is a great place for hiking rather than floating and you can expect to see caves, bluffs, waterfalls, old cabin sites, and never know, maybe even a local black bear.
The next section of the river is from the Highway 21 bridge south of Boxley to the Ponca low water bridge. This area is generally too low to float but when the conditions are right, the six mile stretch offers a fast moving series of class II rapids. To add to the excitement, many of them are laced with willows so look out!
The most famous part of the Buffalo River for floating is between Ponca and Pruitt on Scenic 7 Byway just north of Jasper. This 25 mile section offers class I and II rapids, hazards like "Gray Rock", Hemmed-In Hollow (the highest waterfall in mid-America), towering bluffs, spectacular beauty, and great swimming holes. There are several access points and campgrounds along this stretch of the river for those who want to rough it and camp out - Steel Creek, Kyles Landing, Erbie and Ozark.
The next float on the Buffalo is about ten mile long, starting at Pruitt and ending at Carver on Hwy 123. While it does not offer the fantastic scenery as the upper Buffalo it is a fine float, especially for families with children. It has class I rapids, gravel bars, and tall bluffs. Campsites and access to the river are at Carver or two and one half miles upstream at Hasty.
The final stretch of the Buffalo is from Carver to Buffalo City and offers canoeing late into the season. While the upper Buffalo has the high bluffs and more challenging rapids, this portion of the river is the quietest and ideally suited for those interested in casual canoeing and a lazy float. While the scenery not as spectacular as the upper Buffalo it is still very pretty and there are several access points and campgrounds along the way.