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Backpacker Magazine – September 2005

Paddling's Greatest Getaways

16 wild ways to find backcountry solitude and big-time scenery. All this, and you can bring the ice chest, too.

by: Larry Rice


©Tom Till
Buffalo River
{Arkansas}

Swimming Hole Heaven
Perfect your backstroke in warm, clear, and plentiful pools on the Buffalo River.

One of the perks of canoe camping is the deluxe carrying capacity (porterhouse, anyone?). Maximize your grilling time on the Buffalo River, which has a mind-blowing number of perfect campsites. Will it be a primitive backwoods site or a solitary gravel bar by one of those must-skinny-dip swimming holes? Between camps, you'll float on crystalline spring-fed water past hardwood forests that turn gold in the fall, azaleas and dogwoods that bloom in spring, and fern-draped hollows that stay green all summer. The surrounding wilderness is an ecological crossroads, where Southwest meets Southeast, where armadillos and roadrunners cross paths.

As America's first national river and one of its last major free-flowing waterways, the Buffalo gets a fair share of paddle traffic in summer. But unlike some lottery-only premier streams, you can put in on the Buff without so much as a permit. Bring your own boat, or rent from one of the many local canoe/shuttle outfitters (www.buffalorivercanoerental.com; http://silverhill65.com). You could easily spend a week on the 135-mile river, but the best 3-day trip is along the 50 miles between Ponca and Woolum Ford. Immediately after your launch, sheer 500-foot cliffs loom over the swift, twisting river. On the first day, pull off at Hemmed-in-Hollow, where you can scramble up a narrow, dead-end chasm to a 200-foot waterfall.

Get there The Ponca put-in is at the junction of AR 43 and AR 74, near Boxley. Take out at Woolum; from St. Joe on US 65, drive west on AR 374.

Season March through October; the upper section may get low in fall

Difficulty Easy to moderate, with Class I-II+ rapids

Contact Buffalo National River, (870) 741-5443; www.nps.gov/buff




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READERS COMMENTS

Star Star Star Star Star
Pennyyork
Feb 02, 2013

was wondering if anyone knew my father kenneth York he guided the Allagash for years.I would be interested thank you

Markus Harrild
Apr 02, 2012

Although you've listed some great waterways, and have limited space for your article, you know, your readers are going to chide you about not listing their favorites. So, to add to that list of incredulousness, when was the last time you paddled down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, in Central Idaho. For raw jaw-dropping beauty, aqueous power, a wicked challenge, and a great trip, you've got to list this gnarled ribbon of water that slices through the River of No Return Wilderness. I could understand leaving other waterways off your list, but not this beauty!

Anonymous
Mar 30, 2012

Wow, I can't believe the (insert favorite) river wasn't included. This is the best! Some of the most beautiful scenery is found on the (insert favorite) river....

Peter Swiderski
Mar 29, 2012

Wait a minute. Just wait a minute. You left out the Green River in Utah? Whether its Desolation Valley or Labyrnth Canyon or Stillwater, we are talking the most spectacular rafting and canoeing in the country, bar none, nothing even close. Please. Just my humble opinion, but seriously. Green River, for like 200 miles. THAT'S amazing.

Peter Swiderski
Mar 29, 2012

Wait a minute. Just wait a minute. You left out the Green River in Utah? Whether its Desolation Valley or Labyrnth Canyon or Stillwater, we are talking the most spectacular rafting and canoeing in the country, bar none, nothing even close. Please. Just my humble opinion, but seriously. Green River, for like 200 miles. THAT'S amazing.

Richard M McFadden
Mar 29, 2012

WOW! Do not depend on Larry Rice on this one. First off. The Glory Hole pictured is not even in the Buffalo watershed. Second, the LOWER section will be low in the Fall. The upper half of the river will be virtually dry. The Buffalo is rain dependent, not spring fed. Summer is hot and humid with low algae filled water. The Buffalo is my river. It is by far my favorite river and I spend a lot of time there. Obviously Larry Rice does not. I will be joining Kenneth L Smith tomorrow for a week of trailbuilding on the Buffalo. Ken will be trailbuilding in the fall. If you love trails it is a chance to be in a wonderful place extending the Buffalo River Trail.
rmmcfadden@yahoo.com.

DblKnt
Mar 29, 2012

The Allagash is indeed beautiful in Sept / Oct
but the river sections are very shallow and rocky.
You will likely be limited to the lakes.

Summer months usually have the best river flow.
Bring 100% DEET and a head net!

David Scarborough
Mar 29, 2012

I cant believe yall left out the Alabama Scenic River Trail, a trail that spans from NE Alabama to the Gulf of Mexico and includes the Bartram Canoe Trail, a trail that meanders through the beautiful Mobile/Tensaw River Delta.
http://www.alabamascenicrivertrail.com/
http://www.outdooralabama.com/outdoor-adventures/bartram/index.htm

Anonymous
Mar 29, 2012

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