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Buffalo Creek, Oklahoma
Report by Marc W. McCord

Weyerhauser Road 28000 to Broken Bow Lake
~ 11 miles

General Description

Flowing northeast to southwest into the Upper Mountain Fork River near Broken Bow Lake and Bok tu kolo Creek is Buffalo Creek, a short but very exciting whitewater stream with Class II to III ledge drops, a tight, twisting channel, boulder garden rapids and incredible scenery. The creek is in the very remote and undeveloped McCurtain County near the Arkansas and Texas State Lines. It is also very near the Glover, Little and Kiamichi Rivers, as well as Big Creek, Eagle Fork Creek and Bok tu kolo Creek. It is not a perpetual flow stream, depending entirely upon recent heavy local rainfall to make it navigable, but its close proximity to so many other great streams makes it another asset in the treasure of Oklahoma rivers, creeks and streams that are excellent for paddling, camping, fishing, hunting, birding, nature photography and many other outdoors recreational activities.

Buffalo Creek twists and turns frequently as it winds it way through the Kiamichi Mountains on its way to Broken Bow Lake. The creek flows near or through the McCurtain County Wilderness Area southeast of Smithville, near Hee Mountain (1,439 feet). The tree-lined creek often has little water, and as a result trees may be found in midstream, so boaters need to be careful and very vigilant when paddling here, especially in high flow conditions with a fast current. The creek is not well-suited for recreational paddlers with little or no whitewater experience. Its remote nature necessitates having swiftwater rescue training and skills in the event people, boats or gear need to be recovered following a close encounter with a tree or rock. Buffalo Creek is bounded by private property, so paddlers should take care to avoid trespassing except in emergency situations.

Location

McCurtain County in far southeastern Oklahoma, flowing into the Upper Mountain Fork River below Smithville along US Highway 259, at Broken Bow Lake near Beaver Bend State Park and the town of Broken Bow, Oklahoma.

Distance from major cities

Oklahoma City 300 miles; Tulsa 265 miles; Dallas 270 miles; Austin 460 miles; San Antonio 540 miles; Houston 420 miles; Little Rock 220 miles; Kansas City 440 miles; Albuquerque 842 miles; Phoenix 1,281 miles; Denver 925 miles; Salt Lake City 1,401 miles (all distance are approximate depending upon starting point, destination at the river and route taken.)

Water Quality and Flow Rates

Generally good to excellent, except during prolonged droughts or other low water conditions. Buffalo Creek requires a recent heavy local rainfall for navigable flows. There are no USGS gauges, so check the flow on Bok tu kolo Creek for an indication of navigable flows.

Best Times to Go

Any time shortly after a significant rain event in McCurtain County raises Buffalo Creek to navigable levels is a good time to go, but beware of dangers in flood stage conditions. Except for occasional off-season thunderstorms or rainstorms the most likely times to find a decent flow will be spring and late-fall months.

Hazards to Navigation

There are many trees along the banks and some in the channel to be avoided when paddling Buffalo Creek. Tight, blind turns leading into strainers or boulders create potential hazards to navigation that must be avoided. Careful scouting is recommended. It would be a good idea to walk the creek at low-water levels to get a feel for what will be encountered when paddling. The creek is very remote, and as such paddlers must be prepared to expend a lot of time and effort in getting assistance in an emergency situation. At least strong intermediate level whitewater skills are recommended for this stream.

River access points

Put in from Weyerhauser Forest Road 28000, off US Highway 259 about 5 miles south of Smithville, at 0.0 miles. Take out at Panther Creek Campground on Broken Bow Lake at about 11.0 miles. There are no other public access points for Buffalo Creek.

Campgrounds and Accommodations

There are no campgrounds located along Buffalo Creek. Panther Creek Campground on Broken Bow Lake offers access, camping and other conveniences. Hochatown State Park, located on the southwest end of Broken Bow Lake, and Beaver bend State Park, located on the Lower Mountain Fork River just below Broken Bow Lake, offer excellent camping facilities, and can serve as base camps for running rivers in the area. Mountain Fork Park, adjacent to Reregulation Dam, has RV parking, tent camping, picnic tables, restrooms and other amenities. At least two commercial campgrounds are available near the Mountain Fork River between Smithville and Broken Bow. Camping is permitted in a small park located at an old road crossing just below the Highway 4 crossing outside of Smithville. There are abundant riverside camping spots, but most are on private property - ALWAYS obtain permission from landowners before camping on private property!

Liveries, outfitters and shuttle services

There are no outfitters located along Buffalo Creek, however, at least six commercial outfitters are located nearby along or near the Mountain Fork River. There are no other known canoe liveries or shuttle services operating near Buffalo Creek.

Reviewer's comments

Buffalo Creek is very much like Bok tu kolo Creek nearby, except that it probably is tighter and more twisting as it works it way around the Kiamichi Mountains of McCurtain County in far southeastern Oklahoma. It is an amazing whitewater run on Class II to III water when it flows, which is seldom, and then only after a major rainstorm inundates the drainage basin around it. The creek is home to ledge drops, boulder garden rapids, deadfall strainers and occasionally standing trees in midstream through which paddlers must carefully find their way. Like most whitewater creek runs, this one is not for recreational paddlers. Those who venture here should have at least strong intermediate level whitewater paddling and swiftwater rescue skills to safely test this stream. Having no USGS gauge for flow condition information, visual inspection is the best way to determine navigability, and using Bok tu kolo Creek as a point of reference is often the best method - you can view Bok tu kolo from an overlook off US Highway 259 which runs close to both creeks. This is a very remote wilderness stream far from assistance, if that is needed, so be sure to take everything you need and be prepared for all eventualities. The one thing you will certainly not find here is a crowd of boaters!

Technical Data
Class Rating II to III
Length 11 miles
Minimum Flow cfs
Optimum Flow cfs
Maximum Flow cfs
First Put-in Weyerhauser Forest Road 28000
Lat. / Long. 34° 3740005' / -94° 623703'
Last Take-out Panther Creek Campground
Lat. / Long. 34° 3389015' / -94° 6893997'
Elevation msl
Gradient fpm
USGS Gauge NONE
Boats Canoes, Kayaks
Season local rainfall dependent
Permits No


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