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Arkansas Traveling
ACCESS: To reach the trailhead, take
I-40 roughly 100 miles west of Little
Heed the call of the wild on
Rock and turn north on Highway 21
at the town of Clarksville for about 55
the Buffalo River Trail.
miles to the town of Ponca.
CAMPING/PERMITS: Camping allowed
THE SWIFT-MOVING Buffalo few minutes after leaving the on gravel bars along the river and in
National River winds 130 Ponca trailhead. Sometimes all backcountry areas—with some
miles through the Ozark hugging the river, sometimes restrictions. No designated campsites;
Mountains of northwestern offering expansive views atop permits not required.
Arkansas. Managed by the the crests of hardwood-clad
National Park Service, it exists ridges, the route puts you into CONTACT: Buffalo National River, 870-
as one of the longest stretches Dogpatch backwoods that 741-5443; Purchase maps
of free-flowing water in the canoeists never see. and guidebooks at the park visitor
Lower 48. You can see this Along the way you’ll center. ¿
near-wilderness of hills and encounter the 500-foot-tall
sculpted side hollows, forests, Big Bluff (one of the tallest LARRY RICEis a contributing editor for
and meadows by canoe trip- cliff faces in mid-America), Canoe & Kayak magazine and the
ping. But try backpacking the the cascades of Beech Creek, author of Gathering Paradise: Alaska
37-mile Buffalo River Trail, the historic Parker-Hickman Wilderness Journeys.
easily one of the best hikes log house (built around
around. 1840), and two cemeteries
Located for much of its that date back to the Civil

length in the 11,300-acre War. Unexplored caves and E
Ponca Wilderness Area, the ancient Native American

steep and rocky trail passes encampments lend an air of Hikers view the Hemmed-
rugged, wild areas that best mystery to the dells. The path
in-Hollow waterfall.
characterize the park. It’s moves through gentler terrain
where you’ll find the river’s the final few miles, passing a diverse in the nation. The Most people prefer hiking
highest bluffs, along with spring-fed pond that attracts game fish of choice? Bass. the Buffalo River Trail in the
jumbled canyons, shaded birds and other wildlife. When the level of river spring and early summer. I
glens, and fern-draped More than 10 million dips low enough to ford like late fall when the leaves
hollows splashed with people live within 250 miles (usually from late summer turn golden and red and
waterfalls. of the Buffalo River. Yet the through winter), don’t miss all the creepy, crawly things
You may think you’re in trail is a haven of tranquil- the 2.5-mile side hike (one are dormant. Don’t be sur-
shape for an Ozarks hike, ity. Here, where Southeast way) to Hemmed-in-Hollow. prised, as I was last October,
but you’ll know for sure a meets Southwest, armadillos, A trail on the Buffalo’s north if you hear the passionate,
roadrunners, and bank leads into a narrow, high-pitched bugling of elk.
tarantulas co-exist dead-end canyon, backdrop The Arkansas Game and
with whitetail deer, for a 209-foot, free-leaping Fish Commission and the
bobcats, and black waterfall, the tallest of its National Park Service rein-
bears. kind between the Southern troduced the species to this
Fishing fanatics Appalachians and the area in 1981, and more than
take note: The clear, Rockies. But beware the slip- 400 live adjacent to the river.
mint-green Buffalo pery, water-polished rocks. Coupled with the sharp
River and its tribu- The Ponca Wilderness bite of autumn air, the elks’
taries earn notice might be pint-size by Western haunting vocalizations rep-
for the number standards, but it’s still wild. resent one of the Arkansas

of fish species— Consider a compass and topo Ozarks’ most powerful and
among the most maps essential. memorable experiences.
TrailTips.indd 50 11/10/09 1:48 PM
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