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White River, Arkansas
Report by Marc W. McCord

Buffalo City to Norfork
~ 11 miles

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SOAR Inflatable Canoes - Somewhere On A River

General Description

A very scenic run of about 11 miles on flatwater with occasional Class I rapids can be found between the Buffalo City Public Access and the Norfork Lake Public Access. Just below the put-in is the confluence of the Buffalo National River where a left side shoal and a man-made dam can create serious hazards to navigation, especially at high flows. The entire White River is prone to flash flooding, and this reach is more likely than others to flood because of the inflow from the Buffalo. This reach offers spectacular scenery (so, what else is new?), great sand/gravel bars and riverside natural campsites, a navigable flow almost year-round and a relatively short trip distance that is just about perfect for less experienced paddlers or those without the time or stamina to paddle all day. Hydroelectric generation causes significant fluctuations in river level, so always be prepared for flow changes, and be sure to camp well above the waterline. Many trips on the Lower Buffalo National River end at the Norfork Lake Public Access, so paddlers should expect to see other boaters, especially below the Buffalo confluence. This is another great place to have your camera ready to capture the natural beauty of this gorgeous Arkansas stream.


Baxter County of northcentral Arkansas, just south of the Missouri State Line and Bull Shoals Lake. Parts of Ozark National Forest surround this reach. Harrison is just a few miles to the west, and the Buffalo National River is a short distance to the south, flowing into the White River at Buffalo City in Baxter County.

Distance from major cities

Little Rock 165 miles; Fayetteville 122 miles; Fort Smith 175 miles; Texarkana 309 miles; Oklahoma City 355 miles; Kansas City 497 miles; Dallas 490 miles; Austin 685 miles; San Antonio 765 miles; Houston 600 miles; Albuquerque 721 miles; Phoenix 1,490 miles; Denver 980 miles; Salt Lake City 1,514 miles (all distances are approximate and depend upon starting point, destination at the river and route taken. Bear in mind that Arkansas does not have many straight-line roads because of mountains and valleys around which they must pass. Allow adequate time based on distance and the often slow driving conditions that prevail in this area.)

Water Quality and Flow Rates

Water quality is generally very good to excellent, flowing clean, crystal clear and cold from Bull Shoals Lake. Flows are usually adequate for paddling year-round, weather permitting. This reach of the river is more prone to flash flooding than other sections because of the added inflow from the Buffalo River, so watch for signs of changing flow rates when on the river.

Best time to go

Any time is a great time to paddle this reach of the White River, though winter paddling will be quite cold and will require appropriate clothing to prevent hypothermia. Summer days will be hot and muggy. The optimum seasons are March through June and October through November.

Hazards to navigation

There are no significant hazards to navigation on this reach of the White River. However, there is a potential problem area near the Buffalo National river confluence, where the added flow, a man-made dam and a rock shoal combine to create unpredictable currents that can capsize an inattentive or inexperienced paddler. Competent paddlers who are vigilant about river conditions should have no serous problems under normal paddling conditions. This area is most severe at high flows, and may require a portage depending upon conditions.

River Access Points

SH 126 at Buffalo City at 0.0 miles; Norfork Public Access at about 11.0 miles; Calico Rock Public Access at about 29.0 miles; SH 9 access between Sylamore and Allison at about 46.0 miles; Guion Public access of SH 58 at about 57.0 miles. (Access points below Buffalo City are indicated for reaches below the Cotter to Buffalo City section.)

Campgrounds and accommodations

Bull Shoals Lake State Park offers excellent campsites with drinking water, restrooms, showers, and other amenities (this is the ONLY public camping area on this reach of the White River); Blanchard Springs Recreation Area (501-757-2213), off SH 14 northwest of Allison and north of Fifty-Six, offers 32 campsites, drinking water, restrooms, showers, picnic area and Blanchard Springs caverns for off-river exploration (this camping area is NOT adjacent to the river). Abundant sand and gravel bars, as well as riverbanks, offer excellent primitive campsites for overnighters, though most paddlers will not be camping if running this reach only. Avoid camping on private property without having first obtained permission.

Liveries, outfitters and shuttle services

There are no known liveries or outfitters operating along this reach of the White River. Bring your own boats and gear, and run your own shuttles. It may be possible to contract with some of the Buffalo River outfitters for shuttles, but be prepared for the price.

Reviewer's comments

The White River is a popular paddling and fishing stream located very close to the mouth of the Buffalo National River and numerous other great boating rivers and creeks in the northcentral Arkansas Ozarks. Starting just below Bull Shoals Lake, this reach is very scenic and remote, but fishing guides and recreational paddlers may be in abundance, depending upon the time of year you come here. Excellent public access points, at distances from 10 to 20 miles apart, are located all along the 90 miles immediately below the lake, so paddlers can choose between reaches where they want to paddle, or can make multiple day runs over several reaches. However, public camping is scarce, so it is necessary to obtain permission before camping on private lands adjacent to the river. Arkansas people are usually very friendly, and will try to accommodate visitors, especially those spending money, so this is a great paddling destination. Bring your camera, because the remote and largely undeveloped area offers immense photographic opportunities.

Technical Data
Class Rating I
Length 11 miles
Minimum Flow cfs
Optimum Flow cfs
Maximum Flow cfs
First Put-in End of SH 126 at Buffalo City
Lat/Long N 36° 09' 52.08" / W 092° 26' 26.29"
Last Take-out Norfork River Road Boat Ramp
Lat/Long N 36° 12' 33.70" W 092° 17' 22.99"
Elevation 378 - 354 feet msl
Gradient 2.18 fpm av.
USGS Gauge Web: Norfork
Boats Canoes, Kayaks, Rafts
Season Year-round, weather permitting
Permits No

White River map courtesy Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism and the Arkansas Floaters' Guide
White River map courtesy Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism and the Arkansas Floaters' Guide

Arkansas Canoe Club

Canoeman River Guide Service - Guided river trips in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah

Lone Star Paddler - the paddlesports web site of Marc W. McCord

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

White River

[ White River Homepage ] [ Bull Shoals Dam to Cotter ] [ Cotter to Buffalo City ]
[ Norfork to Calico Rock ] [ Calico Rock to Sylamore ] [ Sylamore to Guion ]


[ Bayou Des Arc ] [ Big Creek ] [ Black River ] [ Cache River ] [ Bayou DeView ] [ Current River ] [ Eleven Point River ] [ Little Red River ]
[ Middle Fork Little Red River ] [ Archey's Fork Little Red River ] [ Strawberry River ] [ Wolf Bayou ]
[ Salado Creek ] [ North Sylamore Creek ] [ Crooked Creek ]

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