A Spring Float on the Buffalo
When most people in the southern United States think of “floating” a river, they think of leisurely floats, occasional dragging, lots of friends, music, cold drinks, & a good time in the water. The Buffalo National River is slightly different though. Our country’s first National River, right here in our home state of Arkansas, is one of the last wild, free flowing rivers in the entire country. Sure, you can have the aforementioned experience here some times of the year, but this stretch from Steele Creek to Kyle’s Landing is so beautiful & tranquil that it is designated as a natural “quiet zone” where floaters are asked not to disturb the peaceful disposition of the area. It’s a place where the experience of your surroundings is just as important as the experience you bring with you.
Our ragtag crew of floaters was prepared for the 8 mile stretch with a few hiking destinations in between. All sporting new styles from SS17, we took to Living the Dream on the river to see some of our favorite features with a new perspective.
One of the early highlights of the float was coming up on Big Bluff. This bluff is over 500ft high, tallest on this section of the river, & is lined with a Goat Trail that has become one of the most popular hikes in the area! Getting a new perspective on this landmark was incredible.
Our next stop was across from the characteristic Jim’s Bluff where, on a warmer day, we would have had a great swimming hole. The Old River Trail runs across this area too, so we took the opportunity to explore that, float a bit down river, & hike to Historic Granny Henderson’s Cabin.
Granny Henderson’s Historic Cabin is a fairly rarely visited site in this area of the Buffalo National River. Granny Henderson was one of the last locals to live alongside the Buffalo National River before the NPS asked her to leave so they could preserve the “park” territory. She built the cabin with her husband in the early 1900’s & it has stood abandoned since the 1970’s when the Buffalo National River was formed. The fact it is still standing & free from most vandalism is a testament to quality & respect of visitors who are willing to trek so deep into the national wilderness area.
Also along this stretch of river is a short hike up to Hemmed-In Hollow, the tallest waterfall between the Rockies and Appalachians, but we decided not to trek in to see it because we were low on time & it was very crowded on such a beautiful Saturday.
Parts of the Buffalo River are usually leisurely paddling, but after enough rain and in high-water conditions like we had, we encountered several rapid areas that would definitely challenge beginners on the river.
We’re all looking forward to the May flowers that these April showers promise to bring, but until then we will be taking full advantage of higher water levels. Filling our rivers, waterfalls, and spirits with adventure, we encourage you to go take advantage of your local waterways before the busy summer crowds come.
Photos + Words by Tanner Burge // @tannergburge