Buffalo National River attracts millions of floaters, hikers and outdoor enthusiasts.
Harrison, Arkansas - Since its designation as a National River (America's first) in 1972, the Buffalo National River has attracted millions of floaters, hikers and outdoor enthusiasts to its National Park Region. It's 150 miles of fun, scenery and adventure. The river and its surroundings are truly a national treasure, one to be enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities, regardless of experience. The Buffalo National River is a fun place for families to visit at any time of the year.
Granted, the first official day of spring is March 20, however, the weather is cooperating, and it feels like spring has arrived just in time. From early spring until late summer, and then starting off all over again, there's no place like the Buffalo National River for floating. It might just be the most natural thing to enjoy in all of the 'Natural State.' You can expect to see high Ozark bluffs, beautiful wooded hillsides and an abundance of colorful wildflowers (in season) along the way.
If you are in the Harrison area any time between March and late May, the upper river is calling you to come and float. The upper river is mainly designated as class I water, but the furthest upper section sometimes is considered class II when the water is high enough. Class I rapids are for beginners, and Class II will require some careful judgment before attempting. During spring rains, the upper river is usually floatable, and offers many memorable Buffalo National River views such as Big Bluff, Hemmed In Hollow Falls, and Steel Creek.
Here are three upper river floats to get you started:
• Boxley to Ponca ; six miles from the Highway 21 bridge south of Boxley to the low water bridge at Highway 74 in Ponca. This stretch can have some exciting water when the river is up. (We suggest you have an experienced floater in the boat if you choose to make this trip). Look for the elk in the fields on the left as you approach Ponca. Approximate float time is 1.5 – 2 hours.
• Ponca to Steel Creek; 2.6 miles from the low water bridge at Highway 74 in Ponca to the camping area at Steel Creek. On this lazy float, you will pass Bee Bluff on the right and Roark Bluff on the left as you approach Steel Creek. Before the Park Service took over the river, Steel Creek was a privately owned horse ranch. Approximate float time is less than one hour.
• Steel Creek to Kyles Landing; 8 miles. You can access this part of the river from Highway 74. The road down the hill to Steel Creek is not paved and quite steep, so check your brakes before going. During this float, you will pass the Big Bluff on your left (you’ll know it when you see it), the entrance to the river access to Hemmed In Hollow waterfall and Gray Rock. Approximate float time is 3 – 3.5 hours.
There are numerous concessionaires along the river for canoe rentals, food and shuttle service. Camping is available at Lost Valley (between Boxley and Ponca), Steel Creek and Kyles Landing. Be sure and call for current river conditions before coming and dress accordingly. Sun screen during sunny days is a must. Phone service is available at Steel Creek. Cell phones may not work while on the river.
These are just three of the floats along the 150 mile Buffalo National River for your enjoyment.
For those visitors to the area that aren’t interested in roughing it in the great outdoors, Harrison offers numerous privately owned and chain hotels, motels and Bed and Breakfasts, along with a variety of restaurants for your eating enjoyment – before or after a day on the river.