Buffalo River in April

I’m traveling East this Spring and would like to spend a few days paddling the Buffalo river in Arkansas, probably in April. Would like suggestions on good sections to paddle. I would need to arrange a shuttle service. I’ll be with my wife and two dogs. Is it OK for the dogs to be on the river? Thanks.

Buffalo River

– Last Updated: Jan-22-05 8:10 PM EST –

Only did it once, what a nice trip! I recomend camping in the woods between the parks, and not at them....too crowded. I am from NY (not NYC) and we got a good shuttle from

Crockett's Canoe Rental


(870) 448-3892

P.O. Box 26

Harriet, AR 72639

Don’t let the dogs scare the buffalo
at the crossings, or the water gets muddied real bad and ruins the fishing.

April isn’t too busy for campgrounds.
Should be ok. As far as dogs, check with the DNR/national park service in AR. Water levels should be good enough to do the upper sections, but may actually be too high if it rains much. Keep an eye on the weather.

The upper sections have some classII (up around Ponca). It gets flatter as you go downriver. There’s a fun drop at the Erby access. Easy, but a nice ride.

Keep an eye on your dogs. There are quite a few wild hogs along the Buffalo. They don’t always scare easily. An unskilled dog will lose a fight with a pig. Also, dogs can get sidetracked by the elk and deer and get lost. If you travel with them around wildlife, then you already know this.

Have a great time!

Nice sections of Buffalo River
Ponca to Kyle’s Landing

10 miles

See Big Bluff (500 feet/below Steel Creek)

Short distance above Kyles is Grey Rock Shoals; can have high standing waves if water level is up some.

Usually class 1 & 2

Kyle’s Landing to Pruitt

13 miles

5.2 below Kyles is Erbie Ford

Check it out for strainers/obstacles before running it blindly.

Usually class 1 & 2

Pruitt to Hasty

7.5 miles

Nice bluffs, pools separted by shoals, and willow runs.

Usually class 1.

With heavy Spring rain; any of the sections mentioned can jump up to another higher class of water. A beginner could get themselves into situations where discretion is the better part of valor. Check the water level prior to putting on. If you are camping, and rain is predicted; pick a high & dry campsite. The Buffalo can rise quickly, and you don’t want to be hemmed in by large bluffs. Beautiful river, and in early Spring you will miss a lot of the “river dorks”, aka drunks.


the Buffalo is great.
You won’t regret it. Just make sure you keep abreast of the weather in the area. The Buffalo is a flash flood river. Rains upstream affect the river very quickly.

The river beautiful. If you want to see a few pics from our trip last year check out the Buffalo gallery on my photo page.


I wouldn’t worry too much about the crowds in April, you are beating the rush.

When In April?
Paul, when in April do you plan to do your float? I’m off work April 1-6 and may be able to make it over that way. It’d be great to paddle with you and Joan and see Larry and Tip again.

Bob gave some good suggestions. The only time I’ve paddled the Buffalo was a P-net spring rendezvous last year just before we did our Missouri Breaks float. The floats I participated in were very easy, although they may approach class II at higher water.

There is another spring P-net float planned for the end of the month but I have plans for a float fishing trip on the James in VA that weekend.


What part of Aprit? Spring Rendevous

– Last Updated: Jan-23-05 7:58 PM EST –

is on the Buffalo this year, 27 Apr - 1 May. You could shuttle with us. If the Buffalo is too low we will do the Current in MO. Look at http://www.paddling.net/message/showThread.html?fid=meet&tid=263979

Where are you comming from?

Happy Paddl'n!


Paddling the Buffalo

– Last Updated: Jan-23-05 8:16 PM EST –

For starters, the Upper Buffalo (Boxley to Pruitt) is generally not runnable in April unless there has been a very recent local rainfall of significance. That section is primarily a winter run on cold water, and frequently gets too low to paddle by mid- to late-March.

You need a minimum of 5.6' between Boxley and Ponca, and 4.0' between Ponca and Pruitt. It is optimum at 6' (Boxley to Ponca) and 4.5-5.6' (Ponca to Pruitt). Avoid the river when flows exceed about 7' (Boxley to Ponca) and 6' (Ponca to Pruitt).

The entire banks of the river are USFS land, so you can camp anywhere. There are some "improved" designated campsites, but sometimes it is hard to distinguish them from other places along the river except that some have roads leading to them, and all are NOT paved.

A really great reach is from Pruitt to Gilbert, a 49.5 mile section that is generally referred to as the Middle Buffalo. You can get rentals and shuttles from Ben and Cyndi Freuhauf at Gilbert General Store (Buffalo Camping & Canoeing), where you would end this reach. They also have a campground and cabins at the takeout. Visit their web site at http://gilbertstore.com/ for details. You can run the Middle Buffalo at as low as 3' (Pruitt to Woolum) or 2' (Woolum to Gilbert) and as high as about 9'.

The Lower Buffalo, from Gilbert to the White River confluence (most people stop after 54 miles at Buffalo City) can be run at stages as low as 0.9 feet and optimally at about 1.5'-4.5'. The Lower Buffalo generally has a navigable flow when the two upper reaches do not.

Above Boxley, the Buffalo is called the Hailstone River, and it is markedly more technical with Class II to III+ drops, some waterfalls, a narrower channel and much colder water, especially since you almost always have to catch it in mid-winter for a navigable flow.

On the Upper Buffalo you can get rentals and shuttles from Buffalo Outdoor Center in Ponca, Gordon Motel (owners and manufacturers of Buffalo Canoes) in Jasper or Lost Valley Canoe & Lodging in Ponca, as well as many other places.

For a complete listing of licensed outfitters go to http://www.nps.gov/buff/concessioner.htm .

which section?
At that time of year, chances are fairly good that the Ponca to Pruitt stretch will be at least marginally floatable, given normal early spring rains. If you were only going to see one piece of the Buffalo, the Ponca to Kyles stretch would definitely be my choice, as it is, in the opinion of many, myself included, the most spectacularly gorgeous stretch of river in the Ozarks. But I think you simply have to be a little flexible, and let water levels dictate which stretch you float. If it’s a dry winter and early spring, you might be pushed down to the lower river. Best advice is probably to go to the Buffalo National River website…I think it will have links to canoe rentals on different sections of the river. Then call several different canoe rentals and get their views on water levels before making a final decision.

The lower end of the river, below Buffalo Point, is almost as spectacular as the stretch below Ponca (although different…totally different geology), and the whole river in between those two stretches is almost as special. I love that river!

Congrats Al
Congratulations on getting one of your paintings on the cover of the 2005 Bass Pro Shops Angler’s Catalog. Another fantastic painting, as always.


Looked at the Pics of the Buffalo –
looks great. I’m located in Southern Oregon. I’m getting cabin fever and looking forward to do some paddling. I’m heading East to visit my daughters in Florida and Texas and want to paddle some of the rivers when on the trip out East. The Buffalo looks like a river I don’t want to miss.

hope its not floody this time
Last trip was at the ebb of a flood and we kept banging into closed areas and had to pull out. Ran from Ponca to Pruitt (23 miles ) in about four hours. Am going back in search of calmer bluer waters. I hope to find an eddy at Hidden Hollow this year.Flood was impressive; I found underwear 20 feet up in the trees. Keep an eye out if its raining and always tie your boat.

I only had three days and went on water at Ponca just as the water was at the top end of the yellow paint on the low water bridge( meaning it was just barely open, and needed to be treated with LOTS of respect)and got out at Gilbert three days later. High water and willow thickets are a bad mix… Also Gray Rock area was running 5-6 foot haystacks. The river goes up and down very quickly so if a stretch is beyond your capabilities just wait a day or two.

I would suggest avoiding campsites. I got gear stolen at Tyler Bend which is why I had to leave at Gilbert; someone took all my food. There are alot of yahoos and ATVs around.

Going back in early April to see the redbuds and spring flowers. Hopefully I will have picked a tamer time on the river.