Kayaking the Buffalo River in Arkansas

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Have you ever slept in the back of a Jeep? I have and I’ll be the first to admit, it’s not the most comfortable experience. But, I’d gladly crawl in the back of that Jeep again to spend the day kayaking the Buffalo River in Arkansas.

kayaking buffalo river arkansas
As you can probably tell from my Instagram feed, my boyfriend and I like to do outdoorsy things. We’ve gone snowshoeing in Colorado, backpacked in Glacier National Park and this year, we’re headed to Alaska. After hiking a couple of times in the Buffalo River area, we had a bright idea. Why not kayak it?

buffalo river arkansas

Our plan was to kayak from Ponca to Kyle’s Landing, a 10.6 mile section. Since I don’t own a kayak, I rented one from a Lost Valley Canoe. We needed someone to shuttle our Jeep and Lost Valley Canoe provided those services for a reasonable price. There are several outfitters in the area and I can’t tell you why we picked this one (aside from shuttle services) but you probably can’t go wrong with anyone in the area.  When we checked in at the rental office, we found out they were launching from Steel Creek instead of Ponca, and after driving by, we realized why. Everyone and their cousin was launching from Ponca.

We aren’t expert kayakers, in fact, you could probably call us novices, but we had little trouble navigating this section of the Buffalo River. There were some tricky parts that required a little bit of finesse but really, this is something that anyone with some level of fitness and common sense could do.  At one point I did get hung up on a rock and thought I would be stuck there forever, but finally muscled my way off of it.

buffalo river arkansas kayak

We made a few stops along way and parked the kayaks on a rocky shoal to have our lunch. We brought the JetBoil stove so we could eat a warm meal and have hot tea. While we were there we even found the perfect heart rock to bring home for Brecken.

hemmed in hollow waterfall buffalo river arkansas
Our only other time getting out of the kayaks was to walk to Hemmed-in Hollow waterfall, the tallest waterfall in the Ozarks.  When we arrived at the trailhead, there were maybe 3-4 other boats on shore. When we came back about 30 minutes later, several people were waiting for spots to park their canoes/kayaks. I realize that timing is everything but I have to believe the earlier you launch from Ponca or Steel Creek, the less crowded this trail will be.  It’s a half mile hike from the shore to the waterfall, which isn’t far, but when you’re constantly having to wait to pass or be passed by people, it makes the hike less enjoyable.

buffalo river arkansas bluffs

buffalo river arkansas wildlife

I won’t go through all the scenic areas that you’ll pass as your make your way to Kyle’s Landing but I will say, take your time as you paddle by and soak up the scenery. Notice the color variances in the bluffs, pay attention to the wildlife that you pass and listen to the birds as they pass you by.

My two cents: it pays to launch early to avoid the crowds. If you want a little bit of peace and serenity on the river, leave as early as possible but definitely no later than 9:00 am. We were told it would take 4-6 hours to float this section of the Buffalo River and with our stops, it took us about 5 hours. That left us with plenty of time to make a pit stop on the way home in Jasper for some pastries. 🙂

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About Sarah

Mom. Blogger. Runner. Hiker. Insomniac. Not necessarily in that order.


  1. OMG Sarah what a great trip! I’m mot much of an outdoors person, but my daughter is and she LOVES Kayaking! Will share this post with her and let her drool a bit until she gets to do these adventures on her own! Hugs!

  2. Those views are truly stunning! I haven’t gone kayaking in many years but this makes me think a trip needs to be in my near future!

  3. Wow that is such a beautiful view!!! I have always thought it would be really fun to kayak!!!

  4. That looks like loads of fun. What amazing photographs!

  5. How exciting and fun! My husband and I want to try kayaking this summer. It looks like so much fun and would be a great adventure! Love all the pictures. Looks like you had a fantastic time.

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