The plans for our first stop in Arkansas (the “Natural State”) were cut short due to two major storms that threatened as we entered the state. We set up camp at Buffalo National River, staying at Buffalo Point on the lower river. It is one of three designated wilderness areas within the park’s boundaries.
Located in the heart of the Ozarks, Buffalo National River became America’s first national river in 1972. It encompasses 135 miles of the 150-mile long river. Although termed a national river, the 94,293-acre park includes lands surrounding it, as well as the river itself.
Because of its natural wilderness and towering limestone bluffs, this is a very popular place not only for the locals, but also for those who love rivers and water-related activities. Steve had designs on floating down the beautiful river while we were here – but it was not to be 😦
The free-flowing Buffalo National River is one of the few remaining unpolluted rivers in Arkansas that has not been dammed, and it is a state treasure. 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 as it travels eastward through the Ozarks and into the White River.
With only one day of sunshine to enjoy before all weather hell broke loose, we immediately embarked on the only hike we would do while here. I took off on a nice long adventure, while Steve followed a shorter path in another direction before doing some needed work on Betsy.
My 7.5-mile trek started from our campsite, as I followed a network of moderately strenuous trails that took me to the Indian Rockhouse. Traversing through pines, hardwood and eastern cedar within the campground, I followed another trail that wound around hillsides and along a beautiful stream to the spectacular Indian Rockhouse. The rockhouse was once used as a shelter for prehistoric bluff-dwelling Native Americans. It was huge inside, and a beautiful clear spring ran through it.
Some critters caught my attention as I trudged along. I would never have detected this guy if he hadn’t moved:
If not for the torrential rains, fog and overcast skies, hiking at the Upper River would have been very desirable – especially at Lost Valley. But at least we were able to drive there to observe the bull elk with their large antlers, as they monitored their harem of cow elk. We learned this is rut season, and when we arrived the bull elk were bugling loudly as they kept an eye on their favorite cows, while trying to attract still more of them. Too bad we didn’t see some bulls fighting while we were there, that would have been exciting!
The ancestors of the elk currently in Arkansas were actually Rocky Mountain elk, which were introduced here in 1980. The Eastern elk that called Buffalo River home became extinct just as Arkansas gained statehood in 1836. So for a very long time Arkansas did not have wild elk. In 1980, 112 Rocky Mountain elk were introduced. The original 112 thrived and have multiplied to where it is estimated that there are now 500 of them roaming around Boxley Valley.
Boxley Valley is not only home to those state-released elk, but also to traditional farming communities. Surrounded by many hills, open valleys and wildlife, it’s an amazing area to drive through. With a good rain and low-lying fog in the valley that morning, it had a mystical and haunting feel. Arkansas has a gem right here!
The fall colors had not yet peaked here, but we were glad that some of the leaves were changing colors. In two weeks the mountains would be in full fall splendor, but for now we were happy to get a look at these early starters.
The forecast called for another severe storm coming our way. With no connectivity to the outside world due to our remote location, we decided to pack up and move further north and closer to civilization. That shortened our stay, but there wasn’t much else to do here anyway, except sit inside and stare out the window at the horrible weather. Steve’s review of the campground is here.
So we followed the twisty road into Eureka Springs and hunkered down at a nice campground in town. But hey, when the storm ended we found out what a cool place this little town is – stay tuned!
Arkansas is such a beautiful state! I wish it was closer to us to visit in the RV. Hope you can see the Hot Springs if you haven’t already done that. Glad you weathered that nasty storm ok, too. We had winds over 60 mph here on the backside of it. Not a good day for RV travel, for sure. Your pictures are awesome, as usual! That was very interesting to hear about the elk being transferred from the Rockies, too.
You are absolutely right. Arkansas is a hidden gem. The hot spring was on our route until that storm came. I guess another reason to come back to this pretty state.
You should check out the book “Hey Ranger” by Jim Burnett. We picked it up at the gift shop at one of the National Parks this summer. Lots of stories about the author’s many years working for the NPS. Several of the chapters are about things that happened during his time at Buffalo National River. Thanks for the great blog, I’ve enjoyed following along!
Thank you Rebecca, I will check it out. And yes I ve read some tidbits about the river before it got protected. And Im glad you enjoyed tagging along.
I’ve floated the Buffalo before and it is a great trip! I had no idea there were elk in Arkansas. Thanks!
Seeing elk in Arkansas was the surprise on this stop.
I hope that chigger photo was taken with a macro lens! Arkansas is a state we’ve wanted to spend more time in, especially in the fall. The Buffalo River looks so beautiful — sorry you didn’t get to kayak it, it looks like something we would love to do. Looking forward to your adventures in Eureka Springs!
Laurel, my trusty point and shoot panasonic did a good job. I jumped out of the rock I was sitting on when i saw those red critters and screamed, not again!
Great pics from your trip, Mona. Love the elk portrait, and the fall foliage is stunning, even at this early stage. 🙂
What an absolutely gorgeous area! Great bug finds too! How cool you got to hear the elk bugling, that’s something I hope to run across sometime. It’s neat that some of the trees turning were red. Out here in the West we’re mostly seeing yellow. Love, love, love traveling at this time of year!
Im really hoping we can catch the fall foliage here. The bugling was something else and was surprised there are elks in AR.
This is such good photography….
Thanks you are so kind.
I did not know Arkansas had Elk. Ashton got to hear the Elk bugling for the first time when she and I went on a day trip into Rocky Mountain National Park. We spent quite sometime just hanging out watching the herd. Guess that means we’re easily entertained.
We’ve had some crazy windy nights here in Phoenix but fortunately no rain. Stay safe!
We were fortunate we were not hit hard with the storm. Those elks are from your state 🙂 glad they were here so I can see them too.
So glad you got to see and hear the elk bugling and gathering the women!! It’s awesome isn’t it. I was thrilled we were in Jasper during the rut. But who knew Arkansas had elk!
Gee, it looked like a very nice area you were “suppose” to be visiting. Too bad your stay got cut short. Now maybe you need to head back! But glad you didn’t hit with the storms to badly.
Love your bug photos, except the chigger! Yes, that is a face only a mother could love:)
We did not know either until the Park Ranger suggested we should those horny elks. I jumped out of the rock I was sitting when I saw the Chiggers! I can’t allow them on my body ever 🙂 so killed him without mercy.
The smile on my face runs from ear to ear hearing about this undamed river with the gorgeous clear waters. I am as sorry as you are that you didn’t get to kayak it but it rocketed up high on my list. Sure wish I could have taken that hike with you. Your photographs are really wonderful. Arkansas is a really overlooked gem in my opinion. Just watch out during tornado and hurricane seasons.
I think you would really like to float on this river. Its really gorgeous.
That water is so clear. Beautiful.
Awesome Elk photos. That male is huge!
Sorry the weather did not cooperate. A bugling elk … always a treat, and such an eerie sound.
I couldn’t believe it when I saw the title to this post! We will be in Arkansas later today. Our original plans didn’t include Buffalo River but after reading your post we may head that way in a few days. Loved the pictures and the information about the Elk.
Oh wonderful! So, to see that bluff in my picture,go to Buffalo Point,(it is 17 miles east of Yellville) the overlook is near Campground B 28 where we were. Then if you want to see the Elk in Boxley Valley it is on scenic twisty Highway 43. Be there very early morning or at dusk to hear them bugle . Be sure to drive all the way to Mill Pond, the Trumpeter Swan should be there. Also you can stop at Big Bluff overlook on your way to Boxley Valley to see the river if there is no fog.
We are still at Eureka Springs and will be checking out the War Eagle craft show tomorrow.
Great Pictures, You have not lost your witty side!!
The Buffalo River looks wonderful. Arkansas is a state we have yet to explore so thanks for the great introduction and lovely photos. 🙂
LuAnn, there are two NPS parks in AR that you might want stamped in your passport, Buffalo National River and Hot Springs National Park.
Thanks MonaLiza! I am making note of them both. 🙂
What an amazing spot! The best part of this lifestyle is you can always head back there once the storms pass! Enjoy your adventure and safe journey to your next spot of paradise!
Too bad you had bad weather. The area is so beautiful. Oops, forgot to tell you about the twisty road to Eureka Springs.
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