Packs are ready…camera is charged…the car is loaded…the maps are marked…. I am sitting with a cup of coffee on the balcony looking out over this sleepy little town. There is nothing quite like watching the sunrise over the mountains. The cool, clear morning air gets a head start waking me up before the caffeine has a chance to kick in. We often visit Eureka Springs to boat on Beaver Lake, float the rivers, and explore the outdoors. This particular morning I feel the energy and the anticipation building knowing that in just a short while, we will set out on a new adventure to explore one of the lesser known (but most beautiful) National Parks…The Buffalo River National Park. I have floated the Buffalo River before but on this trip, my family and I are hiking the woodlands and mountainous terrain that surrounds the river. Knowing that there is so much to see out there makes it hard to choose which trails we will take. We could seek out natural formations like Hawksbill Crag, or some of the many waterfalls like Glory Hole (watch?v=IXDan7uJNK0) and Triple Falls but the chance to see (endangered) wildlife like Elk, Trumpeter Swan, and the illusive Ivory Billed Woodpecker is just as compelling. It is a remote place that is surprisingly easy to explore if you do your research.
History is rich in this place. People have found their peace and inspiration near this river for ages. The iconic country church in Boxley Valley, abandoned cemeteries, and petroglyphs (early and prehistoric rock carvings) are just a few of the remaining. We will walk through history today and in the process…make our own.
The Buffalo River flows through some of the largest and most beautiful limestone bluffs in Arkansas. It is the first National River and one of the last free flowing rivers in America. Cascading over swift running rapids, the river’s path is dotted with quiet swimming holes for nearly 135-miles. I promise you will find adventure and peace here but be aware, gps and cell signal is rare so get good directions before you head out and be sure and check Buffalo River water levels.
I have floated the Buffalo River before and it is amazing but the park surrounding the river provides many opportunities for adventure. Hiking, zip lining, picnicking, horseback riding, fishing, hunting, wildlife viewing, visiting historic districts, and bird-watching are items on the short list. There are so many waterfalls and natural features to discover. The best way to learn about some of these is to talk to someone who knows the area. If you don’t know anyone, don’t worry…in my opinion, the authority on the Buffalo River National Park Region is Tim Ernst. A photographer, writer, and nature enthusiast…he has written several trail guides and is the best known photographer of the area. He has a blog and you will want to visit it.
I stayed the night in Eureka Springs, just a short (and amazingly scenic) drive from the Buffalo and it is a destination by itself. To get to the Buffalo River area from Eureka Springs, take 62 W to Berryville and follow Hwy 21 South. Subscribe to news releases from the National Park Service, get your Buffalo River National Park Map and plan your adventure today. To find river cabins and other lodging, visit eurekasprings.com. The Buffalo National River is on the Arkansas Art Trail.