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HomeNL-2014-06 Buffalo River

Buffalo River
April, 2014
by Ken Anderson

Two HCC canoeists (myself and Robert Killian) and four HASK kayakers paddled Arkansas’s Buffalo River last month.  The original plan called for 2 separate groups, one with canoes and another with sea kayaks, but the 9 original HCC canoeists dwindled to 2 by the departure date… so we joined the sea kayakers. 

There are parts of the Buffalo that aren’t kind to sea kayaks but well suited to canoes.  On the other hand, the lower portion of the Buffalo is better suited for sea kayaks.  The route we chose worked well for both. 

In order to keep up with the sea kayaks I brought a boundary waters sort of canoe.  Other than a run-in with a 5’ standing wave (the biggest of 3) that choice worked out well.  I might add we followed the tradition of canoeists carrying stuff for kayakers.

Early April and mid-May frame the rainy season and providing the water to paddle what is normally low water but, sadly, it sometimes brings bad weather.  This year it brought high winds and low temperatures for one and a half days but afterwards we experienced nothing but clear sky mid-70’s temperatures.

Rather than spend a weather day in a motel we hiked into Hemmed-in-Hollow.  Hemmed-in-Hollow is the highest waterfall between Arkansas and the Rockies; wisps of wind blown water fall across the face of he cliff into the canyon or “hollow”.  We normally hike into the hollow from the fiver but this time we came in from a regular hiking trail.

We took a break by spending one night in the “cabins of Gilbert”.  Nothing much is open this early in their season so we had the entire town to ourselves (well, it’s a very small town).  Gilbert is usually the starting or ending point of most paddling trips on the Buffalo.  One can begin a trip much further upstream and spend 3 or 4 days paddling to Gilbert or you can begin at Gilbert and paddle downstream for 2 days until you meet the White River.

Paddling into the White from the Buffalo it quickly becomes clear the White is going to be a different experience.   It’s not only wider but your speed jumps from 2+ knots to 6 or 7.  In a sense you feel you're flying down the river. 

The White is a great fishing river; the Buffalo isn’t as good although a clear sign you’re approaching the White is the increasing number of fishermen you’ll see.  I suspect those fishermen are on the Buffalo because it affords great camping.

I can’t emphasize enough how great a group the HASK folks have been each and every time I’ve been with them. They’re interesting to talk to, competent paddlers, and fun to be with. I’d do this again with them. 

The author, Ken Anderson