Here is some valuable BOC float trip-planning insight, drawn from our more than 35 years of outfitting experience on the Buffalo River, which you may find helpful as you prepare for your float trip on America's first national river.
A: Canoe season for the upper Buffalo National River is usually March through June, although we sometimes have canoeing water into July. If you are going to be our summertime cabin guest, we can help you arrange for a float trip on a section of river that is floatable in July and August.
A: The National Park Service states in its publication “Currents” that the Buffalo National River is viewed as a Class I river, which is generally accepted as the least difficult river rating. However, our section can move into the Class II rating in times of high water. We regularly update our Buffalo River Level Report during canoe season, as well as other times of the year when the river level comes up high enough for floating. You can check this report for a current airspace reading at Ponca and an indication of the skill level required.
A: For Saturdays and the days of Memorial Day weekend, you will definitely want to reserve your canoes and/or kayaks in advance. Advance payment is required for these days; we accept Visa, MasterCard or Discover. If your plans have you canoeing during the week, you will not typically need a reservation, although if you are a group leader, we appreciate knowing in advance how many canoes you will be needing for your trip.
A: You will come to our store in Ponca (on Hwy 43) first to complete your National Park Service rental agreement and acknowledgement of risk, as well as arrange for your car shuttle should you need one (most folks do, especially if they are traveling in only one vehicle). You can preview the rental contract language here, which will help expedite your time in our office. Once you've completed your contract, you will drive to the launch site (we'll be sure to give you directions) where you and your party will receive a safety talk, then be issued your boat(s), paddles, PFDs and mesh trash bag(s).
A: For your convenience, we shuttle your vehicle to a pre-set take-out access while you enjoy your float trip. In most cases, you come to the BOC store to arrange your shuttle. Once your paperwork and payment are complete, you will drive to the launch site and leave your car keys with our river staff. We then move cars in the order in which the keys have been handed to us (basically, a first-come/first-serve process). PLEASE NOTE THAT ON HIGH-DEMAND SATURDAYS & MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND, ALL OUTFITTERS CAN EXPERIENCE DELAYS IN MOVING VEHICLES. So, take you time on the river---that's what you came for anyway! Also, our shuttle drivers are carefully selected---all have good driving records and are versed in BOC policies regarding property that is placed in our care. Your insurance carrier, however, is responsible for any damages that might occur in the process of a vehicle being shuttled.
A: Yes, it will expedite your time in our office if you have pre-arranged for your shuttle. You may do so by by calling us at 1-800-221-5514. Private boaters will most definitely want to pre-arrange a shuttle as on weekends we oftentimes have more demand than available hours in the day. So, advance shuttle reservations are especially recommended if you are not renting a boat from us.
A: As each vehicle and river trip is different, please call us at 1-880-221-5514 to discuss arrangements for shuttles involving special types of vehicles.
A: Airspace is the distance between the underside of the Ponca low water bridge and the surface of the upper Buffalo National River. We use this measurement as a visual indicator of river conditions, which also indicates what skill level of paddler should launch at the current level. Mike Mills, BOC's founder, explains airspace in this quick, helpful video:
A: We suggest a person be at least age six and able to swim, although there is no official age limit on the river. Click here more information about canoeing / floating with kids, as well as other safety tips.
A: Water level dictates our launch site, which is either the access at Ponca, Steel Creek or Pruitt. Please visit our One-Day Float Trips page for more information.
A: We're so glad you asked! Whether you're a seasoned paddler or just getting started, here are some must-read paddling safety tips to know before you put a paddle in the water or someone in your boat. Thank you for taking a couple of minutes to review them. :)
A: Absolutely! And, on video to boot! Catch our popular clip of Tips on How Not to Turn Over, featuring Buffalo River sage and BOC founder, Mike Mills. It's short, easy to understand and can make a difference in your enjoyment of paddling not just the Buffalo, but any river!
A: Click here for the Wunderground weather feed found on our Today in Ponca page or use the zip code 72670 in your choice of online weather service.
A: With average river conditions, you can generally factor a speed of about 2 mph, which equals around 4 to 6 hours of paddling time for the typical 8- to 10-mile float trip. This, of course, also depends on such factors as water level, one's paddling skills, and how much extra-curricular activity (such as fishing or hiking) one does along the way.
A: You can find a full-length map of the Buffalo National River at this link, along with PDF map downloads of three upper Buffalo River sections, including the popular Ponca-to-Kyle's-Landing trip.
A: This beautiful 250-foot waterfall is located about 1/2 mile from the river and requires about 20 minutes of moderate hiking to reach. Visit our hiking trail page about Hemmed-In Hollow for how to locate the trail from the river.
A: Clothing made of quick-dry materials, such as lightweight poly-pro for warmer air/water temperatures and fleece when things are chilly. Cotton is to be avoided, especially denim jeans. For shoes, wear something you don’t mind getting wet and that also provides a sturdy footbed and straps securely to your foot. Sandals made for river wear or even tennis shoes are better than flip flops or slide-on sandals.
A: Yes, but please be advised that dogs are not permitted on trails within the national park and must be kept on a leash at all times when in campgrounds. You do not have to keep your dog on a leash while it is riding in a canoe.
A: Yes, for example, you must have a life vest for and with every person in the boat, and children age 12 and under MUST wear one while paddling. (Life vests are provided with your rental.) Here are some other important regulations of which to be aware:
Glass containers are prohibited on the Buffalo National River.
Ice chests must have the lids secured so that contents stay put in the event of an overturned boat.
Open beverages must be placed in a floatable holder, such as a can koozie (available for purchase in our store).
You must have a trash bag on board (1 per boat). If you are renting from us, this is included with your rental.
Each person must have a Personal Floatation Device (PFD) on board; children under age 12 MUST WEAR THEM while floating.
Dogs must be on a leash in campgrounds and are not permitted on park trails with the exception of the Lost Valley (near Ponca) and Mill Creek trail (near Pruitt).
For complete regulations or for clarification of a regulation, call the National Park Service Headquarters for the Buffalo National River in Harrison, AR at 870-365-2700.
A: Click here for a list of upper Buffalo National River emergency numbers that are essential to have readily at hand, whether it's in your pack, dry bag or vehicle. If you are staying with us, this list should also be available in your Cabin Guidebook, which is typically located on your cabin's coffeetable.
The information provided here is based on our 35+ years of experience and what we observe as being the typical experiences of our river trip guests. Please note, however, that each individual and/or group is different, varying in paddling skills and personal judgment styles, so this information should be used as a guideline, not necessarily as an absolute.
Other questions? Call us toll-free at 1-800-221-5514 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know how we can help you plan a canoeing trip on America’s First National River!