Middle District Floating

Carver to South Maumee

Middle District Park Map
The middle district of the river from Carver to South Maumee can offer some challenges, but usually provides easy to moderate floats.
The map shown does not depict many details as far as the bluffs and topography are concerned. Call the Tyler Bend Visitor Center at 870-439-2502 or refer to a Trails Illustrated Buffalo National River (East Half) map for more details. For information about renting a vessel from one of the park's authorized canoe concessioners please visit the park's Canoe Rentals page.
Stretch of river between Carver and Mt Hersey
A kayaker paddles downriver toward Mt. Hersey

NPS Photo

Carver to Mt. Hersey

  • Distance: 6.8 miles
  • *Duration: 4 hours

Unassuming in its beauty and variety, the float from Carver to Mt. Hersey demonstrates the transition from upper to middle river landscapes. Anglers will revel in the unrelenting fight of the smallies. Swiftwater enthusiasts will enjoy some thrilling rapids and big waves. Peace seekers will bask in quiet pools and cascading side creeks. Just downriver from Carver are a few shoals, most notably Slickrock Shoal with its smooth shelves of bedrock. About 4 miles in, Falls Bluff looms overhead with its orange-blotched surface, stone buttresses, cave-like formations, and lush ferns. From here, there are several long stretches of bobbing waves and chutes that eventually lead to the Mt. Hersey takeout on river left. Shuttle time between Carver and Mt. Hersey is about 30 minutes if accessing Mt. Hersey Road. from Highway 123 or 45 minutes if accessing from Highway 65.

color photo of gray, narrow wedge of rock with green forests surrounding it
The "Nars" is an old limestone bluff eroded from both sides by the Buffalo River and Richland Creek. The "trail" to the top is a hand and foot scramble rather than a hike. The remaining ridge is only a few feet wide.

NPS photo

Mt. Hersey to Woolum

· Distance: 8.6 miles

· *Duration: 4 hours

This reach provides numerous bluffs, shoals and pools along the way. About 1 ½ miles before Woolum is The Narrows (“Nars”). This outcrop of limestone has been eroded from both sides by the Buffalo and Richland Creek. Those with no fear of heights may scramble to its 1-4 foot wide top for a view of Richland Valley. Less than ½ mile downstream is Skull Bluff which has the appearance of a human skull due to two strange holes in the bluff. A canoeist can paddle into and out of the holes during low water. This stretch of river has a shuttle trip of approximately 1 hour (23 miles – 9 miles is fairly rough gravel road). The Woolum access is on river left at the confluence with Richland Creek.

color photo with green trees on either side and at top and gray/brown gravel in foreground and through the middle
The Buffalo River is a "losing stream" due to the karst geology of the area. This section near Woolum will be a dry riverbed in low water conditions as all water travels underground through caves and sinkholes until it reaches an impermeable rock layer.

NPS Photo

Woolum to Baker Ford

  • Distance: 10.9 miles
  • * Duration: 5.5 hours

Call Tyler Bend Visitor Center 870-439-2502 for current information. The Buffalo River is a “losing stream” here and becomes a dry riverbed when river levels drop. The river can be entirely underground for up to 4 miles downstream of Woolum to Margaret White Springs. Several bluffs along this reach (Margaret White, Whisenant, Buzzard Roost and Peter Cave) are more than 200 feet high.

Peter Cave Bluff, about 2 miles upstream of Baker Ford, was the site of a tie slide when timber was floated the Buffalo. At that time a cable began high on the bluff down to the sandbar on the opposite bank (like today’s zipline). The log was stapled to the cable. It would hit the sandbar below with enough force to knock the staples loose, and the sand would soften the impact sufficiently to not destroy the wood. This stretch of river has a shuttle trip of approximately 1/2 hour (11 miles – about ½ is gravel road). The Baker Ford access is on river left.

color photo with green trees at left and bottom right, green field at top right, canoers in bottom center and brown creek curving through center
Canoers negotiate the bend of the Buffalo River at the confluence with Calf Creek, running muddy, a half mile upstream from the Tyler Bend access.

NPS Photo

Baker Ford to Tyler Bend

  • Distance: 4.3 miles
  • *Duration: 2 hours

About 1 ½ miles downstream is Arnold Island, the largest island in the river. The channel changes with every flood so take a look on both sides before deciding how to get around it. Calf Creek enters the river ½ mile upstream of Tyler Bend and the river makes a left turn here. The Tyler Bend access is on river right. This stretch of river has a shuttle trip of approximately 1/2 hour (13 miles).

color photo of woman and girl in one canoe and man and boy in second canoe with Tyler Bend Bluff in background
Family canoes past Tyler Bend bluff at Tyler Bend river access.

NPS photo

Tyler Bend to Grinder's Ferry (Highway 65 Bridge)

  • Distance: 1.1 miles
  • *Duration: ½ hour

This is a mostly flat reach commonly used for tubing due to the shorter distance between accesses. This stretch of river has a shuttle trip of approximately 10 minutes (3 miles). The Grinder's Ferry access is on river right.

color photo of long gray rock cliff with bluff and trees reflected in water below it
Erosion of Long Bottom Bluff allows paddlers to enjoy a shady spot along the river if the water isn't too high.

NPS photo

Grinder's Ferry to Gilbert

  • Distance: 4.3 miles
  • *Duration: 2 hours

A large sand and gravel bar on river left about ½ mile downstream is across from the Shine Eye Bluff. Another mile puts you at Long Bottom with a long bluff on the left. This stretch of river has a shuttle trip of approximately 15 minutes (4 miles). The Gilbert Access is on river left.


**The Tyler Bend to Gilbert reach can be a pleasant, easy float with plenty of sand/gravel bars to rest and have a picnic. Numerous deep pools provide options for swimming. Weekdays are quiet and peaceful. Weekends are busy and noisy with lots of floaters enjoying the river.


Gilbert to South Maumee

  • Distance: 12.1 miles
  • *Duration: 6 hours

This reach usually has much less traffic than the rest of the middle district. About 2 mile downstream of Gilbert are the piers for the old Missouri and North Arkansas railroad bridge. The 1982 flood reached the top of these structures. Long pools and gentle riffles mark this section of the river and can provide good fishing and gravel bar camping. Paddlers report numberous wildlife sightings including mink, river otter, elk, eagles and more along this part of the river. Cain (Cane) Island and a tall unnamed bluff (over 300 feet) are about 2 miles upstream of South Maumee. North Maumee access (river left) is ½ mile upstream of the South Maumee access. This stretch of river has a shuttle trip of approximately 1 hour (27miles – 7 miles is gravel road). The South Maumee access is on river right.

* Durations are based off a moderate or average 2 miles per hour river flow. The length of a float trip will vary greatly with changing river levels. Additionally, float times largly depend on if you paddle or not and stop to swim, fish, or explore. Please check with park staff or concessioner for a current estimate on river trip durations.

Last updated: December 19, 2018

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

402 N. Walnut Street
Suite 136

Harrison, AR 72601


(870) 439-2502

Contact Us