Buffalo National River

Buffalo National River Pruitt Landing

Buffalo National River in northern Arkansas is an unpolluted and free-flowing river in the heart of the Ozarks. It has both swift water and calm stretches on its 132 mile course. Buffalo River became the nation’s first National River in 1972.

Understand

The Buffalo River is one of the few remaining unpolluted, free-flowing rivers in the lower 48 states offering both swift-running and placid stretches. The Buffalo National River encompasses 135 miles of the 150-mile long river. It begins as a trickle in the Boston Mountains 15 miles above the park boundary. Following what is likely an ancient riverbed, the Buffalo cuts its way through massive limestone bluffs traveling eastward through the Ozarks and into the White River. The national river has three designated wilderness areas within its boundaries.

Headquarters is located in Harrison. The Tyler Bend Visitor Center, the main visitor center for the park, is located 31 miles south of Harrison and 11 miles north of Marshall on US Highway 65. The park has two other visitor contact stations: the Pruitt Ranger Station, located five miles north of Jasper on Arkansas Highway 7, and Buffalo Point Ranger Station, located 17 miles south of Yellville on Arkansas Highway 14.

History

Landscape

Overlook view of the Buffalo River
Morning on the Buffalo River
A Bluff Along the Buffalo
confluence of the Buffalo and Little Buffalo

Flora and fauna

Get in

Official National Park Service map:

By plane

Other nearby airports, with driving directions and approximate driving time to the Tyler Bend Visitor Center:

By car

Buffalo National River is a long, narrow park that is crossed by three main highways. Using Harrison as a starting point:

Fees/Permits

There is no entrance fee charged to enter Buffalo National River. Fees for boat rental, lodging, and campsites will vary by provider. No permit is required to operate a boat on the river. An Arkansas fishing license is required to fish for persons age 16 and over and may be purchased online at https://www.wildlifelicense.com/ar/start.php.

Get around

The Buffalo National River is 132 miles long and the best way to get around is by boat. (See "Do" below.) You may enter or exit the river at any of 22 river access points. Boat rental providers will also provide transportation to and from the access points.

See

Auto tours

The routes below are described in minimal detail. Not all turns and road numbers are listed. Therefore a good map that indicates county roads is recommended to supplement the maps provided below.

Compton and Boxley Valley tour.
Erbie Loop tour.
Buffalo Point and Beyond tour.

Do

Backpacking

Hiking

Boating

The very best way to see Buffalo River is by canoeing. There are 22 river access points along the river. You may bring your own canoe, kayak, raft, or john boat; but your best bet may be to rent one from local authorized concessioners – no permit is required. Motors must be less than 10 horsepower and properly registered in the state of Arkansas. Life jackets are required in all boats, and must be worn by children 12 and younger. United States Coast Guard regulations mandate that life jackets must be USCG-approved, in good condition, and the appropriate size for the wearer. No glass containers are permitted within 50 feet of the river or its tributaries. Floating the Buffalo can be a wonderful experience, and you can keep it that way by following a few precautions. Always check river conditions before you float. River levels are posted at the access areas and can also be found on the internet or by calling any ranger station or visitor center.

Canoe Rental Providers

Upper River (Boxley to Carver)

(870) 446-5406

1-800-221-5514

1-800-477-8509 or (870) 446-5252

(870) 446-2644

(870) 861-5522

(870) 446-2616

Middle River (Carver to South Maumee)

(870) 439-2888 or (870) 439-2386

1-800-582-2244

1-800-355-6111 or (870) 448-3892

(870) 439-2372

Lower River (North Maumee to Buffalo City)

1-800-423-8731 or (870) 449-6619

1-800-537-2850 or (870) 449-6636

1-800-554-8657 or (870) 449-6235

Fishing

The Buffalo River is a favorite with anglers. Long pools and shallow riffles provide excellent opportunities for fishing. The Buffalo and its tributaries comprise one of the Nation’s richest areas in total number of fish species. Game fish of choice are the small mouth, largemouth and spotted bass, catfish, Ozark bass, and a variety of panfish. Favored traditional methods of fishing are bank fishing and float fishing in flat-bottomed johnboats. Float fishing is most common on the lower (eastern) half of the river. State and National Park Service regulations govern fishing. An Arkansas fishing license is required for persons age 16 and over (see "Fees/Permits" above for link to website). Catch and release of smallmouth bass is encouraged (with artificial lures, barbless hooks, and careful handling). Smallmouth bass kept must be at least 14 inches in length with a limit of two per day.

Swimming

The river is great for swimming, but never swim alone or during high water. There are no life-guarded swimming areas. Diving is extremely dangerous because of unseen rocks and logs beneath the water's surface. Glass containers are prohibited on the river, on trails, within 50 feet of any stream or river bank, and in caves.

Bird watching

Ivory-billed woodpecker

The ivory-billed woodpecker (Campephilus principalis), long thought to be extinct, was rediscovered in Southeast Arkansas in 2004 and 2005. The bird, now listed as critically endangered, is believed to live at or near White River National Wildlife Reserve. A $10,000 reward is being offered to anyone who can confirm the discovery with a photo of the bird. WARNING: Shooting the bird or harming it in any other way is forbidden by law.

Ivory billed woodpecker

Bird watching is quite popular at Buffalo National River. The park is a biological crossroads, providing many different habitats supporting a large variety of our feathered friends. Over 200 species of birds inhabit the park for some part of the year, and many birds live here year round. Bird checklists are available at any ranger station or visitor center. In December the park hosts the Annual Christmas Bird Count, sponsored by the National Audubon Society. The event’s conception was in protest of a traditional event called a "side hunt", where hunters would choose teams and compete to see who could shoot the most birds and animals. On December 25, 1900, small groups of individuals began counting instead of shooting the wildlife. It is now the longest running ornithological database in the world, providing valuable insight into the past and present status of resident and migratory birds and the general health of the environment.

Horseback riding

One of the many ways to enjoy the Buffalo River is by horse. Designated trails for horseback riding are located in all districts of the national river. In the upper district, the Old River, Cecil Cove Loop, Center Point, and Sneed Creek Trails are horse routes. In the middle district, riders enjoy the Buffalo River Trail. In the lower district, the Cook Hollow/Cow Creek trail accessed at Hathaway Gap is the most-used area. Two camping areas in the upper river are designated for visitors with horses – Steel Creek and Erbie. Steel Creek horse camp offers 14 sites, and Erbie horse camp offers 5 sites. Use is limited to 6 persons and 4 horses per site with a 7-day limit per stay, first-come, first-served. In the middle district, Woolum Campground is a designated horse camp. In the Lower Buffalo Wilderness Area, visitors may camp at Big Creek or Hathaway Gap trailheads. There are no commercial horse outfitters operating at Buffalo National River.

Buy

Most authorized concessioners have gift shops.

Eat

Drink

National Park Service regulations control the use of alcohol on Buffalo National River. There is no alcohol for sale within the park boundaries, however, you may bring your own alcohol into the park on a limited basis. Bringing alcohol is a privilege, not a right. You are required to regulate your alcohol consumption, and alcohol-related offenses may be punishable by eviction from the park. Once again: Glass containers are not permitted on or within 100 feet of the river.

Sleep

Lodging

Camping

Thirteen designated campgrounds are accessible by car and are open year round on a first-come, first-served basis except that Buffalo Point Campground offers some campsites by reservation through http://www.ReserveUSA.com or calling 1-877-444-6777. Tyler Bend(all year) and Buffalo Point (Mar 15-Nov 15) offer restrooms, showers, and trailer dump stations; camping fees are charged at both locations from Mar 15-Nov 15. Buffalo Point has water and electrical hookups. Buffalo Point Campground fills most weekend evenings from Memorial Day to mid-August. The steep roads to Steel Creek and Kyles Landing and winding roads to Mt. Hersey are not recommended for large trailers, buses, or motorhomes.

Primitive Camping on Gravel Bars Primitive camping with campfires is allowed along the river on the numerous gravel bars. This is a popular option for both locals and those floating a portion of the river. The gravel bars have no developed facilities, but also have few or no snakes, insects or poison ivy.

Stay safe

Respect

Pets

All pets are expected to be on leashes and under physical restraint at all times when in the campgrounds up to 25 feet from the river. Pet owners are expected to scoop up their pets' poop and dispose of it in a designated trash receptacle. There are currently two trails in Buffalo National River that are pet friendly: The Forest Pit Trail in the Lower District and the Mill Creek Trail in the upper district. Please contact one of the district Visitor Contact Stations or Park Headquarters for maps and current information.

Go next

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