The Buffalo National River in northeast Arkansas was the first National River. The river runs for 135 miles and is one of the few remaining undammed rivers in the lower 48 states. When paddling the river you'll pass by some steep canyon walls. There are a number of developed as well as primitive areas to camp. We stayed at the Steel Creek Campground which had a large open field for tent camping. It was surrounded by a groove of trees that ran along the river. There's plenty of space for tent camping and some space for hammock camping, but all the sites are available on a first come first served basis.There are some great hiking trails in the area, but the real attraction is the river and the opportunity to paddle it. In the small town of Ponca (pop.13) there is an outfitter/gas station where you can get equipped and arrange shuttle service for a drop-off and pick-up paddle trip. When hiking around the area you'll often hike in the surrounding mountains which overlook the river. It lends perspective to see the topography up close and personal while paddling the river as well as from a distant while hiking in the mountains.
Ozark Campground is a simple loop of campsites with great sandy river beaches a minutes walk outside the campground. Nestled alongside the Buffalo National River, Ozark is accessible yet hidden at the same time. We chose this area for a perfect weekend getaway and for an exquisite Autumn camping trip. This was also the perfect time try out my new Ledlenser MH2 Headlamp.
The sites are first-come-first-serve and cost $12 a night (with a maximum of 6 people per site). There are toilets and water spigots around the campground, but no showers. I set up camp at site #4 which was right along the treeline and had plenty of hammocking spots. Each site has a table, fire ring, grill and hook to hang your food or trash.
When we were there, the campground was manned by a friendly older gentleman who pointed us toward the vacant flat areas since we drove in late at night. The campground has a picnic/day use areas, beaches and lots of nature trails (for hiking and horseback riding). We went on a weekend in mid-October and there were probably about 10-15 other sites being used while we were there for 2 nights. So it is a pretty popular spot but I can definitely see why. The weather was fantastic with cool Fall nights in the 40's and nice warm days anywhere from 60 to 75 degrees. This is a great spot for a family getaway. I highly recommend it!
As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get to test products. At Ozark Campground, I tested the MH2 Headlamp by Ledlenser. I happen to already have a headlamp, which I got for cheap at a local outfitter store. The MH2 blew my headlamp out of the water! I decided to do the nice thing and give the MH2 to my partner in crime since he has yet to own a headlamp, but by the end of the trip I was full of regrets for not giving him my old one! :)
What I loved about this headlamp:
- The focus is unbelievable. First of all, my old headlamp has zero focusing capabilities. The MH2 allows you to target anything in the distance. At our campsite, we spotted with the bright setting an animal in the bushes. We were able to focus the beam on whatever animal it was and we were able to see perfectly a little armadillo staring back at us! I looked at the same thing with my old headlamp and barely saw anything but its eyes.
- Bright as hell! Enough said!
- So easy to use, with its tilting head for seeing the ground in front of you as well as the three easy-to-set settings (bright, dim, and strobe).
- It's so light and comfortable for being such a handy piece of equipment!
We will be definitely be using the Ledlenser MH2 for all of our outdoor adventures in the future!
Beautiful area! The river rose pretty fast when we camped here in May this year after a three day storm, but our camp site drained pretty well.
We were here in the late fall for the leaves and solitude, just tent campers and a few RVs at that point, I don’t think there are reservations allowed but we didn’t need them that time of year. According to our friends in the area this is a very popular campground since it’s right on the rocky Buffalo River, it’s shady, and there’s a big open green area for the kids to run around in. There’s water and outhouses and standard state park style campground, “rustic” but clean, nothing fancy, nothing distracting from the nature. The bluff around the river is very pretty and we found enough to do in the area on the water even though it was too cold for swimming or wading.
The Ozark Campground is one of the best camping sites in the park. Every campsite has river access within a short few minutes walk. Also within short distance are restrooms, and running water for drinking. Very nice place to car camp because you can bring food in a cooler and leave in your car. We brought chicken on ice and used to fire ring at our campsite with a grate to grill up steaks for dinner. Each site also comes with a picnic table which is nice that you do not need to bring seats or a table, unless of course you want to sit around the fire! Beware, bugs can be bad in the warmer Summer months near the river so remember to bring bug repellant. After a long hot day of hiking nearby trails, the river is perfect for cooling off and going for a swim. I saw some people fishing but it didn’t look like there was too many fish from what I saw. Overall the campground is very clean and pretty quiet and $12 a night isn’t too bad, but I wish it was a little cheaper. Neighbors are respectful of one another and there is plenty of room at each site to put up hammocks and tents. Can’t wait to get back!
By far the best campsite reachable by car along the river. Great views from the sites, with adequate shade and river access. Most years there's a large river rock beach to launch boats from. Take a guide trip from the bridge at Rush creek down to the site in about 3 hrs. Great rafting.
The trail up to the top of Buffalo Pass was gorgeous! There was a horseshoe-shaped lake with a stunning panoramic view. The rocks were tough to climb up towards the end, but the scenery made it more than worth it!