River & Trail InformationFor the outdoor enthusiasts, there is something to do in every season. The Buffalo River offers awesome kayaking and canoeing in the spring, and an occasional float trip in the summer- depending on rainfall. Canoeing is possible on nearly all of the Buffalo's 150 mile length. Most of the river is classified class I, with the exception of the class II six mile stretch from the Hwy 21 bridge in Boxley to Ponca low-water bridge. It offers a series of fast moving rapids many laces with willow trees. Now for the expert floater/kayaker, the Hail Stone-class III+- is not to be missed. It is a 16 mile commitment and not for the novice-the river doesn't mess around up there. This extremely challenging section of the river is floatable only during periods of high water and should be attempted only by those with solid whitewater skills. Of course the Upper Buffalo River area is the most beautiful float on the river. The scenery is not matched anywhere else. The upper river begins in Boxley and ends in Pruitt. My favorite trip is Ponca to Kyles Landing.
Along the upper river, the gradient is steep and the water is fast, leveling and slowing as the river runs its course. The upper section has most of the whitewater rapids to be found along the river, and features dramatic topography including sink holes and caves, springs, and waterfalls, over 500-foot tall sandstone and limestone bluffs, and many interesting rock formations. At one point, a 0.65-mile hike from the river up a narrow, boxed canyon leads to a 209-foot waterfall, Hemmed-In-Hollow Falls, the highest of its kind between the Southern Appalachians and the Rockies. The river also gives life to well over 300 species of fish, insects, freshwater mussels, and aquatic plants.
The Buffalo River National Park is home to many caves and absolutely wonderful hiking trails to explore, with some of the most popular hikes such as Hemmed-In-Hollow, Lost Valley Park, and Hawksbill Crag. The terrain provides wonderful mountain biking and ATV trails in Ozark National Forest.
Hiking:This is only a sampling of day hikes in this area- the upper end of the Buffalo National River. This is not an all-inclusive list; there are many other beautiful trails that exist. There are more than 100 miles of maintained trails within the Buffalo National Park. Many however, require a greater time commitment or have trailheads that are only accessible by canoe and the ones listed are spectular. Many of the hikes listed below can be combined into overnight hikes if you are so inclined. This is just a helpful guide to the hiking close to your cabin. Topo maps are helpful and recommended for use on park trails, you can buy them at park contact stations & many local retail stores-including the local elk information centers. If you are interested in a hike that is not listed please contact me for information.
·Lost Valley; Trailhead located at the Lost Valley Campground, the trail is 2.3 miles (rt), takes 2 ½ hours, it is easy-moderate, has waterfalls, cave, bluff shelter, beech tree stand.
·Ponca-Steel Creek-BRT; trailhead located at the Ponca low water bridge, 2.3 miles (ow) 1 ½ hours, it is easy-moderate, spectacular view of the river from atop bluffs, moderate terrain.
·Steel Creek-Kyles-BRT; trailhead at Steel Creek, 7.9 miles (ow) 4-5 hours; moderate-strenuous; long uphill stretches, panoramic views of the river
·Kyles-Erbie-BRT; trailhead at Kyles Landing campground, 7.4 miles (ow), 4-5 hours, moderate-strenuous; many views of river & meanders up side canyons; historic cemetery & homestead
·Center Point-Hemmed In Hollow; trail head Hwy 43 North of Ponca- on the right; 10.8 miles (rt) 6-7 hours; strenuous.
Trail Info & Regulations:The BRT (Buffalo River Trail) parallels the national river, following the bluff line, meandering up canyons & dropping into hollows. Several hikes lead to scenic vistas, homesteads & historic cemeteries. Trail difficulty varies, ranging from wheel chair accessible terrain to steep climbs over rocky slope. The hiking trails are posted with white markers-horse trails have yellow markers. Many of these markers are missing due to flooding, so pay attention. Hikers can travel on horse trails, but no horses are allowed on hiking trails.
·Pets are not allowed on trails-even on a leash. Trust me I know 1st hand. Now this rule applies only to National Park trails, the Ozark National Forest does not ban pets & I have an * by those trails.
·Mountain Biking is also prohibited on all trails on the NPS, but not on the Ozark Natl. Forest.
·ATV’s are prohibited on all trails on the NPS, but are allowed on some of the Ozark Natl. Forest trails. Call the local ONF office at 870-446-2228 for details.
·For goodness sakes stay on the trails! Shortcuts lead to erosion & in many cases lost hikers.
·Pack out any & all trash that you have & feel free to pick up after litterbugs that may have visited before you. It helps everyone & it really makes you feel all warm & fuzzy inside.
·Let someone else know of your plans & when you will return, cell phones are very limited here & rescues can take days. So plan ahead & tell a friend.
·Keep close watch on your children and elderly hikers, there are many areas that have cliffs, unfenced overlooks & loose gravel. Watch for loose gravel & pay attention.
·Look out for ticks & chiggers. They love it here too, so deet is a good idea & also check yourself when you return from a hike. We do have poisonous snakes & spiders, so watch your step, not usually a problem, but better safe than sorry.
·Take a flashlight! You might find a cave to explore & you might run out of daylight, either scenario has a happy ending if you have a light! Compass, map & small first aid kits come in handy.
·Leave things as they are. All plants, animals, rocks, historic features & archeological sites & treasures are protected by law & it just makes sense. If it’s not yours don’t take it.
·Last but absolutely not least: Have FUN!!