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The Ozarks - Arkansas
by Tommy Ford

The Buffalo River of Northern Arkansas is a rarity among streams east of the plains. For the entirety of it’s 150 mile course the river is free-flowing and protected from development. Over 135 miles of that course are enclosed in the Buffalo National River under the watchful eye of the National Park Service. The remainder of the river is on National Forest lands. The primary attraction of this 95,000 acre park is of course the river which is a very popular canoeing destination. The upper reaches provide exciting white water action with class I and II rapids. However, water levels on the upper river are normally suitable for floating only in winter and spring. Further down however the river becomes, for the most part, fat and lazy, perfect for a leisurely family float beneath the gorgeous scenery provided by the high limestone bluffs.We took a short float from Buffalo Point to Rush, a distance of about 7.5 miles and completed the trip in about four hours. There are numerous firms along the river that provide canoe rental. In our case the folks at Wild Bill’s Outfitters, were very helpful in providing river information as well as shuttle service that showed up right on time. The river was high that day which made the float a little quicker than normal. We still had time to explore long, pristine gravel bars and take in the beauty of the bluffs. There was no time to fish that day but locals say the river abounds in bass and catfish. We caught occasional glimpses of them through the clear waters. Ducks with their ducklings and great blue heron’s kept us company along the route. While the Buffalo has certainly earned it’s reputation as a great canoe stream you’re missing a lot of what makes the area special if you confine your stay to the river. We stayed in one of the excellent cabins at Buffalo Point Recreation Area. At Buffalo Point there are "modern," cabins as well as "rustic," cabins which were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s. There is also a small restaurant and a campground at Buffalo Point. Our cabin was of the modern variety and came well equipped. We found it to be clean but in need of some minor repairs in the bathroom. From the rear deck of cabin #13 we enjoyed an excellent view of the river far below. Every morning, just before sunrise, the river valley was completely obscured by a thick blanket of fog while our cabin was in the clear. Each night we were treated to a steady parade of wildlife easily visible from our deck. A fat raccoon visited our trash just after dark and a pretty little skunk nosed around the yard for bugs. Just down the road from the cabin we sighted a doe and her fawn. Another deer frequented the edges of the cabin’s little parking area. It was a very "back to nature," experience.

If you have the time and are in good physical condition I highly recommend you take the 3 to 4 hour hike that leads to the "Indian Rock House." Actually a huge cliff shelter, we visited when were the only ones there. There’s a small cavern at the rear of the cave which you can explore at your own risk IF you bring flashlights. Be cautioned however that the return trail is extremely strenuous. In places we had to pull ourselves up steep hills by grabbing onto trailside trees.

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