After a short couple of days at home I reconfigured and packed for the Buffalo National River in Arkansas. Below is some information on the park from the NPS web site.
The Buffalo River begins as a trickle in the Boston Mountains and flows 150 miles (241.5 km) to the east through the Ozarks and into the White River. Following what is likely an ancient riverbed, the Buffalo flows past massive sandstone and limestone bluffs. The water temperatures and river levels change dramatically with the seasons,
attesting that the river is influenced more by runoff and tributaries than by springs. Narrow and fast near its headwaters, the Buffalo gets wider and lazier the farther downstream it flows. The river is wild and fully protected; 135 miles (217.3 km) within the park and the rest within national forest land. There are few roads which parallel the river and few accessible overlooks; therefore, the best way to see the park is by trail or by water.
This National River is managed as three districts. Each district has its visitor contact station and canoe concessions, and each is best reached by primary roads which cross the river. See the brief description of each district for more information.
Upper River (Upper Buffalo Wilderness to Mt. Hersey)
The upper river is the largest of all districts, containing two wilderness areas and some of the most rugged terrain in the park. This section offers the largest number of river access points and the most challenging sections of river to float. In spring, it contains the most heavily used section of river, in fall, the most heavily used trails. The majority of the hiking trails are located within the upper district. Lost Valley offers a memorable hike along Clark Creek to waterfalls and caves. Equally interesting is the Erbie Historic District, which contains many historic sites and the park’s oldest structure, the Parker-Hickman log house, built around the late 1840s.
Pruitt Ranger Station is open part-time between Memorial Day and Labor Day for information.
Middle River (Mt. Hersey to Maumee)
Sections of the middle river offer quiet, gentle floats through a pastoral setting and opportunities to enjoy the river’s tranquillity. The Tyler Bend Visitor Center provides orientation and information about the river and all areas in the park. The facility offers an exhibit area and an auditorium where a variety of programs are shown. The visitor center is open year-round.
The Collier Homestead site at Tyler Bend represents an Ozark dwelling from the 1930s. An accessible trail to the homestead and nearby overlook is located here. The Buffalo River Trail can be intersected at the Collier Trailhead parking area. This trail joins with the Ozark Highlands Trail at Woolum, 15 miles (24 km) upstream from Tyler Bend.
Lower River (Maumee to Lower Buffalo Wilderness)
The lower district contains the park’s largest wilderness area and most remote sections of river.
In addition, two heavily used sections of river, are located upstream and downstream of the park’s most developed and popular summer campground. Buffalo Point offers campsites with water and electricity, and the only restaurant and rental cabins within the park. Two popular attractions along the lower Buffalo are the Indian Rockhouse Trail and the Rush
Historic District. Rush was a zinc mining community until the bottom fell out of the zinc market and the settlement became a ghost town.
Information is available at either of two Buffalo Point information stations. The upper station is open year-round. The lower station is open limited hours from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
What makes the Buffalo River turn turquoise? Suspension of minute rock particles causes this unique color. Weathered microscopic clay particles from shale outcrops are washed into the river during rains. Unlike silt, the fine, light clay particles remain suspended in the water for weeks. These suspended particles interfere with the passage of light. Light bounces among the suspended particles and separates into the colors of a rainbow. Of these colors, only blue and green are reflected, giving the river its turquoise color.
We arrived on Wednesday after an uneventful drive. We checked in with Marion and Bob, two friends that have a cottage in Ponca, AR. After that we went to the nearby Lost Valley Campground with our fingers crossed that one of the two sites that will accommodate my pop-up camper were open. Luckily one of them was and we set up camp. We drove down to the Ponca Access to check the river levels and they were perfect for a spirited paddle.
We ate dinner and turned in for the night. About midnight one heck of a thunderstorm rolled in and we got hammered by very heavy rains and lots of lightning. The area was damaged very badly by the February ice storm and I was grateful that the deep valley protected us from the winds.
Come morning the little creek that flows through Lost Valley had a pretty good volume of water in it. I have visited this area annually for the mast eight years and it has always been dry as a bone. I surmised that the Eden Falls would finally be running strong. I visit this area every may to photograph the hundreds of seasonal waterfalls in the area, but Eden Falls is so high up the watershed that you have to be there right after a gully washer. Here is some photos from the hike up Lost Valley.
About a half mile into the hike the trail drops to the canyon bottom and follows the creek.
After a bit the creek drops into a sink and comes out of this cave entrance.
About a mile and a half from the trail head is Eden Falls. Finally, I made it to the falls when there is water flowing.
Next we drove down to the Kyles Landing Access to photograph one of my favorite falls, Twin Falls. I know it has three falls but for some reason it is called Twin Falls or Double Falls. It is located on Camp Orr of the Boy Scouts. They generously allow the public to visit this magnificient falls.
After a couple of minutes photographing the falls we moved on to the Kyles Landing Access to the river. We knew there had been a lot of rain but we did not realize how much until we came in sight of the river. It was up a full four feet from the previous evening and was entirely unfloatable.
The weather continued to be a problem. This is now going on almost 21 days of rain, wind and storms.
Friday I had agreed to provide a pick up and shuttle for three members of my paddling club who were completing a week long 140 mile float on the Buffalo and White River. The day was beautiful but most of it was spent doing the shuttle. On Friday evening other members of the club arrived for the annual May Buffalo River float.
As I am now officially an "old fart" and my legs are not what they once were I elected to not float the stream on Saturday. Instead I would do some auto touring after I fixed breakfast for the group. I have a new outfitters stove that I would use for sausage and pancakes. Well, it would light but would not generate any significant heat. I managed to get the meal cooked, but in an extremely slow manner. So off to Harrison, AR to buy a new regulator. This is about a 22 mile trip each way. This pretty much killed the morning and I only had a couple of hours to photograph before heading off to run the shuttle for the group.
It is tradition that on Saturday night of this trip we go into Jasper, AR for dinner at the Ozark Cafe. I have written about this wonderful country cafe before on this blog but it bears repeating that this is one of the best and most authentic Ozark cafe I have found. It is just a coincidence that it is named the Ozark Cafe. We ate lunch here on Friday and I got the best pork tenderloin I have ever had with mashed potatoes, and corn for the incredible sum of $3.99. How they can put out this quality and quantity of food for this price and still make money is a mystery to me. Saturday evening following the meal the owner and a couple of friends take the stage and sing everything from blues to country. The owner is quite good.
I had intended to float on Sunday, but the group decided to do the Boxley to Ponca run instead of the usual run lower on the rive. This stretch is seldom floatable so I understand the desire to paddle it. However for me the run is just too much now days. I took off to find some old barns. Barns are one of my best sellers on the art fair circuit so I am always on the lookout for new ones to photograph. Below are some of the shots from Sunday's photo tour.
I then drove down a state highway towards Osage, AR. At this little burg was an old mercantile store that is now a pottery store. It is in the middle of nowhere but seemed to have a constant flow of customers.
That pretty well sums up the trip. Next I am off for a new adventure. For the next two months or so I will be working for a friend at Adventure Outdoors, a Canoe Rental and Campground on the Meramec River about 60 miles from St. Louis. I will not have cell phone or internet access so posts will be sparse for the next eight weeks. Then it is off to the west and pacific northwest for late summer and early fall.