The Confluence: Where Two Rivers Meet

The Confluence: Where Two Rivers Meet


Water—its vitality, its power, its tranquil allure—is an abundant resource in the
Ozarks. Our area receives about 48 inches of rain each year, so it’s no wonder that
water-based recreation is so embedded in the economy and lifestyle of our region.

Historically speaking, the interconnectivity of Arkansas waterways provided the
earliest infrastructure for transportation and trade routes, communication and
settlement in the Ozarks. In the early 19th century, European explorer Henry
Schoolcraft made an expedition up the White River to write an eyewitness
description of its tributaries and terrain. Of the “Buffaloe Fork” of the White River,
Schoolcraft documented an abundance of wildlife that presented exceptional
hunting opportunities. According to Buffalo River historian Kenneth L. Smith,
Schoolcraft described large quantities of beaver, otter, raccoon, deer, and bear-skins
being collected from the area and taken downriver by canoe to the White River and
its multiple trading posts between the mouth and the Mississippi.

Today, paddlers can make the multi-day voyage through the Lower Buffalo
Wilderness by canoe and experience the “Buffaloe Fork” just as it was described by
Henry Schoolcraft in the early 1800’s. An expedition through the Lower Buffalo
Wilderness offers tremendous opportunities for solitude as it follows the final 24
miles of the Buffalo River to its confluence with the White River, a grand
juxtaposition between the wild and the tame.

This writer has made the trek three times—first in a motorized watercraft, then in a
canoe, and most recently in a fishing kayak. Whichever watercraft you choose, be
sure to check Buffalo National River’s website for safety tips 
https://www.nps.gov/buff/planyourvisit/safety.htm, river regulations https://www.nps.gov/buff/planyourvisit/backcountry-camping.htm), and Leave
No Trace information https://www.nps.gov/buff/planyourvisit/leave-no-trace.htm before you go. Don’t
have a boat? Consider renting from the licensed concessionaires 
https://www.nps.gov/buff/canoe-rentals.htm that operate on the Lower Buffalo.

Most Lower Buffalo Wilderness paddlers plan for a three-day, two-night trip, but
some are lucky enough to take even longer. The adventure begins at Buffalo
National River’s Rush Landing, approximately one hour east of Harrison. This is the
very last river access on the Buffalo, so upon launching your boat, there's no turning
back. You're committed to paddling at least 24 river miles with no earlier option for
escape. While this may seem daunting, the risk is invigorating. The sense of
discovery is empowering. The experience is wholly profound. Testing our limits in a
landscape so remote can evoke a connection with our primal selves.

To start planning your Lower Buffalo Wilderness adventure, visit Buffalo National
River’s “Lower District Floating” page
https://www.nps.gov/buff/planyourvisit/lower-district-floating.htm and scroll

down to the “Rush to Buffalo City” heading. In the meantime, here are some photos
to build up anticipation for your trip.

(Photo 1: Woodcock Bluff, as viewed from downriver.)

(Photo 2: The Lower Buffalo Wilderness float alternates between speedy riffles and
long, slow pools.)

(Photo 3: The gravel bar across from Sheep Jump Bluff is a popular place to take a
lunch break. This is a great swimming and fishing hole, too.)

(Photo 4: Elephant Head Rock indicates that paddlers are only 4.5 miles away from
the confluence of the Buffalo and the White.)

(Photo 5: At the mouth of the Buffalo River, many paddlers choose to continue 6
miles down the White River to take out at Shipps Ferry. This section of the White
River shares the same bluff-lined, forested scenery as the Buffalo.)