The Buffalo River flows freely for 151 miles. Typically, the paddle season begins on the upper Buffalo in the spring. More water makes this section attractive for visitors seeking a higher level of challenge with whitewater kayaking. The season moves downstream with the months, varying from month to month with rainfall. Unlike rivers that are fed by perennial springs, the Buffalo is largely rainfall dependent. In dry years, the paddling season is short and quickly moves down into the Middle and Lower Districts. In wet years, use of the upper river is prolonged with paddling opportunities spread out through the park for the entire season.
Below you will find the river broken down by district. Select a district to learn about the various paddling opportunities available. For further information about floating the river call the Tyler Bend Visitor Center at 870-439-2502 or visit the park's River Rules page. Visit the park's Canoe Rental page for information on authorized concessioners and the River Accesses and Mileage page to plan a trip based on mileage.
Always check river levels before putting on the river. The river changes, sometimes daily, weekly, and certainly with the seasons. We may make generalizations about river conditions, but it's hard to detail every gravel bar, sweeper, or the speed of the river when you are planning a trip. The U.S. Geological Society (USGS) has several gauges along the river and provides real-time river levels and discharge, but it can't tell you that a tree fell down last night and is blocking the side channel a half mile below the gauging station. And typically, neither can the ranger on the phone or behind the desk. The river changes just that fast and it's really up to you to be responsible for your own safety.
River levels greater than the indicated levels are unsafe:
Backcountry camping is allowed on the river. No permit required. Visit the park's Backcountry page for further information. Regardless of how long you are on the river don't forget to reapply your sunscreen and stay hydrated. We hope you have a safe and enjoyable float!
Be Prepared. Plan Ahead.
Wear your life jacket. All persons floating or paddling the Buffalo River are required to have a personal floatation device (PFD) in their boat. All children ages 12 and under are required to WEAR their PFDs at all times while in the boat. This isn't just a good idea, it's the law. Be sure your PFDs are US Coast Guard approved, in serviceable condition, and are worn properly. The park recommends that ALL persons, even those age 13 and up, wear a life jacket while on the river. Remember, "It won't work if you don't wear it."
Last updated: December 8, 2020