The Buffalo National River was established by an Act of Congress on March 1, 1972, ending the recurring plans of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to construct one or more dams on the river. The National River designation protects natural rivers from industrial uses, impoundments and other obstructions that may change the natural character of the river or disrupt the natural habitat for the flora and fauna that live in or near the river.
The Buffalo River, located in northern Arkansas, was the first National River to be designated in the United States. The Buffalo River is slightly more than 150 miles long. The Buffalo National River gets its start in a national forest country, nearly within rock-throwing distance of the highest point in the Ozarks. Some floating takes place in the headwaters area (the ‘Hailstone’ trip from Dixon Road to Arkansas 21 is almost legendary among serious paddlers), but, for most, this is a good place to put on the hiking boots.
A real treat is the Upper Buffalo Wilderness, a 14,200-acre tract managed by the Ozark National Forest and the Buffalo National River. Visitors to the area can expect to see caves, bluffs, waterfalls, old cabin sites, natural springs and maybe even a local black bear.