Me canoeing

Buffalo River Canoe Trip - June 2005

Me hiking

Here are some pictures from a Dallas Sierra Club canoe trip on the lower Buffalo River that I organized and led.

Below is the list of trip participants and a brief narrative of the trip, followed by a few general observations.

Participants:  Arthur Kuehne (me), Beth Johnson, Dale Edelbaum, John Shannon, David Van Winkle, John Rath, and Bill Beach & Cynthia Young for part.  We had Me and Beth in our Penobscot, Dale and David in rented canoe, John and John in rented canoe, Bill in his kayak and Cynthia in a rented kayak. 

Saturday, June 4 - Beth and I left Dallas at about 9:15 am.  Drove on to Tyler Bend arriving at about 6:00 pm.  Sign said that the campground was full but we looked around and soon found our group in the walk in camping area.  They had already hooked up with Bill and Cynthia, who had just finished their second day on the river.  We set up camp and then drove to Gilbert for dinner.  At the restaurant, Beth ran into two old Sierra Club members she had known while working in Arkansas as SC Regional Rep.  After dinner we went back to camp and to bed.  Some thunderstorms came through during the night, but it did not rain very much. 

Sunday, June 5 - Up early and broke camp.  Drove down to put in and unloaded.  We then put everyone except Beth (and Bill and Cynthia) in my car and drove to the outfitter (Buffalo River Outfitters – just south of Tyler Bend on US 65).  After paying and leaving our cars in their lot, they took us back to the put-in and we headed down stream.  We stopped briefly to pick up Bill and Cynthia who were a couple of hundred yards downstream near where we camped.  We canoed on down to our first camp at mile 49.3.  Into camp by 3.  Temp hot - mid 80.  Low in upper 60s.

Monday, June 6 - On river at 9:30.  Easy paddle down to camp at 3:00 at mile 40.0.  Sandy camp - most camps on the buffalo are gravel.  Had thunderstorms come in after dinner and we went to the tents for a while to read and take a nap.  After the rain we sat around till late.  Saw a turtle up in the sand laying eggs - a first for me. 

Tuesday, June 7 - Up kind of late.  A raccoon or something had gotten into Bill's food and carried most of it off.  Something also had gotten into the turtle nest.  Got on the river at 9:30 again.  Paddled on down to Bill and Cynthia's take out at Dillard's Ferry, which is at the highway 14 bridge.  Stopped and looked around Buffalo State Park.  We each had a nice cold Coke and some of the group got water from the tap.  Poor John Rath, who only drinks Pepsi, was out of luck.  We continued on to a great camp at mile 28.7 near Devils Tea Table.  There was lots of lightning way off in the distance but we had a dry night.  During the night we heard a noise that woke us both up.  When we were taking down the tent, we realized that the sound was one of our tent poles breaking.  We did not have a repair sleeve, so we borrowed one from Dale.

Wednesday, June 8 - Got up and did a few canoe lessons in the slew behind our campsite before hitting the river at 10:00.  Stopped at Rush for a look around.  The map indicated that there was a water tap, but we did not find it.  Paddled on down to camp at mile 19.3.  It was very hot so we sat in river for a couple of hours before fixing dinner.

Thursday, June 9 - Up and on the river at 9:30.  Very short day today - only 6 miles.  Saw a turkey running across a gravel bar.  Just before camp we saw a bald eagle.  We also saw a deer and a large beaver. John Rath and I hiked over to the other side of the river ( we waded across a shallow section) and looked for a school house that was shown on the map.  We found a fairly well used trail (shown on the map as an un-maintained trail).  It had been fairly heavily used by horses.  After a while, we found the school and it was in remarkable condition.  You can go inside and the Park Service allows camping.  We even found some full cans of beer. The school is the Cold Springs Schoolhouse.  The only bad part of the hike was that we both got several ticks and chiggers on us.  Weather hot but otherwise OK.  There were thunderstorms to the south but no rain on us.  Our camp was across from the mouth of Big Creek at mile 13.0.  I walked up the creek a way and saw someone camping.  It looked like they had a trap and since they were back away from the river I decided that they probably wanted to be left alone and so I left. Saw a raccoon just before bed.  After dark we saw a dog across the river.

Friday, June 10 - On river at 9:30.  Saw deer swim across the river ahead of us.  Down near Elephant Head (mile 4.5) we saw two and maybe 4 bald eagles. Stopped for the night at mile 3.8.  The temperature was in low 90s, so we spent a good bit of time in the water.  Beth and I made cherry cheesecake for dessert for the group.  Soon after everyone had finished dinner and cleaned up, it started to rain.  Everyone retreated to their tents.  A bit later, after it was dark, a fairly powerful thunderstorm came through with hard rain and high winds.  I later found out that John Shannons tent had blown down and some of his stuff got wet and sandy.  John Rath got up and reported that the river was up 3 feet, but it was more like 2 or 3 inches.  Later, I got up and checked the river and the boats.  The thunderstorm had moved through so quickly that the only river rise was the actual amount of the rain – a couple of inches at most.

Saturday, June 11 - Everyone was up early to clean up and dump the water from the boats.  We were on the river at 9:00.  Even though we did not have very many miles, we wanted to get on down to the White River with plenty of time in case we had to wait for fog to dissipate.  As we were floating down the Buffalo, we saw a raccoon walking along the shore.  We drifted and watched as he found a turtle (that must have been nesting).  The turtle must have weighted almost as much as the raccoon.  We watched as the raccoon attacked the turtle from behind, chewing on its hind legs.  He then decided he didn’t like us and tried to haul the turtle up the bank.  We left him alone and continued down stream.  Got to the White and headed down stream.  There was a little fog where the warm Buffalo River water entered the very cold White River water, but it was not bad.  Got down to Cartney at about 11:15.  We unloaded and waited for our shuttle, which was 30 minutes late and had a dangerously low trailer tire.  We loaded up and headed back to the outfitter, with a short break to air up the tire.  This access point is at the end of a 3 mile gravel road that has two creek crossings.  This would be impassable in some cars and if rain caused the creek to be up.  Got back to our cars at about 3:30, loaded up, changed clothes and headed back to Dallas.  Got home at 11:30.

General Info:

  • I did not see any mosquitoes the entire trip! But there were plenty of ticks and chiggers if you got anywhere near any vegetation.
  • After dark, very large numbers of gnats came around any light.  Beth and I read (Nevada Barr mysteries) in the tent and the light attracted huge numbers of bugs that got stuck in the dew on the tent.  I washed the fly in the river at one point to clean them all off so they would not decay and harm the material.
  • We were treated to huge numbers of lightning bugs every night.
  • New moon was on the 6th, so we had very dark nights and some great star gazing.
  • At this water level, we got stuck on one or more gravel bars every day and scraped across others often.  This is as low as I would want to do this section.  We heard that this was the lowest the Buffalo had been at this time of year in 11 years.  We also heard that they had one of the driest Mays ever.  The gauge level at the highway 65 bridge was about 3.9 the whole trip.  That is in the low but floatable range of 3.1-4.5.
  • Cost: Shuttle was $134, including $10 for our non-rented canoe. ($113 + $10 + 9% tax)  Canoe rental was $35 per day + 9% tax.  Total cost for 2 canoes for 7 days plus shuttle was $668.17.  This is a very cheap vacation if you have your own boat.