“The free-flowing living waters of the Buffalo River wind through the mountains, valleys, caves and karst of one of the most beautiful places on Earth. As a person that married into a family with deep connections to this area (my kids are the seventh generation to live in the Ozarks), I am proud to finally call this place home.
After a long life and career of moving throughout the country with the National Park Service, serving in national monuments, parkways, recreation areas, seashores, memorials and parks, I know I am drawn to the water — drawn to the sustaining powers of a river, finally, this river, the people’s river.
This river belongs to the people who lived here, hunted, fished, and depended on it for thousands of years. It belongs to the pioneers who forged their homesteads here when it was on the western frontier of a growing nation. It belongs to the people who fought a bitter struggle between ways of life and for the soul of that nation. The Buffalo River belongs to the people who thought it should be dammed, the people who thought it should remain in private ownership, and to the ones who fought to make it America’s First National River. We all share the stewardship of this river. We owe it to the generations to come.
This river will change you if you let it. Come and see.”
Mark Foust, Superintendent, Buffalo National River
“The Buffalo National River influence I have experienced is the driving economic force it has become behind the small towns and villages in its watershed. Jasper’s quality of life and economy, I believe, are directly dependent on the love, proximity and usage from both residents and tourists of this river. …
Our natural setting provides jobs and recreation — plus, the real reason most of us are here and people are continuing to come, which is to experience the awe-inspiring beauty of where we live. Our big job will be to manage and maintain what we have for ourselves and for future generations.”
Jan Larsen, Mayor of Jasper
“I truly believe the Buffalo River is a magical place. Its beauty with its clear waters and majestic bluffs is what stole the hearts of me and my wife, and what enticed us to move to the area. I am constantly told stories by locals and visitors alike about how the Buffalo has influenced them — it may be something as simple as an overnight fishing trip with their grandfather to an annual family float trip to meeting their spouse while floating with friends. The stories are all unique, and each so special in its own right. The Buffalo is a magical place that keeps people coming back, year after year, so they can introduce the younger generations to its beauty so it can be appreciated for years to come.
If you haven’t had a chance to visit the Buffalo National River, I want to personally extend an invitation to you.”
Alvin “Chip” Johnson, Mayor of Gilbert
“I remember the first time I saw the Buffalo National River. I grew up in Pine Bluff and when I was a young-ish teenager, my family took a road trip one beautiful spring day to Dogpatch. We traveled north on Highway 7 and pulled over at Pruitt to see the river. I had never seen anything like it — the majestic bluffs and beautiful winding river below. I was smitten, and I’ve been in love ever since. Like many Arkansans, I’ve taken my share of float trips and enjoyed every single one.
In my current position with state government, I had the opportunity to play a role in achieving a resolution to the C&H Hog Farm dispute. Led by Gov. Hutchinson, the settlement was a very good day for our national river and for the state of Arkansas, and I will always be proud of our work. Now, I continue to serve on the Buffalo River Conservation Committee as an appointee of the governor, and I continue to take pride in the opportunity I have to protect and promote this incredible natural resource.”
Stacy Hurst, Secretary, Department of Parks, Heritage & Tourism
“I have always believed that an underlying reason that the Buffalo River was saved and made into the first National River was that it had the state park there. Most Ozark rivers had little or no visitor service facilities like what the state park provided. Access to places like that was limited along most other rivers. Consequently, for decades, thousands of families were able to access the river, enjoy it, and become not only fond of it but also protective of its beauty and uniqueness. No other Ozark river had such a constituency. It made a difference.”
Richard Davies, former Director, Department of Parks & Tourism
“Growing up in Northwest Arkansas, my family and I visited the Buffalo River often. It was one of our treasured places to canoe and camp, and to this day we still gather as many family members as possible for an annual float trip. The Buffalo River epitomizes the beauty of Arkansas, from its deep ravines to steep cliffs, its waterfalls as well as fishing holes. It helped instill in me my love of the Ozarks, which inspired me in founding Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art to focus on the connection between art and nature.”
Alice Walton, philanthropist
“The Buffalo River has been an important part of my life for more than 60 years. … With the urging and example of Dr. Neil Compton, Margaret and Harold Hedges, Mary Virginia and Hubert Ferguson, and my parents Eunice and Paul Noland, I have since the mid-1970s been involved in ongoing efforts with the Ozark Society to continue the preservation of the Buffalo National River. As a long, narrow park, possible threats to its integrity have been and always will be present. I feel I have a responsibility to be a part of its protection.
Stewart Noland, Ozark Society
The Buffalo River carries a heavy weight on its shoulders as it attempts to demonstrate to the world what a living Ozark stream should be. It cannot do that alone. It requires its land, its tributaries and its native life. This requires us to live sustainably and work to save as much of the natural world and as many rivers as we can. The Buffalo has not been saved forever. It has only been insulated temporarily from the degradation all around it.
To paraphrase the poet John Donne, no stream is an island. It is a part of the main, a part of the whole. We must remember, too, that the work of saving never ends because there will be natural changes and ongoing challenges. Rivers are never finally saved. We must instead see the work of saving them as an ongoing process with no endpoint and dedicate ourselves to that as a life-long battle.”
Debbie Doss, Arkansas Canoe Club
“Much of my work is in rural areas, where I have observed the challenges facing farmers and ranchers trying to provide for their families. I have heard the need for the river to provide more benefits to the people that live and work in its watershed. Now, the Arkansas Nature Conservancy, the Buffalo River Foundation, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Searcy County Agricultural Cooperative and other partners are working together with landowners on projects that address erosion issues for improved farm financial sustainability that also helps the river. The people benefit, and the river is healthy. Working with landowners on their needs that also benefits the river — this is the future of conservation.”
Scott Simon, Director, Arkansas Nature Conservancy
“In the late ’70s and ’80s, I got to know the folks who were determined to save the Buffalo. I thank God for them and Sen. Dale Bumpers, who never gave up. We owe them and the Buffalo so much.
Kay Kelley Arnold, former Director, Arkansas Nature Conservancy
“My blood pressure drops at least 20 points the moment I exit I-40 heading north to the Buffalo River Valley. For more than half my life, this has been my go-to place, my retreat — sometimes with family, sometimes with friends, often alone.”
Jim Dailey, former Mayor of Little Rock
“I have been doing paintings of the Buffalo River for 40 years, and I still find reasons to come back to it. … I grew up in Louisiana where there are no rocks, and the waters are brown. Clear water running over rocks is still magic to me.”
William McNamara, artist
Rise like Medieval Castles
above this Ancient River
Sending us back to a time
when all our land was wild
Leaves rustle with stories
from a past known only to the land
from one forest glen to another
Of brave deeds
Performed by magnificent antlered stags
for doe-eyed mates
held safe captive
By these towers of time …
By this Wilderness
Susan Morrison, poet
“The Buffalo River itself is certainly the main character. But to me, the supporting cast of towering painted bluffs, wilderness vistas, variety of wildlife, colorful wildflowers and hundreds of thundering waterfalls are what have shaped my character and given me unlimited subjects to build my nature photography career on.”
Tim Ernst, photographer
“I was born in California. Moving to Arkansas in the early ’70s, I thought I was leaving all the beauty behind! Imagine my delight when I began to experience the natural wonders this state has to offer. …
Very early on residing in my new state, some friends took me on a float trip to the Buffalo River. I was clueless regarding a canoe, camping and floating! I could not believe the incredible scenery I saw on that first trip. I cannot forget the best night’s sleep I had ever had in a sleeping bag, on a gravel bar on the river. It began a very long love affair with the Buffalo. … I am so thankful to all who came together to preserve our true natural treasure — the beautiful Buffalo.”
Gay White, former First Lady of Arkansas
“My fondest memory of floating the Buffalo was back in the 1980s when I had the extreme pleasure of being in the same canoe with Dr. Neil Compton, who, of course, led the campaign to save the Buffalo as a free-flowing stream. What he emphasized to me and our viewers on that float trip has stuck with me ever since. That it takes only one person to do his or her part in preservation and conservation. That the challenge goes on — there are other streams and wilderness areas to save. Each one of us must do our part to protect and care for the wild places we love — those places that resemble a bit of heaven on Earth.”
Chuck Dovish, AETN-PBS personality
“Following congressional designation of the Buffalo as a national river, local activists throughout the nation could point to the free-flowing stream as a sterling example of the diverse natural wonders found across the entire nation. The legacy of the fight for the Buffalo could also be measured in the growing regard in Arkansas for places that fed wonder and awe rather than as parcels valued chiefly for human enterprise.”
Ben Johnson, historian
“When the Buffalo was designated as our first national river, it did something more important than simply bringing additional visitors to our state. It helped us, after many years of population losses and various embarrassments in the national news, begin to believe in ourselves as Arkansans. Having the first National River made us proud and helped us begin to understand how abundant outdoor recreational attributes might play a role in economic development. We finally started to understand that economic development is about more than attracting factories. It’s about quality of life. I truly believe the National River designation changed the trajectory of Arkansas as much as the growth of Walmart.”
Rex Nelson, columnist/writer
“Anyone who spends time on the Buffalo needs no explanation of its priceless value to them and all of us. It is why I’ve pledged myself as an opinion journalist to do all in my power to keep our state informed of anything that appears to threaten the river and all it means to so many across Arkansas and nationwide, as did my uncle, the late Third District Congressman John Paul Hammerschmidt.
Mike Masterson, columnist
“It is my special place — my go-to place, and I am at peace and can enjoy just being still whenever I am there.”
Bryan Day, Director, Little Rock Port Authority
“The Buffalo River was a special place for me and some of my U of A friends in the ’60s. We would frequently leave campus for the weekend and spend the entire time on the river camping and floating. Since we were broke college students and this was such a great experience at virtually no coast, it was our Disneyland. Those memories are still very vivid today.”
Shelby Woods, Chairman Emeritus, CJRW
“I graduated from Marshall High School and the University of Arkansas before embarking on a long career in the U.S. Air Force. During my travels and interactions with people around the country, the Buffalo National River was a source of pride that I shared with others. …
As the eighth generation of my 10 generation Searcy County family, I work tirelessly for the people of Searcy County and the Buffalo River Watershed, where the vision of economic prosperity for the locals has never been close to being realized. May the next 50 years not only continue to preserve this great treasure that we share with the world but may the vision of widespread economic benefit for the residents of the watershed finally be realized.”
Darryl Treat, Director, Searcy County Chamber of Commerce
“My love of rivers was passed down from my dad. … I first floated the Buffalo in 1965 from Pruitt to Hasty. During my college years at Hendrix, I had a canoe, a tent and knew how to run a shuttle for a day float.
After college, I started my first business, The Wilderness Company, renting canoes and camping equipment from my apartment in Fayetteville. In 1974, I moved to Ponca, and in 1976 founded Buffalo Outdoor Center, and the rest is history. I have more than 25,000 miles canoeing the Buffalo National River. Ponca to Kyles Landing is my favorite and the best of the best!”
Mike Mills, Owner, Buffalo Outdoor Center
“As a historian, I have always been fascinated by the Buffalo, both the river and the communities through which it flows. Gov. Orval E. Faubus grew up in Madison County not far from the Buffalo, the family being a good example of the hardscrabble life led by many who tried to farm the thin Ozark soils. That family would produce a governor who, in his final term in office, took a stand that ensured the river would not be dammed. While Gov. Faubus’ work on behalf of racial segregation forever stained his legacy, his determination to save the Buffalo ensured that he cannot be condemned without at least one caveat.”
Tom Dillard, historian
“Of all the memories, what stands out the most is my dad (who spent a lot of time on the Buffalo) telling me stories of the ‘local’ resistance to the national river and people stringing barbed wire across the river to prevent access. He said because he and his friends were regular floaters and campers, the locals knew him and let them lift up/pass through the barbed wire without any problems, hassle or threats.”
Skip Rutherford, former Dean, Clinton School of Public Service