Off The Beaten Path: Buffalo National River


Day four of our Off The Beaten Path Series takes us East to Ponca where we find America’s first national river, The Buffalo National River.

With limited cell phone reception, you really have no other choice but to disconnect from the outside world.  It’s only about an hour and fifteen minutes away from the hustle and bustle of Fayetteville, but as you venture deeper into the hills, you’ll feel your batteries begin to recharge. 

Founder of Buffalo Outdoor Center Mike Mills says, “It’s like another country right here in the middle of Northwest Arkansas.”

Down the road in Ponca, the hills get a little bigger,

General Manager of Buffalo Outdoors Center Austin Albers says, “Until you get here, you don’t know what’s here. It’s a diamond in the rough.” 

Albers says looking for cell phone reception is rough as well. He says, “So many times we get so busy in our everyday lives and we’re running to pick up the kids, we’re running to these meetings… to where you’re disconnected and you have the beauty of nature surrounding you, there’s a fulfillment that you only receive when you get to some place like this.” 

Mills says, “Just coming to the river fills up your soul and it’s a great place to bring a family.” 

Treasured memories of limited time spent with his dad inspired Mike Mills to launch his dream. Mills says, “As a kid, I didn’t get to see him a whole lot, all the responsibilities and that kind of stuff, except for one week out of the year when we went canoeing.” And he’s been paddling along ever since. He says, “I raised my kids here. We found different things to discover…A eight year old girl in a kayak is a bumblee bee on water. I mean within five minutes they have figured it out and they can just go anywhere they want to go.”

Getting on Buffalo National River, it’s easy to see why it was designated the First National River in 1972.

Mills says, “If you made a bucket list of the top 10 rivers in the world, on Earth that you want to visit,  this river would be on that bucket list.” He adds, “Going to Costa Rica, or going to Chile, or going to Alaska, there’s a place an hour and fifteen minutes away from Northwest Arkansas just like all of those.” 

You can find contact information for Buffalo Outdoor Center here. They offer day trips as well as multi-day trips, but if you’d rather sleep indoors, they have cabins and a lodge.

Learn how to plan your trip for anything from a family getaway, to one more romantic, or even just a fun time with friends. Also be sure to check out the top hiking trails, swimming holes, and even elk watching spots. If you’re more adventurous, they also feature a zip line canopy tour.

For more #OffTheBeatenPath adventures, click below:

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