Buffalo National River was established by Congress in 1972 (Public Law 92-237) as the country’s first national river. While the Buffalo River is approximately 135 miles free-flowing river, only 11% of the actual watershed is under direct National Park Service management. Originating in the Boston Mountains of the Ozark Plateau, the river generally flows in an easterly direction to its convergence with the White River. The river ends in the Ozark Mountains and highlights Arkansas’ natural beauty. Along the river are multi-colored bluffs of eroded sandstone, limestone and dolomite that tower in some places to heights over 400 feet. The geology of the region is reflected in a landscape marked by numerous caves, cliffs, sinkholes, waterfalls, springs, and rock formations.
A wide variety of plant and animal species are supported by the diversity of habitats found along the river. The plant and animal life is significantly influenced by varied elevations, soil types, moisture levels and exposure. Hunting and fishing are allowed in the national river under state and National Park Service regulations. A diverse range of cultural resources and historic sites are protected within the national river, including prehistoric village and shelter sites, historic farmsteads, mining sites, and Civilian Conservation Corps structures.
The park’s 94,293 acres, totaling 95,730 acres that are legislated, are divided into three management districts. The three designated wilderness areas that are included in the park boundaries are the Upper Buffalo Wilderness Area, the Ponca Wilderness Area, and the Lower Buffalo Wilderness Area. Park headquarters are located in Harrison (Boone County), Arkansas. The park visitation has averaged more than 800,000 visitors a year. In addition to visitor water-based activities, the park offers more than 100 miles of hiking trails and designated trails for horseback riding. Since there are few roads which parallel the river and few accessible overlooks, river and trail trips are among the best ways to experience the park.
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