Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Spring in the Ozarks: Buffalo National River

At the heart of this trip was the beautiful Buffalo River. From its headwaters in the Ozark National Forest to its confluence with the White River, this stream flows clear and unobstructed over its entire length.The headwaters are protected by the National Forest Service as a Wild and Scenic river. The lower 135 miles are managed by the National Park Service and were designated as the country's first National River (see map).

On my first and second full days in the area, I rented a kayak and paddled the ten mile stretch of river from Ponca to Kyles Landing. Heavy rains the prior week had sent the upper Buffalo into flood stage for a few days, but by Monday the water levels had receded enough to offer an ideal float.

In this stretch, the river's turquoise waters flowed through forested valleys, past steep limestone bluffs, and through of a series of moderate rapids.

Along the way the river passed numerous creeks and sandbars that offered opportunities for relaxation and exploration.

One other thing I found as I floated along is a collection of really friendly people. Other paddlers were eager to tell me about their favorite sections of the river, their favorite trails and waterfalls, and some of them, their life stories. And on the couple of occasions where a rapids got the better of someone, they were also eager to help gather up lost possessions before they floated away.

On my fourth full day I returned to hike the Buffalo River Trail from Ponca to a bit beyond Steel Creek and back. The trail wound along the hillsides and bluffs, giving me a chance to enjoy the Buffalo from a slightly different perspective.

More Pictures from the Buffalo National River

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