Buffalo National River

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Buffalo National River
Morning on the Buffalo River.jpg
Buffalo National River, Arkansas
Physical characteristics
Length153 miles (246 km)
  location https://waterdata.usgs.gov/ar/nwis/uv/?site_no=07056700&PARAmeter_cd=00065,00060 Harriet, AR
  average1,355 cu/ft. per sec.
TypeWild, Scenic
DesignatedApril 22, 1992
Location of the Buffalo River and Watershed. BuffGenLoc.png
Location of the Buffalo River and Watershed.

The Buffalo River, located in Northern Arkansas, was the first National River to be designated in the United States. The Buffalo River is 153 miles (246 km) long. The lower 135 miles (217 km) flow within the boundaries of an area managed by the National Park Service, where the stream is designated the Buffalo National River. [1] The river flows through Newton, Searcy, Marion, and Baxter Counties, from west to east. The river originates in the highest part of Boston Mountains of the Ozarks, flows out onto the Springfield Plateau near the historic community of Erbie, and finally crosses a portion of the Salem Plateau just before joining the White River. The Park is home to the state's only elk herd. The upper section of the river in the Ozark National Forest is managed by the U.S. Forest Service and is designated as a National Scenic River and a National Wild River; that section is not part of the area managed as a park by the Park Service, but is managed as a part of the Ozark National Forest.


The Buffalo National River 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. The National River designation protects natural rivers from industrial uses, impoundments and other obstructions that may change the natural character of the river or disrupt the natural habitat for the flora and fauna that live in or near the river. Three segments totaling 11,978 acres (48.47 km2) were designated the Buffalo National River Wilderness in 1975. [2]

At a point about 15 miles (24 km) above the Park boundary in Newton County, Arkansas, the Buffalo River begins as the Main Prong of Big Buffalo Creek. The river flows north through Boxley to Ponca, where it then begins an eastward trek across northern Arkansas to its confluence with the White River on the Marion-Baxter County line. Advanced canoeists and kayakers often refer to the 15-mile (24 km) section upriver from Boxley as the Hailstone River. 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.

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 (150 m) tall sandstone and limestone bluffs, and many rock formations. At one point, a 0.65-mile (1.05 km) hike from the river up a narrow, boxed canyon leads to a 209-foot (64 m) waterfall, [3] Hemmed-In-Hollow Falls, the highest of its kind between the Southern Appalachians and the Rockies. The river's current also gives life to well over 300 species of fish, [4] insects, freshwater mussels, and aquatic plants.

The Buffalo National River is a popular camping, canoeing, and fishing destination. Visitors may bring their own canoes or rent from several independent concessioners. Camping is generally allowed throughout the park with the following exceptions: the Hemmed-in-Hollow area, on Big Bluff, in historical structures, on private property within the park, or within 100 feet (30 m) of any trail or watercourse. Camping is, however, permitted on gravel bars and sand bars along the river. In addition, the National Park Service has a number of "developed" campgrounds along the river.

The National Park Service headquarters for the Buffalo National River is located in Harrison, Arkansas.

Major access areas

Boxley Valley Historic Area, Ponca (Jim Villines Homes) Buffalo River Boxley Valley.JPG
Boxley Valley Historic Area, Ponca (Jim Villines Homes)
Buffalo River Watershed including National River and other State Government, Federal Government, and Nature Conservancy Managed Lands. Click to enlarge. Buffws.png
Buffalo River Watershed including National River and other State Government, Federal Government, and Nature Conservancy Managed Lands. Click to enlarge.

See also

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Arkansas Highway 21 highway in Arkansas

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Buffalo River Trail

The Buffalo River Trail is a hiking and backpacking trail that follows the path of the Buffalo National River in Arkansas. It consists of two separate sections that are referred to as the Western and Eastern sections. The Western Section is from Boxley Valley to Pruitt. The Eastern Section is under development with completed segments from Woolum Ford to Highway 65 bridge at Tyler Bend and South Maumee to Highway 14. The Ozark Highlands Trail joins the Eastern Section of the Buffalo River Trail at Woolum Ford so it is officially designated the Buffalo River/Ozark Highlands Trail.

Arkansas Highway 103 highway in Arkansas

Highway 103 is a designation for two north–south state highways in north central Arkansas. One segment of 23.86 miles (38.40 km) runs north from Marina Road and Lakeview Drive in Clarksville to Highway 215 in the Ozark National Forest. A second route of 39.81 miles (64.07 km) begins at Highway 43 in the Buffalo National River area administered by the National Park Service and runs north across US Highway 412 (US 412) to Highway 21 in Oak Grove.

Hemmed-In-Hollow Falls

Hemmed-In-Hollow Falls is a single-drop waterfall located within the Ponca Wilderness Area of the Buffalo National River in northern Arkansas. The height of the falls is 209 feet. According to the National Park Service, it is the "Tallest waterfall between the Rockies and the Appalachians."

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Big Buffalo Valley Historic District United States historic place

The Big Buffalo Valley Historic District, also known as the Boxley Valley Historic District, is notable as a cultural landscape in Buffalo National River. It comprises the Boxley Valley in northern Arkansas, near the town of Ponca. The valley includes a number of family-operated farms, primarily dating between 1870 and 1930. The farms are situated on either side of the road that parallels the river, Highway 43. Many of these farms are still operated by the descendants of the original homesteaders. However, of fifty residences in the valley, thirty were vacant in 1987, at the time of historic designation.

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Arkansas Highway 268 highway in Arkansas

Highway 268 is a designation for two state highways in Marion County. One route of 3.00 miles (4.83 km) runs from Highway 14 to Marion County Road 227 and CR 259. A second route in south Marion County runs 2.78 miles (4.47 km) from Highway 14 to the Buffalo National River. Both routes are maintained by the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD).

Ponca, Arkansas Unincorporated community in Arkansas, United States

Ponca is an unincorporated community in Newton County, Arkansas, United States. Ponca is located on Arkansas Highway 43, 10 miles (16 km) west of Jasper. Ponca has a post office with ZIP code 72670. Ponca is well known for its access to the Buffalo National River, which is a hub for naturalist as well as photography and hiking tourism. Ponca is also known for the regular sightings of elk, which reside in the Boxley Valley.

Upper Buffalo Wilderness

Upper Buffalo Wilderness is located in the U.S. state of Arkansas. Created by an act of Congress in 1974, the wilderness covers an area of 12,108 acres (49 km²). Contained within Ozark-St. Francis National Forest, the wilderness is managed by the U.S. Forest Service. Contained in the wilderness is Hawksbill Crag, a very popular hiking destination.

Hurricane Creek is a tributary to the Big Piney Creek, a river in Ozark-St. Francis National Forest in the state of Arkansas, which is a tributary of the Arkansas River and which is, in turn, part of the Mississippi River System. It is managed by the United States Forest Service and categorized as one the Wild and Scenic Rivers of the United States.


  1. "Buffalo National River". National Park Service. January 16, 2013. Retrieved February 9, 2013.
  2. "Wilderness Connect". wilderness.net. Retrieved August 31, 2019.
  3. Ernst, Tim (Nov. 2002). Arkansas Waterfalls Guidebook, Cloudland.net, 224 pp. ISBN   1-882906-48-9.
  4. Petersen, James C. (2005). Fishes of Buffalo National River. Reston, VA: U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved January 31, 2018.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 Buffalo National River, National Park Service, Government Printing Office, 1998
  6. Currents; National Park Service, Buffalo River, 2008

Further reading

Coordinates: 36°10′41″N92°25′34″W / 36.17806°N 92.42611°W / 36.17806; -92.42611