The Buffalo National River
The Buffalo National River begins as a trickle in the Boston Mountains, where it flows north and then eastward through the Ozark Mountains until it merges 150 miles later with the White River at Buffalo City.
The upper Buffalo offers the river’s finest scenic beauty. With its massive, towering bluffs, countless waterfalls, watchable wildlife, ties to both historic and prehistoric cultures, and remote, unspoiled location, the upper Buffalo National River wilderness is surely mid-America’s finest outdoor destination.
In fact, the entire river is such a special place that in 1972, Congress designated it as America’s first national river. This unique status ...view middle of the document...
In the event of flooding, the National Park Service will close the river to boating.
RIVER SAFETY & YOUNG CHILDREN:
Children should be at least age 4 and able to swim before floating the Buffalo. Consider taking little tykes to one of the pretty local swimming holes (just ask us a local for directions). Small ones love playing in the sand and splashing about in the calm water’s edge rather than taking a long, uncertain canoe ride. If you need help determining if a float trip is right for a child or anyone else in your group, just call a local river outfitter
Float Trip Options
The most popular float---and without a doubt the river’s most scenic---is from Ponca to Kyle’s Landing, a 10-mile float that takes between four and six hours to complete. When the water from Ponca to Kyle’s is too low to float, the day-trip launch site is moved downriver to the Pruitt access, where you float seven miles to Hasty. Check river outfitter websites for current river levels and launching points.
The most popular multi-day trip is the Ponca to Pruitt trip, a 24-mile float that takes a minimum of two days to complete. However, with 150 miles of Buffalo National River to explore, there are many ways to plan a multi-day trip. Call a local outfitter for expert assistance with planning an overnight float trip.
Here’s a handy reference chart of the most popular float trips. Please remember that the “Time Required” to complete a trip can vary somewhat due to water level, weather conditions, and the speed and skill with which you paddle.
River Trip # of Miles Time Required
Ponca to Kyle’s Landing 10 miles 4 to 6 hours
Steel Creek to Kyle’s 8 miles 4 to 5 hours
Ponca to Pruitt 24 miles 2 days (min)
Pruitt to Hasty 7 miles 4 to 5 hours
Pruitt to Carver 11 miles 6 to 7 hours
Pruitt to Woolum 26 miles 2 days (min.)
BOATS & EQUIPMENT
Canoes, rafts, and kayaks are available for rent. Paddles and life vests are included in your rental.
SPECIAL NOTE: As a river preservation measure, the National Park Service limits the number of rental boats that can be launched on any given day. Therefore, if you plan a weekend float, it is wise to reserve your boat(s) in advance. For example, it is never too early to book a boat for a May weekend, which is the upper Buffalo’s most popular floating month.
HOW MANY BOATS YOU’LL NEED
When it comes to canoes, two adults per canoe is the recommendation. This allows for good balance and adequate room for gear. However, it is not uncommon for three small-frame adults or parents with one or two average-sized youngsters to share a canoe.
Most rafts can comfortably hold up to six people along with an average amount of gear. (Remember, rafting is...