Trading The White North For Whitewater On The Buffalo River

Paddlers check out caves carved in limestone walls along the Buffalo River in northwestern Arkansas earlier this week. Six paddlers from Duluth traveled about 100 miles of the Buffalo, America’s first designated National River. (Sam Cook photo)

Six of us from Duluth headed south a week ago to paddle 100 miles of the Buffalo National River, part of the National Park system in northwestern Arkansas. The river is flanked by limestone and sandstone bluffs up to 200 feet tall, and the water is emerald green and fast. None of the rapids were difficult, but the river was spirited even at moderate water levels.

We put in at Steele Creek and paddled to Buffalo Point, stopping along the way to hike into a hidden 200-foot waterfall and an old farmstead. We camped on riverside gravel bars, or just above them among the sycamores, sweet gums and locusts.

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Here are a few more photos from our five days on the water.

Mark Lavalier and Tim Bates (lead canoe), along with Dick Haney and Irv Johnson descend a riffle on the Buffalo River. Most of the rapids were Class I or II. (Sam Cook photo)
We cooked on the gravel bars along the river, but put tents and hammocks at higher levels in case the river rose. After rains, the river can rise several feet in a matter of hours. (Sam Cook photo)
Dick Haney (foreground) and Irv Johnson paddle the Buffalo River on a cool March morning. Overnight lows on two nights dipped below freezing. One day saw a high near 75, but most days were cool. (Sam Cook photo)
Enchiladas against an all-American backdrop: Dinner on the Buffalo River. (Sam Cook photo)
We hiked a mile off the river to check out the 200-foot falls at Hemmed-In Hollow along the Buffalo River. (Sam Cook photo)
Tim Bates (left) and Mark Lavalier of Duluth paddle the Buffalo River this past week. The river is about a 16-hour drive from Duluth. (Sam Cook photo
Ken Gilbertson of Duluth paddles the Buffalo River in Arkansas on a cool, rainy day this past week. (Sam Cook photo)
Pebbles, Tim Bates’ Australian sheep dog, stays out of the rain. Bates put the rain gear over Pebbles to help keep her warm and dry. (Sam Cook photo)
The group hauls out at another picturesque bend on the Buffalo River. (Sam Cook photo)

3 Responses

  1. Scott Neustel

    Thanks for a glimpse of runninig water and canoes. It gives me hope I will see open water sometime this year.

  2. Sam:
    This river is a great discovery. Question? Your friend’s dog looks like she has a lot of soul sitting in her rain coat but doesn’t look like the Australian Sheep dogs we usually see around here. Possibly another breed?

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