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  • 05 Mar 2022 10:46 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    OPINION | MASTERSON ONLINE: Preserving our treasure

    by Mike Masterson | March 5, 2022 

    There's been a lot of history published this week about the 50th anniversary of our Buffalo National River, the nation's first so-designated stream.

    That's as it should be, especially considering how challenging it was to achieve that distinct honor in 1972 when my late uncle, John Paul Hammerschmidt, was instrumental in preserving this magnificent river that flowed through his 3rd District.

    In the year before his passing, John Paul told me he considered that act among his proudest accomplishments in Congress. The vast majority reading I believe would agree.

    But becoming America's first national river wasn't sufficient to prevent a Cargill-sponsored large-scale hog factory from quietly gaining state a permit from the then-Department of Environmental Quality under former Gov. Mike Beebe's administration--unbeknownst even to Beebe.

    When serious concerns over huge amounts of toxic hog waste being regularly spread along and near the karst-lined banks and watershed of a major Buffalo tributary 7 miles from the river's confluence emerged, Beebe called the agency's approval the biggest regret of his administration.

    I chose to become involved in writing consistently for two years about the potential pollution problems not with the factory itself, but with its inappropriate location.

    Thankfully, the state under Gov. Asa Hutchinson's direction eventually chose to make the factory's owners financially whole by buying them out and closing the operation.

    My determined concerns for the river were rooted in a childhood spent wading and fishing the river only 30 minutes from my hometown of Harrison and because it was the right thing to do for the sake of all who love and enjoy such a magnificent natural treasure that couldn't speak for itself.

    The Newton County family who legally established the factory had done nothing amiss and deserved to be fairly reimbursed by our state for the difficulties and public perceptions they had to endure. The fault for all of it rested squarely on the shoulders of a few state agency numbskulls who chose to issue the permit.

  • 02 Mar 2022 3:03 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    OPINION | REX NELSON: Protecting a river

    by Rex Nelson | Today at 3:48 a.m.

    Tuesday marked the 50th anniversary of the Buffalo River becoming the country's first national river. President Richard Nixon signed the law on March 1, 1972, that put the river under the protection of the National Park Service. Over time, that designation changed the way people thought about Arkansas. It also changed the way we thought of ourselves.

    This 50th anniversary month is a good time to read Brian Thompson's new book "Save the Buffalo River ... Again." The book, whose proceeds are donated to Arkansas conservation initiatives, teaches us that the fight to protect our state's natural attributes never ends. It's the story of how an industrial hog operation was quietly permitted and constructed in the Buffalo River watershed. And it's the story of how a small group of Arkansans came together to change history.
    "Ignored and disparaged, they lost every step of the way," Thompson says. "Until they won."
    Fayetteville's Thompson has long been involved with the Ozark Society, which led the fight 50 years ago to achieve the national designation and prevent the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from placing a dam on the Buffalo. His love of Arkansas comes through in every chapter of this book.
    "My father would load our canvas tent in the back of our teal blue Chrysler with the chrome grill and fins that reached past the trunk," he writes. "It was a boat. We would take our summer vacations on the road with the windows rolled down as we didn't have air conditioning. I would sit in back on the floor (less windy) and read comic books. Our destination? America's national parks, as many as we could fit into two weeks. It was fantastic.
    "So when the Buffalo National River in my home state of Arkansas was suddenly under threat from a large industrial hog operation, permitted in a seemingly secretive deal unknown to the general public, it got my attention. Why would anyone do that? This story is about that fight. Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are controversial, and though I've been critical of the CAFO in this story, this isn't about that. It's a story about advocacy for a special place and some surprisingly nasty Arkansas politics."
    The permit for the C&H hog farm on Big Creek was issued in 2012. Conservationists began to learn of it the following year. The battle raged until 2019 when C&H took a $6.2 million buyout from the state.
    "Big Creek is lined with pastures, many of which would receive the liquid animal waste in the C&H nutrient management plan," Thompson writes. "These fields are often flooded in the spring. Flooding was not mentioned. Above all, you would certainly think the environmental assessment would have pointed out that Big Creek was a major tributary of the Buffalo National River, the pristine crown jewel of the state of Arkansas. Well, no. Neither the Buffalo National River nor Big Creek were mentioned."
    The Buffalo River Watershed Alliance was formed to fight the hog farm. The organization remains active.
    "We communicate regularly," Thompson says. "We now have a broad network of contacts. We thoroughly understand permitting, rule-making and adjudication. We know how to talk to folks at the Capitol and how to reach out to the public on short notice. These days, the public isn't hearing much from us, but we're here, paying attention. We're certainly a darned sight savvier. In fact, Arkansas environmental organizations are in the best shape they've been in in decades."
    Thompson says the global food corporation Cargill hoped to follow C&H with additional hog operations in the Buffalo River area as well as the Kings River watershed.
    "Their desire was to improve their footprint in regard to biosecurity, a direct response to deadly pig virus outbreaks," he writes. "I should point out that the Buffalo isn't just any river. We had a huge amount of public support, not only at the state level but nationally as well. ... You might be under the impression that the support we received was partisan. Nothing could be further from the truth.
    "Having spent countless hours communicating with Arkansans on social media, my experience was that support was evenly distributed. Our state's natural wonders are valued by everyone."
    Thompson says those from outside Arkansas are surprised at how beautiful the state is.
    "It's diverse," he writes. "Just north of the Louisiana border, you have the thick piney woods of the Gulf Coastal Plain. To the east, you have the rich black dirt of the Delta, still with remnants of the Big Woods. The Ouachita region stretches from Oklahoma to Little Rock. ... Just north of that, meandering to the east, is the Arkansas River.
    "Last but not least, you have the Ozark Plateau, a broad uplift in the north where the millennia have carved out low mountains, which are actually an ancient, sensitive eroded landscape of really large hills covered with hardwoods. We who live here tend to take this beauty for granted. Oh, we know it's special. We've been told that many times. But when you live on it, work on it, when it's all you really see day in and day out, you sometimes forget just how special it is."
    He describes the Ozarks as "a difficult place to carve out a living. The rocky soils do not lend themselves to row cropping. The people come from a hardscrabble lot. It's a legacy of hunting, gardening, raising livestock and getting by any way you can. Folks are resourceful."
    Thompson has a final warning for Arkansans: "At some point, they will try again. My hope is that the publication of this account might make that more difficult."

    Senior Editor Rex Nelson's column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He's also the author of the Southern Fried blog at
  • 02 Mar 2022 3:02 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    OPINION | BRENDA BLAGG: Outdoors lovers celebrate five decades of national reverence, relevance for Buffalo River

    Nature lovers mark Buffalo’s 50 years as national river by Brenda Blagg | Today at 1:00 a.m.

    To view the National Park Service’s information on the Buffalo National River’s 50th anniversary, visit

    It has been 50 years now since some determined Arkansas people, led by conservationists and outdoors enthusiasts, saved the Buffalo River for the rest of us.

    In the 1960s, plans emerged to build two hydroelectric dams on the Buffalo. People who populated the valley and others who traveled there from near and far to enjoy its scenic beauty and recreational opportunities closed ranks against those who argued the dams were needed for economic growth, flood control and power generation.

    It was a long fight but, on March 1, 1972, the free-flowing river with its towering limestone bluffs won designation as the United States' first "national river." The protected status stopped the dams and preserved the river for future generations.

    It remains one of the few undammed rivers in the lower 48 states and has been a unit of the national park system for all these years.

    A yearlong celebration began over the last weekend, marking the designation that was intended to preserve the river and conserve and interpret the features of this treasured waterway that cuts through the Ozark Mountain wilderness.

    It ought to be celebrated and the people who fought for the designation -- and to stop the dams -- should be remembered.

    They range from descendants of those who lived their lives in the Ozark wilderness to generations of outdoor enthusiasts who explored the river's path as well as politicians from the state and elsewhere who heard their pleas to save the Buffalo.

    Dr. Neil Compton, a Bentonville physician, spearheaded much of the effort, attracting support even from a sitting U.S. Supreme Court justice of the time, William O. Douglas, who saw a photograph of the bluffs above the river and came to float the river with Compton.

    "You cannot let this river die," Douglas said then, calling the river a "national treasure worth fighting to the death to preserve."

    Among those celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Buffalo National River are its most recent defenders, who waged a second fight to save the Buffalo in recent years.

    This time, the war was with a hog farm permitted in 2013 during former Gov. Mike Beebe's administration.

    Regulators then granted a permit for a large-scale concentrated swine feeding operation at Mount Judea in Newton County.

    Beebe later said he regretted the state approved the permit that allowed the farm to have 2,500 sows and up to 4,000 piglets at the site, which was adjacent to Big Creek. The creek flows into the Buffalo just 6.6 miles away.

    Additionally, the permit, its opponents contended, was issued without adequate public notice. It was a done deal before they got to raise their objections. Not even the National Park Service got the chance to weigh in before the state regulators approved the permit.

    What followed was a period of intense scrutiny of the hog farm operation, its impact on Big Creek and the Buffalo River watershed and strong opposition to any extension of the hog farm permit.

    Eventually, after years of litigation, the state of Arkansas, with some private financial assistance, moved to buy out the farm.

    Credit Gov. Asa Hutchinson for striking the $6.2 million deal that left the farmers whole but also provided a way out of the controversy.

    "The state should never have granted that permit for a large-scale hog farm operation in the Buffalo River watershed," Hutchinson said then.

    What began in the Beebe administration and was settled by Hutchinson's was an expensive lesson for this state and its regulators.

    It was also further evidence of just how much the Buffalo National River and its watershed really are treasured by the generations in Arkansas and elsewhere.

  • 25 Feb 2022 2:40 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    “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 FoustSuperintendent, 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 LarsenMayor 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 Daviesformer 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


    The Buffalo

    Giant Bluffs

    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


    Legends whispered 

    from one forest glen to another

    Of brave deeds

    Performed by magnificent antlered stags

    for doe-eyed mates


    Nature’s memories

    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 Mastersoncolumnist


    “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 Dillardhistorian


    “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

  • 25 Feb 2022 2:36 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Continued from 


    “The Buffalo River is one of Arkansas’ crown jewels, kept undammed and pristine thanks to the conservation efforts of Neil Compton, Governor Bumpers, Senators Fulbright and McClellan, Congressman Hammerschmidt and others. As governor, I supported the Arkansas Wilderness Act of 1984, federal legislation that ultimately protected the upper and lower ends of the Buffalo River, along with 11,800 acres along Richland Creek, one of the Buffalo’s major tributaries.

     About 800,000 people visit the National Park each year, where they can float, fish, and raft the river with its breathtaking views, and see the ruins of a 10,000-year-old Native American culture and remnants of the first European settlers in the late 1700s and early 1800s. 

    I first discovered the Buffalo when I was 16 on a field trip led by my junior class English teacher, Lonnie Luebben. We stayed in Jasper, saw an Audie Murphy movie in the small theatre, and visited sites along the river, including a cave which still had gun powder kegs from the Civil War.

    When I ran for Congress in 1974, I visited every community along the Buffalo and near it, in Searcy, Newton, and Madison counties and in the southern parts of Marion, Boone, and Carroll counties. I vividly remember Boxley, Ponca, Parthenon, and many more. I remember spending many hours in the home of my friend Hilary Jones in Pruitt where there was an old cemetery with birthdates dating back to the 1700s and where Hilary provided a decent burial to people from the area who died without the means to pay for it.  

    Most people I talked to were against the national river because they thought the government was going to take away the land that had been in their families for more than a hundred years. I said how important it was that the Buffalo was the first river in the country to be protected as a national treasure. And that I thought their problem could be solved if the government, instead of forcing sales upon their deaths, took a scenic easement of all the land in the protected area, preventing any development or degradation but allowing them to pass along their land to their families.

    I didn’t win the election, but I did carry every precinct along the Buffalo River, including many that had always voted Republican before. And I made a lot of lasting friendships, just by listening to them and getting to know them. I also learned to try to balance the competing claims of man and nature in one of our country’s most wonderful areas. In the process, I fell in love with the beauty, wildlife, history, and people of the Arkansas Ozarks. I could write a whole book with my interactions with them over the years. Here’s to fifty more great years.” 

    William J. Clinton, former Governor of Arkansas and President of the United States



    “I was in law school when I discovered the Buffalo River, and like so many Arkansans, I view the Buffalo as a particularly pretty piece of God’s creation. As an outdoorsman, I have a personal interest in preserving the health and beauty. As governor, I devoted resources to help care for the Buffalo. My family and I have canoed the river and hiked along its banks.

    The Buffalo watershed is more than a clear-running body of water — much of our history bounces off the walls of the Ozarks and echoes through its magnificent caves. My hope is that we will sustain this palace so that our children and all the generations that follow can share this natural masterpiece with a beautiful river that runs through it.”

    Asa Hutchinson, Governor of Arkansas


    “Known for its turquoise waters, towering sandstone bluffs, majestic overlooks and abundant wildlife, its ancient currents give life to more than 300 species of fish, insects, freshwater mussels and aquatic plants. These attributes have made it an attraction for the area’s inhabitants all the way back to prehistoric times. … 

    Today, five decades after Congress passed that historic bill, millions of our citizens, both from within the state and beyond our borders, have enjoyed the wonders of the Buffalo National River. They’ve explored its caves, photographed its wildlife, hiked its trails, camped along its shores, ridden horses through its valleys and canoed its rapids and pools. In the words of native son and songwriter Jimmy Driftwood, the river is ‘Arkansas’ gift to the nation, America’s gift to the world.’” 

    Mike Beebeformer Governor of Arkansas


    “It’s hard to call just one of the many natural treasures of Arkansas the ‘crown jewel,’ but the Buffalo National River would be on most people’s list. Pristine cool waters and stunning views of scenic bluffs are just part of the majestic charm. 

    Once, while on a float trip with my wife and a group of friends — that included then-State Parks and Tourism Director Richard Davies, Buffalo River outfitter and tourism guru Mike Mills and my security detail from the Arkansas State Police — we had stopped on a gravel bar for lunch when we observed some young men hurling beer cans at the bluff to watch them explode. My head exploded in rage to see someone show such disrespect for this sacred place. I went immediately over to the young men as the rest of our group and the state troopers were frozen with jaws dropped that I had gone over to engage these littering lunatics. 

    I asked, “Where are you from?” I was glad to know it wasn’t Arkansas! I proceeded to tell them we valued the scenic beauty of our state and didn’t tolerate those who trashed it. I explained that the fine for littering was $1,000 per violation, and their choice was to pick up their trash, or I would introduce them to the Arkansas State Police who were standing nearby. 

    Looking back, perhaps it was impetuous and foolish to confront those guys, but trashing the Buffalo was like coming to my home and throwing trash on my living room floor. They picked up their litter, and those in our group picked up their jaws, and we continued our float trip. 

    And those fellows from out of state? On 99 days out of 100, they could beat me to a pulp. But on THAT day, they messed with the wrong guy who didn’t take kindly to folks not treating our one-of-a-kind Buffalo River with some respect!”

    Mike Huckabee, former Governor of Arkansas


    “The lion’s share of the credit for the passage of the act naming the Buffalo National River as America’s first national river rightfully goes to my good friend, the late John Paul Hammerschmidt, then the congressman from the Third Congressional District of Arkansas. We should also thank Dr. Neil Compton and other members of the Ozark Society for their tireless work to preserve Arkansas’ natural heritage.

    Designating the Buffalo a national river guaranteed environmental protections that otherwise might never have existed, preserving this free-flowing river for the recreational use and enjoyment of generations of outdoor enthusiasts. 

    My family and I have spent many splendid hours on the Buffalo, floating, fishing and relaxing. I have always thought of Arkansas as one of the most scenic and beautiful states in America, and without a doubt, the Buffalo National River proves this point.”

    David Pryor, former Governor of Arkansas and Senator




  • 25 Feb 2022 2:14 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    AY Magazine 

    Arkansas’ Buffalo River: A National Treasure

    By Joe David RiceFebruary 25, 2022

    Fifty-one years ago this month, I took my first canoe trip on the Buffalo River, a three-day, two-night adventure that ended at the old Buffalo River State Park southeast of Yellville. A little more than five decades later, I can vividly recall paddling for hour after hour hard against a bone-chilling wind that always seemed to be blowing upstream, and then struggling to stay warm in a sleeping bag that was far better suited to a summer excursion. Yet that chilly journey  — with memories of incredibly clear water, noisy shoals, towering bluffs and too many stars to count — remains one of the highlights of my life. 

    The 2,500-acre Buffalo River State Park, along with the much smaller Lost Valley State Park, were absorbed into the Buffalo National River, a brand-new unit of America’s national park system, in 1972. Stretching eastward some 135 miles from the Boston Mountains to the stream’s confluence with the White River, this 95,000-acre corridor is among the true gems of the Natural State.

    Canoeists discovered the Buffalo in the 1960s, although it was already known by a select few. One of them was Ray Bergman, a long-time editor with Outdoor Life magazine. In his 1942 classic, Fresh-Water Bass, Bergman recounts a memorable fishing trip down the stream:  

    “The Buffalo River flows through a valley of soul-inspiring scenery. Each bed of the stream brings forth new beauties of unusual distinction. In all my travels from coast to coast, I have never witnessed more impressive beauty that can be found in the Buffalo River of Arkansas.”

    But much of this scenery was nearly lost to a pair of reservoirs planned since the late 1930s by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The outbreak of World War II temporarily halted the projects, but the proposed dams resurfaced in the early 1960s. A heated struggle developed between vocal supporters of the impoundments and equally vocal proponents of a free-flowing Buffalo River, a conflict that eventually involved such political notables as Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus, Congressman John Paul Hammerschmidt, Sen. J. William Fulbright, and even President Richard Nixon. And it birthed The Ozark Society, an organization that half a century later continues to address key environmental issues in Arkansas and adjacent states. For a blow-by-blow account of this fateful controversy, spend some time with The Battle for the Buffalo River, Dr. Neil Compton’s 481-page record of a clutch conservation victory.

    Today, as a result of that historic win, some 800,000 visitors annually enjoy the Buffalo in one fashion or another: hiking along the 100-mile trails system; riding horseback; camping; overnighting in a CCC cabin; skipping rocks; birding; and, of course, paddling beneath those sheer bluffs. Tens of thousands of memories have been made because of countless Buffalo River experiences over the years. As a special feature to mark the 50th anniversary of the Buffalo National River, AY About You asked a handful of people to share some of their thoughts and recollections, and the responses can be found below. 





  • 13 Feb 2022 10:41 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    OPINION | REX NELSON: A golden anniversary

    by Rex Nelson | Today at 1:45 a.m.

    We gathered that Wednesday morning in a fifth-floor conference room of the Executive Building near the state Capitol. I was there at the invitation of Bill Stovall, a former speaker of the Arkansas House of Representatives, a current lobbyist, and a man I consider a friend. If Stovall tells me I need to be somewhere, I figure it's important.

    He wanted me to meet with representatives of the Buffalo River Coalition, consisting of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, the Ozark Society, the Arkansas Canoe Club and the National Parks Conservation Association.

    The Buffalo River Watershed Alliance was created in early 2013 after it was learned that the state had approved the C&H hog farm on Big Creek, a tributary of the Buffalo.

    What I didn't tell Stovall in advance of the meeting is that I consider all of these folks Arkansas heroes for their efforts to protect the watershed.

    According to the alliance's website: "Buffalo River Watershed Alliance was organized by stakeholders living in the river's watershed, but its supporters span the state and region. The alliance was created to help preserve and protect the scenic beauty and pristine water quality of Buffalo National River by opposing and preventing construction and operation of industrial confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) within the watershed.

    "Its goals are to educate and advocate for protection of the Buffalo River and its associated watershed by monitoring and addressing adverse environmental impacts and supporting a moratorium on future hog CAFOs within the watershed."

    By the time these environmentalists found out about it, the hog farm already had been built in Newton County.

    "We held a meeting at the old Buffalo Theater in Jasper and coalesced around this issue," said Gordon Watkins, the alliance president. "We partnered with an organization known as Earthjustice and filed a legal challenge."

    In 2017, the advocacy group American Rivers ranked the Buffalo as one of America's 10 most endangered rivers due to the threat of hog farm pollution. There had been several major algal blooms in the watershed by that time. Significant growth in the summer of 2018 included toxic blue-green algae.

    In July 2018, a 14.3-mile segment of the Buffalo River and Big Creek was listed as impaired, meaning that pathogen levels exceeded state water quality standards. The Buffalo was again listed on the most endangered rivers list in 2019. Later that year, C&H took a $6.2 million buyout from the state. The land went to the state as a conservation easement.

    The battle had gone on for six years. One of those at the Little Rock meeting told me, "It was highly political to the end. It was really nasty business."

    Watkins pointed out that 89 percent of the river's watershed is outside the boundaries of land overseen by the National Park Service. The conservation groups are also keeping an eye on Ozark streams such as the Kings River, upper White River and War Eagle Creek.

    In 2016, Gov. Asa Hutchinson unveiled his Beautiful Buffalo River Initiative and announced the creation of a committee comprised of the heads of five state agencies. The governor said at the time that he had received more letters, emails and telephone calls about the hog farm than any other issue since taking office in January 2015.

    The Buffalo River Conservation Committee, which was established by Hutchinson and now falls under the state Department of Agriculture, meets quarterly to address the impact to the watershed from unpaved roads, leaky septic systems, outdated municipal wastewater treatment plants and other factors. The committee provides grants for roads, water and wastewater infrastructure, algae studies, the planting of trees and other water-quality measures.

    March 1 will mark 50 years since President Richard Nixon signed the bill creating Buffalo National River. The legislation put the Park Service in charge of almost 135 miles of the 150-mile-long river that runs through Newton, Searcy, Marion and Baxter counties. The Park Service released a report last year showing that 1.5 million visitors to Buffalo National River in 2020 spent $66.3 million in communities near the park. That spending supported 960 jobs and had a cumulative benefit of $76.1 million.

    "Buffalo National River is a one-of-a-kind Arkansas jewel that attracts visitors from all over the country," park superintendent Mark Foust said. "During the pandemic, even more folks came out to enjoy the river and the outdoors. It's great to see our local communities benefit.

    "We're working hard with Buffalo River watershed partners to conserve the national river and provide for its enjoyment for future generations of visitors, especially at a time when park visitation is increasing."

    The spending analysis was conducted by Park Service and U.S. Geological Survey economists. The economic benefit of the river is clear. But the six-year battle over the hog farm was proof that there must be eternal vigilance on the part of groups that make up the Buffalo River Coalition.

    Government can make big mistakes, which was evident when the state granted the hog farm a permit in the first place. I've heard former Gov. Mike Beebe say it was the biggest regret of his eight years in office.

    In addition to economic benefits, there are other reasons why March 1, 1972, should go down as one of the key dates in Arkansas history. As I pointed out in last Sunday's column, Americans' impressions of Arkansas the previous 15 years were based on events in the fall of 1957 when the Little Rock Central High School desegregation crisis was the world's top news story.

    Over time, the Buffalo helped Arkansas become viewed as a beautiful state in which to enjoy outdoor recreational pursuits rather than being seen as a violent, backward place. In addition to changing the way people thought about Arkansas, it changed the way we thought of ourselves.

    Arkansas became the Natural State, and Arkansans became aware of the need for conservation efforts. In 1996, voters even amended the state Constitution to add a permanent one-eighth cent sales tax for conservation purposes.

    The Park Service is planning a series of what it calls "event weekends" to celebrate the 50th anniversary. History Weekend will begin Feb. 26 with activities at Buffalo Point, St. Joe High School and other locations. A ceremony on the actual anniversary date--Tuesday, March 1--will take place on the campus of North Arkansas College at Harrison.

    Arts in the Park Weekend will begin Thursday, June 9, with a student film festival at the Kenda drive-in movie theater in Marshall. Two days later, there will be a music festival at Tyler Bend that will feature traditional Ozark music. On Oct. 8-9, the Park Service will celebrate the natural resources in the region.

    Meanwhile, the Ozark Society plans to conduct numerous hikes this winter. A one-day float from Tyler Bend to Gilbert is set for April 5. The society also will lead a river trip from Grinder's Ferry to the mouth of the river from June 13-18.

    The Ozark Society is older than the national river designation, dating back to an organizational meeting on May 24, 1962, on the campus of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

    "The society was initially founded to give organized resistance to the proposed construction of dams on the Buffalo River," Ellen Compton wrote in a history of the organization. "It was formed during a time of heightened interest in conservation efforts. People in northwest Arkansas and Pulaski County had investigated alliances with national groups about preventing the river from being dammed. Local activists opted to form a separate organization."

    It was songwriter and native Arkansan Jimmy Driftwood who said it best when he called the Buffalo "Arkansas' gift to the nation, America's gift to the world."

    Rex Nelson is a senior editor at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

  • 07 Feb 2022 9:22 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    KUAF Radio

    New Book Chronicles Fight to Shut Down Industrial Swine Farm on the Buffalo National River


    Listen to the report here

    Save the Buffalo River … Again” authored by Brian Thompson details the seven-year long battle to shutter an industrial swine breeding facility situated a few miles upstream of our nation's first declared national river. Sourcing news accounts, scientific studies, stakeholders, as well as lead opposition group, Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, Thompson reveals how corporate pork producers attempted but failed to stake a major claim on the ecologically sensitive watershed. 

  • 04 Feb 2022 2:47 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    AY Magazine

    Shiloh Museum Celebrating Buffalo’s 50th with Special Exhibit

    By Sarah ColemanFebruary 4, 2022

    Shiloh Museum of Ozark History has announced the presentation of Ken Smith’s Buffalo River Country in observance of the Buffalo River’s 50th anniversary. This exhibit celebrates the work of those inspired by the Arkansas Ozarks waterway. 

    Running through Dec. 31, the exhibit showcases photos and artifacts from the Buffalo National River during Smith’s survey and watershed in the 1960s. Twenty two of the 24 photographs are Smith’s. Smith also released a book, The Buffalo River Country, in 1967. 

    Smith’s book brings awareness to the watershed, published in The Ozark Society, photographs, maps and trail narratives played a role in the mission to have the Buffalo designated as a national river — the first to be granted this distinction. 

    “This exhibit is a celebration of the work of the many people who were inspired by the beauty and importance of the Buffalo River to advocate for its preservation and exploration,” says Angie Albright, director of the Shiloh Museum. “Ken Smith is one of the dedicated people whose work on the ground and in print helped bring this first-of-its-kind designation to Arkansas and our beloved Buffalo River.”

    The gallery will also include a 12-minute video of Smith displaying personal items, including his Leica camera, his Olympia portable typewriter, pen and ink illustrations, a report for the Nature Conservancy about the Clark Creek Watershed in Newton County and tools he used for building trails for the Buffalo National River in 1985. 

    Several related events will be offered by the Shiloh Museum throughout the year in the celebration of the river’s 50th anniversary. These have been organized by the University of Arkansas Libraries and the University of Arkansas Humanities Center. 

    To learn more about this exhibit or the Shiloh Museum of Ozark history, click here or call 479-750-8165. 


  • 29 Dec 2021 8:38 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    River's golden anniversary: Year of hikes, floats, programs celebrates 50th anniversary

    by Flip Putthoff 

    Chinese New Year 2022 is Year of the Tiger. In Arkansas and across America, Year of the Buffalo is appropriate.

    The wild and free-flowing Buffalo River became Buffalo National River with the stroke of a pen on March 1, 1972. Then-President Richard Nixon signed congressional legislation making the Buffalo the first national river in the United States.

    Dozens of events including hikes and float trips are set for 2022 to mark the 50-year anniversary of the Buffalo National River. Here are some that have been set so far.

    Buffalo River office of the National Park Service in Harrison plans a series of multiday weekend events. Times have not been determined and will be announced closer to the events.

    • History weekend is set for Feb. 26-March 1 celebrating the rich cultural history of the area and creation of the park.

    • A talk on the geological history of the Buffalo River area will be presented Feb. 26 at Buffalo Point campground.

    • An oral history project for people to tell stories about their experiences at the river or around the creation of Buffalo National River in 1972. Location and time to be announced.

    • A presentation at St. Joe High School auditorium Feb. 27 discusses the current and historical tribal connection to the river. Bob King of Buffalo River Historic Jail and Museum is coordinator.

    • A science symposium is set for March 1 at North Arkansas College in Harrison including an opening ceremony for the anniversary year and celebration with a birthday cake.

    • Art in the park weekend June 9 is a celebration of the ways in which Buffalo National River inspires artistic endeavors.

    • A student film festival will be held June 10 at the Kenda Drive-In in Marshall.

    • Folklore storytelling night is June 10 at the Buffalo Point campground amphitheater.

    • A music festival is set for June 11 at Tyler Bend campground featuring artist demonstration traditional Ozark music traditions and how the river inspires modern creations.

    • The Chinelos Morelenses Unidos en Arkansas, a Mexican American dance group from Springdale, will perform June 12 at Steel Creek campground and speak about inspiration they gather from nature and visiting the Buffalo River area.

    • Park resources weekend is Oct. 8-9 celebrating the natural resources at Buffalo National River and its health benefits.

    • Yoga in the park with yoga instructors will be Oct. 8 at Steel Creek and Buffalo Point campgrounds.

    • A moon party will be at Tyler Bend on Oct. 8 with viewing of the moon with telescopes and discussing the importance of the night sky.

    • Naturalization ceremony will be Oct. 9 at Ozark campground naturalizing 15 new U.S. citizens.

    Please note that events are subject to change due to health-related requirements or weather. Buffalo National River encourages everyone to visit the park's website and calendar of events for up-to-date information.

    The Ozark Society was instrumental in the fight to keep the Buffalo free of dams leading up to the creation of the Buffalo National River. These events are open to Ozark Society members, but there is plenty of time to join the Ozark Society and take part in these activities.

    • The Ozark Society will lead numerous hikes along the Buffalo this winter. A schedule of the hikes is posted on the Ozark Society website at, with instructions on how to contact the hike leader.

    • A day float on the Buffalo from Tyler Bend to Gilbert is set for April 5. A ride in a boat will be provided or people may bring their own boats. Passengers will need to provide their own life jacket. Those interested in the float trip should contact Stewart Noland at 501-831-9908 or

    • The Ozark Society will lead a multiday river trip on the Buffalo from Grinder's Ferry to the White River, June 13 – 18. More information on this trip, including how to register for it, is available on the Ozark Society website at For details about this trip contact Stewart Noland at 501-831-9908 or

    • Buffalo River documentary film will be shown the evening of March 17 at Skylight Cinema in Bentonville. Start time hasn't been determined.

Buffalo River Watershed Alliance is a non profit 501(c)(3) organization

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