Middle Buffalo River
Pictures Courtesy of Joey Benton, Keith Brown, Don Rush
Okay, canoe enthusiasts, here's the thing about the middle river: the only time you can't float it is when the water is too high and the river is closed!
Whoa! You mean it doesn't get too low in summer? Yep, that's right. Every day, all year around, you can put a canoe on the middle river somewhere and go floating.
Now, I know you folks who are hooked on shooting the rapids of the upper river still want to be there in May, but what if you get a weekend break in July and have this itch to go floating? Why not go back to the Buffalo? Just move downstream and enjoy the same awesome scenery, the same watchable wildlife (even elk in this section, now), and the same great swimming holes, horseback riding, camping and superb fishing.
Besides, if you've never seen Skull Bluff and "The Nars", you haven't seen some of the best known features of the bluffs of the Buffalo.
Where do you come up with words to describe the scenery on the Buffalo. You wear out "majestic", and "incredible" and "awe-inspiring" and then what do you say? In mid-America, it is, without doubt, the masterpiece of creation. The towering bluffs, the forests, the mountain vistas and the pastoral valleys are as much in evidence here as on the upper river and are an experience you'll savor even if all you do is drive through.
If you haven't been on the middle river, you'll want to make a stop at the Visitor Center at Tyler Bend. The displays include artifacts, historical displays and natural dioramas featuring some of the river's critters, and lots and lots of books about the area. There's a large campground and hiking trails as well. The old Collier Homestead offers you a chance to step back in time and imagine life on the river in the early days of the century.
Speaking of camping, let's talk about backcountry camping on the Buffalo, meaning all areas away from roads and facilities. You can do it almost anywhere on the river. Exceptions are at abandoned buildings, within one-half mile of developed river areas and areas that are unsafe or have fragile natural resources, which are marked with signs.
With 150 miles of river length and widths up to a mile, there's more room to take off into the wilderness by yourself then you'll ever use up. If tucking everything into a backpack and setting off on foot is your thing, claim a piece of middle river as your territory.
For woods campsites, look for a level, well-drained opening free of dead or unhealthy looking trees and limbs. You are not allowed to cut brush or limbs to make a campsite, so look for a natural opening and, please, clean up before you leave so the most the next hiker could see is your footprints.
If you're weekending on the river during spring and summer, there are evening programs at the Tyler Bend Amphitheater that include slide shows about the Buffalo and other National Parks. Thee are also water activities on weekends at the campgrounds.
There are more than 250 caves on the Buffalo National River and exploration is permitted with proper equipment and experience except in season when the resident bat populations must be protected. There is also a commercial cave in this area of the river.
Other nearby attractions include lots of good craft and antique shops, a stock car race track, fine dining and local festivals and events. Country music shows in Branson are a short drive away and the Arkansas Folk Center is another good day trip.