| Buffalo National River In northern Arkansas is an unpolluted and free-flowing river in the heart of the Ozarks. It has both swift water and calm stretches on it's 132 mile course. Buffalo River becoming the nation's first National River in 1972. |
The Buffalo River is one of the few remaining unpolluted, free-flowing rivers in the lower 48 states offering both swift-running and placid stretches. The Buffalo National River encompasses 135 miles of the 150-mile long river. It begins as a trickle in the Boston Mountains 15 miles above the park boundary. Following what is likely an ancient riverbed, the Buffalo cuts its way through massive limestone bluffs traveling eastward through the Ozarks and into the White River. The national river has three designated wilderness areas within its boundaries.
Headquarters is located in Harrison, Arkansas, providing administrative services to the national river. The Tyler Bend Visitor Center, the main visitor center for the park, is located eleven miles north of Marshall, Arkansas. The park has two other *visitor contact stations; the Pruitt Ranger Station, located five miles north of Jasper, Arkansas on Highway 7, and Buffalo Point Ranger Station, located 17 miles south of Yellville, Arkansas, on Highway 14.
• Many prehistoric and historic cultural sites are located in the park, some dating back more than 10,000 years. These sites range from terrace village sites, to bluff shelters once occupied by Archaic Indians, to cabins built by early settlers. In Boxley valley, Ozark farmers still live in harmony with the land. Other areas, such as the Parker-Hickman Farmstead in Erbie, the Rush Mining District, the 1930s Collier Homestead at Tyler Bend, and the Civilian Conservation Corps structures at Buffalo Point, represent the progression of Buffalo River history. Trails in these areas lead the hiker back in time to an era when the natural and cultural world were one.
• How did a river surrounded by the progress of civilization escape impoundment, impairment, and change. The Buffalo National River encompasses the diversity of the natural resources that are the Ozarks. This was acknowledged by an U.S. House of Representatives Committee Reports (1972) that explained the basis for the establishment of the Buffalo National River. It stated, "Because it is a pure, free-flowing stream which has not been significantly altered by industry or man, it is considered to be one of the country's last significant natural rivers. It is not one single quality, but the combination of its size, its completeness, its wild qualities, and its associated natural, scenic and historic resources that makes the Buffalo worthy of national recognition."
Overlook view of the Buffalo River • Buffalo National River has over 300 caves within its boundary. The Ozark Plateau is one of the most cavernicolous areas in the United States. Karst is a type of topography that is usually formed in rocks such as limestone and dolomite. It is characterized by an integration of surface and ground water via sinkholes, caves, losing streams, and springs.
• The Ozark Mountains as a whole can be described as a southward tilted, uplifted plateau that has been dissected by the erosional effects of water resulting in dendritic or tree-branch shaped watersheds. Within the Ozark Mountains four major physiographic regions have been described: the Boston Mountains, Springfield Plateau, Salem Plateau, and the St. Francis Mountains. The drainage area of the Buffalo River is a mixture of the Boston Mountains, Springfield and Salem Plateaus.
• The number and size of the springs and seeps within the Buffalo National River has never been quantified. Large springs that have perennial outputs, such as Mitch Hill Spring and Gilbert Spring, have been monitored for water-quality for more than 10 years, and much is known about the quantity, quality, and the aquatic organisms that reside in these springs. However, there could be thousands of springs and seeps within the watershed of the Buffalo River where little is known. These islands of aquatic and mesic habitats could be home to many rare or endemic species of macro invertebrates and vascular plants.
Flora and fauna
• The plant communities that compose the forests of the Ozark Mountains are composed mainly of Oak-Hickory communities; however, many other types of plant communities exist and these communities are much influenced by the geology of the area. Gradients of plant diversity and species composition can be seen on almost any mountainside that is of moderate elevation. Plant community composition within the Ozark Mountains exhibit gradients of species change similar to other mountain systems; however, these gradients are due to the accessibility of water and nutrients and not temperature or elevations, as is the case with other mountainous regions in the U. S.
• The vegetative community at Buffalo National River is rich and diverse. The ridges, bluffs, hillsides, and valleys provide a variety of habitats that support over 1500 plant species. The major forest types are the Floodplain, Mixed-Hardwood, Oak-Hickory, Oak-Pine, Cedar Glade and Beech. Forests, cultivated fields, and abandoned fields at different stages of ecological succession throughout the area support small herds of elk and other wildlife.
• Wildflowers can be seen nearly year round at Buffalo National River, but spring is the peak season. Spring rains and warm balmy days bring amazing color to the fields and roadsides of the park. In early spring many wildflowers can be found on the forest floor.
• In the eons old progression of seasons, animal abundance within the Ozark Mountains ebbs and flows as animals migrate into and out of the oak-hickory ecosystem that exists within the rough hills and valleys that create the Buffalo River. With the coming of spring, animal movement is at its highest. Fish are actively migrating up the river corridor into tributaries, and songbirds are arriving from far off places, filling the forest canopy with movement and song. Wildlife observers have recorded 55 species of mammals, 250 species of birds, and 59 species of fish, along with a multitude of reptiles, amphibians, insects and other invertebrates.
• In 1995 the largest sighting of feral hogs on the Buffalo National River was reported, a herd of 35 hogs was observed in the Lower Buffalo Wilderness Area. Feral hogs have been released into the park from numerous sources in the last 2 decades, and now hogs range up and down the whole river corridor.
• In 1981, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission began an Elk Restoration Project that has been an overwhelming success, and now special-permit hunting is required to keep the ever-growing population in balance. Visitors to the park can see the elk most frequently in the late winter and early spring in the meadows of Boxley Valley along the upper reaches of the river.
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Airports in Harrison, AR, Springfield, MO, Fayetteville, AR and Little Rock, AR.
Buffalo National River is a long, narrow park that is crossed by three main highways. Using Harrison as a starting point: To reach the Upper District, visitors travel south from Harrison on Highway 7, or Highway 43; To reach the Middle District, visitors travel 31 miles south of Harrison on Highway 65; To reach the Lower District, visitors take Highway 65 south from Harrison for five miles, then take Highway 62/412 to the east to Yellville, and Highway 14 south.
Buffalo Point Concession, has a restaurant that is open in the summer season.
• Historic structures and mines are fenced off for your protection. DO NOT ENTER MINES.
• Do not climb up bluffs or get too close to cliff edges. Gravity can be dangerous.
• Bring ample drinking water. Never drink untreated water from springs or rivers due to the potential presence of harmful organisms.
• Poison ivy and snakes are present and protected in the park. Never reach or step where you cannot see.
• Ticks and chiggers are hard to avoid anywhere in the Ozarks. Long pants and repel-lent help; light colored clothes make it easier to spot and remove the critters.
• Sturdy shoes and proper clothing are a must to ensure a safe and comfortable out-of-doors experience.
• Branson, Missouri with world class entertainment and access to Table Rock Lake for Bass fishing and Lake Taneycomo for lake trout fishing.
• Silver Dollar City theme park near Branson, Missouri
• Eureka Springs, Arkansas sometimes called the little Switzerland of the Ozarks and on other occasions the San Francisco of the Ozarks. Local craft shops and art galleries, good food and shopping. Close to Beaver Lake with fishing, water skiing, swimming and other water sports.