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Buffalo River Trail - Early Spring
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Brian Barnes
(brianjbarnes) - M

Locale: Midwest
Buffalo River Trail - Early Spring on 03/24/2010 22:16:11 MDT Print View

This past weekend my son and I were joined by some friends to do a training hike on the Buffalo River Trail.
We are preparing for a backcountry trip in the San Juan Mountains near Durango, CO in June of this year.
The forecasted temps for NW Arkansas were close to what we'll likely experience in Colorado in June at
elevations above 11,000 feet so we headed south to Arkansas. During the 3 days out we'd hoped to squeeze
in some early spring smallmouth fishing on the Buffalo.
When we hit the trail the weather was 70F with sunny skies:

Spring had not quite reached NW Arkansas so the views of the bluffs were still good:

A few orchids (?) were blooming:

The river was running clear but was still quite cold:

We found an off trail campsite near a nice hole:

The previous occupants (apparently bush craft experts) had prepped the site nicely for us:

We planned for a more simplistic approach sleeping under tarps:

The log chairs made for a nice place to sit and enjoy a fire:

A storm front had moved in and the fishing was off. The next morning, no matter what patterns we tossed in the river, what depth we fished, or how fast/slow the retrieve the smallmouth weren't interested in biting. We decided to hike up to Hemmed-in-hollow falls (209') and stretch our legs a bit:

Before our hike to the falls we found a bluff area upstream 1/4 mile from our first nights campsite and decided it would be welcomed protection from the incoming storm.

We set up camp under some overhangs, dried out our gear while the afternoon storm continued on.

Protection from the elements made watching the afternoon showers enjoyable, despite the cool 40 degree weather. The boys occupied themselves by tending a campfire and exploring the bluffs.

Overnight the steady rain turned to snow as the temps dropped to 30F:

On the hike in we descended 1200 feet from the trailhead to the river with ease. However, the hike out was complicated by the substantial snow accumulation. At the river we received about 3 to 4 inches of snow. As we ascended the trail back to the trailhead the snow continued and seemed to deepen by an inch or two per hour. The last section of the trail we hiked in 10 to 12 inches of snow (unbelievable for an Arkansas spring day). We lost track of the trail several times but fortunately were able to consult our GPS tracks from our hike in.

By the time we reached our vehicle at the trailhead a good foot of snow had accumulated in the NW Arkansas Mountains and visibility was significantly reduced due to high winds / spindrift. During the hike out the boys joked about feeling like they were summiting Everest with the steep climb out and blizzard-like conditions.

Even though the fishing was off, we still had a blast on the trip and the boys learned a lot about backpacking in the snow. Its a beautiful area so we've decided to return with fly rods in hand later this year. Perhaps we'll float the Buffalo in hopes of hitting more water than we can on foot.

Edited by brianjbarnes on 03/25/2010 08:01:07 MDT.

Steven Paris
(saparisor) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Buffalo River Trail on 03/24/2010 23:57:43 MDT Print View

Great report! I grew up in NW Arkansas and still return every year to see family. Your pictures do a nice job of capturing the terrain and feel of the Ozark and Ouachita mountains and forests.

There would usually be snow every year, maybe 3-4 feet every few years, but very rarely snow like that.

Lucky kids!

Justin McMinn
(akajut) - F

Locale: Central Oklahoma
Re: Buffalo River Trail - Early Spring on 03/25/2010 07:43:06 MDT Print View

Great report Brian! I wish I could have caught that snowfall

How many miles did you guys do? Which Trailhead did you use?

Brian Barnes
(brianjbarnes) - M

Locale: Midwest
RE: "Buffalo River Trail - Early Spring" on 03/25/2010 07:52:05 MDT Print View

Justin - We didn't go far, using the Compton Trailhead and hiking to Jim Bluff (~ 3 miles). We took side trips to the Henderson Cabin, school site, and the falls. Our main objective was to see how the three boys did going down and up a steeper grade (1200 feet over 2.5 miles). We also wanted to dial in their pack weight and gear. With exception of my son, the other two boys had never backpacked before. It was quite the introduction for them. There was so much snow at the trailhead on the way out our minivan was unable to plow through it. Fortunately, a four wheeled drive electric company truck came by (after 4 hours of sitting stuck in the road) and knocked down the snow to a point where we could get back on highway 43.

William Smith
(wmsmithiv) - F

Locale: North Texas
Re: "Buffalo River Trail - Early Spring" on 03/25/2010 09:33:01 MDT Print View

Great report and great photos, Brian. My wife and I did the section from Kyle's Landing to Ponca about ten years ago and had a wonderful time. Now I wish we had gone to Hemmed-in-Hollow as well. Maybe time to plan a trip back.


Phil Barton
(flyfast) - MLife

Locale: Oklahoma
Re: Buffalo River Trail - Early Spring on 03/25/2010 19:58:43 MDT Print View

Brian, the Buffalo River Trail is one of my favorites. Great report. The snow can be a real surprise this time of year. I really enjoyed the tale of your trip.