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flopnfolds
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01/17/2018 01:04PM
Not the BWCA, but does anybody have any thoughts about paddling the Buffalo?

We are thinking from Boxley to Highway 65 takeout. I was planning to put in Saturday noon ish and take out Tuesday noon ish. We will be coming from MN so the noon ish Tuesday gives us time to get back to Minneapolis on Tuesday night. Reasonable?

Mid -late March for the paddle.

I think we (3 of us) may rent instead of bringing our own canoe, and possibly renting one canoe and one kayak. What are peoples thoughts of canoes v. kayak on the Buffalo.

And what should we expect for white water? We don't have much white water experience, we all have many miles of flat water paddling but the white water is a different beast.

And finally, any thoughts about outfitters to rent from? We would probably have them move the vehicle as well.
 
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bobbernumber3
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01/17/2018 07:32PM
I would recommend starting at Ponca. The river is pretty small Boxley to Ponca. Buffalo Outdoor Center in Ponca would be a good source for information on conditions and rentals. Check with them to ensure the river is not too high, not too low.
mjmkjun
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01/17/2018 07:53PM
while waiting for responses, Google "paddling the buffalo river, AR". You will find a couple of short trip reports when you scroll down the page.
Then, go to YouTube and search for Buffalo River, AK. Some short videos there.
Considering a solo in September on the Buffalo River so have been researching and reading, too.
note the search feature of this site at top of the page.
ozarkpaddler
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01/17/2018 09:31PM
ozarkpaddler
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01/17/2018 09:31PM
Although I've never rented from them, I've talked the the folks at BOC several times and they are very nice, are paddlers, and can give you some up-to-date knowledge on current conditions. That's very important with the Buffalo. Things can change quickly. In March you can go from low to flood quickly.

Also, I recommend some time getting comfortable maneuvering a canoe in moving water. It aint like paddling in the BWCAW. The upper Buffalo can be scary when high and require deft maneuvering when low. You need to learn how to ferry and maneuver quickly at times.

I'll e-mail Bob.com and Deucecoop. THey've paddled the Buffalo a 100
times more than I. I think they will agree, Don't go above Ponca unless you're very experienced and you'd better be on your "A" game if the water is up Ponca to Kyles?
BOC Website
Ponca to Kyle's Landing
Buffalo

jwartman59
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01/17/2018 09:47PM
Agree with start at Ponca. Last time we were here the river rose three feet in one night. Be aware of that when setting up your site. Also renting an outfitter canoe is a good idea as this river will chew up a Kevlar boat if the water is low. While I wouldn’t consider it a whitewater river there are numerous riffs, some with strong currents. Nothing to get worried about but good idea to wear a Pfd if your feeling anxious. This is a fun, beautiful river. You’ll love it.
DeuceCoop
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01/18/2018 08:39AM
Howdy! The Buffalo is a great choice for float camping. Truly a world class river. However, I fear your plan is a bit ambitious and executing it as stated would adversely impact your experience. Several things come to mind that will hopefully help you dial it in.

First, Boxley to Grinders Ferry (I assume that's what you mean by HWY 65 access) is ~73 miles and takes you from the upper river all the way into the lower. Assuming sufficient water it could be done within your schedule, but it wouldn't be much fun. There's so much to see and do on every section of the river and I think you'd regret the pace you'd have to maintain to do that many miles in that time frame.

Second, Boxley isn't an official access. There's no legal reason you can't put in there, but if you rent a canoe the outfitter may or may not allow it. It's a fun, rowdy little reach and I recommend it if you have decent boat control, which you will need IMMEDIATELY after launching as a quick ferry is required to set you up for a clean run through a blind willow thicket. Once you clear the willow thicket it's mostly read and run Class I-II drops but there's one spot that could give you trouble. Just past a large cane break river right there's a drop that has a pretty nasty undercut boulder river right and a log all the way across the river. At that point the river also necks down to 10-12 feet wide, all of which together can make that little spot a bit imposing. Again, not an issue with decent boat control and the ability to quickly duck, but it could make for an unpleasant day if things didn't go well there. After that it's just boogie water with standing waves that could (and probably would) swamp a loaded canoe. All the above beta is based on the last time I ran it, which was last March. There could easily be new wood in the river now, and wood is by far the greatest hazard in any Ozarks stream. If you did decide to run Boxley I'd suggest doing it without your gear. There's nowhere to camp between there and Ponca anyway and it would only take you an hour and a half to complete the six mile run.

Third, I'd discourage you entirely from launching at Ponca. If there's water it will be a gong show. Go there to gawk for a few minutes, check out the Beaver Jim Villines homestead, then mosey on down to Steel Creek to launch. If you'd like I can give you greater detail on some other very cool things to do right there that will only cost you an additional hour or two if you take the right approach.

Finally, if you do decide to launch at Steel Creek I encourage you to take out somewhere far above Grinder's Ferry. Happy to make suggestions regarding where if you'd like.

All the above assumes there will be water in the upper when you plan to go. That is by no means a foregone conclusion. By going in March you give yourself a good chance, but that river rises and falls quickly, especially the upper section. The good news is there's jaw dropping beauty along the entire river and plans are easily changed to accommodate reality.

If I can help in any way including more specific suggestions or possibly even with logistics please don't hesitate to ask.
DeuceCoop
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01/18/2018 09:13AM
P.S. Don't forget your fishing poles. :)
ozarkpaddler
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01/18/2018 09:22AM
DeuceCoop: "I'd discourage you entirely from launching at Ponca. If there's water it will be a gong show." "
Heheheh, THAT'S FUNNY! I remember a group of ours on that upper stretch in 2003 with the water a few inches airspace at Ponca. These were experienced paddlers for the most part, but 1/3 of them dumped that day, a few multiple times. I recall wallowing to the gravel bar with a boat full of water a few times; I never dumped, but had a few close calls.
Ponca:






Steel Creek:
DeuceCoop
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01/18/2018 09:44AM
ozarkpaddler: "DeuceCoop: "I'd discourage you entirely from launching at Ponca. If there's water it will be a gong show." "
Heheheh, THAT'S FUNNY! I remember a group of ours on that upper stretch in 2003 with the water a few inches airspace at Ponca. These were experienced paddlers for the most part, but 1/3 of them dumped that day, a few multiple times. I recall wallowing to the gravel bar with a boat full of water a few times; I never dumped, but had a few close calls.
Ponca:






Steel Creek:
"


That's awesome! I was really thinking in terms of the access. Decent weather+water=GONG SHOW! It's funny to watch, but I just generally don't launch there anymore unless someone with me really wants to. Last March we were setting shuttle at Ponca for the Boxley run and the water was over the bridge. There was a ranger there to discourage people from launching but he didn't appear to have too much business.

That was the day I discovered the aforementioned undercut and log combo, but I was in my oar rig with Amber. I yelled at her to duck just in time and managed to get half of the raft under the log but pinned the bow on the boulder and promptly buried the downstream tube. Ambs high sided for me with very little instruction and we popped out from under the log as the boat drained. As we were standing on the gravel bar below with a throw rope in case any of our crew had problems she asked if we could do it again LOL. That girl is NOT afraid.

Steel Creek is so much easier, and you get to see lots of carnage right at the put in. Carnage is funny. There's a lady who sits there with a DSLR camera and immortalizes said carnage in very humorous ways. She used to post the pics on the Buffalo River FB page but I guess some of the victims lacked a sense of humor because she stopped. She got a dandy one day when I had my daughter and her best friend along. It's one of my favorites.
yellowcanoe
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01/18/2018 06:07PM
Boxley to Ponca is something I never felt comfy doing. Its pretty remote and my interactions with willows are frequent enough

I have put in at Ponca once and the river was very high.. We were delayed a bit by throwing throw bags at people mid river in the willows. At that time I was comfy with class 2 and Ponca to Kyles required strict attention. The river was just coming off flood. As a matter of fact we had to wait a day for the river to open. Grey Rock had some monster haystacks and I swamped...

Day 2 was to Woolum.. Day three to your intended take out Mind you the river was running fast. I think your time frame is a bit squashed for Ponca to 65.

I have used Buffalo Outdoor Center twice for shuttles and been pleased with their service.

Launching at Ponca the willows pounce right away and the current can be fast. . Or there can be no water at all. We launched from Steele Creek once for that reason.. it had sufficient water

The main thing is you have to be flexible with your plans as you may not be able to put in where or when you want to.

The Redbuds may appear in late March.. Its a very pretty time.

ozarkpaddler
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01/18/2018 08:49PM
yellowcanoe: "Boxley to Ponca is something I never felt comfy doing. Its pretty remote and my interactions with willows are frequent enough
I have put in at Ponca once and the river was very high.. We were delayed a bit by throwing throw bags at people mid river in the willows. At that time I was comfy with class 2 and Ponca to Kyles required strict attention. The river was just coming off flood. As a matter of fact we had to wait a day for the river to open. Grey Rock had some monster haystacks and I swamped..."


Well, I've paddled a few times with yellowcanoe and she's more accomplished than I. I must confess, the day the water was up when I did Ponca, I portaged around one spot.... Grey Rock Shoal! Looks like I made the right decision? I remember it was my first time on this section and my friend Bob was telling us about a 4' standing wave. We thought he was BS'ing us.....he wasn't......my better half had a nasty, long swim there.

As Kim mentioned, the Redbuds are pretty and should be blooming there (and here) in March. I don't have a lot of paddling pics of the upper river because it requires me to use the paddle and not the camera.
ozarkpaddler
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01/19/2018 06:45PM
Here we go, a video with the water at a good, manageable level Ponca to Kyles. None of the very high near flood levels that we were warning about. Here you will see even someone with little to no paddling skills can make it. I sure wish the lady was wearing a PFD instead of a BACKPACK though; that's asking to drown if you end up in a willow strainer.
Novices Running Ponca to Kyles
 
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