As summer heats up here in the Ozarks, we thought it would be fun to share our favorite places to cool down. Buffalo River Country has so much to offer in any season, but during Arkansas summers, swimming holes might just be our favorite! Listed below are our top five favorite swimming holes on the Upper Buffalo National River. Each swimming hole listed offers cool clear water with world-class scenery and is just a short drive from our store in Ponca, Arkansas.
Ponca Low-Water Bridge
Located just off of Arkansas Highway 43, this might be one of the easiest swimming holes to access. This swimming hole offers deep pools and a concrete bridge on the water’s surface that some may jump from or even snorkel around to better see the native marine life. This swimming hole also borders the historic Boxley Valley, which is famous for its beautiful scenery and grassy meadows that the local Elk enjoy grazing on. Sometimes these Elk can be spotted using this swimming hole as a place to drink fresh water, making this spot even more dynamic. The Ponca Access on the Buffalo National River is an area that is teeming with life above and below the water’s surface, making this a must-see stop on your summer bucket list!
Steel Creek is a little over a mile from the Ponca Access, but in some ways feels worlds apart. Steel Creek is one of the most scenic public access points on the Buffalo National River. Upon your arrival, you are surrounded by gorgeous towering bluff lines in nearly every direction. This location also has more than one option for swimming holes. If you stay to the left toward the campground, just behind the campground treeline, there are deep pools beneath Roark Bluff – one of the more famed bluffs along the Buffalo River. If you stay to the right toward the boat launching area, there are several different options for swimming as you walk along the bank. Directly next to this access is the tributary that gives this access point its namesake, Steel Creek. The water that runs into the Buffalo River from Steel Creek remains cool throughout the seasons, making this spot extra refreshing! The Steel Creek access has so much to offer, making it one of our most highly recommended stops for folks passing through Arkansas.
Kyles Landing is scenic, but is one of the more difficult swimming holes to access. The county road that leads you to this swimming hole is called Newton County 2300 Rd., directly off of Arkansas Highway 74. This county road is a steep gravel road that has a tendency to wash out during big rainstorms, making travel to Kyle’s Landing more difficult at times, especially for smaller vehicles. We highly recommend high clearance vehicles with four-wheel drive, although we do see vehicles of all types make this venture. However, if this sounds like a bonus adventure to a summer afternoon of swimming, then this is the swimming hole for you! To the right of the river access, if you take the short trail or the bank a little ways downriver, you can find the Castle Bluff swimming hole, also known as “Mud Cave Hole”. This spot typically remains deeper than others even as the river gets lower. This location is tucked away from the campground activity, usually making this a little more private from the rest. Castle Bluff itself is both beautiful and unique adding to the overall experience of this swimming hole!
Ozark is just outside of the town of Jasper, off Arkansas Highway 7. This beautiful swimming hole offers long pools of water surrounded by bluffline. If you are looking for a nice place to cool off away from the crowds, look no further. Briar Bluff is a unique and beautiful bluff that towers over this this swimming hole, with a deep alcove on the face of the bluff that makes for a great spot to relax next to the water. After swimming at this uniquely private swimming hole, if you get a hankering for ice cream, stop by the Ozark Cafe in Jasper for the best darn milkshakes around!
Pruitt offers both the Pruitt Landing and Pruitt Ranger Station (Currently closed for construction, but it will be back soon!) – each offering unique features of their own. Not only is the swimming here great, but so is the fishing. Since both Pruitt Landing and the Ranger Station are located directly off Arkansas Highway 7, this allows traveling to either access super easy! As of this year, you can now see the brand new Pruitt bridge that crosses over the Buffalo River. At the Pruitt Ranger Station, on the West side of the highway, there is a swimming hole under Pruitt Bluff. Across from Pruitt Bluff there are park amenities such as: picnic tables, water faucets, and a public restroom. This makes this area perfect for an easy access summer picnic! On the East side of the highway, just down from the Pruitt Ranger Station, is another swimming hole under a 25-foot tall bluff side, making for a picturesque summer swimming hole. Also on the East side of the highway is the gravel road to the Pruitt Landing access, which stretches along the banks and offers multiple spots for swimming! This area provides a wide variety, sure to accommodate any summer adventurer’s needs!
Stop by to see us before or after your swim! If you forget your towel, sunscreen, or bug spray, we have you covered! Visit our deli if you ever need river-ready sandwiches to turn an afternoon of swimming into a memorable summer picnic. In addition to snacks and cold beverages, we also have soft serve ice cream to complete the perfect summer day! If you need directions or recommendations while you’re in the area, our knowledgeable staff is happy to point the way! Ask about our complimentary paper maps and printed hiking guides. We hope to see you soon!