Our Story

From the inspiration behind our founding to what drives us today, learn more about the story of Buffalo Outdoor Center.

Vintage image from 70's of people putting on canoes at the Ponca Access.

Our Beginnings

An Arkansas native, Mike Mills founded Buffalo Outdoor Center in 1976 – however, the story of Buffalo Outdoor Center begins long before we rented our first cabin.

Our Founder

Mike’s love for the Buffalo National River began as a young child when his father would take the family on an annual spring canoe trip. These yearly trips gave Mike not only fundamental paddling skills, but also a deep attachment to the wild and wonderful place that is the Buffalo. His early passion for the Buffalo River’s beautiful wilderness led him to make a pivotal decision – foregoing medical school to pursue his dream of making a living doing what he loved most, where he loved most.

In 1980, Mike built his family the log cabin that would lay the groundwork for Buffalo Outdoor Center today. Since BOC was only a springtime operation in the early days, Mike accepted the position of Director of Tourism for the state of Arkansas. When the sitting governor asked Mike if he’d consider renting his family’s log cabin out for the weekend, the idea of adding lodging – and thereby, a year-round way to live, work and play on the Buffalo – was born.

Buffalo Outdoor Center Today

Fast-forward 45 years and the company that began as a fledgling river outfitter has transformed into Arkansas’s premier wilderness resort – in fact, BOC is where the cabin rental business in the Ponca area began.

How We’ve Grown

By 2000, Buffalo Outdoor Center had grown to offer 16 cabins for rental lodging along with our river operation. Just two years later, we created RiverWind Lodge as a unique wilderness venue for weddings, corporate retreats and gatherings of friends and family.

We continued to add cabins to the resort, with Cabin X becoming one of the most popular cabin rentals in Arkansas for a romantic getaway. In the past 10 years alone, we’ve grown from a team of 15 to a team of over 40! And, thanks to inspiration from an outfitter friend in Costa Rica, we created our Buffalo River Canopy Tour – the first zipline adventure in Arkansas, and today, one of the few true wilderness zipline experiences in mid-America.

A Major Expansion

Growing Our Leadership Team

Our President, Austin Albers, came on board in 2011 – bringing with him a valuable background in finance and the fresh perspective of the next generation. He’s spearheaded our expansion over the past 10 years, leading with a passion for excellence and a gift for visionary decision making. A Buffalo River local, Austin leads BOC with the same deep love of the river that fueled our founding in 1976.

Expanding the Resort

As the Buffalo River’s popularity grew, we responded to the need for improved services in the area by building a 5,000 square-foot retail office in 2012. This major expansion provided our visitors with much-needed restroom facilities, the BOC Store & Deli (which offers expanded outdoor gear, groceries and fresh-made deli sandwiches) and 24-hour access to fuel.

In 2018, we purchased Ponca Creek Lodge, adding a second elegant group-event venue to our resort. The Ponca Downhill Mountain Bike Trail System opened in 2020, bringing a world-class experience of epic proportions to Ponca (not to mention, introducing the longest downhill mountain biking trail in Arkansas).

So, what’s next for BOC? You tell us! We’re always “blue-skying” new ideas, and we’d love to know yours!

Our Philosophy

Our passion is connecting guests with the beauty of the Buffalo River. We hope that each person will leave here feeling changed in a positive, meaningful way with a deeper connection to Arkansas’s prettiest place.

We approach everything with the boldness, faith and perseverance of our founder, Mike, whose tenure in the U.S. Marines helped him gain the confidence to follow his dream of becoming an outfitter. It took bravery and a whole lot of faith to try to make a living in Ponca in the ’70s and ’80s, a time when tourism to the area was limited to canoe season only – and it’s with this courage and determination that we continue today.

Supporting the Buffalo River Foundation

We’re avid supporters of the Buffalo River Foundation, an organization that’s dedicated to preserving the river’s pristine qualities for future generations of Buffalo River lovers. Our founder Mike Mills was instrumental in spearheading a new level of landowner participation and stewardship in the foundation, and we proudly continue to support their mission. We also involve our guests in preserving the river’s beauty by providing a glass, plastic and aluminum can recycling receptacle in each cabin (and we make sure to properly recycle cardboard as well!).

Our Cabins

Why Choose a BOC Cabin?

What makes a Buffalo Outdoor Center cabin different? It’s a combination of the cabins themselves, which have quality amenities and beautiful locations, and our adventure staff, whose vast experience enables them to be ready to assist our guests with any and every question about the Buffalo.