Upstream paddling Buffalo River ?

I am going by the Buffalo River on my way up to the Ozark Rendevous. Since I am going to be solo at the time I was wondering if there were sections on the Buffalo where I could do day trips by paddling upstream and then coming back with the current. The cost of a couple of solo shuttles would put a pretty good dent in my expense plans and I would like to avoid the costs if possible.

I realize that river levels when I get there will ultimately determine if it is possible. However I was trying to get an idea of where the slowest sections with the least rapids (or easily portaged rapids) were located.

Thanks for any help you can give me.


ask here
Most people with the canoe club will be glad to help

Buffalo Natl. River

– Last Updated: Aug-21-08 5:09 PM EST –

The prettiest (and fastest) part of the river is the Ponca run, though it's almost certainly not runnable this time of year. The lower parts of the river are of course the slowest and would be easiest for paddling upstream, but are also the least scenic. The area along the river is riddled with hiking trails and if you have a light boat you might just consider carrying it. There are also a lot of outfitters in the area who will haul your body and your private boat upstream for a small fee, usually $7-$10, and if you choose a takeout point where they're operating that day then there's no problem leaving your ride at the takeout. You might try Gordon's Motel in Jasper or BOC in Ponca. If you go the outfitter route, talk to them and find out where their heaviest activities are that day. :)

PS> The area above Ponca becomes runnable during heavy rain. I recommend staying completely away from that unless you're comfortable with Class V "steep creek" conditions. ;)

If shuttles are that cheap it would be no problem. I was looking at some outfitter’s sites and it seemed like it would be $50 or more to do a shuttle with my car.

I need to go back and look at rates again and maybe make some calls.


Yeah, but that’s if you have them move your car. What I was saying is to pick a takeout where they’re already shuttling and park there. They’ll usually give you a ride back to the outfitter and then charge you for the trip upstream.

How many poles does it take to ascend
a Buffalo?

One, and a little practice.

Gotta disagree…
with Formattc–the lower sections are pretty danged close to being as scenic as the stretch below Ponca. Different, with stairstep bluffs instead of the sheer cliffs of the upper river, but some of the bluffs are close to 500 feet high, and the lower river valley is almost a canyon, with no bottomland to speak of–just a bluff on one side and a hillside on the other. Big, clean gravel bars everywhere and clear water. What more could you ask for?

As to paddling upstream, if the water level is typical for late summer, it’s pretty doable on the lower river. Long, slow pools and short shallow riffles–if nothing else you can wade up the riffles pulling the boat. You could put in at Rush and go upstream as far as Toney Bend Bluff, a gorgeous place to camp. Check the USGS gage at Harriet (which is at the Hwy. 14 bridge) and if it’s about 100 cfs or under, paddling and dragging upstream will be pretty easy. Right now the river there is pretty high for this time of year, well over 300 cfs, and it would be a lot tougher.

Buffalo Scenery

– Last Updated: Aug-22-08 5:11 AM EST –

Oh, don't get me wrong, the Buffalo is the most scenic river in the region all the way down, period, and my favorite flatwater stream. I just happen to like the character around Ponca/Kyle's the best.:)
It probably has something to do with it being the fastest (non-Hailstone) part of the river too, while still being tame enough to take beginners along. Not quite as rough as the Mulberry at higher levels.

someday I will be able to see
the beautiful turquoise blue pools of the Buffalo which are rumored to exist.

However though I have run it from Ponca to Rush three times, I have always found the river fast and brown. Thats cause it never ever fails to go into near or actual flood while I am there!

Someday Ponca to Rush will not be so rushed…I would like to take more than three days.

bring it kayamedic
kakyamedic, if you can bring a flood come right now! I’m sure I can round up a bunch of buddies and we can go run the Hailstone section. The only problem with the Hailstone section is you don’t have much time to look at the beautiful scenery.

More on scenery…
Yeah, that stretch below Ponca is special…nothing like it anywhere else in the Ozarks…or anywhere else I’ve paddled.

But, I’d say that the Buffalo Point to White River section is just as unique in its own way.

It’s always intrigued me just why, geologically, the Buffalo is so much more spectacular than other AR Ozark rivers. Several others flow through the Boston Mountain area, but none of them have those incredible bluffs like the Ponca to Kyles stretch…heck, even the Buffalo doesn’t have them above Ponca where it’s even deeper in the Bostons. And the lower end of the river is in the Salem Plateau, which is what the vast majority of Ozark streams flow through, yet no others have those great stairstep bluffs and such a deep, narrow canyon. Even the middle section of the river, while somewhat closer to a “normal” Ozark stream, still has more and higher bluffs than most. The Buffalo is truly a treasure.