In spite of rain and the threat of stormy weather, my first for today was to go on a daytrip and visit the Buffalo River National Park. The park is located east of Springdale, AR, in a deep narrow valley. The Buffalo River snakes through this valley, along high sheer bluffs and tree covered hills. I have heard of this beautiful place for years. Today, I finally saw it for myself.
Greg has camped there multiple times and floated the Buffalo River in a canoe. It’s been years since I canoed down any river. During this year of new experiences, it is time for me to float down the Buffalo and enjoy a few days in the campground. Today’s trip, with Greg as my guide, was to check out the area and collect information about the upcoming adventure.
Along the way, we stopped in Rogers, AR to visit the Lewis & Clark store. Another first! This store is for the outdoor enthusiast, selling bicycles, sports clothing, kayaks and a variety of hiking, backpacking and camping gear. The staff was friendly and helpful and we enjoyed walking around and checking out all the cool gadgets and gear available.
After an early lunch in Springdale, our journey continued east to the Buffalo River area. I love the beauty of Northwest Arkansas. The hills rise higher and higher until they mimic mountains. Forests cover these hills, which drop steeply down into long valleys. There is an abundance of water in NW Arkansas as well. The countryside is dotted with ponds and crisscrossed with creeks and rivers. Beaver Lake sprawls to the north of this region.
Cell phone coverage is spotty here. So I disconnected from my phone for a while and drank in nature. The trees were just beginning to show a hint of green but I could appreciate the browns and grays of tall trees and the pale olive of lichen covered rock. Without the leaves, I could see farther, marveling at how deep those ancient ravines go. The Buffalo River was running swiftly. It appeared the area had received quite a bit of rain last night. Greg showed me where the canoes are launched. Watching the water roil and rush over submerged rock, I hoped I’d not tip the canoe immediately after getting into the river! Apparently, it is a common occurrence.
The campground, located alongside the Buffalo, was abandoned today, except for a lone camper from Tennessee. He was hurrying to set up camp before the storms hit. He shared that he and his friends have been camping at the same site for 35 years, ever since his fraternity days. His friends are arriving tomorrow. Greg and I walked along the river, checking out campsites and discussing when would be a good time to return, camping gear in tow. I’m thinking sometime this month.
We traveled on to Eureka Springs, AR, one of my favorite towns. While eating dinner, we noticed the weather changing. The Joplin area had already experienced a strong thunderstorm. It now looked like NW Arkansas was about to be hit by the trailing end of the same system. Greg has a very cool weather radar app on his phone that tracks storms, showing severity, direction and how fast the storm is moving. He used that app well today. We had just driven away from Eureka Springs when radar indicated a strong storm approaching rapidly. We calculated we did not have enough time to reach the Missouri state line before being hit with a storm that contained high winds, hail and rain. We returned to Eureka Springs to wait out the storm and then proceeded home, safely.
I am looking forward to at least two firsts when I return to the Buffalo River National Park later this month: camping there for the first time, and canoeing down the river. I discovered today that they also have mountain top cabins for rent and a canopy zip line excursion. Looks like I’ll be visiting several times this year!