Kayaking vs. Canoeing: What’s the Difference?

There are many different ways to enjoy a one-day or multi-day trip down the Buffalo River, and two of the most popular options are canoeing and kayaking. Many people—especially those who don’t have a lot of experience with either or both experiences—ask us about the main differences between the two.

To help you better understand the ways Buffalo River canoeing and kayaking can be different, while also somewhat similar, we’ve provided some more information below:

The basics of kayaking

kayakGenerally, kayaks tend to be smaller and lighter in weight than canoes. This often means they are faster on the water than canoes, and can be easier to load onto a vehicle and carry around when needed. They typically have a closed-desk design and are narrower than canoes.

While they are usually faster, kayaks are also less roomy and may be less stable because there is not as much surface area on the water. Kayakers work with double-bladed, curved paddles, and they may use thigh braces for added stability.

The most standard kayak is meant for a single paddler. Multi-paddler kayaks are available, but they are still built to be light and narrow.

Canoeing offers a different experience

canoeCanoes are typically larger and heavier than kayaks. This enables them to be somewhat more comfortable, despite being slower on average. Canoes are built for versatile travel, with an open-desk design that offers more roominess than kayaks. Paddlers sit or kneel in canoes, and no braces are usually needed.

In general, canoes are used in more leisurely settings, with canoers using flat-bladed paddles. They usually accommodate two or more people.

When deciding on whether you and your group should go canoeing or kayaking on the Buffalo River, consider the type of experience you’d like to have the skill level of everyone in your party. If you’re looking for speed, kayaking may be the better option. But if you would like a more leisurely trip, we might suggest canoeing.

Remember, if you have any questions, the staff at Buffalo River Outfitters is here to help. We have years of experience with Buffalo River kayaking, canoeing, rafting, floating and just about anything else you can do on our pristine national river. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you could use some guidance when planning your one-day or multi-day trip.

What Should You Bring On Your Buffalo River Day Trip?

backpackWinding through northwest Arkansas, Buffalo National River is known for its natural beauty, swift currents and picturesque bluffs—offering some of the best floating, kayaking and canoeing available anywhere in the region. In fact, it’s great for day trips, which allow people of all skill levels to get out an enjoy all that the river has to offer.

However, while day trips do not require you to pack camping gear and other supplies necessary for overnight and multi-day excursions, there are still a number of things you should be sure to bring with you. The following is a list of items you should consider as you plan your Buffalo River day trip:

  • Weather-appropriate clothing:

    Although the sun might be out and the temperature warm when you leave your house, conditions can change quickly on the river. Check the weather forecast before you leave and pack appropriate clothes—such as drying shorts, a hat, rain jacket and anything else you’ll need if the weather turns stormy.

  • Sunblock and insect repellant:

    The sun can get intense on the Buffalo River, so be sure to pack plenty of waterproof sunscreen and a hat to make sure you protect your skin against harmful UV rays. This helps prevent both sunburn and dehydration. Insect repellent will also keep at bay the mosquitos and flies, which can be extremely annoying when you’re trying to enjoy your day trip.

  • First Aid kit:

    Even though it’s just a day trip, accidents and injuries are still possible. You or members of your party could slip on rocks, overturn a canoe, get stung by a bee or suffer any number of injuries while out on the Buffalo River. To that end, you should bring with you a basic First Aid kit, complete with bandages, antiseptic and antibiotic cream, along with any medications you or others may need.

  • Food and beverages:

    Although you may only plan on being on the river for a few hours, be sure to prepare enough food to last you for a couple of meals in case an emergency arises. Packing a little more food won’t take up a lot of extra room, but could come in very handy if your trip lasts longer than originally expected due to delays.

  • Directions:

    Someone in your party—and ideally more than one person—should know exactly where you’re going and how to spot your takeout point. Have a map handy with the point clearly marked, and pack a waterproof flashlight and compass just in case you need to navigate past dusk.

Remember, a successful and fun Buffalo River canoe, kayak or floating day trip comes down proper planning. Before heading out, decide where you want to go, what you should bring and any resources or supplies you might need from a local outfitter. Then, stick to your plan and locate your takeout point—and try not to improvise too much while out on the river.

Our Favorite Hiking Trails Along the Buffalo River

The Buffalo River and the surrounding areas in northeast Arkansas are prime territory for some truly amazing hiking, biking and horseback riding. In fact, it can be difficult to decide which trail you should try first!

We’ve lived and worked in this region for many years, and have had the wonderful opportunity to explore nearly all of the trails the Buffalo River area has to offer. The following are some of our favorites:hiking

Buffalo River Trail, Woolum to HWY 65

The trailhead for this trail is at Woolum. You’ll need to set aside nine to 10 hours to complete this strenuous hike, but it will be well worth it for the gorgeous scenic overlooks you’ll see. The trail connects to the Ozark Highlands Trail, and has a river ford.

River View Trail

The trailhead for this trail is at the Tyler Bend Visitor Center. An easy to moderate level hike, it will take you between one and two hours to get through this trail. Get spectacular views along the way, and check out a historic site.

Collier Homestead/River View Trail

This trailhead is located at Tyler Bend or the Collier Homestead. It’s an easy hike you can complete in just 30 minutes to a half hour, depending on your pace. Despite the short length you still get some outstanding views and get to check out a historic site.

Buck Ridge/Rock Wall Trail

Find this trailhead at the Tyler Bend Amphitheater. The entire hike will take you around two hours and is moderate difficulty. Much of it is forested, and there are a lot of beautiful wildflowers blooming along the trail in the springtime. There are also plenty of historic features to see along the way.

Gilbert Railroad Trail

This trailhead is located at Gilbert. Though the hike will take you between two and three hours, it is definitely not strenuous, as most of it takes place on flat land and old railroad pilings. It can get overgrown in the summer, so be attentive to where you’re walking.

Spring Hollow Trail

Another hike that has a trailhead at the Tyler Bend Amphitheater, this one will only take about an hour to complete. The forested path takes you alongside a streambed and has a beautiful wildflower display in the spring.

Lengths of Hiking Trails

For your reference, the following are the lengths of these trails:

  • Buffalo River Trail, Woolum to HWY 65 – 15 miles
  • River View Trail – 1.4 miles
  • Collier Homestead/River View Trail – 0.6 miles
  • Buck Ridge/Rock Wall Trail – 2.6 miles
  • Gilbert Railroad Trail – 3.4 miles
  • Spring Hollow Trail – 0.9 miles

If you would like to learn more about these trails, or the many others that dot the landscape in the Buffalo River area of the beautiful Ozarks, don’t hesitate to speak with a member of our staff.