One of America’s hidden gems lies tucked away deep in the Ozarks of Northwest Arkansas: The Buffalo River.

Protected by Congress since 1972, the Buffalo River is America’s First National River, managed and maintained by the National Park Service. The Buffalo National River remains one of the few remaining free-flowing, undammed rivers in the lower 48.

It’s a popular summer destination, but as far as I’m concerned, the best time to paddle The Buffalo is the few weeks where winter transitions to spring. The weather is mild, the water is cold and clear as its feeder springs wake from their winter freeze, and the upper section of the river is typically devoid of human traffic. On this day, March 3rd, 2018 we had the river to ourselves.

The video above was shot on Chelsea’s birthday. It was her first time on the river since the birth of our third kiddo, Aspen. It was also Chelsea’s first time piloting a kayak. We paddled the 10-mile stretch from Ponca to Kyle’s Landing.

We hit all the famous spots on this trip – Roark Bluff, Big Bluff, Hemmed-In Hollow Falls, Hell’s Half Acre and more. Of course, no trip on The Buffalo would be complete without someone tipping and taking a swim…

My years in Arkansas were certainly crazy – but The Buffalo kept me sane. I first paddled The Buffalo on April 29, 2014 and fell in love with it immediately. A year later I paddled the entire thing, alone – from its headwaters in Boxley Valley to its confluence with the White River – app. 150 miles – in seven days. Here’s my itinerary:

That adventure caught the attention of Arkansas Wild, Paddle Arkansas, and a few others:

Ultimately, I bought a cabin and a few acres just three miles up a web of steep dirt roads from The Buffalo – moved my family there and had a good time (click here to catch a glimpse of our cabin life) before we hitched up the wagon and headed west on the Oregon Trail. Which somehow landed us in Colorado.

Speaking of hidden gems in Arkansas, today is my better half’s birthday. I’m surprising her with this video – footage she’s never seen before.

What a perfect day on the river. It’s a good thing Chelsea has some kinfolk out there in the Arkansas sticks because sometimes The Buffalo calls, and we must go.


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