Today we visited the Buffalo National River and completed our National Parks stamp collection for Arkansas!

National Park Passport Stamps

When I first moved to Arkansas I was a city girl and not too impressed with local recreational activities. To help me adjust, Addam came up with the idea of exploring destinations beyond Northwest Arkansas. First, we visited big cities, then historical sites, and finally became hooked on collecting National Park stamps.

If you’re not familiar with the National Park Passport Stamps system read this very helpful Wikipedia article. Essentially you collect stamps in a book for every National Park you visit. There’s over 400 parks across the United States, with more added every year.

Over time we’ve managed to collect over 60, thanks to the long road trips we take to Chicago and once to California and back. We even have a big map in our house with pins on the National Parks we’ve visited so far!

Buffalo National River

As of today we have visited every National Park/River/Monument in Arkansas! To be fair there’s only 7 so it’s not a huge feat but they are scattered through the far corners of the state.

A Little Bit Of History

The Buffalo National River was the first National River to be designated and protected by the United States. It runs through the northern part of Arkansas and flows from west to east. It’s hugely popular for canoeing, camping, hiking, fishing and floating.

We’ve been holding out on visiting this place because we really wanted to take advantage of the river. This year we skipped spring and went straight to the deadly hot temperature of summer so we decided to hike instead.

Getting There

Addam, Geneviette and I are used to driving very long distances for “fun” so when Addam suggested at lunch that we drive 2.5 hours to the Buffalo National River it was no big deal.

The Buffalo National River is very long, with a few stops and visitor centers. We chose to go to Tyler Bend off U.S. Highway 65. The Tyler Bend Visitor Center, like most National Park visitor centers, is made to host school groups. There’s historical information on a board, along with photos and props of things you might discover in the forest.

We didn’t spend too much time here, just a quick look at the National Park gift store and stamped our Passport book.

Tyler Bend Trail: Hiking The River View Trail

Originally we were going to hike from the visitor center to the river view lookout (just a few miles) but it was ridiculously hot and humid. So we drove to the entrance of the River View Trail. We parked our car under the trees. Geneviette (who has been learning photography) brought the camera and we started our mini hike.

Colliers Homestead

Just a short walk from the trail entrance we encountered the well preserved Colliers Homestead. It’s an interesting look at how people used to live out in these woods, but I did not envy them their pre-modern housing. (Seriously, was air conditioning the best human invention ever?)

Addam downloaded an app that helped us identify plants. One told us that we were brushing past Poison Ivy; It’s been a few hours and we’re fine so I think the app was lying.

Buffalo National River View

The view was well worth the short hike. I can’t help but wonder how anyone can canoe or float in these conditions, the river was quite dry. But I bet during winter the view of a full river is spectacular.

The trail to the river view is clear and easy to navigate but on the way back we followed a very narrow path, with jagged rocks and tall plants. It felt like an eternity as we trudged the trail toward the car, our sense of time warped by heat and exhaustion.

I ran to catch up to Addam and Geneviette at one point, and shortly after I stopped running, a large(ish) animal ran through the trees. A person sighted a black bear about a week ago, according to a sign at the Visitor Center. So after that sound I was eager to get out of there and made a mental note to research “how to escape from a bear” when I had signal.

Overall, it was a fun little day trip and we want to go back when the water levels are higher and temperature lower so we can canoe. Maybe when the leaves change!