Buffalo River Adventures

Swimming Holes near Ponca

Remember what river swimming used to be? A clean gravel bar on a pretty river or creek, where it was almost as much fun to play in the colorful pebbles and soft sand as it was to splash in the water? Well, welcome back to a favorite memory–and one you can still introduce your children or grandchildren to just minutes from your BOC cabin door.

A family playing in a beautiful Buffalo River swimming hole during summer.

There are a couple of swimming holes we suggest, but our favorite is the one at the Steel Creek campground with its spacious gravel bar and chute of clear water that forms a nice pool at the foot of towering Roark Bluff. Or, if you’re just stopping by our store, try out the Ponca Access river spot!

Steel Creek Campground

To get there, take Hwy 74 S out of Ponca about a mile to the Steel Creek entrance. Go down the mountain (about another mile), where the paved road ends and you can turn left or right. Turn left and go back around to the campground. Park near the end of the campground and walk across the camping area to the tree line, watching for footpaths that lead down to the river.

You can also turn right where the pavement ends and drive over to the canoe launch area for swimming. If the water is low and you determine it safe to wade across, you can walk downstream to the pretty gravel bar and pool formed by a bend in the river against Buzzard Bluff.

Ponca Access

Located just down the street from our store is the Ponca Access, which is also a popular place for swimming. To get there, go past the BOC store about 200 yards, passing the Hwy 74 junction. About 40 yards beyond this junction is the gravel road that leads to the old low water bridge. Turn left here and follow the road the short distance back to the parking area.

Some National Park Rules to Remember

  • Glass containers are not permitted on or near the river
  • Pets must be on a leash at all times in a campground
  • Even a cigarette is considered litter, so please pack out what you pack in
  • Diving or jumping off cliffs, boulders and structures is discouraged as this can be hazardous and result in serious injury or even death
  • Admire the beautiful river rocks and aquatic flowers, but do not remove—it’s the law
  • Children of all ages should be closely supervised while near or in the river
  • Wearing a PFD (life jacket) is always wise when in the river, even if you’re a strong swimmer

Please Note that This Is a Wilderness Area: No Lifeguards Are Available and Individuals Swim at Their Own Risk.