Arkansas Ozarks Fishing-White River-Bull Shoals Lake-Norfork-Buffalo-North Fork
Buffalo National River:
The Buffalo River heads up in the Boston Mountains of northwest Arkansas, flows east and south for about 120 miles through the rugged central Ozarks until it converges with the White River, approximately 34 miles below Bull Shoals Dam. It is undoubtedly one of the most scenic rivers in the country. It flows through some of the highest vertical bluffs between the Rockies and the Appalachians. Most of the time the current in fairly gentle but it can rise rapidly because of its steep and large watershed and become dangerous to floaters. Some reaches of the upper Buffalo have some interesting white water sections when flows are up. In 1972, after an epic battle between conservationists/outdoor enthusiasts, and developers, politicians, and the Corps of Engineers, plans to dam the river were abandoned and it became our first national river. It is now owned and managed by the National Park Service. The main park headquarters (501-741-5443) is located in Harrison, Arkansas. The Buffalo River receives approximately 716,500 visitors a year.
Most of the watershed of the Buffalo is composed of hardwood forests, cedar glades, and pasture land. The human population is fairly sparse because of the predominantly steep and inhospitable terrain. At one time, small farms and cattle ranches were numerous along the river but many of these have been allowed to retum to the natural state or were actually removed after purchase of the land by the federal government.
Upper stretches of the river become difficult to float (some dry up) in the summer and fall but the lower 2/3 of the stream is almost always floatable with some dragging required. There are many public access points along the stream that are maintained by the NPS.
Along with Crooked Creek, the Buffalo is one Arkansas' two Ozark Blue Ribbon Smallmouth Streams. Although its population of smallmouth is not quite as dense (number per acre) they exhibit just as fast of growth and a good proportion of large individuals. It is not unusual for a number 4- to 5-pound fish to be taken every year. Usually we get reports of several over five pounds, and occasionally a 6 pounder. Catch-rates are not as high as Crooked Creek's but anglers can occasionally catch 20 to 30 in a day's fishing. They will average around 12 inches (one pound) in size.
The Buffalo contains excellent habitat for young to adult smallmouth bass with many, long deep pools, runs, boulders, bedrock ledges and overhangs, and large woody debris. Smallmouth usually associate with cover from which they ambush their prey and to escape predators. They feed on aquatic macroinvertebrates such as crayfish and heligramites (which both make excellent bait and incidentally will both pinch you), amphibians, terrestrial insects, reptiles, fish, and even birds. In the Buffalo, smallmouth often live 8 or 9 years. They will reach 14 inches in length by their fourth or fifth year.