Tag Archives: Buffalo River

Float #157 & #158: Buffalo River

26 Apr

Boxley to Kyles Landing to Pruitt

F157_Buffalo

Buffalo River
Newton County, Arkansas
Friday, March 30 – Saturday, March 31, 2018
30 Miles
Temperature: Friday 60˚/39˚, Saturday 70˚/42˚
Wind: Friday NW at 7mph, Saturday S at 8mph
Water Level: Friday 5.5, Saturday 4.5 at Ponca gage

It’s the best float trip of the year! Our annual Easter float trip to Arkansas. This year we did the Buffalo and we had really good water levels for our trip. We were joined by our brother-in-law Henry and our friend Richard. We drove down on Thursday evening to Kyle’s Landing campground. It rained all the way there, but stopped as soon as we pulled up to camp. The rain held off for the rest of our stay until Saturday night/Sunday morning. So we got great water runoff from the rain without having to paddle through any rain ourselves! This time we left Ocoee (our dog) at home. He hates Arkansas because it has splashy water (small rapids). He’s not a whitewater fan AT ALL!

Friday morning the water was moving so good that we puttered around camp in the morning and put in at Boxley bridge around noon, knowing the 16 miles down to Kyle’s Landing would go by quickly.

Buffalo River

Boxley bridge access

Buffalo River

DW warms up the Gnar Bar at Boxley

Buffalo River

Buffalo River

Rescuing the Gnar Bar after DW’s flip

Boxley to Ponca is a challenging section of river and not for the inexperienced. If there is enough water to run it, you can be sure there are Class 2+ or Class 3 rapids that range from rolling waves to tight, technical turns. Our friend Richard was a bit out of practice for this level of paddling, so we spent a good amount of time pulling him out of the river! Henry took our Dagger whitewater boat. He seemed to have a great time with it and only flipped a couple times. DW actually flipped the canoe for the second time ever in his long history of paddling. There is one really tight S-turn with a tree, a boulder, a rock wall, and another tree that was super technical. I’m surprised I made it through without flipping myself. The canoe was just a little too long for DW to think that fast and make it through cleanly. He didn’t lose any gear though!

Buffalo River

Waterfalls

Buffalo River

More waterfalls

Buffalo River

Ponca bridge at 0″ airspace

We made it to Ponca bridge (6 miles down) without much more incident. Richard opted to stay at Ponca and wait for us to finish, as he was dead tired at that point. Flipping the boat a lot is very fatiguing! It’s always good to know your limits so you don’t get into a bad situation.

From Ponca we carried on to Kyle’s Landing without much incident. With all the rain in the previous days the waterfalls were everywhere! That’s not something you see too often on the Buffalo and especially not when the sun is shining.

Buffalo River

We got to Kyle’s Landing in the late afternoon and spent time relaxing and stuffing our faces after a hard day of burning calories. The next day we put in at the campground and paddled down to Pruitt.

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Henry swims

Buffalo River

Pruitt bridge

The second day of our trip Henry took his touring kayak instead of the whitewater boat and only flipped it a couple times! I was the only person in our group who didn’t flip at all (I’m badass like that, lol)! The section from Kyle’s to Pruitt isn’t as scenic as from Ponca down, so I didn’t take as many photos. The day was warm, but ended up being overcast with some chilly winds by the time we finished up. Saturday night the boys had fun stomping around the trails. Unfortunately I came down with a nasty stomach flu after we got off the river. Puking in camp is NOT FUN! It rained a bit Saturday night and started up with the precipitation again as we packed up and pulled out of camp. I was so glad the rain held off while we were on the river! It was another great trip to Arkansas.

 

 

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Float #133 – 135: Buffalo River

8 Apr

Ponca to Hasty

F133_Buffalo

Buffalo River
Newton County, Arkansas
Friday, March 25 – Sunday, March 27
31 Miles

Our annual Easter weekend float trip this year was to the Buffalo River in Arkansas. We try to get to the Buffalo every spring and due to water levels and weather it is a completely different trip every time. This year was perfect! The water level was high enough to cover all the rocks we usually scrape our boats on and the weather was mild with no rain. If you recall last year’s trip, there was a lot of rain and high water, which made for a bit of a white-knuckle experience.

We left our house Thursday afternoon and arrived in Jasper, AR late that evening. We crashed in one of the tiny motels that night and woke up to a bright and crisp morning. Our friend Jake from Nashville met up with us and we all walked over to the Ozark Cafe for an excellent breakfast before running Jake’s van down to the takeout and purchasing a car shuttle for our vehicle from Buffalo River Canoe. We then drove up to Ponca and unloaded all our gear and reorganized everything into our boats. Jake and I paddled our trusty Liquid Logic and Dagger kayaks, while DW and our dog Ocoee manned our Old Town canoe. We pushed off around 11am for a fantastic day on the water.

Buffalo River

Jake is ready to get this trip started

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DW and Ocoee

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Looking out at the river from the mouth of a cave

Buffalo River

Buffalo River

The section between Ponca and Steel Creek has some nice, choppy runs that made for splashy fun at this water level. DW and I couldn’t help but think back to last year’s trip when these fun little splashes were huge, rolling waves. We saw a cave opening in a bluff and pulled over to stick our heads in the entrance. It was a peaceful spot with a nice view of the river from the mouth of the cave.

Buffalo River

DW steers through the ripples at Steel Creek

Buffalo River

Buffalo River

Buffalo River

Buffalo River

The next section of river between Steel Creek and Kyle’s Landing is one of the most popular on the Buffalo. There are many tall bluffs and beautiful scenery around every bend. At the Steel Creek access there is a small shelf rapid that can be kind of tricky for inexperienced paddlers. Jake and I made it through fine, and then we watched DW maneuver the canoe through. Of course he made it look easy!

Buffalo River

Buffalo River

Jim’s Bluff

Buffalo River

Buffalo River

Hemmed In Hollow Falls

Just after Jim’s Bluff there is a hiking trail that leads to Hemmed In Hollow where there is a 225 ft. waterfall (the tallest between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains). The hike is short and not difficult, so it is well worth the stop. It is best to catch the waterfall within a couple days of rainfall, otherwise it is just a drip. We were lucky enough to be there at the right time and there was a nice flow. Every other time I’ve been it was too dry.

Buffalo River

Buffalo River

Buffalo River

Buffalo River

Our campsite Friday night

A few hours after our stop at Hemmed In Hollow we started looking for a campsite. We found a nice one with a big gravel bar across from a large bluff. The gravel bars on the Buffalo tend to have larger stones than gravel bars on Missouri Ozark streams. Thus, we set up our tents at the edge of the forest where there is nice soft soil to sleep on. However, being in the woods means there are more nocturnal creatures roaming around at night, sniffing at your tent! DW and I woke up several times that night to the sound of some four footed beasts rustling around. One instance they were very close and DW had to yell at them to “go on, git” and they stomped off. Ocoee did not prove to be much of a guard dog. He was silent the entire time and soon snuggled up with us. I guess he knew they were bigger than him! In the morning we noticed lots of tracks and spots where the ground had been rooted up, so at least some of those noises we heard were razorback hogs. Exciting (eek)!

Buffalo River

Buffalo River

A small waterfall

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Buffalo River

Buffalo River

The second day of our trip was just as sunny and beautiful as the first. We set out at a leisurely pace, our goal being to stop for the night just past Pruitt access. There wasn’t much to report from the second day other than beautiful, clear water and nice scenery. As it neared evening we started looking for a campsite. Most of the good gravel bars were already occupied, as is usually the case. We finally found a rough looking gravel bar that had plenty of firewood and there was room for our tents in the woods. Luckily there were no piggy visitors this time.

Buffalo River

Buffalo River

Buffalo River

Buffalo River

The bridge at Pruitt

After a peaceful night, we woke up to a chilly, but sunny morning. We knew there was a chance of rain that day and the clouds soon began to roll in. However, we were spared getting wet as the rain held off while we were on the river. We had about 5 or 6 miles to our takeout at Hasty access. A couple miles above Hasty the Little Buffalo confluences with the river. The Little Buffalo is a nice sized creek that can be paddled when there is enough water flowing. Just past the creek we saw a razorback hog carcass on a gravel bar. That’s definitely something I haven’t seen before! It must have died recently because it was still mostly intact and the buzzards and other scavengers hadn’t gotten to it yet.

Buffalo River

Buffalo River

Buffalo River

The Little Buffalo flows into the river

We pulled up to Hasty sometime between noon and one, loaded all our gear back into our vehicles and started the four hour drive toward home. This was probably our best Buffalo River trip yet and I am already looking forward to next year!

Critter Count: Hawks, Ducks, Turtles, Razorback Hogs

Bonus Prize: A Spyderco pocket knife

Float #120: Buffalo River

26 Mar

Boxley to Kyle’s Landing

F120_Buffalo

Buffalo River
Newton County, Arkansas
Saturday, March 14
16 Miles

After hanging in camp during the all day rain on Friday, we awoke Saturday determined to paddle. The rain had slowed to an occasional sprinkle. The river was now a muddy brown and had risen to just below the banks. We left camp shortly after breakfast to scout Boxley access, get our car shuttle set up, and purchase some dry firewood. Everything looked good, the water was rocking, but didn’t look too dangerous and we talked to a couple other paddlers getting ready to put in at Boxley. We purchased a car shuttle from Buffalo Outdoor Center in Ponca and headed back to camp to gear up.

We donned our wetsuits (our best purchase this year) and the rest of our water resistant gear, packed a couple beers and headed back to Boxley. There were plenty of rolling waves on the first 6-mile section between Boxley and Ponca and the water was moving quickly. Within the first mile or so we came upon the people we had seen putting in while we were scouting. One of them had lost their boat and was stranded on a small island in the middle of the river. Their paddling companion was just downstream with the runaway boat, so DW towed her down to them. We figured they must have been waiting for someone to come by for a while!

High water at Boxley bridge

High water at Boxley bridge

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Waterfall

Waterfalls

The water was a  bit technical and reminded me a lot of the Nantahala in Tennessee. Of course, there is no time to snap photos while paddling the waves, so I was only able to get shots of the calm waters between rapids. Some of the waves were pretty big and one of them went over my head and soaked me completely. Thank goodness I had that wetsuit! My touring paddle was nearly useless for water this fast. It felt like I was just sticking a toothpick in the waves and couldn’t steer as well as I needed to. DW had brought his whitewater paddle and let me use it. What a difference that made! I’m going to make sure I bring my whitewater paddle along for any spring floats from now on.

Ponca bridge

Ponca bridge

Buffalo RiverBuffalo RiverWe soon arrived at Ponca bridge, which we had to portage as the water was not over the bridge, but it was pretty close. There were a lot of people there checking out the river and a few paddlers thinking about putting on. After Ponca bridge the river was much calmer and the few waves we paddled through were not too big. Two miles down from Ponca is Steel Creek campground, so we stopped at our camp to have lunch and warm up a bit. I debated staying at camp because I was a little chilly and tired from the rough water, but the sun poked out of the sky just enough to convince me to continue the rest of the trip. As we put back on the water we encountered some locals who were enjoying the whitewater. They shared some whiskey with us and some good conversation.

Every bluff we passed had numerous waterfalls that were very pretty, but the river was moving so quickly I didn’t have much time to photograph. We soon came to a few more rapids and one nice little drop, where I took on a little bit of water and pulled over to bail. While bailing, another couple paddled up in a tandem kayak with no skirts. They had a look of inexperience about them, so DW talked with them a bit. They asked us where the “hard part” of this section was. As we’ve never paddled this section in high water we didn’t know what they were referring to, but we would soon find out.

There were a few miles between Steel Creek and Kyle’s Landing where around every bend there was a solid line of whitecapped waves. It wasn’t as hard as the Boxley section because the river is wider and there is more room to maneuver and take a different line out of the big waves if needed. I think the waves were just as big though. DW had lots of fun riding the rollers and I did too, though I didn’t hit them quite as hard as he did.

Buffalo RiverBuffalo River

Kyle's Landing

Kyle’s Landing

There were several bluffs along the way that we recognized as we flew past, but everything looked so much different with high water! We soon reached our take out at Kyle’s and pulled off the river with that tired, satisfied feeling you get after a challenging paddle. We had paddled the 8 miles between Steel Creek and Kyle’s in 1 hour and 40 minutes. There was an outfitter waiting to pick up a couple rafts at the access, and he said we were 10 minutes slower than the fastest time he had heard of that day. If I hadn’t stopped to bail my boat we probably would’ve beat that time!

We loaded our gear and changed out of our wet clothes and headed back to camp to a well deserved fire and a hot meal. If we had known it was going to rain that much we would’ve brought our whitewater boats and left the dog at home, but it was pretty entertaining as is. We learned that wetsuits are your best friend and always pack your whitewater paddle in the spring! This was a fun Buffalo trip, despite the rain and I look forward to coming back next spring to do it again.

Float #119: Buffalo River

25 Mar

Kyle’s Landing to Pruitt

F119_Buffalo

Buffalo River
Newton County, Arkansas
Thursday, March 12
13 Miles

DW and I have been wanting to do a spring trip on the Buffalo for a while, so we took a few days off work and headed down there for a little “spring break” paddling. When we left on Wednesday morning the weather was forecast to be warm, with rain on Thursday night and maybe Friday morning. Instead it started raining Thursday afternoon and didn’t stop until Saturday. So, we got some unexpected whitewater in this trip too (which is covered in the next post). We arrived at Steel Creek campground late Wednesday afternoon and set up camp. There were only a few spots taken, which is a nice change from the usual crowded campgrounds of late spring and early summer. The next day we drove down to Kyle’s Landing and purchased a car shuttle from Buffalo Canoe to drop our car at Pruitt. As we put on the river the sky was partly cloudy, but that didn’t last more than a couple hours before the clouds dominated the sky.

Kyle's Landing

DW and Ocoee ready the boats at Kyle’s Landing

Buffalo RiverBuffalo River

Look at that beautiful water!

Look at that beautiful water!

This is the first time we’ve floated the Buffalo with a decent water level. Usually we are scraping and cursing our way down the river. The water was also that unique milky turquoise color that can only be found in the Ozarks. It was by far the prettiest water I’ve seen in a while. All the sections that we usually scrape over were transformed into fast ripples and waves. Ocoee (our dog) rode the back of my kayak and fell off on the first fast section, but he soon gained his footing and was a champ through the rest of the trip.

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Elk on the river bank

Elk on the river bank

The trip went by pretty quickly, as the river was flowing at a good pace, about 3 miles per hour. We paddled past numerous towering bluffs, some with small waterfalls trickling over the edge. There were a few hints of green in the forest with some small plants popping up. Spring is almost ready to bloom! We saw the usual birds and turtles along the way and we also got to see an elk. There are a lot of elk living in the Buffalo river basin, but we don’t often see them as we paddle by, so that was pretty cool.

Buffalo RiverBuffalo RiverA mile or two above our takeout at Pruitt it started to sprinkle on us and that was the beginning of 48 hours of non-stop rain. We took out at Pruitt around 4:30pm, loaded our gear into our car and began the drive back to Steel Creek. We only made it a couple miles before we came to a traffic jam. A tractor-trailer had somehow driven the cab off the shoulder of the road and was blocking traffic both ways. We sat there for about 20 minutes as two tow trucks righted the tractor trailer and cleared the scene. No one was hurt and the truck drove away, slightly bruised. It was a good reminder to take it slow on those super curvy mountain roads! On Friday it rained all day long. We were going to paddle if the rain let up for a bit, but every time it slowed down it would ramp up again a few minutes later. Plus it was kinda chilly and there is nothing I hate more than being wet AND cold. We just milled around camp all day, playing cards, reading and being generally bored. We did paddle on Saturday as the weather was warmer and the river was up quite a bit.

Critter Count: Hawks, Kingfishers, Turtles, 1 Elk

Float #34 & #35: Buffalo River

17 May

Steel Creek to Pruitt

Buffalo River

Buffalo River
Newton County, Arkansas
Friday, April 6 & Saturday, April 7
21 Miles

The Buffalo National River is notable for both its history and its beauty. Located in the rough and rural Boston Mountains of Northern Arkansas, the Buffalo is the jewel of the Ozarks. It was the first National Scenic Riverway, established by an act of congress in 1972. In addition to 135 miles of floatable stream, the Buffalo National River has 100 miles of hiking trails and horse trails, historic homesteads and a sizable elk population. The water is the clearest I’ve ever seen outside of a spring and there are multiple bluffs towering above the river. It’s also home to Hemmed-In-Hollow Falls, the tallest waterfall between the Mississippi and the Rockies.

The majestic Buffalo River was this year’s destination for our annual Easter float trip. Normally Easter float trips are either wet or cold, or both. So the Buffalo seemed like a good idea. Surely the water would be up and the weather would deter most people from coming out. Not this year! It had been dry all week and the weather was warm and sunny. The Buffalo is mostly rain fed and doesn’t have as many springs as most Missouri streams. We scraped our butts down the river with many other canoes and kayaks, but it was still an awesome trip, as the Buffalo usually is.

DW and I headed down on the Thursday before Easter. The Buffalo is about 5.25 hours from our house, so we don’t go every year. We arrived at Kyle’s Landing campground in the late afternoon. The campground was crowded, but not yet full. There are no commercial campgrounds on the Buffalo and the NPS campgrounds aren’t that big, so finding a camp spot can be tricky on busy weekends. The best opportunity to really enjoy the river and find a good camp spot is to float Monday – Thursday.

Our friends Matt and Greg met up with us that night and we hit the river Friday morning. Matt brought his whitewater canoe and Greg borrowed our red kayak. We put in at Steel Creek and floated back to camp at Kyle’s Landing, an 8 mile float. Steel Creek has a nice little shelf rapid at the very start that’s fun to play in. Since the water was so low, there weren’t any real rapids, but there were many ripples and lots of rocks to dodge. It was actually more challenging to slalom through the rocks than it would have been at normal or higher water.

Buffalo River

Steel Creek landing

Buffalo River

The rapid at Steel Creek landing

Buffalo River

Buffalo River

Buffalo River

Buffalo River

Clear Ozark mountain water

The horse trail crosses the river at multiple points along this float. We saw one couple with a horse who was scared of kayaks. Every time he saw one floating down he would buck and throw a hissy fit. They had to wait until no kayaks were in sight to cross the water. It was entertaining for us, but not so much for the rider!

After lunch we stopped at a popular swimming hole on the right side of the river. There is a short bluff with a jumping spot about 15 feet above the water. Matt and Greg refer to it as “Yeti Bluff” although I don’t know the true name. There is a great camping spot on top of the bluff and an easy, short trail up. DW took a plunge into the cold, turquoise water. I abstained (as usual) because anything above 8 feet high makes my knees weak!

Buffalo River

DW races by on a ripple

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Jim Bluff

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The jumping rock at “Yeti Bluff”

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The view atop “Yeti Bluff”

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The top of “Yeti Bluff”

Around the bend from “Yeti Bluff” is the trail to Hemmed-In-Hollow on the left side of the river. It is a very short hike from the river, but there is also a backpacking trail that leads to it. At 209 feet, Hemmed-In-Hollow is the tallest waterfall between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains. It was just a trickle when we were there, but I bet it gets pretty impressive in wet weather!

Buffalo river

Hemmed-In-Hollow

We pulled up to Kyle’s Landing with plenty of daylight to spare, cooked up some camp spaghetti (my specialty) and hit the bedroll. The next morning we put in at Kyle’s and floated down to Pruitt. Around the first bend we came upon a downed tree spanning the entire river channel. It was relatively easy to pull our kayaks over it, but it would be nearly impossible with a fully loaded canoe. The banks are steep on both sides and the only place to pull a boat over the tree was in chest-deep water. Since blocked waterways are pretty rare on a maintained river, we theorized that the tree must have fallen very recently. We talked to some people breaking camp on a gravel bar just downstream. They had put on the river the night before and hadn’t seen any downed trees. It’s pretty amazing that a tree that large could fall in the river overnight with no rain or winds to help it along! We informed a Park Ranger of the blockage when we arrived back at camp that evening.

Buffalo River

Buffalo River

Buffalo River

Buffalo River

Buffalo River

Baby snake

Buffalo River

Erbie landing

Buffalo River

Buffalo River

Buffalo River

Pruitt landing

The second day of floating was pretty uneventful. We saw a baby snake sunning itself on the riverbank rocks. I could not identify it, but I’m not too good at herpetology. There was not much wildlife to be seen on this trip. I think if we were on the water in the early morning, or it had not been as crowded we would have seen more. We usually see some Bald Eagles on this river. In October of 2010 we floated the middle section of the Buffalo and saw 8 eagles on one river bend! There were no eagles sighted this time though.

We took out at Pruitt access and went back to Kyle’s to camp. A loud thunderstorm rolled through just after dusk. It rained for about half an hour, just enough to get everything wet. The lightning and thunder seem so close and so loud echoing off the bluffs! I’m glad we were off the river by then. After the rain we cooked up a meal of spicy beans and rice. Matt grilled some excellent venison jalapeno bratwurst to round out the evening.

Critter Count: 1 baby snake, Turtles, Herons, Ducks