Buffalo National River

Yellville, Arkansas – July, 2015 We love the Buffalo National River and jumped at the chance to plan a weekend there with our friends while we were home. It is about 2 hours south of our hometown of Springfield, Missouri so we have visited often throughout the years. We generally would do at least one campout there every year and we often drove down for the day to hike or float the area. There are over 120 miles of federally protected waters, so even after all these years of exploring I still don’t consider myself familiar with the river.

Our friends wanted to stay at a national park campground called Buffalo Point which is on the lower section of the river. It is an extremely nice campground with water and electric sites for $22 per night. It is well maintained and well managed. There are 5 loops, 3 with reservable sites and 2 that are first come first served. We didn’t make the decision to head there for the weekend until it was too late to make a reservation. But we hoped that by getting there Thursday afternoon we had a good chance of snagging walkup sites for ourselves and another couple with a camper. We arrived at 4:30 and discovered there were only a few sites in each of the non reservable loops that were large enough for our campers and they were all filled for the night. We were lucky enough to find one reservable site in the D loop that hadn’t been reserved for the weekend and since the reservation window had closed we knew we could stay there for three days.

Friday morning we scoped out the possibility of anyone leaving a walkup site that day that was large enough for our friends’ camper. We walked around checking tags and talking to people to see if anyone was leaving. Almost everyone was staying put. We discovered only one site that would accommodate a trailer and the tag said the person in it had only paid for one night. That didn’t mean much since we had only paid for one night but very much hoped to stay for more. The people on the site were in a tent and they hadn’t emerged yet.

It was still early so we headed to town for groceries and to check out an alternate campground. We intended to move if we couldn’t procure a 2nd site. We weren’t very impressed with the alternate campground but it would have worked. We came back intending to offer the occupants money to move to one of the other available tent sites. I was so grateful they were outside when we got back so we could at least get it over with and know if we needed to move or not. I asked the young lady if they were leaving that day and when she said yes I was so relieved I almost hugged her. I explained our predicament and asked if we could put some chairs on the site and a tag on it showing we had paid for it and she was kind enough to agree.

There is absolutely no cell service in Buffalo Point Campground and some of our friends were already on their way down and were waiting for us to tell them where they were going. I had gotten a signal earlier while walking on a gravel bar by the river below camp. So I walked down there again to text everyone our location. Earlier I had gotten 2 bars and 4G but now I could only get 1 bar and E. It got better the closer I got to the river. I finally took my shoes off and walked 15 feet in to the water and got enough service to get texts out to everyone.

One couple arrived at noon and were ready to go kayaking. They had already scoped out the available shuttles. We loaded the boats and were on the water within the hour. We put in at the nearby Highway 14 Bridge and an outfitter moved their vehicle to the takeout at Rush Landing for $28.

It was an awesome float, about 8 miles. There was very little other traffic on a Thursday afternoon. The water was clear and refreshing but not as cold as many of the spring fed rivers we usually float in Missouri. It was blistering hot and we didn’t stay on our boats for very long at a time. I believe this rock is what is called Buffalo Point.  I would have called it turtle point but no one asked me.

The other couple with the trailer showed up after dinner and we got them set up in the dark and another friend showed up and set up a tent outside our trailer. The next morning we were raring to get on the river. Some more friends drove down to float with us for the day and getting 9 people and boats and coolers and lunches together was like herding cats. We chose to float 10.5 miles from South Maumee to the bridge we had put in at the day before. We stopped at Dirst Outfitters and they quickly arranged to shuttle two trucks for us for a very reasonable $25 each. We finally got to the put in and on the water about noon.

This was another awesome day on the water. The Buffalo River is just gorgeous with lots of beautiful bluffs and tons of great gravel bars. There is no development allowed on it at all; no commercial campgrounds, no houses, no stores. Since this float was on a Saturday it was rather busy but occasionally it is fun to float around the crowds and interact with the nuts. If you have not floated the Buffalo before I would highly recommend putting it on your bucket list. We hope to float its entire length one summer in the future.

We got back to a crockpot full of brisket and had some amazing sandwiches. Everyone was worn out and retired rather early. The next morning they started scattering. Since the site we were in was reserved that night we knew we had to move by noon. I thought this would avoid any discussion about whether to stay or go. But I was wrong!

Jim realized the site next to us was available and begged to move into it for the night with the retired man’s version of “just 5 more minutes mom”. Instead it’s “just one more night, pleeeaaassse”. I wasn’t hard to convince so we have a new record for shortest move in our record book. We had to pack everything up and secure it for a move of 20 feet from site 64 to site 65. Here is a pick of our site for the weekend on the right and us set up in the new site to the left for the night.

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