Buffalo National River county's first national river

    9:14 PM, Aug 12, 2010   |    comments
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    • The Buffalo River became a National River in 1972
    • Joyce Umbach is a Park Ranger at the river
    • Thousands visit the Buffalo River every year.

    It starts as a tiny stream in the Boston Mountains of North West Arkansas and runs 150 miles through the heart of the Ozarks.

    Thirty-five years ago, the Buffalo was named as the first National River - a part of the National Park system - a place to be preserved for us all.

    "The Army Corps of Engineers had plans for damming this river as well as a lot of others," explains Park Ranger Joyce Umbach. "And this particular one had some very strong advocates who wanted to keep it a natural river. And they were able to fight that battle."

    Neil Ernest Compton - a doctor from Bentonville, spearheaded a 12 year fight to keep construction on two different dams at bay.
    In 1972, President Richard Nixon signed a bill that saved the river from dams or industrial development.

    Now the Buffalo is popular place to enjoy the natural wonders of the Ozarks.

    "There's a wide variety of activities going on in the park. But the river is the main draw," says Umbach. The park ranger says the Buffalo is one of very few places that remains much the way it was hundreds of years ago.

    Umbach says, "This park actually preserves a very good slice of the Ozark Mountain ecosystem, and the free flowing river. Even a lot of the rivers out west have been dammed. So even if you go whitewater rafting or whatever out on rivers out in the west, they're not a natural flowing river. This one is."

    The upper Buffalo is known for it's whitewater in the early spring. Around Tyler Bend, the river is more of a lazy affair, with deep water below many of the limestone bluffs.

    There are 100 miles of hiking trail through much of the park - but little other access. A view from the canoe is the only way to see some of the park's most impressive sights, and some of the park's wildlife.

    Several floaters can get an up close look at a family of beavers under one of the dramatic overhangs. No doubt the beavers have seen their share of people, but for the park visitors - it's an experience more memorable than any visit to a zoo.

    It's a different kind of fun on the Buffalo. It takes about and hour to travel just a mile. And yet there is plenty to see along the lazy way. And with 132 miles of river in the park, it can take several trips to see the wonder of it all.

    For many visitors it's a chance to do something a little out of their comfort zone.

    Craig Pevey came from El Dorado to float the Buffalo. "Nature and get away. See what they hadn't seen before. Do things they ain't seen before. Yeah, I think that's the main reason people come."

    There's good reason this is the country's first national river See it yourself and you will truly be Amazed by Arkansas.

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