Designated as the nation’s first National River by Congress in 1972, the free-flowing Buffalo River winds 135 miles across northern Arkansas. It is noted for its sandstone bluffs and tall waterfalls, as well as its three designated wilderness areas. Multiple concessionaires rent canoes and offer shuttle service for those who wish to float the river during the high spring flows. There are many hiking trails to be found in this National Park Service site and in the adjoining Ozark National Forest.
Boxley Valley Historic District, Hemmed-in Hollow, elk herd, Ponca Wilderness, canoeing
Steel Creek to Pruitt Landing is a 22-mile float through Class I rapids on the Buffalo River through the Ponca Wilderness past rock bluffs up to 500 feet tall. Wildflowers and birds abound in the spring, the only time the upper river is deep enough to float. Numerous outfitters provide rental gear, guides, and car shuttles.
A short 1.5-mile roundtrip hike from a river pulloff, Hemmed-In-Hollow is a 210-foot tall waterfall, also accessible on a much more strenuous trek starting on top of the bluff in Compton, Arkansas.
While not technically within the National River boundaries, Hawksbill Crag is an image that shows up on many tourism advertisements for Arkansas. Go in early November for fall colors.
The water flows best in the spring and is often not deep enough for paddlers in the river’s upper reaches other times of year.
Many of the dirt roads are steep due to the park’s rugged backcountry nature and may require high-clearance vehicles when muddy.
Twelve campgrounds accessible by car, with Tyler Bend and Buffalo Point Campgrounds offering showers. Backcountry sites are mostly reached by canoe or kayak.
Explore More – Why is a river in the forests of northern Arkansas named for buffalo (or bison)?