Paddling Along, Singing a Song

Arkansas Environment Personal Writings

            Buffalo River     The Buffalo River is an undammed and undaunted stretch of water for more than 130 miles in Northwest Arkansas.  It was the first river to be a designated as a National Park in 1964.  It bends and riffles in the middle portion where we had set our sights along high granite cliffs pocked with caves, caressed by waterfalls, and footed with rocky shelves along the banks in places.  We had been looking forward to this excursion, especially since most of our recent canoeing had been along the bayous of Louisiana and Mississippi.

It had rained hard for a couple of days earlier in the week so the current was cool and strong.  Luck was with us when we finally put the boats in the water and took our first strokes shortly before 10 in the morning, because the sky was clear, the air was warm, and it was as close to a perfect day as we might have been able to order on-line for the adventure.  This was also the maiden voyage for my son’s new canoe, a Canadian-made Nova Craft that he had gotten for his birthday.  I was in a little pack canoe while he and his sister were in the Nova Craft.  Mi companera and her sister had volunteered to be the shuttle today in exchange for future trips.

Our first surprise coming down from the mountains to the put in near Jasper, Arkansas, was the crowd.  Of course, it was a holiday weekend, but the parking was jammed both at the trailhead and at the staging for putting in the kayaks and canoes.  That turned out to also be the case as we paddled the seven miles over two wonderful hours until we came back ashore at noon.  We passed campers on various banks and sandbars.  We went right through a small rapid at one juncture as six or more canoes, loaded to the gunwales, paddled left around an oxbow to avoid any possible problems.  We saw a number of folks fishing from various conveyances as well as from the bank. They were catching some smallmouth bass.  I had watched a trout come towards me in the clear green water when taking my first couple of strokes.

We’re used to beautiful water, but we were neither jaded nor disappointed.  One eagle, a kingfisher, a number of blue herons, and hawks up above, along with countless other birds, and a number of big green turtles, called river cooters, were all there for company.  At one point we watched a horse and rider followed by a dog walk and swim across the Buffalo and up the bank on the other side.  We don’t see those on our bayous.  For all of the folks on the water in the stretch we paddled, we never felt crowded. Accustomed as I am to picking up bottles, plastic bags, and beer cans as I move along up and down the bayou, I only saw one piece of plastic or trash on the river in the whole run.

It was a great morning in America for our family.  We needed it, and we are thankful for the Park Service and our fellow voyagers for guaranteeing this for us and others, forever.