Jacks Fork and Buffalo River

Currently I am planning an outing for mid March. I would like to get on the Jacks Fork at Hwy 17 and take out at Alley Spring. Would this be a good 2 day - 1 night trip in mid March or should I consider it a full day trip? What would be the range of waterflow I should look for a couple of days before I go? Is there ample wood for a campfire should I spend the night out? Any suggestions on shuttles?

The Buffalo River is my second river for this trip. I know the Current is right there next to the Jacks Fork but I would like to paddle some of the upper Buffalo and they say springtime is the better time to plan that. What timeframe have you spent paddling between Ponca, Pruitt Landing and ultimately over to the Hwy 65 bridge?

I haven’t read that many reports regarding the times it takes between the main landings on the Buffalo. I am not sure if I want to take several long day trips using a base camp, or do I want to camp out on the river for 2 nights. My areas of interest this year is between Ponca and Hwy 65.

Any observations would be gladly read.


Both great trips

– Last Updated: Jan-12-08 4:30 PM EST –

A guy called theBob.com will probably be coming on to give you the 411 on Jacks Fork.

I love the upper Buf. The upper sections are nicely divided into 8-13 miles each.
Ponca to Kyle's Landing is 10.1 miles,
Kyles to Ozark/Pruitt 13.4 miles,
Pruitt - Hastey 7.5 miles,
It is an additional 30 miles to the Hwy 65 bridge.

You will be hard pressed to find a more beautiful remote river then the Buffalo.

You are picking about the best time of year to catch the upper Buf running. Be aware that this river can flash and leave you scrambling for high ground

A great 3-day base camp paddle is to base camp at either Kyles or Ozark and paddle Ponca to Kyles the first day, ending at your camp site. Day two, leave from Kyesl and paddle to Ozark. And then finish with Ozark to Hastey (this is a great section. Not a lot of rapids, but very narrow and extremely twisty turny.

Good luck and enjoy.


Buffalo River
I agree with Jay on the upper Buffalo. It is a river not to miss. I would suggest base camping and doing day trips because downriver campsites may be hard to find; especially for more than a tent or two. However, for a base camp location I would choose Steel Creek. You can’t find a base camp with a better view.

I’ve never camped at Kyle’s landing but unless you have a high clearance 4WD vehicle I would choose another option. The “road” into Kyle’s Landing is tough on your vehicle, and as a base camp you would have to negotiate it at least twice per day. I would hate to have to take that road after any kind of serious rain. I drive an AWD Subaru Forester and Ozark Rendezvousers may tell you that I am not necessarily an over cautious shuttle driver.

Eleven Point River…
Everything you need, year round access, campsites, firewood, shuttles.

Hufstedlers is recommended.

Buffalo and Jacks Fork…
The Ponca to Kyles stretch of the Buffalo is not to be missed. It is the most spectacularly scenic stretch of river in the Ozarks, and a lot of fun with rapids up to class 2 when there is enough water. But it has an inconsistent water supply. It’s almost always floatable March thru mid-May, except when it’s too high to float, however. Ponca to Ozark is an easy two day trip if there is enough water to float it easily.

The upper Jacks Fork is, in my opinion, Missouri’s prettiest stream. It’s like a smaller version of the upper Buffalo, with big bluffs and lots of fast water, and it has the same feeling of remoteness. Highway 17 to Alley is a good two day float, and should be in good shape in March. Go to the USGS gages and check out the Jacks Fork near Mountain View (which is at the Hwy. 17 bridge) and at Alley Spring (the gage is actually at the bridge, which is above the spring–Alley Spring adds a LOT of water to the Jacks Fork). Look at the flow, not the level. You’ll need about 100 cfs or more to have a nice float with a canoe loaded with camping gear. If it’s flowing more than about 400 cfs it’s going to be pretty high, and high water makes it a tough river to run because of the many narrow chutes and willow strainers.

If you wish to camp in a campground instead of on a gravel bar on the Jacks Fork, Rhymers Access and campground is about 9.5 miles below Hwy. 17, and it’s another 15 miles from there to Alley. So your first day would be fairly short if the water is at optimum level, but your second day would be fairly long. Or you could take out at Bay Creek, which is about 9 miles below Rhymers.

Harvey’s Alley Spring Canoe Rental will usually do shuttles from Hwy. 17. I don’t know about in March…they usually get busy in early April.

These are all great rivers
some of my greatest paddling memories were made on these streams. Hope to go again in the near future. Enjoy!

Rough roads…

– Last Updated: Jan-12-08 9:57 PM EST –

I've been to the Buffalo once. We did the base camp thing and did Steel Creek to Kyles Landing, then Kyles to Erbie. I thought the shuttle rides were pretty horrible (long rough access roads) and would really like to try to avoid them if possible next time.

On the Jack's fork trip the roads were much better but I suffered a very unexpected vehicle problem -- a critter (raccoon?) chewed a hole in my truck's gas line.

Is huffsteddlers closed?
For the season that is. looking at heading up in a week or two. to do the eleven point.

Jacks Fork/Buffalo

– Last Updated: Jan-13-08 11:39 PM EST –

Jacks Fork: The run from Hwy 17 to Alley Springs is a nice one. It is approximately 24.2 miles; a nice 2 day/one night trip. If the water level is up, you can expect class 1 & low class 2 water. If you paddle after heavy rains, you can expect there to be a few new strainers. Two nice spots to stop & take breaks are at Blue Spring, and Jam Up Cave. Be sure to stop & check out Jam Up Cave. The entrance is fantastic; most assuredly one of the tallest entrances to any cave in Missouri. If there has been some rain in the area recently, there will be a small waterfall in the back of the cave & a nice pool of water beneath it. Fantastic view of the river looking out from the cave entrance. Unique photo ops there. Make sure that if heavy rain is predicted you camp well above the expected rise of the river. Water sometimes rises very quickly on the Jacks Fork after heavy rain. Make sure your campsite has an escape route, and not a bluff line. Hard to climb a bluff with camping gear & a canoe!

Unfortunately, you will probably not be able to go further up on the Jacks Fork & put in at Hwy Y Bridge(aka The Prongs). That is an approximate 6.8 mile stretch from Hwy Y to Hwy 17. Very few paddlers get to see that section due to low water. It is a very pretty stretch of river with lots of twists & turns & pretty scenery, but the water level has to be just right. You might get lucky & be able to catch it at a runnable level after some March showers.

There is a canoe livery just up the road from Alley Springs campground. If they are open in March, they might run you up to the put in at Hwy 17. Just a short walk to their place from Alley Springs take out. Have never used canoe outfitters in that area to run shuttle for me.
I'm sure they're probably listed on any Jacks Fork River web search you might do for outfitters in that area.



– Last Updated: Jan-14-08 12:05 AM EST –

The Buffalo River: I love it. Was down there for 4 days last May. We base camped at Ozark Campground, and paddled the sections from Erbie to Ozark, Ozark to Hasty, and Ponca to Kyle. All 3 of those sections are fun. The longest section is 10.5 miles; so they are all leisurely trips, with plenty of time to check out the scenery & photo ops. Expect class 1 & low class 2 water.

A wonderful trip that I would suggest if you have the time; put in at Ponca & paddle down to Gilbert (approx 65 miles). Gives you a real good dose of the Buffalo, and it is definitely doable in 4 days. Great scenery, and great photo ops. If you do it in March, you'll not have to deal with a lot of heavy traffic.

As stated previously; if heavy rain is predicted, you are camping on the river, and have not chosen a campsite wisely...... you may end up doing a middle of the night campsite evacuation. You would not be the first to climb a tree in the dark because of rising water on the Buffalo.

For those who "are" bolder & "more" skilled paddlers; there is a great little whitewater run
of approximately 16 miles above Boxley.
However, if you go in there, you had better be bold, skilled, and prepared. A key world to describe that area is "remote". Have seen solo whitewater boats disappear in the troughs of standing waves there. Can quickly rise to class 3 & higher with heavy rain.

Again, I do not typically use outfitters to run my shuttles, so I have no advice to offer in that area.



– Last Updated: Jan-14-08 12:16 PM EST –

thanks for the tips and to those who advised, also. I went down to take a look see and paddled some on the Buffalo last June. I didn't paddle on any whitewater but came away knowing I want to return and paddle a lot more of it.

Question, reading Ken Smith's guidebook on the Buffalo there appears to be quite a few class 1 and 2 rapids. Having a years worth of experience on the Kaw and Missouri River (about 400 miles worth) can I assume my Vagabond (based on reading reports here on paddling.net) is capable of handling class 1 and mild class 2?

Should I take my first excursion on class 1 and 2 with a loaded canoe (camping stuff) or should I run it as a day trip and not concern myself about tipping and risk losing gear, etc?


My opinion…

– Last Updated: Jan-14-08 1:36 PM EST –

I have owned a Vagabond; my wife still owns & paddles one.

The Vagabond can safely handle any class 1, or class 2 stretch of water, on any river in the Ozarks.

That is not to say that an "overloaded" Vagabond would not take on a little water over the bow. The Vagabond does not have much rocker & will be prone to slice through standing waves. Learn how to quarter standing waves, so that the bow can deflect some of the water that would come over the top of the bow, if you took on standing waves head on.

Another option if you don't feel comfortable running some section; simply pull over, get out, and line your boat through. I think strainers &/or possibly ending up pinned on a boulder might be more of a problem than standing waves. Again, if a section appears "iffy" to you, based on your experience.......get out & line it. That's one of the reasons you have painters on a canoe.Don't be concerned about "proving anything to anybody" until your skills improve; which is not to say you shouldn't practice to improve your skills. Quartering waves, ferrying, back paddling in current, eddy turns & peel outs are good skills to practice.

The Vagabond will be fine for day trips or multiple overnight trips on the Buffalo. I'd still have mine, but I like a little more "lively" solo boat.


I agree…
In fact, I find the Vagabond to handle very well with a load of camping gear. I’ve had mine on three day trips on the lower Buffalo and was very pleased with it. Except for the Ponca to Kyles stretch and above, you won’t encounter any real class 2 at normal water levels on the Buffalo.

Jacks Fork River Report March 7-9
I noticed your post about a trip on the Jacks Fork in March- Me and a buddy just got back yesterday from our trip from HWY Y “The prongs” to Alley Spring. What an amazing float it was!! The river gauge at HWY 17 was reading right at flood level-- I think 3.65 ft.

The area from “The Prongs” to Hwy 17 is defintitely a little narrow and had quite a few strainers and several areas where you had to decide what chute to take. If you are a decent paddler and have control of you boat, you will have no problems. By the way, I paddled a 12 foot Mad River Synergy and he paddled a Manitou 13 Necky. However, if you do go, about 6 or 7 miles into the trip, you will come up on a section that is washed out and you have a choice of 3 chutes to choose from. There is a house on the left side at this point that has electric running to it. Well, the electric line was knocked down by a tree and was laying accrossed the river- no harm in touching, but it blocks your path if you go river right or left- we found out the hard way it blocked the river right and it was too late and my buddy was stuck- no real danger, but had to get out and portage with temps in the teens and water temps in the 40’s.

If you decide to go, hope you enjoy your trip- By the way, we had plenty of choices for camping since it’s almost entirely federal land and wood was never a concern. Biggest issue we had was the cold weather, but overall a great trip!