USA Radio

Buffalo National River

Canoe through a landscape of forests, fields and canyons

The Buffalo is that great rarity: 150 miles of pure, wild water with not a dam in sight. Snaking past towering limestone cliffs, it is one of the nation’s prettiest places for canoeing and a shining example of why Arkansas, with its mountains, rivers and abundant wildlife, is called ‘The Natural State’.

Sufficiently scenic to be singled out for protection as America’s first national river back in 1972, the emerald green Buffalo starts as a trickle in the Ozarks and flows eastward before merging with the White River. A 95,000-acre national park stretches for 135 miles on both sides, protecting a magnificent mix of oak and hickory forests, open fields and box canyons—a wild landscape that supports mink, beaver, bobcats, even elk and black bears.

The best way to see the Buffalo is by canoe—whether on half-day trips or leisurely 10-day explorations that take you camping down the length of the river. You can bring your own canoe or rent one from a company who will set you in the river at any one of 20 access points and pick you up whenever and wherever you want to call it a day. To navigate the scenic upper Buffalo, featuring the 500-foot Big Bluff, you can rent a canoe or rubber raft at the Buffalo Outdoor Center in Ponca; they also offers log cabins and can even arrange hot-air balloon trips high above the river. The wing-chair crowd might prefer Azalea Falls Lodge, a B&B with three bedrooms and a private cabin.

Along the river, there’s a stretch for every skill level, from the Class I and II white-water rapids of the upper Buffalo in early spring to the easy family jaunts of the middle and lower Buffalo, which can be floated year-round. The parkland on either side of the Buffalo invites other forms of exploration, especially hiking. The Rimrock Cove Ranch offers guided horse rides and even hayrides on trails that wind through woods and meadows up to the top of the cliffs for panoramic scenes that have changed precious little over the centuries.

This trip idea can be found in:

1,000 Places to See in the United States & Canada Before You Die®

Trip idea text ©Patricia Schultz. For contact information about the places mentioned and many more USA trip ideas, see Patricia Schultz's blockbuster book.

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