|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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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