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First time on the upper Buffalo National River? Not sure how the canoe rental or shuttle service works? Our handy Buffalo River Paddler's Guide sums it up!
Canoe / Kayak / Raft Rental
Call us at 870-861-5514 to book your boat(s) or book a boat online here. For Saturday and Memorial Day rentals especially, you’ll want to book in advance, as we are always 100% booked on Saturdays during the spring season (March - June)---oftentimes a month to six weeks ahead of time.
TRIP PLANNER'S TIP: Canoe season on the upper Buffalo River (Ponca and Pruitt launch areas) is typcially March through June, as our section of river is rainfall dependent for a water level that's floatable. However, if the river level at Ponca becomes floatable in an off-season month like, say, August? Just know we're always ready to put you on the river. :)
Getting on the River
Arrive at our office in Ponca between 8:00 AM and Noon to learn your launch site, complete your national park contract, and pay for your boat(s). (You can preview the boat rental and vehicle shuttle contract in advance here.) Next, you will arrange and pay for your vehicle shuttle. Once this is done, you will drive to the launch site, where our staff will be waiting for you with canoes, paddles, PFDs, and trash bags.
Launch times may vary based on available daylight. For example, in March when days are shorter, the latest launch time may be Noon or earlier. In April, May and June, when there's more daylight to be had, we may launch boats as late as 1:00 PM.
Vehicle Shuttle Service
For your convenience, we shuttle your vehicle to a pre-set take-out access while you enjoy your float trip. No crowded bus to ride or wait on while standing in unsavory weather---it's valet parking, only river style! We recommend booking your shuttle in advance of your arrival as this will help get you on the river even faster. You can book the shuttle now by calling us at 1-800-221-5514. Click here for current vehicle shuttle rates.
How a Shuttle Works
If you have not booked your shuttle in advance, please come to the BOC store to make arrangements. Bringing a spare key with you is very helpful, although not required. 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, especially because we share the road and parking areas with lots of other folks. On these busy days, shuttles arranged for in advance stand the best chance of arriving by 4:00 PM or earlier to the take-out. While this is not an iron-clad guarantee, it is what we shoot for. So, please take your time on the river---to hurry isn't what you came for anyway! Please note that shuttles arranged for later on a weekend morning may not be completed until after 4:00 PM.
Motorcycles, Sports Car & RVs
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.
Can You Run Your Own Shuttle?
Certainly! When you have at least two vehicles in your party, you can drop a car off at the takeout access (for example, Kyle's Landing) before getting on the river at the launch site (say, Steel Creek). It takes about 1 hour, sometimes a little more, to run your own shuttle. This 1 hour is a good time for you to leave others in your party at the launch site, where they can ready the canoes while the shuttle is being ran. Then, at the end of your float trip, everyone (and their gear) rides back to the launch site where your other car is parked.
Helpful "Before You Float" Information
Happy river rats are informed river rats! With that in mind, we've put together a handy Before You Float Q&A of topics that are typically on the minds of first-time Buffalo River floaters. It answers questions like: "Where can I find a Buffalo National River map?..."Can I float with my dog?"..."How long does it take to paddle from Ponca to Kyle's?"..."What are the key NPS regulations I need to be aware of?"...and much, much more!
The Middle and Lower Buffalo National River
Beyond the upper river district, there are two other Buffalo National River areas that you will want to put on your float trip bucket list. Canoe operations in the Middle and Lower districts tend to operate throughout the summer after the river here in the headwaters' area (where we're located) is too low for floating. Check out the National Park Service's Buffalo National River website for information about river outfitters in these two districts.