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Canoe rentals, canoeing, camping, horseback, hiking, elk, recreation in the Buffalo National River Park in the Ozark Mountains

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About The Buffalo National River

The Buffalo River comes as a surprise. How did a river surrounded by the progress of civilization escape impoundment, impairment, and change? To preserve the Buffalo as a free-flowing stream, it was designated as a National River by Congress in 1972. Floating the Buffalo can give you a feeling of the wildness that once haunted this country. The Buffalo is nestled in the Arkansas Ozarks, which are bounded on the north, east, and south by the Missouri, Mississippi, and Arkansas Rivers. To the west lies the prairie.

The river originates high in the Boston Mountains. Over its course, the Buffalo drops steadily to its confluence with 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. Relatively long, quiet stretches characterize the lower two thirds of the Buffalo. The meaning of the Buffalo River today is not difficult to discern. It is reflected in the faces of people accepting the river's recreational challenges. It rises in the spirits of people immersed in this landscape's beauty.

Scenic Landscape Formations
Buffalo River bluffs reach as high as 440 feet above the river. They are the Ozarks' highest. These stacks of ancient seabeds have been relentlessly sculpted by erosion. Their towering multi-colored cliffs sharply accent the surrounding wild mountain beauty. The park's geology, with its numerous caves sinkholes, waterfalls. springs, and interesting rock formations, typifies the Arkansas Ozarks.

Nature Along the River
In the Ozarks, species of the Southwest, Northeast, and Southeast mix with Ice Age remnants. Armadillos, roadrunners, and scorpions coexist here with lichens characteristic of arctic tundra. The park's range of elevation (from 375 to 2,385 feet), moisture, exposure, and soil types enhance this variety which includes more than 1500 plant species. The river boasts 59 species of clearwater fish. Whitetail deer, raccoon, opossum, bobcat, mink, beaver, and gray and fox squirrels are among the common mammals here. Elk, reintroduced in recent years by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, are reproducing and appear to have established themselves on the upper river, especially west of Pruitt. Black bear, once rare, are now being reported more frequently. There have also been a few scattered reports of mountain lions in the area.

Cultural Resources
The Buffalo River area also has a rich human history dating back more than 10,000 years. Many prehistoric and historic cultural sites are located throughout the park. These range from bluff shelters once occupied by Archaic Indians to the cabins built by early settlers to existing homes of Ozark farmers still living in harmony with the land. Four areas, Boxley Valley, The Parker-Hickman Farmstead at Erbie, the CCC-built structures at Buffalo Point and the Rush mining district, are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. All cultural sites and artifacts are protected here.

Fishing the Buffalo
The Buffalo is a favorite with anglers. Long pools provide excellent water for fishing. The Buffalo and its tributaries comprise one of the nation s richest areas in total number of fish species. The biggest attraction here is the smallmouth bass. Anglers also go after largemouth and spotted bass, catfish, goggle-eye (rockbass), and a variety of other panfish.

Float Fishing. Besides bank fishing, a favored traditional method on the Buffalo River his float fishing in the flat-bottomed johnboats. Float fishing is most common on the lower (eastern) have of the river. it may be restricted at times by drought conditions.

Concessionaires operate float fishing trips that may come complete with a hearty meal-fresh fish even-cooked on a gravel bar. For a list of these concessionaires, write to the Superintendent.

Fishing Rules. Fishing is governed by state and National Park Service regulations. An Arkansas fishing license is required.

An Arkansas hunting license is required and state and National Park Service regulations apply. Respect the rights of private property owners who have homes and livestock within the park boundaries. Rangers at information stations can provide current information on seasons and regulations.

Hunting Seasons. Non-developed sections of the park are open to hunting in accordance with Arkansas Game and Fish Commission regulations. Hunting, in one form or another, may occur from early September until April and from mid-May to mid-June (squirrel only). Anyone going into the woods during hunting season should use caution and wear bright clothing (hunter orange is recommended). This is especially important during gun deer season in November and during spring turkey season.

Buffalo National River offers many wonderful hiking opportunities. Trail guides are available at any Ranger Station or by writing to the Superintendent. Short, day-use trails are located at Lost Valley, Pruitt, Tyler Bend and Buffalo Point, among other locations. For the more adventuresome there are numerous trails leading into the Ponca and Lower Buffalo Wilderness Areas. A river-long trail is under construction with 26 miles completed between Ponca and Pruitt, along the upper river. Many old roads are shown on USGS topographic maps, some of which may be used for horseback riding or hiking. River hiking often requires fording the river, a difficult task which should not be attempted during high water. Cross-country hiking is best in winter, when undergrowth is sparse and snakes, ticks and chiggers are dormant.

Fourteen campgrounds are open year-round on a first-come, first-serve basis. Fees are charged at Buffalo Point and Tyler Bend. These developed campgrounds offer water, restrooms, showers, and trailer dump stations April through October. Water and electrical hookups are available only at Buffalo Point. From November through March, services are limited to drinking water and vault toilets. (Dates on which utilities are turned on and off may vary from year to year depending on the weather). Buffalo Point campground fills most evenings from Memorial Day to mid-August. Daily fees are charged April through October. The camping limit is 14 days. Lost Valley, the only campground not directly on the river, is the most popular upriver campground. Its 15 walk-in sites have tables and fire grates. Drinking water and vault toilets are provided. The rest of the park campgrounds, from Steel Creek down river to Rush Landing, are excellent locations for beginning or ending float trips. All have toilets. Steel Creek, Kyle's Landing, Erbie, Ozark, Tyler Bend, Buffalo Point and Rush Landing have drinking water. The steep, winding roads to Steel Creek and Kyle's Landing are not recommended for large trailers, buses, or motor homes.

Interpretive Programs
Naturalist programs at Buffalo Point, Tyler Bend, Lost Valley, and other riverside locations in spring, summer, and fall include campfire programs, guided walks and hikes, canoe trips, and Ozark craft and folk music demonstrations. Check at information stations for schedules.

Floating the Buffalo
Few experiences can compare to a float trip down the Buffalo. Clean waters, high bluffs, wooded hillsides, and a myriad of seasonal wildflowers conspire to turn staunch city lovers into nature enthusiasts. Inexperienced beginners can negotiate slow-moving river sections. Canoes may be rented at modest prices. Between Carver and Woolum, and below Rush, the river offers a near-wilderness experience. From Steel Creek to Carver and from Woolurn to Maumee you traverse an outdoor environment with limited facilities. Only in the Buffalo Point and Tyler Bend areas do you find Park settings with modern facilities. Choices for length of float trips also abound. You can make half day floats; a 10-day, 120 mile expedition; or anything in between.

Before Setting Out. Check with a ranger about river conditions before you set out. Canoeing experience is recommended for the stretch from Steel Creek to Pruitt. Offering the most exciting whitewater, this stretch is usually floatable in winter and spring only. Except during high water, the river below Pruitt has relatively calm pools, periodic riffles, and only occasional fast water.

Concessionaires. Authorized concessionaires rent canoes and offer related services. They provide everything you need for a trip -canoes, paddles, lifejackets-except personal gear and food. Heed their brief talks on canoe handling, which are designed to get you and their canoe safely down the river and through the rapids. Concessionaires also provide shuttle services to and from your put-in and take-out points. Guided johnboat fishing trips are also available on the middle and lower river. On these trips, the concessionaires provide all gear and the food.

Safety-WaterSafety. Observe water safety regulations. An approved life jacket is required for all floaters. Wear it for your protection. Waterproof your gear, stow it low and balanced, and carry an extra paddle. If you capsize, stay on the upstream side of the canoe to avoid being pinned between the canoe and a rock or tree. Never go on the river alone. No one should go on the river during the periods of floodwater. Floodwaters pose extreme hazards even to experts. Always camp where you can move to higher ground when rain threatens. Pull your canoe well out of the water or you may wake up as a hiker. The river can rise quickly and quietly. The river invites swimming but don't swim alone or during high water. Diving is extremely dangerous. Unseen rocks lie below the water's surface.

For Your Safety, The river is great for swimming, but never swim alone or during high water. There are no life-guarded swimming areas. Diving is extremely dangerous because unseen rocks lie below the surface. Climbing riverside cliffs, with their loose, crumbly, slippery-when-wet rocks, can be hazardous. A fall means certain injury, and getting you to safely and medical help is difficult, dangerous, and may take several hours. Common sense is your best protection against accidents. Make sure you and your children realize that you are in a natural area with hazards unlike those at home. Be alert to the presence of poisonous snakes. Incidents of both Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme Disease have been attributed to ticks in this region.

Accommodations. A concessionaire manages rental cabins at Buffalo Point. The restaurant there (open Memorial Day to Labor Day) offers the only in-park food service. For reservations and information write: Buffalo Point Concessions, 2261 Hwy. 268 E, Yellville, AR 72687, or call 870-449-6206 between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.

Handicapped Access. Buffalo River country is steep, rugged and remote. The park has made every effort to ensure that access to the park and its programs are available to all segments of the population, including those with physical handicaps. An Accessibility Guide to park programs and facilities is available at any Ranger Station or by writing to the Superintendent. For the hearing impaired, there is a TDD equipped telephone at Park Headquarters. The TDD telephone number is (870) 741-2884.

For more information about the park and your visit, write or call:

Buffalo National River
P.O. Box 1173
Harrison, AR 72602-1173
or call (870) 741-5443 or 449-4311

Copyright 2011 the Ozark Mountains Website, Inc. (OMW) DBA 2Cooleys.Com. All rights reserved. Any party found using any part of this presentation without prior written permission from OMW will automatically be billed $1,000 per use occurrence.
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