Arkansas Begins to Bloom
This Monday, both Dianne and myself are tired and sunburned...which usually means we had an excellent weekend. This weekend was no exception. With the water levels so low in Oklahoma, finding a river with fairly deep water and some current can be a real challenge. Thankfully, there are large parts of the Buffalo River that stay at decent levels throughout the year. The Buffalo National River is without a doubt one of my favorite places for scenic flatwater paddling. Although it is a bit of a drive from Oklahoma for a quick road trip, it always proves to be worth it for us.
A Quick Trip to the Arkansas Ozarks
We left the house Friday night at about 8:30pm and drove straight to Springdale, Arkansas. Since the drive was on mostly on fast roads, we arrived in just a few hours. The next morning, after breakfast, we drove the rest of the way to Gilbert, Arkansas. Gilbert is a lovely small town with not very many businesses. Float trip and vacation cabins seem to be the main industries in this sleepy little Ozark town. As has been the trend this season, rising water followed our paddling party with rains giving the area a good soaking on the night before we hit the river. The same phenomenon occurred when we last visited K-River campground.
Since we have our own kayaks, we just needed to arrange for shuttle service at the Gilbert General Store. It is a very nice place offering boat rental, cabins, souvenirs, snacks and of course...float trips.
Baker's Ford to Gilbert Float Trip
We decided to take the ten mile float trip from Baker's Ford down to Gilbert. It was an excellent trip! Even though this was still too early for the trees to be leafed out, the river was beautiful. The air was thick with the rich scent of flowers in bloom and the weather was sunny and warm. Just like on our last trip, we brought a little rain with us. However, while we were on the river it was nothing but blue skies!
Although we weren't alone on the river, it was nice to be there before the peak season. This river is so popular with paddlers lines at the canoe launches and outfitter shortages are not unknown. We met some canoe paddlers making a movie, a church group and one coupe that apparently was just on the river for a shouting match. I'm not sure who won, but they both ended up in the water before the shouting was done!
There are no real obstacles of the route we paddled. The only real risk is from the sun, so naturally we left without any sunscreen. I think this screw-up may be the one that actually teaches us a lesson, because now we have decided to permanently store some sunscreen in our boats. Despite our screw-up, the paddling was excellent and we still made it back to Harrison, Arkansas in time to grab a cheap motel room to watch the NCAA tournament. Sadly, both of our underdog teams failed to create another upset. I guess it is going to be a 'Battle of the Beach Bums' as UCLA faces off against Florida.
Originally, we had planned on paddling some more water in the area on Sunday. Sadly, we woke up feeling a bit sore for more fun in the sun, so we decided to limp back home. By early afternoon on Sunday, we were back at home and looking over the pictures.
Was it worth so many hours of driving and two nights in cheap motel rooms to paddle for a few hours on the Buffalo River? Absolutely. In fact, I would call it a bargain at twice the price!
The Gilbert General Store - Buffalo River Camping and Canoeing