Buffalo River trip?

Harland’s talking up a Buffalo trip. It’s 26 hours from Beantown so I’d like to spend at least 4 nights out. Class II is good. Class III is too much in a loaded boat.

Crowds are not my thing.

So can anyone recomend the best dates, put ins and take outs?


In Arkansas?
Since there are a number of Buffalo Rivers it probably pays to specify, but it sounds like that is what you are referring to. At least, it is the right distance from Boston.

First, when are you going and do you want company? I

don’t know the river well, but your put in is going to depend on water levels and whether or not you are comfortable running rapids in loaded boats. The stretch just below Ponca is great fun, but depending on water levels it is capable of sousing loaded open boats. It requires a reasonable water level to make it worthwhile.

I haven’t been on the river above Ponca but I am told the Boxley Valley section is a bit “remote” and contains some Class IIIs when the river is at a runnable level, so it may be a bit stout for loaded boats.

The gradient moderates of course, the lower you put in. I have been told the stretch below Carver is quite scenic and less populated.

Buffalo River (Arkansas?)

– Last Updated: Jan-22-12 4:58 PM EST –

If you are going to put out the time, effort, and money necessary to drive to Arkansas from Boston for 4 days of paddling on the Buffalo; do yourself a favor, and make a small(about $20.00)investment.

Buy the book Ozark Whitewater by Tom Kennon.
Last known publisher Menasha Ridge Press
Birmingham, Alabama
NOTE: I have a second edition/third printing copy from 1999; so all contact info. I've listed is iffy at best.

Do NOT attempt ANY of the (National Forest Road 1463 to Ponca---aka Hailstone/Hailstone River)section in loaded boats. I wouldn't go up there unless I was in a whitewater outfitted boat, I had a haul system, a damn good first aid kit, and whatever I needed to spend an "unexpected" overnight roughing it. I would only go up there with people who I know had their game together, and I trusted. I would make damn sure some people knew I was up there & when I was "supposed" to take out & where.

Most especially "all" of the above, if the water level was anywhere close to the bottom of the Ponca bridge, or over it. Be very aware of weather before you put on, and while on the river.

My favorite section for a 4 day trip is from Ponca to Gilbert. About 65 miles.
I much prefer letting an outfitter handle the shuttling of vehicles. The last time we did this trip; an outfitter at Ponca moved our vehicles to the takeout on the take out day we had specified.

Hard to catch the water level "just right", but if you do, it will be a great trip.


P.S. Smart move: Seek more info. at Arkansascanoeclub.com

I have run it four times
three times in early April. I love seeing the wildflowers and the redbud trees in bloom.

Water levels are entirely dependent on rainfall. If there is a hard rain the river goes up quick. It goes down more slowly. Its a small steep sided watershed with no impoundments.

If you have a crystal ball that can see weather and water levels on the Buffalo I am interested.

Never leave your boat anywhere near the water. Even a drenching upstream of you while your tent is dry can raise the level of the river mighty quick and quite a bit.

I like Ponca to Tyler the best. But the lower section between Rush and the White river is good too.

You could conceivably get good fast water and run Ponca to Buffalo Point in four days. This will probably involve a soaking in haystacks at Grey Rocks. Or you could get lower water and a shorter trip. I have used outfitters that do not take your vehicle to the take out till the last day. That allows you to be more flexible. If you only make it so far as to Tyler there is a pay phone there. Cell phones might not work on the river.

An even better book…
Get “Buffalo River Handbook”, by Kenneth L. Smith.

Boxley to Ponca is only about 6 miles. Of course, there’s the Hailstone section above Boxley, which is the closest thing to a true wilderness river in the Midwest, but I wouldn’t do it with camping gear, and I wouldn’t do it unless you are very experienced in class 3 and 4 small creek whitewater and self reliance.

I’d consider Ponca the upper end of your possibilities. Since the entire Buffalo is rain dependent, and comes up and down in a big hurry, you’re somewhat at the mercy of the weather no matter when you go. If it was me, I’d go in early May with the intention of putting in at Ponca and going downstream about ten miles a day for however many days you want to be on the river. That would take you out at the Pruitt Landing in two days, or float to Carver in three days, or to Mount Hershey or Woolum in four days. This would give you the best scenery on the entire river from Ponca to Kyles, and a lot of class 2 water in the level is good.

If you went later on in the year, like early summer, the upper stretch probably won’t have enough water. In that case you could put in at Hasty or Carver and take out at Hwy. 65 (Tyler Bend) or Gilbert in three days, about 30-35 miles. Or if you like to cover more water than ten miles a day, go all the way to Buffalo Point in four days, about 65 miles. That stretch has the most varied scenery on the river, but is mostly class 1.

Or do Gilbert to the White River, 54 miles of spectacular scenery, in my opinion almost as spectacular as the Ponca to Kyles stretch. Class 1 except for a couple of rapids, though Clabber Creek Shoals can be a low class 3 in fairly high water.

In other words, you really can’t go wrong on the Buffalo. It’s simply the most beautiful river in middle America, and some would say the most beautiful in the country.

Buffalo in Arkansas
Sorry about that. I was not aware there were others.

Got no plans yet. But I figured this was a good place to ask.

Thanks all!

My 2 cents
Go here - http://www.ozarkpages.com/cgi-bin/stages.pl?ST=level - for a wealth of river information about the Buffalo including a brief description, river levels with a link to the USGS gauge and a few photos.

Go to the Arkansas Canoe Club web page at - http://arkansascanoeclub.camp7.org/ - if you would like some company. Somebody from the club is always posting trip plans and if it is posted, it’s an invitation. Just let them know who you are and get in on the trip.

For another book you really should have, The Buffalo National River Canoeing Guide from the Ozark Society. I can’t recommend this book strongly enough. - http://www.ozarksociety.net/Books/complete%20rev%20bufcanoe.html .

Put in as high on the river as you can depending on river levels and spend as many days on the river as you can. Don’t forget the side hikes or you will miss some great stuff. Figure out how you can do more than 4 days!

You were cautioned about keeping an eye on the river because it can rise suddenly if it’s raining upstream. Pay attention to that caution. Don’t camp where there is no escape route and keep your canoe tied up at your campsite. If you wake up laying in water - it’s time to move. I’m just saying.

Bring your full on whitewater gear. If by some freak accident the Hailstone is running you don’t want to miss that opportunity. Keep an eye on the Arkansas Canoe Club web page.