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Buffalo National River, Arkansas
Report by Marc W. McCord

Buffalo National River in spring

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SOAR Inflatable Canoes - Somewhere On A River

The Buffalo River became the Buffalo National River by Act of Congress on March 1, 1972, as was the first river ever designated as a "national river", a designation that protects natural rivers from dams, empoundments and other obstructions that change the character of the river and disrupt the natural land and water life that flourishes there. The Upper section has most of the whitewater rapids to be found along the river, but also features some very beautiful topography among which are sink holes and caves, springs and waterfalls, 500-700 foot tall bluffs overlooking the river and many interesting rock formations that captivate the attention of those into rock structures and the stories they tell.

Beginning as the Hailstone River in the Boston Mountains of Newton County, the Buffalo National River forms at the confluence of Reeves Fork and Big Buffalo Creek just northeast of Fallsville, then flows north through Boxley to Ponca, where it begins a west-to-east trek across northern Arkansas to its confluence with the White River on the Marion-Baxter County Line just south of Bull Shoals Lake. The entire Buffalo River is about 144.2 miles in length, of which 130 miles sit within the boundries of the National Park Service. Just below Ponca and "S" Turn Rapid, at Hemmed-in-Hollow, is a path to a spectacular sight that is a must-see for many people - the highest waterfall in middle America, where a box canyon ends and a 200 foot high waterfall plunges to the canyon floor below. The canyon is about 1 mile off the river, and makes a great side trip for those wanting to see more than just the river.

Because the Buffalo National River sits within US Forestry Service land camping along the river can be done anywhere there is a suitable spot available. Numerous improved camping areas have been developed along the Buffalo River for the benefit of those paddling the river (most are not all that hospitable to access via cars.) You will camp among many species of trees, wildflowers, towering multi-colored cliffs and bluffs and a beautiful river. Fishing for smallmouth, largemouth, spotted and rock bass, sunfish, perch, catfish and about 50 other species is excellent in the cool, clear waters of the Buffalo. Be sure you have a valid Arkansas fishing license if you plan on wetting a line!

The following pages describe the Buffalo National River according to its customarily referenced reaches. While the Upper Buffalo actually begins near Fallsville, south of Boxley, the featured reach spans 30 miles starting at SH 21 and the river in Boxley and continuing to the river crossing on SH 7 at Pruitt, between Jasper and Dogpatch (yes, the very one where Daisy Mae and Lil' Abner live). The Middle Buffalo will be described as the reach between Pruitt and Gilbert. The Lower Buffalo will reference the reach between Gilbert and Buffalo City at the White River confluence. The reach from Fallsville to Boxley will be described as its commonly known moniker, the Hailstone River. Richland Creek, which flows into the Buffalo at Woolum, and Falling Water Creek, which feeds Richland Creek are also described.

Click the links below for information regarding the section of the Buffalo River and its tributaries where you want to paddle.

[ Boxley to Pruitt ] [ Pruitt to Gilbert ] [ Gilbert to Buffalo City ] [ Richland Creek ] [ Hailstone River ] [ Falling Water Creek ]

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© September 8, 2002. All rights reserved.
Last updated February 7, 2015

Copyright © 1998-2015, Marc W. McCord dba CobraGraphics. All rights reserved. Southwest Paddler, CobraGraphics and Canoeman River Guide Services are trademarks of Marc W. McCord dba CobraGraphics. The textual, graphic, audio, and audio/visual material in this site is protected by United States copyright law and international treaties. You may not copy, distribute, or use these materials except for your personal, non-commercial use. Any trademarks are the property of their respective owners. All original photographs on this web site are the exclusive property of Marc W. McCord or other designated photographers and may not be copied, duplicated, reproduced, distributed or used in any manner without prior written permission under penalty of US and International laws and treaties.