Canoeing and kayaking the upper Buffalo National River is absolutely the finest paddling experience in the state of Arkansas. In fact, when you plan a float trip here, you've selected the most amazing scenery in the state as the backdrop for your adventure!
Ready to plan a day trip on the river? The information below provides everything you need to get started!
March through June is the typical time frame for floating the upper Buffalo National River, although we are sometimes blessed with rainfall that keeps the river floatable into July. You can keep tabs on the river conditions via our Current River Level Report, which is updated whenever the river is floatable, even if that occurs in the winter.
The stretch of upper Buffalo National River you will float is determined daily by us and will be one of the trips listed below.
Ponca to Kyle’s Landing (10.6 miles)
This is our most popular Buffalo National River canoe trip and, without a doubt, the river’s most scenic. Ponca is home to the finest canoeing in Arkansas and arguably the best paddling in mid-America!
This section is 10-miles long and takes around 4 to 6 hours to complete, depending upon the individual, the river level and the amount of time you linger along the way. It features the scenic icons of the upper Buffalo River---majestic Big Bluff and Hemmed-In Hollow, both the tallest of their kind (bluff face and waterfall, respectively) between the Rockies and the Appalachians.
Download (and print!) a handy map of the Ponca-to-Kyle's float trip here!
Important Note: On Saturdays in May, outfitters are required to launch 2 miles downriver at the Steel Creek access. Private boaters, however, may launch in Ponca on Saturdays during those months, water level permitting.
Steel Creek to Kyle’s Landing (8 miles)
When river conditions are too low to launch in Ponca, we move 2 miles downriver to the Steel Creek launch (10 minutes from Ponca on Hwy. 74) where you’ll canoe 8 miles to Kyle’s Landing.
Pruitt to Hasty (7 miles)
When upper Buffalo National River conditions are too low to canoe from Steel Creek, we then move 24 miles downriver to the Pruitt launch (on Hwy. 7, about 5 miles north of Jasper), where you’ll canoe about 8 miles to Hasty. The day-trip float on this section of river takes about 4 or 5 hours to complete. From a scenery standpoint, this is the second prettiest section of Buffalo National River with many nice bluffs featured along the way.
Download (and print!) a handy map of the Pruitt to Hasty float trip here!
Please note that while we guarantee you a boat(s), we cannot guarantee which section of the upper Buffalo National River you will paddle until you arrive.
Afraid of turning over? Check out our helpful video!
More River Trip Info
Most of the time, your launch site will be determined by water level, with the final decision being made by our General Manager. We make this determination first thing in the morning. When making your boat(s) reservation, please remember that a specific launch site is not guaranteed. Plus, the National Park Service limits where outfitters from lauching at the Ponca low water bridge on Saturdays in May, so during that month you'll typically find us launching at the Steel Creek access, located about 10 minutes from Ponca.
Depending upon the month, launch times may vary somewhat. For example, in March when days are shorter, the latest launch time may be Noon or earlier. In April, May and June, when there's more daylight to be had, we may launch boats as late as 1:00 PM.
Boat Rental / Shuttle Service
Click here to review our Boat Rental & Shuttle Service rate information page.
Buffalo River Paddler's Guide
Need some help with trip planning? Then, simply click here! BUFFALO RIVER PADDLER'S GUIDE
Boat Rental Contract & Risk Agreement
Click here if you'd like to review our canoe / kayak / raft rental and risk agreement prior to arrival.
BE AWARE: The NPS has adopted a "zero-tolerance" position on music played on radios, boomboxes and other devices that interfere with the natural, quiet ambience of the designated wilderness area between Steel Creek and Kyle's Landing accesses. You may, however, enjoy music within the campgrounds. Just remember, please, that many people come to the river for peace and quiet, so play music within earshot of your campfire, rather than your neighbor's. ;)
While it's possible for us to have a water level conducive to floating any time of year, our season is typically March through June. Although if rainfall brings the river up, we immediately post the availability of water on our Current Buffalo River Level Report. However, for river trips July through Labor Day, you'll want to contact an outfitter on the middle or lower Buffalo National River. Visit this National Park Service page for a list of outfitters offering canoe rental on the middle and lower Buffalo National River.
Your Opinion Matters
After visiting the Buffalo National River and being served by Buffalo Outdoor Center, we encourage you to share your experience with the National Park Service / Buffalo National River Headquarters via a special comment form. It's a great way to:
- Make suggestions for park improvements
- Share things in particular you enjoyed about the park
- Share your thoughts about the canoe rental / shuttle services you received from BOC
Simply click on this link to open a PDF of the form: Buffalo National River Comment Form. Then, fax, email or mail it back to the National Park Service / Buffalo National River Headquarters (contact information is provided on the form). Each form is personally reviewed by the park superintendent, so it's a great way to directly share your thoughts with park leadership!
Buffalo Outdoor Center is authorized within Buffalo National River to provide canoe, kayak, and raft rentals and transportation services.