Buffalo River

Every year, Anthony and I go on a float trip. Sometimes multiple, back when we lived further south where floatable rivers were plentiful. Now our float trips require planning and much more driving.

So plan I did. We decided we’d do the Elk River since it was close to the in-laws’. It was an incredibly wet spring, so we decided to hold off until middle of July when water level was lower. But then it decided to pour down rain for a week before our trip and completely flood the whole area, meaning no floating or camping would be allowed. Figures.

We were determined,though, so I decided we should just go further south into Arkansas to float the Buffalo River. Buffalo River was the first designated National River in the US, and we had been wanting to float it for quite some time.  It is such a journey from where we live now, though, that we had never found the time.


A tip for potential floaters- It is so much more pleasant if you do it on a day other than Saturday. On Saturdays, the rivers are so packed full of people that you can’t hardly move at your own pace, and a majority of them are quite obnoxiously drunk.

So, on Sunday morning, bright and early, we roadtripped through Arkansas, enjoying the beautiful countryside.


My little Ford Focus was packed completely full between coolers, dry buckets, camping gear, and four people. It struggled up the Ozark mountains under all that weight, but we arrived at the Buffalo River Canoes facility safe and sound and got checked in. From there we drove to our launch point, Steel Creek, and made sure we had our coolers and our dry buckets, handed the staff the keys to our car so that they could drive it over to our landing area for us, and got our canoes ready.  If you own your own canoes/kayaks, Buffalo would be a really easy river to do without a company since there are public access points to put in and out.


Already, I was so happy we ended up there instead of Elk. We were out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nothing but beautiful bluffs. I had lost cell service about 10 minutes before getting there, which was a-okay to me.  The people were calmer and more polite. The water was crystal clear so that we could see the rock bottom. Perfect.



We put our canoes in and immediately had some rapids to navigate. It became obvious that it was going to be a slightly more active float than what we were used to, but it was really the perfect mix of excitement and tranquility.


The scenery was gorgeous. It was a hot, sunny day, and it felt amazing to hop in the water and swim for awhile or picnic on the banks. Or show off.


If we stopped somewhere with deep enough water, the boys would climb up the bluffs to jump off. I skipped out on this fun.


There was a point where people pulled their canoes up on the bank and went on a nature hike to Hemmed-in-Hollow falls. Unfortunately, we had not thought ahead to this and did not have shoes suitable for hiking. Instead we continued on and later, found a different little stream through the woods. We pulled up to check it out.


The stream was a pretty little waterfall, so I was happy we noticed it from the river.


After around six hours, we ended up at Kyles Landing. Our car was there waiting for us, so we picked out a campsite and drove our car over to it. The campground was pretty bare bones, but I loved it. The pay station was a wooden stand where you fill out an envelope and put $12 inside.  It’s pretty far from civilization, nowhere to buy ice or wood anywhere close. This was a bit of a nuisance, but a couple of the guys drove on up the steep gravel road and arrived back over an hour later with what we needed.  Otherwise, I really enjoyed the isolation and calm.

We set up our tents and got a fire going.


We spent the rest of the evening by the fire, cooking our dinner, drinking some beer, and chatting, our conversations getting wilder and wilder as the night wore on. Completely exhausted shortly after the sun went down, we headed off to our tents to sleep.

A very loud bird woke the rest of the woods up at around 5 the next morning. If it hadn’t had such a pretty singing voice, I would have been annoyed. We all got up and decided to walk down the trail right next to our site before we packed up. The trail led back to the river, so we enjoyed the view and the inactivity, skipping rocks and exploring.


Afterward, we loaded my little car back up, and started our journey back home.

See ya later, Buffalo.


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