Buffalo National River's 50th Anniversary

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A crowdsourced recap of the first 50 years of Buffalo National River, 1972 - 2022. Song title: "Place I Love" by Alex Layton, finalist in the 2017 Buffalo National River Songwriting Competition.

A graphic black line drawing of a figure paddling a canoe, with a bluff in the background.  The sky above the bluff is yellow and black lettering above reads Buffalo National River 50th.

Ana Laura Salinas of Rogers, AR

A Brief History

In 2022, Buffalo National River celebrates its 50th anniversary as a unit of the National Park Service.

With plans underway to construct two hydroelectric dams on the Buffalo River in the Ozarks of northern Arkansas, the fate of the river and its surrounding communities was put on a national pedestal in the 1960s. A contentious battle among various interest groups emerged. Proponents of the dams argued for economic growth, flood control, power generation, and tourism to the local area. Opponents fought to preserve the scenic, recreational, and scientific values of one of the few remaining free-flowing rivers in the lower 48 states through a proposal to add the Buffalo to the national park system. Caught between a rock and a hard place, many local landowners just wanted to be left alone.

After years of political push and pull, on March 1, 1972, the Buffalo River earned the designation of “national river”—the first of its kind in the national park system. Learn more by tuning in to Ozark Highlands Radio's podcast: "Celebrating 50 Years of Buffalo National River" or by reading "Let the River Be: A History of the Ozarks' Buffalo River."

Park Purpose

The purpose of Buffalo National River is to preserve a free-flowing river and to conserve and interpret the combination of natural, scenic, cultural, and scientific features characterized by deep valleys, towering bluffs, wilderness, and landscapes of the Ozark Mountains.

The full text of the park's enabling legislation (Public Law 92-237) is available at: Management - Buffalo National River (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov).

Hundreds of people gather at the base of a stage as a band plays an outdoor concert.

Come Celebrate With Us!

In addition to regularly scheduled programs, three special event weekends will take place in 2022

A group of horseback riders waves at us from the front yard of Granny Henderson's cabin

Community Stories

Preserving diverse voices and perspectives on the Buffalo River's history

50 Miler Challenge

50 Miler Challenge

Log 50 miles of physical activity at Buffalo National River in 2022 and earn a commemorate patch and certificate

Canoeists prepare to launch as cars from the 1970s drive across the Ponca Low-Water Bridge

Early Park Photos

Photos from the early days of Buffalo National River

A group of friends stands at the Lost Valley Trailhead

Plan Your Visit

Explore a trail, paddle the river, camp beneath the stars, or take a scenic drive

BNRP board members staff an info booth at the Steel Creek Concert

Park Partners

Many of our special events and celebrations in 2022 are sponsored by the Buffalo National River Partners

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    Children practicing science at Buffalo National River.

    50th Anniversary Science Symposium

    Join us for this virtual event on March 1st, 2022.

    Last updated: April 2, 2022

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    Contact Info

    Mailing Address:

    402 N. Walnut Street
    Suite 136

    Harrison, AR 72601


    870 439-2502

    Contact Us