Ozarks Buffalo River Canoe and Hike
Canoe and Explore the Beautiful Buffalo River
Canoe the clean flowing waters of the Buffalo River, surrounded by some of the most awe-inspiring bluffs in the country. Paddle past historical settlements and a profusion of wildflowers along the banks. Managed by the National Park Service, the Buffalo River is one of the few remaining free flowing rivers in the lower 48 states. Hike through the wooded hillsides and magnificent bluffs that make the Ozarks such a unique destination. Discover historical relics of early settlers and Native Americans. Catch glimpses of Whitetail deer, bobcat, and mink in their natural habitats. This destination offers a great balance of paddling and hiking in a unique near wilderness setting.
DAY 1: Your trip begins with an early breakfast at Tyler Bend Campground. From there your group will participate in a canoe orientation, load up the canoes, and begin paddling from the Pruitt Ranger Station. This section of the river is a flowing class I, ideal for all paddlers. After paddling past springtime wildflowers and historic settlements, your group will make camp at the Hasty campsite near Chimney Hole, a natural bridge near the Buffalo River.
DAY 2: Wake up along the flowing river, eat breakfast and continue paddling your way towards the Mt. Hersey campsite. Throughout the day you'll catch glimpses of seasonal wildflowers, towering bluffs, and relics of early settlers and Native Americans. Wrap up the day with a relaxing swim or chance to go fishing.
DAY 3: Get a chance to leave the canoes for a while and explore the bluffs created by the Richland Creek and Buffalo River. These waterways have eroded away at the rock leaving a 4 ft wide dividing bluff. Hiking up the backbone of the bluff yields a great view of the river and Richland Valley. Further on down stream you'll find Skull Bluff. If water levels are right, there may be the possibility to paddle into one of the cavities of Skull Bluff.
DAY 4: The last full day on the river will take you from Woolum campground back to Tyler Bend campsite. Watch for an opportunity to view white tail deer, bobcat, and mink along the river. Finish up the day with a hearty dinner and sharing of stories around the campfire.
DAY 5: The last morning of the trip concludes with a morning paddle and hike. Visit the Collier Farmstead and Overlook. Another short paddle to Grinders Ferry where you'll have lunch and pick up your shuttle back to your car. This trip ends early afternoon after lunch.
What To Expect
TERRAIN/ROUTE CHOICES: The Buffalo River begins as a tiny stream in the Boston Mountains, where it flows north and then eastward through the Ozark Mountains. The river is surrounded by some of the most awe-inspiring bluffs in the country and hardwood forests, which protect the view of the surrounding farmland. The milky green waters flow through the sedimentary rock with comfortable class I and possibly class II sets of rapids. This park's geology with its numerous caves, cliffs, sinkholes, waterfalls, springs, and interesting rock formations, typifies the Arkansas Ozarks.
TYPE OF TRAVEL/DISTANCE: You will travel in 17-foot Wenonah Champlain canoes, which hold two to three paddlers, plus all necessary gear. An average day's travel consists of 4-6 hours of paddling, depending on weather. Except for scheduled layover days, most days' travel distance varies from 7-15 miles per day. The gently flowing current helps travel as these miles flow by. This trip also includes the opportunity to leave the canoes behind and explore one of the many towering bluffs and historical points of interest. To protect the environment, WI uses Leave No Trace camping techniques.
WEATHER: Temperatures in the spring can vary anywhere from 50-80 F. The springtime months are warm and usually are the rainiest time of year, so rain gear is suggested.
ACCOMMODATIONS: This is a camping trip. At night you will sleep in a comfortable Eureka Assault dome tent. Typically, there are 3 people per 4-person tent (although other arrangements can be made). Bathroom facilities consist of a foldable commode chair set up in a privacy tent. We make every effort to ensure privacy and cleanliness.
YOUR GROUP: The group size ranges from 10 to 12 participants, plus 2 or more Wilderness Inquiry staff. Each group consists of people of various ages, backgrounds and abilities, including people with disabilities. Our trips are cooperative in nature. WI staff will assist you in whatever areas you need, however most people pitch in where they can. Part of the adventure involves learning about daily camp activities.
EQUIPMENT AND CLOTHING: If you are new to outdoor activities, you need not spend a lot of money on gear. Wilderness Inquiry will provide all necessary canoeing and camping equipment. All you need to provide is your personal gear, such as clothing and a sleeping bag. A detailed equipment list will be sent to you upon confirmation of your participation. If you need to borrow personal gear that can usually be arranged.
LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY: No previous experience is needed to complete this trip.A note about the itinerary: Our trips are real adventures in the outdoors. While we'll make every effort to follow the itinerary listed here, elements may change due to weather or reasons beyond our control.
The Buffalo National River -- America’s first National River -- flows free over swift running rapids and quiet pools for its entire 135-mile length. One of the few remaining rivers in the lower 48 states without dams, the Buffalo cuts its way through massive limestone bluffs traveling eastward through the Ozarks of northern Arkansas and into the White River.
Take pure, clear, flowing water: send it down a meandering course for more than a hundred miles, pour it over rapids, strain it through gravel bars, drift it through long pools, let it caress tree-covered banks. Then dot a valley bottom with open grassy meadows with grazing elk, punctuate the shores with tall multicolored bluffs, and fill the countryside with steep, wooded hills. Now interject an occasional turtle sunning on a log, watch a snake slide in the water as it explores the depths of the river, be startled by a bass breaking the water surface, and observe a heron stalking the river’s edge. Accent the experience with birds warbling in the trees and insects buzzing close above the water. Finally, place yourself in a canoe drifting down the river surrounded by the peaceful and inspiring mood of these natural elements. Now you have witnessed only one of the many faces of Buffalo National River.
Its ancient current gives life to more than 300 species of fish, insects, freshwater mussels, and aquatic plants. In addition, on land there are many more natural wonders to behold: caves with hidden formations and underground waterways, tall cliffs creating long waterfalls, and old pioneer farmsteads providing forage for wildlife such as elk, deer, and turkey.
With the coming of spring, animal movement is at its highest. Fish actively migrate up the river corridor into tributaries, and songbirds arrive from far off places, filling the forest canopy with movement and song. Wildlife observers have recorded 55 species of mammals, 250 species of birds, and 59 species of fish, along with a multitude of reptiles, amphibians, insects, and other invertebrates.
The vegetative community at Buffalo National River is rich and diverse. The ridges, bluffs, hillsides, and valleys provide a variety of habitats that support over 1500 plant species. The major forest types are the Floodplain, Mixed-Hardwood, Oak-Hickory, Oak-Pine, Cedar Glade, and Beech.
The climate for the Buffalo National River typifies the Ozark region and the Mid-South. Winters can be cold with average daily temperatures between 24 and 49 degrees F. Summers can be hot with high humidity; all the better to play in the river. Temperatures range from the mid-80s to high 90s with humidity on some days in the 90% range. Spring is sometimes unsettled, with thunderstorms. Fall can present itself with a burst of color on the trees and comfortable temperatures in the 70s - 80s.
Many prehistoric and historic cultural sites are located in the park, some dating back more than 10,000 years. These sites range from terrace village sites, to bluff shelters once occupied by Archaic Indians, to cabins built by early settlers. In Boxley Valley, Ozark farmers still live in harmony with the land.
Today, no dams have yet been built on the Buffalo River. In fact, a number of people realized this and fought to keep the river untouched by dam builders. On March 1, 1972, Congress established the Buffalo National River as the country’s first national river to protect this free-flowing gem of the Ozarks.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Some of the trip information on your website is different than the trip catalog. Why?
WI typically creates and prints our annual trip catalog in December. At that time we do our best to have finalized trip itineraries and set our prices accordingly. However, sometimes there are changes to a trip that necessitate adjustments to our prices after the catalog has gone to print.
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No Dates Scheduled
WI leads trips to the Buffalo River but currently has no dates scheduled. If you have a group of people interested, we can set up a customized adventure just for you! WI operates on the Buffalo River under Special Use Permits issued by the National Park Service. If you are interested in a group trip to this destination, click on the "Do a Custom Trip" button on the lower right hand side of this screen.