Buffalo River

Arkansas’s paddling options seem endless on the Buffalo River. In the heart of the Boston Mountains is the state’s heart and soul. On March 1st, 1972 The Buffalo River was designated as the first National River in the United States. The undammed waterway sinks hundreds of feet below the rim of limestone bluffs as it flows 153 miles through the Ozarks’ forested Boston Mountains before joining the White River.

No permits needed and you may bring their own canoes or kayaks or rent from several independent concessioners. If you bring your own kayak make sure you have a bag to pack out any trash, a life jacket and no glass containers.

Advanced canoeists and kayakers often refer to the 15-mile 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, class 3+ rapids are common here.

Everyone else can plan a mellow weekend from Boxley to Buffalo City, where calm waters encourage swim stops, beaches and gravel bars invite picnics, and the waterway passes beneath 550-foot-tall Big Bluff, the tallest cliff between the Rockies and Appalachians. Beach your boat for the side hike to Indian Rockhouse, a massive but shallow cave where Native Americans once sheltered. Or in wetter months add the 20-minute walk to Hemmed-In-Hollow Falls, which cascades 209 feet—the tallest waterfall in the Midwest.

Keep in mind the upper river flows a bit faster than the lower. The average time to float 1 mile is 30 minutes 2 MPH. Take your distance and divide it by 2 and that will give you an estimate of how long it will take. If you stop and fish, swim or jump off bluffs you will take a bit longer and if you paddle the whole way it will be shorter. If the river is higher it’s a little faster and lower a little slower. Click here to see all the Buffalo River Kayaking spots.

hailstone family pic modified cropped scaled

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