Buffalo National River

The Buffalo National River is one of the most beautiful, exciting, and pristine rivers in the Ozarks.  It is a favorite of mine and many other paddlers in the area. The river offers some of the best natural surroundings that can be found in the region.  The Buffalo River is located in northern Arkansas and flows east for 150 miles this river holds great historic value as the nations first national river.  It was established by an Act of Congress on March 1, 1972, ending the recurring plans of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to construct one or more dams on the river.

There are many things about the Buffalo River that make it one of the best rivers to paddle in the U.S.  The upper section of the river is one of my personal favorite sections to paddle. (Ponca to Pruitt)  Float along as the river twists and turns through the Ozark Mountains on top of the beautifully clear water as you gaze in wonder at the massive bluff lines that rise hundreds of feet into the air from the rivers edge.  But don’t get lost in the wonders of the river for too long, the river offers some exciting and challenging sections as well to keep you on your toes.  Most of the rapids are easy to navigate, but there are a few that require some paddling skills to safely navigate (so make sure to secure your coolers and other gear).

Although the river itself provides plenty of excitement and beauty on its own there are also plenty of opportunities to explore the other natural wonders just off the river.  One of my favorites is the short hike to Hemmed-In Hallow, accessible from the river, the tallest waterfall between the Appalachian and Rocky Mountains.  The waterfall drops for over 200ft as it falls from the cliff tops and crashes into the creek below.

As the river continues past Pruitt it begins to open up into wider fields and valleys and the bluff lines become more infrequent.  Although the middle and lower sections of the river are not as packed with features as the upper sections you will still find yourself loving these parts of the river.  The middle and lower sections offer better fishing, some of the tallest bluffs along the river, and a wider assortment of wildlife.  These are also great sections to float in the summer as the upper sections dry up quickly during the summer months.  All of this and more can be found on The Buffalo National River and it will soon become a favorite of yours as well.

Best Time to Visit

Open Year-Round


Day Floats
Multi-Day Floats

Additional Information

Buffalo National River east & west waterproof topo maps available in-store.

Printable NPS river maps.