Camping & Canoeing: Buffalo National River, AR

The Ozarks in Arkansas are wonderfully wild.  It’s lush forest and rich history make an adventurers paradise!  Casey and I wanted to go on a canoe trip this summer, and our river of choice was Buffalo National River in Arkansas.

The Buffalo National River was established in 1972, becoming America’s First National River.  Casey and I did an overnight canoe trip on the Buffalo River in July of 2017, but this year we wanted to share the experience with family.  We invited Casey’s sister, niece and nephew and they gladly joined us for our 4 day trip.

We stayed at the Tyler Bend Campground, which is right along the Buffalo River.  From our campsite, we could take a short hike and arrive and a rocky/sandy beach area to play in the river.

Buffalo National River Arkansas Tyler Bend
Tyler Bend, Buffalo National River, AR.

The Buffalo River is 135 miles and courses with rapids to slow moving pools.  Coming around bends you can be aw-struck by the massive, rocky bluffs of the Ozark Mountains.

We were so excited to spend the extended weekend with family!  We were driving up from Louisiana, and Carissa and the kids were driving down from Illinois.  It’s about a 6 hour drive for both of us.

We arrived shortly after Carissa and the kids on Friday afternoon.  The campground was fairly empty, so we had our choice of campsite.  We picked a secluded location, tucked behind some trees.  We setup the tents and settled into our spot.  We then decided to see how close we were to the water, so we followed a trail behind our campsite and found a great river access point!

Buffalo National River Arkansas
The kids and Brutus splashing in the Buffalo River.

The dirt path lead us through the forest, onto a sand bank that opened up onto a rocky beach.  The section of river that the beach was on was pretty wide and deep in some sections.

This was our first summer with Brutus, and we were happy to see that he loved the water!  Since it was just passed noon, we decided to change into our swimsuits and hang out and play in the water until it was time to cook up some dinner!

Carissa and I sat in some lawn chairs with our feet resting in the water for a while, chatting about life and catching up on things.  We watched the kids, Casey, and the dogs chase each other and splash around.

We too eventually got into the water.  There was a pretty deep section, about the my shoulders, that we used to practice swimming lessons with the kids.

Tin Foil Dinners Camping Buffalo National River Tyler Bend Campsite
Casey cooking tinfoil dinners over the fire.

We played in the water for a couple hours before heading back to camp.  We then began cooking tin foil dinners.  These are the best! You can chop up all different vegetables, potatoes, and add any meat if you wish.  Place you mixture on a section of foil with some butter, salt and spices.  Then wrap it up and place it over the fire to cook.

After dinner we made some s’mores over the campfire before heading to bed.  The next morning we planned to get stated canoeing on the river early in the morning.

Buffalo River Map
Map: Buffalo National River (for reference of where we put in and out of for canoeing).

We decided to put in at Baker Ford and canoe until we reached Grinders Ferry.  We packed our lunches and headed to Buffalo River Outfitters after a quick breakfast.  Buffalo River Outfitters is where we decided to rent out canoe and kayak from.  They are just 5 minutes south of the Tyler Bend campground and will drive you to each access point and pick you up once you have finished.

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Carissa and I shared a canoe with Addy.  While Casey and Aidan started out in the kayak together.  The dogs enjoyed plashing in the water, bounding in and out of both the kayak and canoe – as did the kids!  We had a tube that we tied off behind the canoe for the kids to float and play in as well.

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The morning started out a little cloudy and the water was little cool, but as the day progressed the sun warmed us and the water felt perfect!  We had so much fun floating on the river, chatting with each other, and stopping at banks to splash around with the dogs!

Canoe Trip Buffalo National River AR
Casey and Aidan paddling the kayak, while Brutus keeps look out at the front.

Near the end of our day, as we came close to Grinders Ferry (where we were going to stop) we came across a rope swing.  There were other people who had stopped and were swinging and we decided to join in.  The kids were a little unsure of the swing at first, as it was kind of high up on the bank – but eventually they decided to try it out with us.

We continued to mosey down the river, arriving at Grinders Ferry in the late afternoon.  We called Buffalo River Outfitters to make sure they knew we were there, but they are pretty good about always having vehicles running and collecting people during the summer hours.

Hammock Camping Tyler Bend Campsite Buffalo National River

That evening, Casey and I felt the weather was perfect for sleeping in our hammock.  Our hammock is designed for two people to lay comfortable.

We had is strung up between two trees off the the side of our campsite. I was a little nervous at first because we didn’t have a canopy or tarp over the hammock, but there were no bugs to bother us and the night air was just the right temperature.  It was honestly the best sleep I had in a long time!

The second day of canoeing we didn’t have to be up as early because we put in at Tyler bend and canoed until Gilbert.  Addy and I started in the Kayak together with Yavanna.

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Addy, Yavanna and Me starting in the kayak on the second day!

We often all switched between the kayak and canoe.  Mostly because we picked short routes along the river so we could take our time and enjoy spending quality time together in nature.  At one point letting the kids ended up steering the kayak together, while all the adults and dogs were sitting low in the canoe.

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The second day went from cloudy to sunny, off and on.  At one point I think we did get lightly rained on, but it wasn’t bad.  We were already wet from splashing around in the water.

The Buffalo River is such a beautiful place, and I wish we had better pictures to share with you on just how amazing it is to see the cliffs towering over the river, but you can get a glimpse of this in the image below.

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The water ranges from clear to a greenish-blue hue in deep places of the river.  We enjoyed every moment of our vacation with our family on the river.  The second day of canoeing/kayaking we found some additional rope swings to play on, and stopped at the same rope swing around Grinders Ferry again to play.

The morning before we left we decided to check out a very short trail near the entrance of the Tyler Bend Campground.  It took us to an old cabin.

cabin buffalo national river arkansas

We enjoyed speculating about what life would have been like living here, and were really happy to see that it was being so well preserved.

cabin morinventures buffalo natinoal river tyler bend arkansas
Carissa, the kids, and me in front of the small building near cabin.

This was the end of our vacation with family.  We said our very sad goodbyes before parting.  Casey and I heading back to life in Louisiana, and Carissa and the kids to their home in Illinois.

We all agreed that taking a break from our busy lives to enjoy nature and the company of family is something we should try and do more often.  I am so fond of making memories like these and look forward to the next trip we can plan!


Photo Credit goes to my sister-in-law Carissa Noblet, and my husband Casey Morin.

I hope you enjoyed hearing about our vacation to Buffalo National River.  If you have enjoyed this wonderful place, leave your story below in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

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