Buffalo River?

-- Last Updated: May-20-09 6:36 PM EST --

Anyone familiar with the Boxley to Ponca section?



Ok, I ran it on May 17 09 at a fairly low level and it was nice. Quite narrow for the first few miles with lots of class II riffles.

Check out this site
http://www.arkansascanoeclub.com/mb/viewforum.php?f=1&sid=7d3fe4c34b9a5b704957dd7d4bace0d1 (Arkansas Canoe Club) they can help you-

I think I’m heading to the Buffalo this weekend and going to hit the Ponca to Pruitt section-

But it is too low to run a lot of the time, except for right now probably. It is a bit narrower than from Ponca to Pruitt, a has a few challenging class III’s on it.

Particulars can be found at


It is a fantastic run if you can catch it with water. We did from Ponca to Erbie on Good Friday and had a great trip!

Boxley to Ponca

– Last Updated: May-04-09 6:41 PM EST –

About 6 miles of class 1 & 2 at optimum level of about 6 feet, or slightly over 6 feet. Some sharp turns, small drops, and some willow jungles you should avoid.

About 5.5 feet is the suggested minimum level.
Below 5 feet; I wouldn't even bother going up there.

If you put in when it's above 7 feet; you had better have more than beginner's skills & you should have a couple of paddling partners with you. Preferably some paddling partners who have more than beginner's skills & know how to use a throw bag.

You wouldn't be the first "beginning" whitewater paddler to tear up, or lose their boat up there, or figure out they were out of their element & end up "walking" a couple of miles to the take out.

If the water level is up, and there are other more experienced paddlers putting on the same time as you; you might ask if you can tag along.

Go for it!

P.S. IF you do Boxley to Ponca, and find it too easy........

When the water level is "up"; drive up to the put in at NFR 1463, and do the 13.5 miles from NFR 1463 to Boxley(aka Hailstone). Carry some overnight/survival supplies with you........there won't be any park rangers(and probably not anyone else either) up there to help you out if you get in a jam.
Be sure & post photos if you make it........

class II & III ?
I’ve run the Buffalo about 6 times. Only twice in the upper sections mentioned but usually with friends from the area. I have not seen and none of my friends claims to ever have seen a class II or III rapid on the Buffalo. They run it quite often. Our WW experience is from the Ocoee, Nantahala, Chattooga watersheds. I know well what are considered calss II-III there. I consistently see these classes of rapids mentioned, re: the Buffalo but cannot verify them. Is there just a difference by region or have I just never seen them ?

So Boxley to Ponca is…
So Boxley to Ponca is somewhat more challenging than Ponca to Kyles? Both are rated class II. I am not considering the uppermost class II-III section above Boxley.

regional differences
I can’t speak for the Buffalo, but having paddled in the Southeast, and now living in the Midwest, I believe there is a regional difference.

As boats, skills and techniques advanced, I believe rapids in the Southeast were downgraded. Heck, years ago even Nantahala Falls was considered a Class V rapid by some. Now, some boaters want to call it a Class II. Many, if not most would argue that there are no Class IVs on the Ocoee and what used to be called Class Vs on the Chatooga (Bull Sluice, Sock-em-Dog) are usually not so anymore.

In this region there aren’t nearly as many whitewater boaters and I think the older definitions have persisted. But I could be wrong.

Ozark Rapids
I don’t know the differences in classes, but I’ve noticed a lot of canoe rentals seem to exaggerate river features to make things sound more interesting. Maybe they are just trying to warn the rental dorks, but half of the ones I see can’t even set down in a canoe without tipping it over.

there’s no doubt…
the rapids have been downgraded especially as the old aluminum tandems were replaced by rolex open canoes designed specifically for WW, and now the stubby kayaks which have a much flatter learning curve. I agree with your assessments. My guess is that those on the Buffalo probably need to be downgraded as well, but that is only hearsay as I have not paddled the Boxley to Ponce run at higher water levels. The problem is, if driving all the way to the Buffalo, which hull to bring? Would my Wildfire make that run or do I need my WW solo?

The Buffalo

– Last Updated: May-05-09 9:51 PM EST –

If the section from Boxley to Ponca, and from Ponca to Kyles are at a "good" level......a decent paddler would have NO problem running either section in a Bell Yellowstone, Bell Wildfire(Royalex), Mohawk Odyssey, Mohowk Solo 14, Mad River Guide, or some similiar solo canoes. No big deal.

If, on the other hand, you put on either of those two sections, when they are approaching flood stage......it would be "nice" to have some skilled paddling partners, some floatation in your canoe, and more than beginner's skills. I am NOT saying a whitewater boat is necessary.
Again, no big deal.

If, you go "ABOVE" Boxley & put in on NFR 1463, and make the full 13 mile run to Boxley, in "any" of those solo canoes listed above when that section is approaching flood stage, or dropping down from flood stage......I wish you good luck. I wouldn't try it in anything but a dedicated whitewater boat, and I'd want some skilled paddling partners with me. You can call it class 1, 2, 3, or whatever you want.......

You will pass through a lot of rough country on that section, and it is one hell of a hike to the nearest highway if someone gets hurt, or you lose a boat.
It does NOT have a highway running alongside it like the Nantahala, and Ocoee, or close to it like the Chattooga.


Have you?

– Last Updated: May-05-09 11:11 PM EST –

Have you, or any of your friends done what is commonly referred to Hailstone........putting in at NFR(fire road)#1463, and running the approx. 13.6 miles down to Boxley in high water? High water would be considered when the river is one foot or more "over" the bridge at Ponca.

Please post photos if you run it in high water & let us know if you think it's class 1 & 2.......

To assist you in getting to the put in; cause I know you wanna go........It's about 1/2 mile north of Fallsville on Hwy 21.


P.S. I wouldn't leave a vehicle at the put in if I were you......it might beat you to Boxley.

Hmmm, Someones Full of Manure

– Last Updated: May-06-09 3:30 AM EST –

No Class II or III on the upper Buffalo? No one has seen any? Doggone it, I must have been having some kind of flashbacks. Wonder how old "Wrecking Rock" got it's name? Someone musta driven a wrecker into the river there. Put in at Ponca at 4.5'+ and tell me "There are no rapids there."
Wrecking Rock Pic, without whitewater:

for the info. It’s not so much a question of skill as it is one of busting up my boat. The class II and II rapids I paddled on the Chattooga for example would be difficult in a Wildfire but definitely could bust them up. I’m not trying to start a pissing contest between river rapids here, but have not seen a II or III on the Buffalo. That said, I’ve not been on the upper B.R. at water levels considered enough to create those classes.

Every time…
I’ve been to Boxley but the water was too low to run. I’ve put-in twice at Ponca. Never been above Boxley. My friends advise a WW hull above Boxley if the water is up. The rub here is that I am always going to have the Wildfire because when I’ve gotten reports that the water is up, by the time I get free and drive that distance the water has gone down and I’m stuck with a WW hull to plod down the sections below. So, my real question is if the water is up at Boxley can I put my Wildfire in and not get it trashed on rocks. On the class II-III rivers I’ve paddled, you definitely hit rocks and in a strong eddy one can be swept hard into boulders. I don’t care how good you are some rocks are gonna be impacted. In the II-II rapids I’ve paddled a glass and gold hull would have problems.

Dear Wildernesswebb
Thanks for the pic. I intend no slight to you personally or your local favorite river. I am not familiar with these runs and seek some objective information. It appears to me that the paddler in your attached pic is not in a WW hull and the rapid shown is runnable. Here is a link to a pic of Bull Sluice Rapid now considered by most to be a class III, which I have run. My glass and gold wildfire would be reduced to rubble on this. BTW the paddler in the pic is just above a second drop, not shown. Is there anything like this on the Buffalo? Thanks



The Buffalo

– Last Updated: May-07-09 1:30 PM EST –

The Buffalo is "not" one of my favorite river because of the reasons stated. Timing has to be near perfect to catch it at at the optimum level. It rises rapidly when it receives heavy rain, and drops quickly when the rain stops. On the other hand, I believe it is one of the most beautiful rivers in the Ozarks; so I keep trying to catch it at that perfect level. I too, have often failed. And I know exactly what you mean about plodding along in a dedicated whitewater boat, when you get there too late & the water level has dropped significantly.

Speaking for myself; I would not take a composite Wildfire on any section of the Buffalo river at any level. Not saying it can't be done, not saying a composite boat couldn't deal with it; I'm saying I wouldn't do it. If someone wants to paddle a 25 hundred, or 3 thousand dollar composite boat on a rocky, boulder strewn Ozark rivers, I say, "Go for it"!

I would not consider doing Hailstone(the uppermost run) on the Buffalo(in high water)in anything but a dedicated whitewater canoe in royalex layup. I would not consider doing Boxley to Ponca (in high water) in anything but a royalex canoe, and I would have some flotation in that canoe. I don't think that section requires a dedicated whitewater canoe. I've done it in a Mohawk Odyssey 14 outfitted with air bags. Don't think I'd try it in my royalex Wildfire.

The Buffalo is definitely not the Chattooga, or any other southeastern river, but in high water (the uppermost section) is capable of producing class 3. If Eye of the Needle, Second Ledge, and Painted Rock on Section 3 of the Chattooga are class 3; the Buffalo can produce class 3. If Kayak Ledge/Needle Rock, and Frank Bells on the French Broad are class 3 or 4, the Buffalo can produce class 3. If Diamond Splitter, Broken Nose & Powerhouse on the Ocoee are class 3, the Buffalo can produce class 3. I did not rate any of those rapids; that's their rating in Southeastern Whitewater. Maybe their rated at high class 1 now? At some point, arguing about ratings is kind of like arguing with a fool; a no win situation. I was never much concerned about ratings.I was always concerned about whether I thought I could make it, and what the natural consequences might be if I didn't.

One thing is for damn sure.........no matter what you "think" is a class 2, 3, or 4; the upper Buffalo, the Chattooga, the French Broad, and the Ocoee are all capable of killing you. If the water level is up, you put your boat in the wrong place at the wrong time, and don't have some capable paddling partners with some rescue skills there to help you real quick.........it's a done deal.

Am currently trying to get a Buffalo river trip together for later this month; hope we can catch it when it's up. I will never tempt fate on Hailstone again; I am not as dumb,or as young as I once was.

P.S. I look forward to seeing photos of any Hailstone runs, made when the water level is a foot or more over the Ponca bridge. Especially if they are done in a canoe.

Asking anyone who has never run a particular section, of a particular river, while it's at a particular level, what class of water it is..... is not likely to illicit much more than hearsay, or opinion.


I may be old fashioned
but I would still consider Bull Sluice a IV, at least at the level shown. It’s true that the damage is over quickly, and no complex maneuvering is required, but I’ve watched it spank a lot of very good paddlers.

Again, I know diddly about the Buffalo, but my guess is, based on what I have heard, if you consider the Bull to be a III, you ain’t gonna find any IIIs on the Buffalo. Of course, with enough water, even a stream that ordinarily has no rapids can present a Class V danger factor, when the current greatly exceeds your ability to paddle against it, the water is up in the trees, and the river becomes “ballistic” and starts richocheting off the banks.

I previously said that I thought there was a regional difference in how rapids were graded but on further reflection I’m not sure that is so. What I have observed is a big difference in how rapids are graded on rivers that are run primarily as whitewater rivers as opposed to rivers that are run primarily as flatwater river trips.

Rivers that people run to experience whitewater have had their rapids downgaded by 2 classes or more. It seems that those which are run primarily as float trips adhere to the older classifications. I have heard rapids like Owassee Rapid on Pine Creek in PA, or Skinner’s Falls on the Delaware referred to as Class IIIs and then run the rivers and thought “what rapid?”.

I’m sure those rapids could become Class IIIs, or worse, with enough water, but a problem arises when someone without a lot of whitewater experience hears them called a Class III, runs them at normal flow, and then thinks they are prepared to run other Class IIIs or, God forbid, step up to Class IV.

Thanks Bob…NM

Good points…
Seeking to definitively classify rapids puts one on a very slippery slope. I’ve seen pics of Bull Sluice after a hurricane had dumped an extraordinary amount of rain in a short duration and it was easily a class VI+. Other times I’ve seen it as a class III. One might conclude that the classification of any rapid is dependent on the amount of water flow. But there is one more or less constant in these rapids and that is the topography. It changes slowly but during our lifetimes is more or less the same. The pic of Bull Sluice shows rock formations and drops of size and type which I do not believe exist on the Buffalo. I have not seen all of the B.R. river above Ponca, but nothing of this magnitude from Ponca to the White River.

As far as regionalism, I believe it exists more between the eastern and western U.S. It appears to me that the western rivers have steeper grades, larger volumes of water, and more remote canyons which effect classification. Generally the eastern rivers are located in older mountain systems and are more circuitous and strewn with larger numbers of boulders.

Wrecking rock…

– Last Updated: May-07-09 2:38 PM EST –

Wrecking rock no longer exists........at least not in it's original position.

A flood moved it downstream to a deep hole, or a river bank, or some river dorks picked it up & put it in their canoe & hauled it home to use as a landscape feature, or decoration in a flower bed........

I always considered that feature as a class 2 at best; the people who typically wrecked on it were river dorks of the first order, who didn't have a clue.

It might have been class 1; "it don't matter"!

I would describe much of the Buffalo above Boxley as remote. If you've never tried it, or never intend too; "it don't matter".
If you did it & had no problems, "it still don't matter"!


P.S. Don't leave your vehicle at the lower Kyle's Landing parking area while you're doing a multi overnight trip, if heavy rains are predicted for a couple of days in a row. Just because you don't know anyone whose vehicle became a temporary river feature, doesn't mean that yours won't. That would make some fun photos......