What is Buffalo National River?

Mary McMahon

Buffalo National River is a river in northern Arkansas that has been protected by the federal government in order to maintain the river's wild and scenic appearance. This river was selected for designation in 1972 and was the first river to receive such a designation. It is a popular tourist destination and there are a number of activities available for visitors to the Buffalo National River. Fees for access vary, depending on the point where people access the river and whether they are using it during the day or for camping.

Buffalo National River features many trails for horseback riding.
Buffalo National River features many trails for horseback riding.

One hundred and thirty five miles (217 kilometers) of this river are protected by the National Parks Service, including the headwaters in the Ozark Mountains. Buffalo National River is surrounded by a number of other designated wilderness and park areas that cover a very large area of Newton, Marion, Searcy, and Baxter counties in Arkansas. The state's only elk herd lives in this region and a number of other plants and animals call the Buffalo National River and surrounding areas home as well.

Buffalo National River is located in northern Arkansas.
Buffalo National River is located in northern Arkansas.

Along the river itself, people can go boating with rangers or companies that offer tours of the river. These include fishing tours of the river and its tributaries. There are also numerous hiking and horseback riding trails along the river and in the surrounding area. Varying degrees of difficulty are encountered, from wheelchair accessible trails to more challenging ones. There are a number of historic sites within the bounds of the Buffalo National River, including Native American communities, as well as early European ones.

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Buffalo National River is particularly famous for its caves, some of which are quite large. Tours of the caves are offered and people can also explore them independently. Visitors should make sure to check the safety advisories published by the National Parks Service before planning a cave visit, as the caves are sometimes closed for safety reasons. It is also advisable to check on the weather, as it can be quite variable and it helps to plan ahead.

Other sites of interest in Arkansas include Pea Ridge National Military Park, Fort Smith National Historic Site, Hot Springs National Park, and Central High School National Historic Site. The Trail of Tears Historic Trail also runs through Arkansas. People who plan to visit these sites may need to make arrangements ahead, particularly during the summer months, when many visitors are in the area and it can be difficult to obtain lodging.

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